Letters to the Editor: Bishop's support great aid to Society of St. Andrew



We sincerely thank Bishop Hope Morgan Ward for writing the Sunday devotions that are a part of the Society of St. Andrew’s 2006 Advent mission giving and devotional program, Signs and Wonders. We know that bishops have very busy schedules and we are most appreciative of this gracious gift of her valuable time.


The devotions Bishop Ward wrote will help the reader focus on the needs of the poor during Advent. Sample Advent packets are available without charge by email at church@endhunger.org or by calling 1-800-333-4597.


Bishop Ward has also generously lent her support to the Society of St. Andrew’s gleaning ministry in Mississippi and has helped make the establishment of our regional office there a reality.  This office has already provided over one million pounds of nutritious food to the hungry in Mississippi in just its first year. 


As we remember those who do not have enough to eat across the nation and in our own neighborhoods, we are thankful to Bishop Ward and the Mississippi Annual Conference for their resolve to do something about it. We thank you for doing ministry together with us in Christ’s name.

Susan Allen

Director, Church Relations

Society of St. Andrew



Jesus often pointed out evil in the world around him so that people could change their lives and become acceptable to God. He did so at risk of violence to himself and his followers. The Pope hinted at something evil and then took it all back when threatened. But threats didn’t stop Jesus. Aren’t you glad?   

Skipper Anding




I believe Jesus would have us welcome any child of God who wants to be part of the United Methodist Church, including Christians who are practicing homosexuals. I believe Jesus would harshly disapprove of our refusing to do this, as he would our attempting to expel practicing homosexual Christians from the UMC.


Those who abuse the Book of Discipline, Paul and the Old Testament to condemn or reject others can do so ‘til the cows come home. For them, the inconvenient truth remains as confounding as it is immutable — Jesus did not speak to the subject of homosexuality.


Jesus did, however, find himself continually at odds with church people who, through scripture abuse, relentlessly tried to leave him no choice but to condemn those whom they condemned — but they did not succeed. Jesus didn’t satisfy their need to condemn back then anymore than he satisfies those with the same need today who defer more to some of the writings of Paul, the Old Testament and the Discipline than to the example of our Lord. (By the way, The Book of Discipline 2004, paragraph 161.H, states, “We implore families and churches not to reject or condemn lesbian and gay members and friends. We commit ourselves to be in ministry for and with all persons.”)


Jesus so radicalized the concept of the kingdom of God that the self-righteous guardians of the church’s hegemony plotted from the beginning of His ministry to kill him — and they eventually succeeded.


Sometimes existing ways of doing and thinking about things are simply wrong and need to change. Many times throughout history the church has been on the wrong side of not just reality but justice as well — and in some dramatic ways.

For example:

   If we believed the words of the writers of Deuteronomy (21:18-21) to be the inerrant word of God for us today, then we would begin killing our rebellious sons to punish them and to deter others.

   The church sentenced Galileo to a lifetime of house arrest after forcing him, under threat of death, to renounce his heretical endorsement of Copernicus who, it turns out, was correct in refuting the belief held sacred for 1,500 years that the sun revolved around the earth.

   Many Christians cited various scripture passages with vehement and self-righteous certitude in their attempts to justify slavery and, later, institutionalized racial inequality.


The call of Christ is clear in the words of our Discipline. The time is now for us to vow “not to reject or condemn lesbian and gay members and friends and to commit ourselves to be in ministry for and with all persons.”


Open Hearts. Open Minds. Open Doors. Amen.

Mark McLain




There seems to be a lot of emphasis in our conference on welcoming and inclusion. This emphasis being promoted comes across as the definitive way in which Christ would have his followers respond to individuals and-or groups. 


As I understand the Christian faith from my study and practice, those who were welcomed and included by Jesus were those who were repentant. From the self-righteous Pharisee to the woman flung at the feet of Jesus who had been caught in adultery, Jesus welcomed only the repentant.


But it seems to me from what I am hearing from various sources in the Mississippi Conference that what is being promoted is an inclusion and welcome of individuals and-or groups who are not required to repent of their sins (go and sin no more) and individuals who are wanting their unrighteousness blessed by the Christian faith. 


I believe that there are a few ministers and many laypersons in the Mississippi Conference who are able to see, along with me, the insanity of this thrust. I believe that God will hold accountable those who are unrepentant, but I further believe that God will hold accountable even more severely those who relax the standards for which Christ died on the cross. 


 The thing that I am also having difficulty with is the fact that with all the talk of “making room at the table,” I am feeling that as a white, male, conservative Christian pastor, there is no room being made at the table for me.  In fact I am feeling as if after 35 years of ministry in the Mississippi Conference that I am unwelcome at the table by those who want to make room for others. And I wonder if there are other white, male, conservative pastors who feel the same way but for one reason or another do not feel free to express their feelings of alienation?

Ron Stanley




My sin does not make your sin be less sin. The presence of sinners already in a congregation is weak excuse to welcome an openly unrepentant sinner into the membership – regardless of the sin they openly practice. Repentance and confession are prescribed in our rituals of welcoming new members.


Even so, Mark McLain’s list of “sins of the congregation” (Oct. 4 Advocate) is incomplete and irrelevant to his argument. The sins he mentions are not usually proclaimed with pride and arrogance by the sinner(s). They are “silent sins” usually unknown to the church because those who commit these sins seek to hide them. This explains the problem McLain admits when he says “…these persons won’t even tell us who they are…” As younger people say:  “Well, duh!”


How does McLain know so confidently that the sins he lists are being committed by church members? His accusations are more generalized suspicions than established fact. In any case, our Book of Discipline and the holy scriptures answer McLain’s questions as to how to deal with these issues.    


McLain’s argument for accepting practicing homosexuals into membership is flawed. His attempt to put a wedge between Jesus and Paul, to discredit the Old Testament and most of the New Testament exposes his foundational error and his theological error. While the Bible does not quote Jesus using the term “homosexual,” it does quote Jesus endorsing the OT definition of marriage as between male and female (Mark 10:5-9). 


It is self-righteous of anyone today to presume they know Jesus better than did Paul. Paul’s encounters with the living Christ are verified in the writings of other apostles. Paul’s authority, God, is above being dismissed by such language as McLain’s, i.e:  “Regardless of what is contained in the writings of Paul and the Old Testament, I believe...” To boast of a personal conviction “regardless” that it is in contradiction to God’s word is more shameful self-righteousness. His claims insult the wisdom of our church founders who practiced the proven process of scripture and tradition as means of understanding God’s word, will and way.


Paul is clearly honest when he “opines,” McLain dismisses the apostle, and just as honest when he is speaking God’s commands. I find it more sensible to believe those who knew Christ in both flesh and spirit than those with a personal agenda who “opine” today. Those God used to write and those God used to assemble his word did so without a prejudiced agenda. They were and are better qualified to speak the mind of Jesus than anyone today. Paul’s calling and anointing of the Lord I know. McLain gives only himself as authority for what he selects to believe. That is a tragically inadequate foundation on which to risk one’s life.


Christ frees all who believe and come to him in repentance and confession. They are set free to follow him; to become more like Jesus, to be changed into a new creation in Christ. Scripture teaches that all who accept Christ are changed. Every apostle took on a new profession, a life-style change. Paul even had his named changed. God’s word calls us to take off our old, sinful self and to “put on Christ.” Those today who want membership in our churches without obeying Christ are like the rich young man of Matthew 19:16-22. They choose their present status over the invitation of our Lord to follow him and have eternal life.


The church exists to teach the gospel and help people become new creations in Christ. Sadly, the motto of our church: “Open hearts.  Open minds.  Open doors.” is often misapplied. The motto is not an excuse for accepting any and all into church membership without conversion. It is an invitation to all who seek to know Christ and be saved. It has nothing to do with membership. It has everything to do with loving evangelization and discipleship. “God so loved the world,” but He only saves those who believe and obey him.  Our hearts, minds and doors are open to all who seek Christ. It is not a matter of accepting an openly practicing homosexual, thief, alcoholic, etc. or any other person into our fellowship. It is a matter of leading others to salvation so than none “should perish but have eternal life.” Eternal life takes priority over earthly lifestyle.

Steve Tillman




The response of the Amish to the tragedy in their community vividly demonstrates that their lifestyle may hark back to the “dark ages” but, in reality, they have found the true “light of the world.”


Although the gulf between the spirit exhibited by these Christians and that which dominates Washington is light years across, the only hope for humanity is for us to try bridge this space.


Do we have the wisdom to take our cue from these simple folks?

C.E. Swain