Letters to the Editor: Volunteers inspire others; Reconciling movement questioned



Within the past year I have had the opportunity to help organize and work with a number of volunteer groups that have disrupted their lives to come and help us during our time of need. This has provided my family and me with some very precious blessings. Not only have we been able to help people in their time of need, I have been able to meet a variety of very interesting people. 

I have met an independently wealthy man who came almost immediately after (Hurricane Katrina) with a Bobcat skid steer and chainsaw and cleared some of the lawn of our church. I have met a former head of the Republican Party for the state of North Carolina who tried his hand at carpentry.

An 87-year-old carpenter with nothing but a box of hand tools and decades of experience led another team. A retired school superintendent and a former state champion high school basketball coach from Kentucky helped roof a house. Teenagers on spring break and mission trips performed various tasks. Violin and band teachers painted and repaired homes. An orthopedic surgeon, various attorneys, musicians, retired peoples of all types as well as clergy members also came to contribute their labor of love. 

I believe these people have been led to serve and have shown faith by works as we are taught to in James 2:18. I have seen how rewarding an experience this has been for these people. They have laughed and joked and thoroughly enjoyed each other’s company. They have also indeed been an inspiration.

Chris Wise


In a recent E-pistle, Bishop Hope Morgan Ward expressed concern over a copy of the Koran being destroyed at a pro-life demonstration in Jackson. In her lament, she used the words “hate,” “violence” and “evil” to describe this act. I found it very disturbing that she never once referred to abortion itself as hateful, violent or evil. 

Furthermore, as far as I could learn, neither the bishop nor any other official representative of the (Mississippi) Conference was present to support this outcry against legalized infanticide.   

If the only complaint the bishop has about the many things which happened at that demonstration, and, if the only comment she has to make regarding this event is a not-so-subtle criticism of those who participated, then I fear that she is sadly out of step with the average member of the United Methodist Church in Mississippi.

Robert Robbins


In the November/December 2005 issue of Circuit Rider, Neil M. Alexander, president and publisher of the United Methodist Publishing House made this observation:”No doubt about it, we love a good fight… there is a compelling thrill when we’re in conflict.” 

For a while we got a bang out of banging Saddam Hussein and his regime. It was great fun! But seeing the pictures of the mangled bodies of innocent and helpless children and hearing the wails of their grieving parents, is taking some of the fun out of the “game.”

C.E. Swain


Christians and Jews, of all people, should be especially cognizant of the futility of attempts to bludgeon religious zealots into submission. Even the ruthless power of Rome could not quell the fledgling early Christian movement and Hitler could not purge the world of Judaism. The state of Israel, with the help of the United States thrown in, is no Roman Empire. Israel, the United States and the entire world community should face the reality that, evil or not, people who are fervent enough in their beliefs — individually and in large numbers — to willingly sacrifice their lives for a cause which they think is just will be difficult to subdue by force of arms.  

Immediate dangers in the world must, be deflected by force, but in the long run the ultimate victory in the “War on Terror” will have to be won on the ideological battle front. That is where the challenge lies for Christianity.

W. Lamar Weems


The driving force behind all United Methodist Men is called E.M.S. (Evangelism, Mission and Spirituality). 

I encourage all men to enroll in this great program. Funds from your subscription will enable both the local and conference organizations to do their work. We have come a long way, but we still have much to do. 

I enjoyed serving you for the 2002-2004 years, and I hope you will continue to grow in God and make the current year a very successful term. 

As Chet Dillard, your new president, comes aboard, give him your cooperation as you have previously done. I encourage all United Methodist Men’s organizations to renew your charters as required, enroll in the E.M.S. program and try to attend all fall and spring retreats. 

The General Commission on United Methodist Men encourages national affiliation. We cannot become so involved in our personal and local situations. We must be a part of the total organization as stated in the Book of Discipline. 

Make it your goal as a men’s organization, “In 2006 Give God More.” There is a blessing for obedience. Get involved. 

The General Commission of United Methodist Men is cooperative. Refer to them for any United Methodist Men’s information you need. Contact Richard Peck at 615-340-7145. David C. Adams is the newly elected general secretary. His address is P.O. Box 440515, Nashville, TN 37244-0515; telephone 615-340-7145.

George Washington


In her article, “Reconciling churches misunderstood,” guest columnist Susan Major shared her experience with one Reconciling Congregation. She focused on the familiarity of the worship service as the basis for claiming that these congregations are not different from those not associated with the Reconciling movement. 

However similar they may appear, the fact is that Reconciling congregations have taken a position that is counter to the scriptural, traditional and officially adopted position of The United Methodist Church that “the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching” (Book of Discipline, 304.3).

No matter how much we have in common with such congregations, they have chosen to act outside the established boundaries of the “United Methodist family” and this invalidates their “rights and privileges . . . within our denomination.”

Gary Ruff
Moss Point


In response to Rev. Mike Childs’ column and Skipper Anding’s letter in the Aug. 16 issue of the Advocate, I “stand (to) be counted” as part of the “grassroots of the church” and as a “real Methodist,” and I faithfully and vigorously dissent from their unChrist-like scapegoating of homosexual Christians in the face of membership decline in the United Methodist Church. I have no “pro-gay agenda,” but I am most certainly anti-anti-gay. I am not alone. 

Many factors reflect a church’s health. Sometimes these include growth in membership and participation. 

One of the principal reasons so many churches are encountering challenges in membership and participation is the changing demands in the real lives of so many in the church. Instead of scapegoating Christian homosexuals for this reality, churches should strive to be relevant and helpful in the earnest discerning of values going on in the lives of church members. 

Since Childs brought it up, the Southern Baptist Convention did indeed see some increase in its membership in 2005. But, according to The Clarion-Ledger (May 6), “baptisms and Sunday School enrollment” (both widely cited indicators of growth) in the SBC declined during the same period. 

Childs cites the growth of “one of the largest United Methodist congregations in Mississippi,” which is less than 10 years old and has a “contemporary and informal” worship service. While Childs acknowledges that “a totally contemporary service is not appropriate for most of our traditional churches,” he goes on to say that without blending “a significant amount of praise and contemporary music with our traditional hymns, we are going to lose most of the under-40 generation.”

How to reconcile attendance concerns within the dilemma of contemporary versus traditional worship styles is a legitimate issue in its own right. (This dilemma, however, is not an outgrowth of the stances of bishops, clergy and laity on homosexuality.) 

In the same issue of the Advocate, and in a broad discussion of both worship style and the appointment process, Rev. Lamar Massingill’s column speaks to a highly credible and, I suspect, valid explanation of declining attendance in some churches — the widespread devolving of human attention spans.  

I believe this phenomenon has been accelerating in the decades about which Childs expresses such concern. We increasingly subject ourselves to the titillation of sound bytes, text messaging, email, voicemail, talk radio and TV and other forms of entertainment and plain old preoccupation. Being still is being extinguished. 

We need to keep our worship and ministry relevant to people’s lives. We need to accomplish this without assimilating so much of the world that we lose our identity as the church. 

The most vital thing the church has is our calling to truly live as Christ lived. If we really do this, I imagine cause for concern over membership and participation will grow strangely dim and scapegoating will lose much of its reason for being. 

Whenever the church engages in self-righteous, small-minded, hypocritical, selective moralizing — even if in the near term it appears to benefit from doing so — it risks losing the very life it is seeking to save and earns comparison to the Pharisees. 

Childs notes, “the bishops did speak out against the Judicial Council” majority on Decision 1042. In my view, the bishops exemplified Christ-like courage and leadership in the face of intentionally divisive, bigoted political behavior among the Judicial Council majority. 

Anding asserts, “the loss of hundreds of thousands of members by the UMC is directly attributable to support of homosexuality by a few church members.” Childs pronounces, “Any bishop or church bureaucrat who continues to push the pro-gay agenda needs to be removed.”  

These statements flirt with fascism. I’d welcome a statistically rigorous, comprehensive examination of Anding’s claim along with alternative hypotheses about church membership trends. 

Inerrantists and literalists degrade the Bible when they purport to speak for us all and try to intimidate dissenters with their arrogant, malicious, aggressive and selective exploitation of scripture. They may believe such behavior to be Godly; I am confident it is not Christ-like. 

Anding goes on to say, “We cannot look the other way and pretend not to see.” Amen! Within my lifetime, the “grassroots of the church” chose to look the other way and pretend not to see when those calling themselves Christians boastfully committed racist murders. This cowardice was as unChristlike as it was deadly. 

I am grateful to belong to a United Methodist congregation, which happens to be growing, among which are many who openly believe we are called by Christ to extend membership to all who will make the same pledge we’ve made. That pledge, like Jesus, never mentions homosexuality. 

Open Hearts. Open Minds. Open Doors. Amen

Mike McLain


I do not normally respond to letters to the editor but after reading the articles by Thomas Gann and Skipper Anding plus the article by Lamar Massingill in the Aug. 16 edition I feel led to do so. 

My reaction is to say to each of them, “Amen!” and “Right on, Brother.”  It is my prayer that Bishop (Hope Morgan Ward), her Cabinet and the ministers of the Methodist Conference will read both letters and Massingill’s article with an open mind and take heed without retribution to those brave enough to say what many, many of us have been thinking for quite some time. 

I would like to recommend to all concerned the book More Than A Purpose by Marshall Davis. In the book Marshall states, “The American Christian has gone from being a disciple to being a customer, from being a follower of the Lord Jesus to being a consumer of a spiritual commodity.”  

In this new marketplace, Marshall says, entertainment has replaced worship in the public gatherings of Christians. I am reminded of a couple of old commercial slogans: “tastes great, less filling” and “where’s the beef?” The Methodist church must preach and teach (especially to the youth) a genuine commitment to Christ and the way of salvation. 

I wish that there were a means open to me to ensure that none of my monetary gifts to the church would help fund Lake Junaluska until the administration there decides to follow the Book of Discipline of the Methodist Church, which it represents.

James Stokes