Even though I grew up in a church manse, am the son of a minister and was raised by congregations of wonderful Christian believers, I had not heard the question until the summer after my junior year of high school. I remember being confused and slightly put off by the way in which it was asked. I remember the steady, waiting gaze of those sitting across from me in the circle.
On August 2, 2010, a column in the New York Times struck a chord with a number of my colleagues—by the end of the day it was posted on the Facebook pages of more than 30 of them. These friends had one important characteristic in common with each other and with me. Each had graduated from seminary in recent years and each was serving in some ministry context, often in congregations.
I don’t know about you, but I find it challenging to preach on non-narrative texts. It’s easy to make a good story from the Gospels or the Old Testament come alive in a sermon. It’s a lot harder to do that with a theological treatise, so I tend to neglect preaching on the epistles.
Martin Boehm was a key player in founding the United Brethren in Christ denomination, one of the precursors of the United Methodist Church. More than 240 years ago, Boehm was excommunicated after having a Wesleyan-type spiritual awakening that led to his preaching to people outside of his Mennonite church. Pennsylvania Mennonites recently denounced “the small-mindedness of religious thinking” that led to Boehm’s ouster, restored his Mennonite credentials, and asked local United Methodists forgiveness for their spiritual forebears’ narrowness (UMNS, June 27).