Jan 2013 – Is there a line? If so, where is it?

Is there anything that a person must believe in order to qualify as a Christian? Or does behavior or at least intention, rather than belief, determine who is a Christian? And can anyone other than God say who qualifies?  In Where My Soul Lives: Being a Christian Outside the Lines, Ruth H. Judy reports on interviews with Christians who feel they have been unjustly declared “outside the lines” by the institutional church or by traditionalist Christians.

Barbara tells how a UMC in Elk Grove, California has taken a brave step to oppose a line that has been drawn by the UMC but seems to contradict the Gospel.

Feb 2013 – Harmful school Bible courses

A report just issued by the Texas Freedom Network, reflecting research done by SMU professor Mark Chancey,  shows that many Bible courses taught in Texas public schools are biased and inaccurate, apparently violating the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment and a 2007 Texas law. A new documentary film, The Revisionaries, shown on PBS-TV and available for use or purchase, shows the religious right’s efforts by to promote such courses and the Texas Freedom Network’s efforts to stop them.

Mar 2013 – Examining religious freedom

Religious freedom is guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, but many activities presented by public schools and governments violate that provision. Quotes from several articles and websites, plus information about a disturbing book, express dismay and urge Christians to help prevent such violations.

Apr 2013 – What makes church church?

At a recent seminary board meeting, Barbara participated in a discussion that asked this question and other related questions, all of which seem important for today’s churchgoers to consider.

May 2013 – Concerns from young and old

In his book You Lost Me, Barna researcher David Kinnaman reports that many young adults feel that the church has lost them by offering only dogmatic, unconvincing answers to their serious questions and not being willing to engage in real dialogue. Barbara finds that many older churchgoers have left or become only minimal, reluctant participants for a similar reason. In Kissing Fish, Roger Wolsey bemoans the fact that the versions of Christianity that are turning many people off are not even authentic Christianity; he offers progressive Christianity instead.

June 2013 – Compassion and justice

Barbara expresses her great admiration for Bob Guinee of San Antonio, who lives and runs a ministry for children in a crime-ridden and poverty-ridden neighborhood. But she explains why she isn’t willing to express opposition to “Mikey” Weinstein, a Jew who is trying to eliminate Christian evangelical proselytizing from the U.S. military, as Bob has asked her to do.

July 2013 – Public prayer and religious freedom

A brave legislator recently offered a non-sectarian invocation to a session of the Texas Legislature, incurring the criticism of conservative Christian colleagues. Cheerleaders at Kountze, Texas, were given permission to display Bible verses on banners at public-school football games. Why do we allow public, oral prayers in non-religious settings? Why should non-religious institutions present Christian scriptures and other Christian religious displays?

Aug 2013 – Beyond conflict to content

Being Christian requires more than just being “nice.” In a UM Insight article,  Kevin Watson points out that what Wesley called “Christian conferencing” addresses only a process for talking about our disagreements. It doesn’t deal with their content. And Barbara wonders why so many United Methodists still advocate continued use of Wesley’s words and methods.

Sept 2013 – What’s important–numbers or purpose?

Emphasis on metrics has increased, in the church as in other fields. Church consultant Gil Rendle points out the need to focus on the church’s goals, not just its numbers.

Use of patriarchal language harms women, yet we keep doing it in the church. The “bride of Christ” image is part of this harmful pattern that needs to be stopped.

Oct 2013 – Secrets that need to be known

Many Christians use up-to-date information and analytical thinking in their professions but not in their religion. Giving up outdated beliefs, questioning the church’s traditions, and bringing its long-held secrets into the open seems essential for the church’s survival.

Nov 2013 – Still in the wilderness?

After 21 years of writing Connections, Barbara is aware of many more people “out there” with similar beliefs and views, but her local congregation of more than 50 years, First United Methodist of Temple TX, feels more like a wilderness than ever. She describes her rejection by it.

Dec 2013Connections readers speak

“Your story breaks my heart,” many readers say in response to the December issue. Many have shrunk into silence or passivity as the result of similar treatment. “How can one grow if never challenged?” they ask.