Letters, July/August 2011

Sadness and shock

I am writing to express my sadness and shock that leadership in the United Methodist church is recommending that homosexuals be ordained. According to Romans 1:24-32, the practice of homosexuality is condemned by God.

Scripture could not be clearer. How can we, as the church, condone what God condemns? Have we as Christians and Methodists lost our moral compass and our core values, to the point that we no longer stand for the truth?

We are told that to stand against homosexuality is a lack of love and that is just not true. Our first love is God. If we love God we will keep his commandments which means reaching out compassionately to our fellow travelers. I John 5:2 says: “This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands.” It is the kind and loving thing to speak and live the truth so that others can be set free. That is why Jesus died on the cross.

God disciplines because he loves us. The book of Hebrews commands us to “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles and run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

“In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: ‘My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves and he punishes everyone he accepts as sons’” (Hebrews 12:1-6).

According to 2 Timothy 3:16, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

Those who are consistently practicing what God condemned are not capable, nor equipped to lead the church. If the church continues to water down the gospel and reinterpret the Scriptures in order to assimilate with the culture of the day, how can they expect God to bless them?

Jesus prayed for us in his high priestly prayer: “They are not of the world even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth” (John 17:16-17).

Finally Jesus says in Luke: “Any kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and a house divided against itself will fall” (Luke 11:17). Could this be the final nail driven in the coffin of a drifting and dying denomination?

Let us return to our first love and our core values of prayer, Bible study, true worship, evangelizing and discipleship. Let us go to God in brokenness, repentance, fasting and prayer, standing firm on the Word of God and unity. Then God can “heal our land”—our hearts, homes, churches, those who so desperately need the God we serve.

God help us.

Nancy Owens

Via email

 

No constructive dialog

Good News has done it again and again but, alas, no constructive dialog with the organized United Methodist Church do we see on the horizon. Not even after spending the half-million dollars on a well intended survey as to what ails the United Methodist system.

In your latest publication we have been better informed by the learned and those concerned for our well-being. My real question is this: When will we ever be given the privilege of openly voicing the opinions of the laity who are The Church? Yes, this is our church and we should be given the right to be heard—in mass.

We need to organize the laity at no cost to voice the real reasons why the UM Church needs renewal. Let the people speak! Until the heirarchy moves aside and allows the laity to speak, we have slim chance for correction as seemingly no one knows the real problems we all face.

The laity, thousands of us, know what is wrong. We desperately need the opportunity to speak.

I suggest that Good News open up the next many issues to hear us out and allow for ample space to print the truth as we see it and have experienced it.

This may be the last attempt to save our UM Church as one body without a devastating split.

We have retained the form that John Wesley spoke about, but without following true spiritual Christianity we are losing the power thereof.

J. Perry Haupt

Trinity UM Church

Bellwood, Pennsylvania

Edeburn UM Church

Sigel, Pennsylvania

 

Which Abraham?

In the May/June 2011 issue of Good News, Frank Decker writes that Christians and Muslims should try to understand each other, and I agree. But a resource for church leaders he lists is “Abrahamic Alliance International” (AAI). The purpose of AAI is to help unite Jews, Christians, and Muslims. If you use this resource, be sure you get an answer to the question, which Abraham does AAI believe in? The Judeo-Christian Abraham offered Isaac as a sacrifice. The Islamic Abraham offered Ishmael as a sacrifice. Both sacrifices cannot be correct. Muslims say the Abraham revealed by Allah in the Koran is the only correct one. Muslims also say the revelations of Allah to His Prophet in the Koran cannot be wrong, so the Judeo-Christian Abraham must be incorrect. Does Mr. Decker know this? The AAAI resource assumes Judaism, Christianity, and Islam share Abraham in common. Abraham is supposed to be common ground for interfaith dialogue. But which Abraham?

Mr. Decker mentions a friend who questioned the value of a conference held in Georgia. The friend asked if the conference might help him love God with all his heart, and love his neighbors as himself…including his enemies? His friend did not think the conference had an open mind about Muslims. Well, Jesus tells us how to love our enemies in Matthew 5:44: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Most recently, enemies of the church burned Christian churches and murdered Christians in Cairo, Egypt, this past April. Our Muslim enemies have been persecuting the church for over 1,300 years. We should pray that our Muslim enemies would stop their persecution and not be so bad. We should ask God that they be cured, and if possible in this life, be made human again, a C.S. Lewis prayer. Christians are not the only ones persecuted, as can be seen in The Legacy of Islamic Anti-Semitism, edited by Andrew G. Bostom. He documents how Muslim leaders have supported and taught hatred of Jews for over a thousand years.

I agree with Mr. Decker that this is a great opportunity “to know and understand others and introduce then to Jesus.” If the church is to be effective, knowing and understanding Islam is critical. That means overcoming a kind of historical amnesia in the church about the 1,400 year relationship between Muslims and Christians. When Muslims choose to live in a Western country, in Europe or in America, they do not bring with them just a “religious tradition.” They bring a culture, the Muslim culture. It is very different from our American culture. We believe in freedom for all. Muslim culture believes in freedom only for Muslims. American culture believes in the equality of men and women. Muslim culture believes women are less equal than men. American culture believes in religious tolerance. Muslims culture tolerates only Islam and persecutes other religions. These two cultures are clashing. The church in America has the opportunity now to introduce Muslims to the full gospel of Jesus Christ. But we must understand who has landed on our shores.

Grace and peace,

Doug Rettig

Via email

 

Frank Decker responds: There are, of course, discrepancies between Qur’anic and Biblical accounts of various events, and Mr. Rettig points out one of them in the example of Ishmael (Qur’an) and Isaac (Bible) as the son whom Abraham offered for sacrifice. But we could use his logic, for example, to also ask the question, “Which Judas betrayed Jesus?—the one who hanged himself (as Matthew states in 27:5), or the one who fell headlong and his body burst open (as Luke states in Acts 1:18)?” The varied accounts do not necessarily mean that there must be two Judases, nor two Abrahams. Mr. Rettig seems to miss the point that finding some common ground as a starting point for discussion does not necessitate that one must completely accept everything that is stated in the writings of the other religion. He also summarizes all Muslims as having “A Muslim culture” and this is also fallacious. Muslims come from hundreds of cultures. There are good examples of Muslims and there are bad examples, just as there are good and bad examples of Christians. Let’s be historically honest and recognize that there are examples of adherents of both religions persecuting each other. But we will bear fruit for the Kingdom when we follow Jesus’ counsel to look for and witness to peaceful-minded persons as a starting point (Luke 10).