Jan 2011 – Time to stop getting it wrong

“Churches that ‘get it wrong’ may lose an entire generation of young adults,”  warns UMC megachurch pastor Adam Hamilton in his latest book. He observes that Christians’ unchristian actions, promotion of anti-intellectual and anti-science views, hostility to other religions, blaming God for human suffering, and treating homosexuality as sin are turn-offs for many young adults and also for others who have opted out of the church.

Feb 2011 – The insight that age can bring

Some older Connections readers tell how the broader perspective that has come with age and experience has led them to rethink, revise, and even abandon some beliefs that they earlier took for granted or at least felt they couldn’t openly question. Older Christians like these could be among Christianity’s most effective spokespersons now, because they’re directly addressing the claims that are needlessly keeping today’s younger people from finding Christianity credible. Also, some retired pastors could help the church see the need for change if they spoke up now.

March 2011 – How can we protest effectively?

Protests are currently in the U.S. and world news, and 36 retired UMC bishops have issued a statement disagreeing with the official UMC position on homosexuality. But the president of the UMC Council of Bishops says bishops are obligated to support the official position as long as it stays in effect. What should church members do when they believe official policies such as this contradict the teaching of Jesus? How can we protest such policies more effectively?

April 2011Connections readers speak

Responses from Connections readers and others who read a Mar 26 article about Barbara in the Austin American-Statesman reflect the same themes that have been most prominent in Barbara’s mail from Connections readers over the years. These include wanting justice issues to be addressed openly in the church, wanting a variety of views and beliefs to be heard, wanting intellectually substantial content, and wanting to focus on what Jesus emphasized.

May 2011 – Is your church Christian?

In his book If the Church Were Christian, Quaker pastor Philip Gulley suggests ten characteristics that he thinks the church would exhibit if it adhered to the values that had top priority for Jesus.

June 2011 – Living in the wilderness

Church consultant Gil Rendle sees today’s church in a wilderness much as the Israelites described in the Bible were. We got here, he says, by making our identifying stories safe and weak. To attract newcomers now, we must focus more on purpose instead of so much on relationships, and we must listen to creative deviants. Barbara feels we must also change what we’re saying about Jesus, God, and the Bible, especially in worship services.

July 2011 – Looking at fundamentalism

Texas Governor Perry’s sponsorship of a prayer meeting based on Christian fundamentalist beliefs led Barbara to investigate the origin and significance of  fundamentalism.

Aug 2011 – A story that churchgoers need to examine

An unusual but intriguing book by Cynthia Bourgeault points out how the “master story” that is in most Christians’ blood contains misleading features and overlooks crucial points such as the unique role played in Jesus’s life by Mary Magdalene.

Sept 2011 – A hard job that requires a choice

It’s finding the right balance between purity and compassion, which are presented in Matthew 9 as mercy and sacrifice. In his intriguing book Unclean, Christian psychology professor Richard Beck explains how the psychological experience of disgust influences our way of seeing these two qualities, and how overemphasis on purity often keeps Christians from obeying the teaching of Jesus.

Oct 2011 – Communicating with church decision-makers

Delegates to church decision-making bodies need to hear the views of church members, including those they disagree with and those whose views are in the minority.

Nov 2011 – Does love move us into need?

In his book Unclean, Christian psychology professor Richard Beck says that true love—the love that Jesus taught—does not mean just giving from our excess or our leftovers. “True love,” Beck finds, “moves me into need, which is admittedly a very scary prospect.” If he’s right, what does this mean for Christians, with regard to current economic and political issues such as taxes, health care, and immigration?

Dec 2011 – Charity is not enough

Requests for charitable contributions are numerous at this season, and many Christians contribute money and time to worthwhile charities. But following Jesus and heeding the words of the Hebrew prophets seems likely to require more of us—advocacy and maybe public protest and other ways of showing what some Christians call “solidarity” with people who are suffering.