Jan. 2017 - Mentioning two unmentionables

In his newest book, Craig C. Hill, the new dean of Perkins School of Theology at SMU, dares to address two subjects that are often unmentionable in the church. Sex? No. Money? Not that either.  Instead they’re status and ambition.

Feb. 2017 - A time for quiet courage

With a new U.S. president who didn’t win the popular vote and who acts in ways that many Christians see as immoral, we’re in the midst of more turmoil and conflict than many of us have ever known.  And the church is full of conflict, too. It’s in all church denominations to some extent, but in the United Methodist Church, it is especially apparent right now because the UMC’s new Commission on A Way Forward is starting its work.  Its assignment is to examine and consider possible revision of UMC policy concerning human sexuality and to explore options for promoting unity of the church.

March 2017 - Refugees and sanctuaries

Every day’s news now includes reports about refugees, plus opinions about how we should deal with them.  Sanctuary cities and sanctuary churches are in the news regularly now, too, along with varied opinions about whether what they’re doing is right or wrong.

April 2017 - Can pastors be lay people’s friends?

A few years ago I lost a close friend, a “kindred spirit.”  In many of the beliefs and concerns that each of us considered most important, we were on very much the same wavelength.  For several years, he and I conversed often about the subjects that were most important to us: decisions or problems that we were facing, beliefs about God and churches and religions and such, and views about what was currently happening in the world. We helped each other to think through these subjects, see many sides of them, and try to discern what we might need to do about them.  I always felt that I could safely say to him whatever I really felt or believed, and he seemed to feel the same about revealing his real self to me.

May 2017 - How do we experience God?

Reading a recent blog post by United Methodist Bishop Michael L. McKee, a longtime friend of mine, made me rethink how I experience God and how the church deals with (or, more often, fails to deal with) members’ experiences of God.

June 2017 - Reconsidering the past

Three projects that I’ve been working on lately have made me take a fresh look at some of my personal history and congregational history.

July 2017 - Divisive Issues

A magazine article and a book that I’ve recently read suggest ways of addressing current social issues on which Christians disagree.  The article, “How One Pastor Is Bridging the Partisan Divide,” by Yoni Applebaum, in the June 27 issue of The Atlantic, describes a way of addressing such issues in worship services.  It’s the way of the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Kansas City, which claims 20,000 congregants in its four congregations in the Kansas City area.

August 2017 - Can anything hasten change?

If you were given a large amount of money, let’s say maybe $100,000 or $500,000 or even $1,000,000 to use for promoting change in the church, how would you use it?  That may sound like a ridiculous question, because nearly every Connections reader could probably come up immediately with ways in which his or her congregation or favorite charitable organization could use more money — for building maintenance, a new building or addition, a food pantry or other ministry to the homeless, college scholarships, or even help paying UMC apportionments or a pastor’s salary. But I’m not talking about changes like those.

September 2017 - A better way to be Christian?

This Connections reviews four recent books, three of which I learned about from Connections readers.  Three are by authors who started life as a conservative, evangelical, fundamentalist, or at least traditionalist Christians, then later in life grew into an understanding of Christianity that reflected more recent ideas and information, made more sense to them, and changed them into passionate followers of what they came to see clearly as the way of Jesus.

December 2017 - Catching up

Largely because of what’s currently happening in my life, which i describe some of on page 4 of this issue, I haven’t written any issues of Connections since September, and I suspect this issue will be the only one I write before January 2018.