Letters to the Editor: Demi-god view of clergy must change

10/17/2006

Editor,

I am deeply disturbed by the vindictive, passive aggressive tone of Lamar Massingill’s guest column in the Aug. 16 edition of the Advocate. It is a shame that an opinion as unevenly articulated as his must be spewed on the pages of a newspaper that should uplift, celebrate and encourage. I feel anything but encouraged when I read Massingill’s opinions, yet I value them. However, his view causes me to fear for the future of our beloved denomination.

 

My question is: Whom do we serve in the United Methodist Church, Rev. Massingill, John Wesley or Jesus Christ? From the tone of your column, should we continue in perfectly structured liturgical worship services? Oh, yes, worship services. Do we worship tradition or the Living God? 

 

While a member of a local congregation, I was not raised in the Methodist tradition; therefore, this hallowed Anglican tradition spoken of is not my tradition. It is also not the tradition of a rapidly changing world. For the past five years I, trained as a classical vocalist, have used my gifts in United Methodist worship services both “traditional” and “contemporary.” Is an anthem accompanied by a splendid organ more pleasing to God than a praise chorus with guitars and drums? Simply because it doesn’t speak to your musical sensibilities or preconceived notions of “how God speaks” doesn’t mean that it is not valid in the sight of our creator God.

 

Bach set his text to the bar songs of his day – do they honor God less? And as John Wesley realized that the lost would never come to hear him preach from the pulpit, he went outside the realm of traditional church to them. Please remember that the Anglican leadership didn’t want him, as his notions were also outside of their definitions of what worship and church should be. It seems to me that so called “adolescent” services honor Wesley’s spirit and groundwork more than his Anglicized rituals.

 

There is room for both “contemporary” and “traditional” in churches with leadership that recognizes that we must speak the language of the culture today – in visual storytelling, in music and words that aren’t cloaked in hollow ritual. We are a part of a world that cries out for authenticity and a deeper worship experience than simply witnessing a service.

It’s time for the saints to realize that the church isn’t there to serve them.

 

Our greater purpose must be to reach out to a world hungry for the gospel. It isn’t about your preferences or mine. It’s about what speaks to the lost and what continues speaking to all of us who are living in this postmodern world.  It’s time to wake up and smell your moldy coffee, this idea what church can and certainly cannot be. We cannot afford to drag our feet any longer or our churches will assuredly wither away on the vine.

 

As well, this pastor-centric, pastor-as-demigod view of the Methodist Church must change. The church of today can no longer sustain the pattern of working your way to a plum church/paycheck and biding your time until retirement. It’s a sad state when congregations must beg for the leadership they so desperately need. However strong a laity may be, they deserve quality shepherding and teaching.

 

I thank God for our present bishop, who welcomes input from congregations hungry for leadership and vision, trusting God’s spirit when it comes to variables such as age for those in senior pastor positions. I have witnessed this connection truly do anything to support its ministers. Ministers must also take some measure of responsibility in their leadership or lack thereof, for whatever reasons, due to illness or lack of experience with a staff. Sometimes an appointment is simply an ill fit for pastor and staff alike.  If the effort is not made by a pastor to change in order to serve its congregation, then it’s time for leadership to change.

 

Let’s lay down this fear of what the future holds. We can trust the God that goes before us into territory unknown.

Samantha Lang

Hattiesburg

 

Editor,

I read with interest the letters in the Oct. 4 Advocate whereby members of the Methodist Church are advocating and promoting the acceptance of homosexuality in the church. My immediate reaction was what Methodist church are they talking about?

 

The United Methodist Church that I know and love is governed by a document titled The Book of Discipline. This document is the cornerstone of our faith and is “the instrument for setting forth the laws, plan, policy, and process by which United Methodists govern themselves. It reflects our understanding of the Church and what is expected of its laity and clergy.”

 

The Book of Discipline clearly outlines the church’s position on homosexuality. Paragraph 161 specifically states: “The United Methodist Church does not condone the practice of homosexuality and considers this practice incompatible with Christian teaching.” Paragraph 304.3 reiterates this view: “The practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.”

 

The issue of acceptance of homosexuality is addressed at each meeting of the General Conference, and the Book of Discipline’s prohibition has repeatedly been upheld by a significant majority. As late as May 1, 2005, the Council of Bishops issued a statement upholding the Discipline’s views on this subject. Until the Discipline is amended, the United Methodist Church’s position remains unchanged.

Ruffin W. Gray

Diamondhead

 

Editor,

I wish to respond to Mark McLain’s letter in the Oct. 4 issue of the Advocate. He is very selective in his acceptance of the scriptures. He does not accept the validity of Paul’s letters or the Old Testament. He validates only that which approves his own opinion.

 

We know from Paul’s writings that his gospel came not from the Apostles, but from God and Jesus Christ. God communicated with Paul and defined the gospel that he preached. Paul was confronted and converted by Christ on the road to Damascus. Christ stated that those who came after him would do greater things than he.

 

McLain misinterpreted my previous letter to some extent. I do not proclaim that I am free of sin, nor do I condemn others who sin and seek forgiveness. Christ has told us that we must forgive many times those who sin against us. He said also that God would forgive when we repent of our sins and when we forgive those who sin against us. We know from scripture that God loves us, is slow to anger and forgiving even when we sin, if we repent.

 

We also know that God’s forbearance will reach an end, eventually, and then we will know his wrath.

 

I would urge that McLain read the letter of Paul to the Romans. This book lays out the gospel of Jesus Christ clearly and is the basis for much of our understanding of the gospel.

Dr. J.E. Calloway

Louisville