Reflections: Letters to the Editor (Jan-Feb 2017)
Grace removes shame
Grace (Nov/Dec 2016), as fabulous as it is, becomes even more powerful when examined alongside its emotional opposite shame. As a psychologist and UMC clergy, I spend my days replacing shame with grace. People who feel painfully unworthy (or who have been told that they are unworthy) remain cut-off from loved ones and from God's love.
At church, we say that we "offer the means of grace," but we also perpetuate far too much shame. People come to my office seeking healing after years of intolerance and sexual shaming. The moment they throw off shame, they begin to glimpse their beloved standing in the sight of God, and grace seeps into their souls. Let's continue to tackle shame in our churches and foster these salvific moments. My book Shame-Less Lives; Grace-full Congregations (Alban Press), is a must-read for grace-seeking individuals and congregations.
(The Rev.) Karen McClintock, First UMC, Ashland, Oregon
In regards to the Publisher's Page (Sept/Oct 2016), you state, "Paul's transformation was so dramatic that, in his conversion, Jesus told him to change his name from Saul to Paul."
This common assertion is often well intended, but there is a much better explanation for why this man has two names – he was given both of them at birth. He was born into a family that was of both Jewish and Roman background. In the Bible, when he operated in a Jewish context (Acts 7:58-13:3) he was called by his Jewish name Saul. The first time in scripture his Roman name is revealed (not given as a new name) is when he first speaks while launching his ministry to the Gentiles on Cyprus (Acts 13:9). Therefore, the change in how he is named is not based on his transformation, but on the nature of his ministry.
It is a small point in the grand scheme of things, but still accuracy is better than error.
(The Rev.) Jim Proctor, Lyndonville (Vermont) UMC
Not called to judge
I write you with love and concern for an authentic spirit of holiness in the membership within the body of Christ.
Many United Methodist church members worldwide disagree about the question of sexual preferences and relationships (Nov/Dec 2016). Paul writes in Galatians 3:28: "There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free nor is there male and female for you are all one in Christ Jesus." (NIV)
To deny anyone full acceptance into the community of Christ because of sexual orientation is a sin, which exiles The United Methodist Church into a void of separation. Separation leads to sin and death. In contrast, God desires our unity with Christ Jesus through lives of love and considerateness.
Christians cannot both judge and feel spiritually justified. Only God can judge. You can no longer continue to discriminate against others based on sexual orientation and preferences either inside or outside of the UMC community. When you deny someone because of sexual preference, you deny Christ Jesus.
Our minds are a testimony to God's ongoing creation infinite in its variability. Within those variations, Christ lives and calls us to care for one another. We are not called to judge but to serve Christ with faith, humility and reason.
(The Rev.) James M. Case, Christ UMC, Mountain Top, Pennsylvania