Posts Tagged umc

Well. Oregon-Idaho takes up support for RCRC denied at GC2016. RCRC is the religious coalition for reproductive choice, i.e., they advocate for abortion rights.

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Congregations Dying and Rising

In his own blog, Bishop Grant recently brought my attention to a blog post entitled “A Growing Church is a Dying Church.”

I liked what the blog post said about the role of the pastor:

What then can your pastor do? She can make your board meetings longer with prayer and Bible study. She can mess with your sense of familiarity by changing the order of worship and the arrangement of the sanctuary. She can play those strange new songs and forget about your favorite old hymns. She can keep on playing those crusty old hymns instead of that hot new contemporary praise music. She can bug you incessantly about more frequent celebration of Communion. …

and:

What can she do to grow your church? Nothing. There’s nothing your pastor can do to make your church grow. She can’t save your church. Your church already has a Savior and it’s not her. She can push you. She can open doors. She can present you with opportunities. It’s up to you to take advantage of them.

But the greater point was that churches often look for numerical growth and a prolonged lifespan, which isn’t very Christian. More bodies, sometimes, is precisely what God refuses to provide. And as for length of days: we of all people should not be afraid of death like those who have no hope. Resurrection can’t happen until there’s been a death.

My only quibble with the article — not, I think, with its main thrust, but with its wording — was that it conflated two ideas: transformation and resurrection. Resurrection includes transformation, but not all transformation is resurrection. (Consider the transfigured Jesus and the risen Lord. Consider the Peter of Luke 5 and the Peter of Acts 4. He’s been transformed, but neither one is the Peter we will know in the age to come. Or the Paul of Acts 7–8 and Acts 21. He’s been transformed, but not yet resurrected.)

In the case of a local congregation, what the pastor is trying to orchestrate (midwife?) is transformation, not resurrection. The congregation may resist that transformation. It may prefer to die with dignity than to contextualize the gospel for neighbors who don’t look or sound or behave like the people who paid for the organ or put in that stained glass.

What happens when a congregation dies? Sometimes, our church buildings are recycled as restaurants, or even homes and condos. But sometimes they are resurrected for new worshipping communities, like when the small foreign-language Pentecostal congregation buys the old First Mainline Protestant church downtown. May God bless them and give them a fruitful ministry.

I can’t criticize those few survivors hanging on in First Mainline. They’re tired and dizzied by the way the culture has changed under their feet and overwhelmed by the new demographics of their community. I can understand why they might be ready to go home to be with the Lord, just like Paul.

But life is a gift from God, and we are called to make good use of the time we have been given. Paul himself says it: “if I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me.”

So let’s let God take care of resurrection, and in the meantime, apply ourselves to the work — and it is work — of being transformed so we can be agents of transformation.

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Denominations and Gun Control

I’m an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and serve a union church of the PC(USA) and the United Methodist Church. For this reason, it always pains me to see these denominations’ national lobbying arms reflexively leaping to endorse whatever dreadful leftist nonsense is topical. Today’s D.L.N. is gun control, and the tragic shootings in Connecticut are being used as cover for a very predictable liberal effort to disarm the populace, according to the right-wing gun nuts at the New York Times:

A new federal assault weapons ban and background checks of all gun buyers, which President Obama is expected to propose on Wednesday, might have done little to prevent the massacre in Newtown, Conn., last month.

But that doesn’t matter to the institutional left who lobby for mainline denominations and various other progressive religious groups. These usual suspects have thrown together something called Faiths Against Gun Violence. They have a website and everything, and a list of supportive denominations (as a .DOC file, of all things!). The left’s Long March through the Institutions is complete now, at least for mainline denominations. Count this as reason #796 why the mainline denominations have become utterly irrelevant except as mutual-admiration societies.

What impresses me about these organizations is their blind faith. Not in God or Jesus or the institutional church. No, these groups are interfaith or even inter-religious; even among the Christian members that kind of faith is pretty shaky and has to bend to whatever’s trendy in the popular culture. But the faith in the benevolence of government and its ability to transform society for the better: that is unshakeable:

By banning assault weapons and high-capacity gun magazines, this plan will do much to keep these weapons of mass destruction out of the wrong hands and prevent future tragedies like we saw last month in Newtown, Conn.,” said Jim Winkler, chief executive of the United Methodist Board of Church and Society and chair of the faith coalition.

Weapons of mass destruction? I know that these people aren’t … well, they just aren’t especially bright, but, still, you’d think they could learn the difference between firearms and Weapons of Mass Destruction. Can you imagine the surprise when all their lefty friends learn that (by this idiot definition) Iraq had W.M.D.s after all?

But it’s not just Methodists. From the same article, we see that the people Presbyterians spend their money to employ in Washington are every bit as ignorant and hysterical:

The Rev. J. Herbert Nelson, director of public witness for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), said political leaders can resolve the problem if they only have the will. “We are living in a society in which gun violence is making everyone vulnerable to premature death,” he said. “With over 30,000 gun deaths a year in the United States, it is time that faith leaders and others call elected officials to committed action so that gun laws are stiffened and lives are saved.”

How many of those gun deaths are from the type of firearms they purport to be concerned about? How many are from handguns? How many are due to suicides? And how will stiffening gun laws save lives? The way that stiffening drug laws have kept drugs off the streets? Or maybe the way stiffening alcohol laws did?

Here’s a thought: if you want to stop mass murder, how about institutionalizing crazy people, like the nuts who carried out the Tucson, Aurora, and Newtown murders? How about arresting jihadis like the Fort Hood shooter?

And speaking of mass murder, how about appointing a special prosecutor to investigate President Obama and his Attorney General, Eric Holder, who have the blood of hundreds of Mexicans and at least two U.S. nationals on their hands from Operation Fast and Furious?

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