My former congregation prided itself on being warm and friendly. Then one Sunday Michael came to worship, and we discovered the limits of our welcome. Michael had Tourette's syndrome, a neurological disorder characterized by involuntary physical and vocal tics. At first, there were no signs of our visitor's disability; Michael seemed rather quiet.
Paul tells us to
"resolve" never to put a hindrance to the gospel before another person—and resolve
is what it takes. By initiating a conversation about hell, Rob Bell is putting his reputation on the line.
Head out on a tour of the castles of medieval Europe and you'll quickly catch on to a castle's three key features. What you see first is the bailey—a large area surrounded by a substantial wall where most of the population lived and most of the life of the community was conducted.
I feel sorry for those who never
got to hear Peter Gomes work a congregation while a biblical text worked
him. He was a teacher, raconteur and best-selling
author. But his primary vocation was as a preacher.
Michael Bransfield, Catholic bishop of West Virginia, seems to be taking his cues from the coal industry when interpreting Pope Francis’s recent encyclical Laudato si’, which calls for an end to the use of fossil fuels. Bransfield says the pope’s call for ending fossil fuel use is qualified: it should happen “only after” greater progress is made in using alternative fuels, and only where economically feasible. In fact, Pope Francis makes no such qualifications. Bransfield is also promoting the idea of “clean coal.” A spokesperson admitted that the Wheeling-Charleston diocese has “energy related investments” (National Catholic Reporter, July 1).