Wednesday, December 21, 2005
A federal appeals court ruled against the teaching of I.D. in science classrooms in Dover, PA. The Baptist Joint committee's new blog has just about all the information you need. You can go to the main blog site by clicking here. Or, here are a few links directly to articles on the blog:
here, and read a great commentary by Brent Walker by clicking here.
Saturday, December 10, 2005
Here are just a few links to stories about churches that will be closed:
Churches in Miami
Willow Creek in Chicago
Churches in Atlanta
Church in Palm Beach
Church in Lexington, Kentucky
I could post even more links, but that gives you an idea.
Gay and I will be at FBC Statesville on Christmas morning, and then we will head back to Tampa after the service. Would we like to be back in Tampa on Christmas morning? Of course! But, we both understand the importance of having services on Christmas morning.
Care to chime in on this? Leave a comment!
Our final in Christian History 1 was on Thursday from 2-5. It was 25 multiple choice questions and 3 essay questions, and it took me almost the entire 3 hours to finish it.
My last paper in Art of Ministry 1 was due on Tuesday, and it was an integration of 3 of the books we read this semester.
It is a relief to make it through the first semester, and I am looking forward to the next semester. Its a great feeling to know that I can do it. I can keep up with the reading. I can write the papers. It gives me a feeling of accomplishment, and just further validation that I am doing the right thing.
Wednesday, November 30, 2005
What a week. I had a paper due for History of Christianity Yesterday, a project due in Art of Ministry Yesterday, and my final exam in Old Testament was today. Needless to say, I am a little tired, actually, I am a lot tired.
But, I got a couple of grades back on papers recently, and they were both A's! Which is awesome! 1 paper was in Art of Ministry and the other was in Congregational Health. The paper was our final assignment in Congregational Health, so I was able to find out that I got an A in that class. Its only a 1 hour class, but its still great to get an "A."
My research paper for the History of Christianity was on the Gospel of Thomas, which was found in Egypt in the late 40's. Its composed entirely of sayings of Jesus, there is no narrative in it at all. If you want a copy, send me an e-mail and I will be happy to send it to you. You can see an e-mail address at Gmail in the column on the right. I don't want to post it here, because it will just get spammed. I do plan to do a page with my writing on it, but that won't be up until sometime during our break.
I signed up for my classes next semester. I will be taking History of Christianity 2, Old Testament 2, Intro. to the Spiritual Life, and God and the New York Times. The last class is taught by Bill Leonard and James Dunn, and could be thought of a current events and Christianity course. Can you guess what the text is for the course??? The New York Times! Anyway, I think we have to write something everyday, so it is going to provide a lot of material for the blog.
I think I am going to survive my first semester at Divinity School! I appreciate everyone who has been praying for me, and would ask that you keep doing it!
Monday, November 21, 2005
Sunday, November 20, 2005
I like your post and the article you referenced from Ethics Daily.
I have only one comment and that is this: We do not live in a Christian nation. We live in a pagan nation that is attempting at every turn to remove anything perceived as Christian from its midst. As a nation, is it wise to pretend that we still cling to the concepts the Bible offers (as sighted in your reference to IPeter 3:9)? If you are not a practicing Christian--and I suppose that no practicing Christian would allow themselves to be trained in any sort of torture techniques--then what good does it do to follow the precepts of the Bible? Why wouldn't this person engage in whatever means necessary to "fight the War on Terror", as the Commander in Cheif has directed?
The bottom line is that we need to decide if we are indeed a Christian nation before we make policy on such issues.
Here is my response:
I don't think we are a Christian nation, and many of the founding fathers would agree with me. In either case, it is irrelevant to my point. I believe the church is called to be prophetic on these issues, but many (if not a majority) of Christians will simply not criticize the republicans. Many do exactly what you appear to be doing, which is try to blame the "liberals" for taking "God" out of a country he was never in. (Which is a whole other discussion on its own.)This response may be a little harsh, and if so, I apologize for that. This poster was probably not intentionally changing the subject or shifting the blame, but there are those who are very skilled at this and do it on a regular basis. I am completely willing to discuss whether or not the US is a Christian nation, but that argument is not the one I was making.
Monday, November 14, 2005
"I'd like to say to the good citizens ofHe later clarified his response by adding the following:
: If there is a disaster in your area, don't turn to God. You just rejected him from your city, and don't wonder why he hasn't helped you when problems begin, if they begin. I'm not saying they will, but if they do, just remember, you just voted God out of your city. And if that's the case, don't ask for his help because he might not be there." Dover
"God is tolerant and loving, but we can't keep sticking our finger in his eye forever," Robertson said. "If they have future problems in Dover, I recommend they call on Charles Darwin. Maybe he can help them."Those of who know me that I put my science and my faith in two different categories. In my opinion, science studies the laws God established for the way the world works. Evolution could be the method God chose to create the universe. I don't have the answer to that, and neither does anyone else. What I do have is the faith that God did create the universe in whatever way he saw fit. This faith cannot be proven by science, but it is also not weakened by the lack of proof.
We discussed this very issue and this very case with Dr. Charles Haynes, directory of the First Amendment Center, at the Freedom Forum on my recent trip to Washington. In my response paper, which I still plan to post here soon, I had this to say on the issue:
Dr. Haynes saved one of his most profound statements for the end of the discussion. He said, "If religion has to be proven in a scientific way, then there is no place for faith in religion." As a Christian, I believe that faith has to take precedence over science. Only faith can explain the existence of miracles; science cannot. Only faith can explain the power of prayer; science cannot. And, only faith can prove the existence of God; science cannot. As most Christians know, faith can be more powerful than any scientific theory, and that should be enough.You can read an Associated Baptist Press article about Pat Robertson's comments by clicking here.
My personal response would be to eliminate the religious holidays for all religions, and allow the students a reasonable number of "floating holidays" they could use to observe the days of their choice. A solution like that would eliminate the sense that the government was favoring one or two religions over others (and therefore satisfy the establishment clause of the first amendment) and also protect the religious liberty of students to observe whatever religious holidays they choose (and therefore satisfy the free exercise clause of the constitution.)
Wednesday, November 09, 2005
This is one of the issues the church should be prophetic about. So, I went from Ethics Daily (website of the Baptist Center for Ethics which is independent but a partner of the CBF) to the Southern Baptist Convention website, the Baptist Press website, and the Ethics and Religious Liberty commission's website (the latter two are SBC organizations) and found nothing about this issue. There was plenty to read about homosexual marriage, human cloning, and other issues the religious right is fond of, but nothing about this issue. This is an obvious example of what happens when Christians align themselves no closely with one party that they become unwilling or unable to find any fault in it.
You can read the Ethics Daily article by clicking here.
1 Peter 3:9
9Do not repay evil for evil or abuse for abuse; but, on the contrary, repay with a blessing. It is for this that you were called—that you might inherit a blessing.
Everything is going well at school. I am finally starting to get the feel of being a student again. I haven't written much on the blog, because I have had a bunch of papers due lately. I am hoping to be able to finish some of them early, so that I don't have to worry about writing over the Thanksgiving break.
Two of my classes, Church and State in America and Congregational Health have now ended. That leaves me with Art of Ministry, Old Testament I, and, of course, History of Christianity.
So far, the experience is about what I expected. My favorite class (this is question I have been asked most often) is definitely Old Testament. When you take the time to really dive into the text, the stories are amazing. You couldn't make up better characters if you tried. This is not a theology class, that comes later. The purpose of this class is to read the text, study what contemporary scholarship has to say about the text, and interact with the text ourselves. The professor is excellent, and does a great job of bringing the text to life.
A lot of the ministers I talked to before I left expected divinity school to challenge some of my beliefs. I haven't really experienced that yet. As an example, my Old Testament professor said that some people might be shocked to find out there is little or no archaeological evidence for the conquest narratives in Joshua. The first two cities conquered, Jericho and Ai, were not even occupied at the time the conquest is believed to have occurred. The professor said that if we wanted to believe that the conquest of Jericho was a literal truth, that was fine, we just had to say that all the archaeologists were wrong. In my opinion, whether the stories are literally true is not the important things. The important thing is the lessons to be learned from the stories. Lessons like: if you want to get married, go to the village well, and sleeping with the king's concubines is the same thing as making a claim to the throne! These are the valuable lessons to be learned in divinity school.
Things are getting better on the home front. As some of you know, the furniture from the house really didn't fit right into the new condo. We had a sectional couch that would have worked great if either the sectional connected on the other side, or if we had an condo on the other side of the building. We ended up having to order some furniture, and we are very happy with it. We should now be able to finish up packing, and set-up the guest room so that we can have some visitors.
I will be posting an edited version of my church and state paper shortly. One of the speakers spoke on the condition that our conversations would be off the record, so I have to remove that portion.
Please continue to keep us in your prayers!
Monday, October 31, 2005
So, now the MBC can decide FOR THE LOCAL CHURCH who they are allowed to give money to, and what organizations they are allowed to be members of. It would be interesting to see if supporting the Baptist World Alliance would be enough to get a church kicked out of the MBC.
Click here to read more of the story.
Although it is not that bad here in North Carolina yet, the fundamentalists are on the attack and it appears the moderates have tired of the fight. To read more about North Carolina, click here.
Friday, October 21, 2005
Thursday, October 20, 2005
Tuesday, October 18, 2005
Once class is over tonight, I only have one more class this week, and that is the Art of Ministry small group on Thursday morning. I am going to use some of the off time to catch up on reading that I have fallen behind on in my OT class, which is the only class I am behind in. Hopefully, I will be able to start next week feeling a little more refreshed.
Gay and I will be joining FBC Statesville on Sunday. I will be joining under watchcare, which will allow me to keep my Florida CBF and Bayshore scholarship money. I am also interviewing the pastor tomorrow, which may eventually lead to an internship opportunity there. We'll just have to wait and see. It certainly would be nice to work with Gay again, and even better to be able to work at the same place on Sunday. We'll just have to see what happens. My internships won't start until next year, so I certainly have some time to find something.
I will be posting some pictures from the Washington trip soon, and will provide a link to them here.
Sunday, October 16, 2005
Friday, October 14, 2005
Washington Day 1
Well I slept about as well as I expected to the first night. The bed is small, the mattress is terrible, and I had to go through the closet to go to the bathroom! But the pictures above tell a happier story. The speakers today were actually really good. We had someone on the conservative side of things that was pro-faith based initiatives. Then we had someone from Americans United for the Separation of Church and State which opposes faith based initiatives. Then it was off for the highlight of the day which was a meeting with the director of the First Amendment Center which is a part of the Freedom Forum group funded by the Gannett Media Endowment (excuse me if I get some of these names wrong. I am typing this on my top bunk in the dark. The meeting room is one of the pictures above (click for a larger picture) and the other is a view from the balcony. This talk was probably the highlight of the day for me. The topic was the teaching of intelligent design and creationism in the public school. I will write more of this later as I am able to look at my notes. Then it was back to the Penn house for two more lectures, and then I went out to dinner with a few fellow students.
Now I am back in the bunk and getting ready to go to sleep. Just in case you forgot what it looked like, here it is as big as blogger will let me show it. This is CLOSE TO LIFE SIZE! Notice the light we have to unscrew to turn it off and keep the fan on! (You can click for a larger version if you really want to.)
Anyway, I will post more pictures as I get the chance. I am connecting to the internet via my cell phone, so it is really slow. But I had to get online to post this picture!
Wednesday, October 12, 2005
This week I am off to Washington DC with James Dunn for my Chruch and State in America class. We will be leaving tomorrow afternoon (Thursday) and will return on Sunday. We will be listening to various people from various religions talk about church/state people. We will be hearing from both sides. For example, we will have a speaker from George Bush's justice department, as well as a speaker from Americans United for the Separation of Church and State. I will try to post some pictures from Washington here over the weekend, so keep your eyes open. When we get back, we have our final for that class on Tuesday, and we have to write a response paper on the trip, which I will post here if it is any good. That will end this class which will give me more time to work on other classes, which is great!
On a technical note, I went back to the Blogger commenting system because they have made some improvements, and it is easier for me to update when Blogger has new features available. Unfortunately, that means we loose the older comments, but this makes things easier for me, and we all know that's what is important!
Wednesday, October 05, 2005
Dear Dr. Laura:
Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God's Law. I have learned a great deal from your show, and try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind them that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination. End of debate. I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some of the other specific laws and how to follow them:
When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord - Lev.1:9. The problem is my neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?
I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?
I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual uncleanliness - Lev.15:19- 24. The problem is, how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offense.
Lev. 25:44 states that I may indeed possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can't I own Canadians?
I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself?
A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomination - Lev. 11:10, it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don't agree. Can you settle this?
Lev. 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle room here?
Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev. 19:27. How should they die?
I know from Lev. 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?
My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev. 19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them? - Lev.24:10-16. Couldn't we just burn them to death at a private family affair like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws? (Lev. 20:14)
I know you have studied these things extensively, so I am confident you can help. Thank you again for reminding us that God's word is eternal and unchanging.
Sunday, October 02, 2005
The service today was great too. Statesville celebrated World Communion Sunday, had Baptism, and was also voting on church deacons. Dr. Jeff Porter, the senior pastor, preached a great sermon. He talked a lot about the role of deacons in the church, and how important a healthy deacon board is to the health of the church.
I am very proud of Gay, and I know that she is going to do great things for the children's ministry at Statesville. I know this job is one of the reasons why we are in Winston-Salem.
On a lighter note, Gay and I went to our first Wake Forest football game yesterday. My friend Dean called late Friday night and told me a neighbor had given him 4 tickets to the game. So, we decided to go. We fully expected Wake Forest to loose to Clemson, but it didn't work out that way! Wake pulled out to an early 21-7 lead. Clemson was able to come back, and was leading 27-24 late in the fourth quarter. Wake scored with very little time on the clock to take a 31-24 lead. Clemson was almost able to come back, and on the final play of the game, they got as close as the 3 yard line, but the Demon Deacons prevailed! We had a great time.
We went out to dinner with our friends Dean and Janet after the game, and we discovered that they are getting married on June 3rd of next year. So, they will have the same anniversary we do. What are the chances that we leave Tampa, move to Winston-Salem, meet a couple from across the bay in St. Petersburg that only lives about 5 minutes from us and will now share our anniversary? Pretty weird, huh?
Thursday, September 29, 2005
In general, I am really enjoying everything that I am learning, and I am enjoying the classes themselves. I am really worried about the History of Christianity test that is coming in 2 weeks. The amount of information this exam will cover is incredible, and Dean Leonard is known as a difficult professor. I will feel so much better if I can get through that exam with a good grade. I spend most of time reading, writing, or in class, but I try to make at least some time to relax and spend with Gay.
This Sunday will be Gay's first at First Baptist Statesville. She is looking forward to starting there, and we are going to start moving stuff to her office tomorrow. I will definitely post again next week as I get more grades back.
Please, keep us both in your prayers.
Tuesday, September 20, 2005
Want to know the really sad thing? This church is in Tyler, Texas. There are victims from New Orleans in Tyler, Texas.
The pastor was asked to remove the sign by evacuees, AND HE REFUSED!
In the New Testament, Jesus commanded us to love God, and love our neighbor. There is NO EXCUSE FOR ANY PASTOR TO EVER BEHAVE THIS WAY. THIS IS WHY SO MANY PEOPLE ARE TURNED OFF BY CHRISTIANITY!
I believe that churches should be the presence of Christ in the world. This is one reason why I am in Seminary, the church HAS TO DO BETTER THAN THIS!
Not suprisingly, this church's website has taken down their guestbook. You can visit their website by clicking here. Notice that fundamental is spelled wrong on the front page.
Saturday, September 10, 2005
1. Read all of Writings of the Apostolic Fathers - 192 pages
2. Read 169 Pages of The Early Church
3. Read first 58 pages of A History of Medieval Christianity
4. 41 Pages in Documents of the Early Church
5. 132 pages of The Hidden Lives of Congregations
6. 81 pages in Introduction to the Hebrew Bible
7. Approximately 30 pages in The Jewish Study Bible
8. 59 pages in Liberty of Conscience: Roger Williams in America
9. Numerous other articles either on reserve, on the Internet, or handed out in class.
Without the last one, that's 762 pages of reading so far! Could someone remind me why I am here again? :)
1. When were the sun and moon created? What impact does this have on the creation story?
The sun and moon were created on Day 4. So, the question is, where did the light come from? Without the sun, there would be light on the earth, but the sky would still be dark, and not blue, since the blue color is created by light passing through out atmosphere. Just something to think about.
2. Was man created before or after the animals?
3. Prior to creation, was there too much or too little water?
4. Were man and woman created at the same time?
I grouped these answers together for a reason. If you look at Genesis, there are actually 2 creation stories (there are 2 versions of many of the other stories in the Pentateuch as well.) Read Genesis 1 through Genesis 2:4a. Then forget about Genesis 1 and read the rest of Genesis 2. These are obviously 2 different stories by 2 different authors. The first story is very concerned with details, and God is not portrayed as being anthropomorphic (having the physical characteristics of a person) as he is in Genesis 2. The name used to refer to God in the Hebrew also changes. So, lets look at each of the questions and what the text actually says
2. Was man created before or after the animals?
Yes. In the Genesis 1, the animals are created in verse 24 and man in verse 26. In chapter 2 man is created in verse 7, and the animals are not formed until verse 19 when God was attempting to find a suitable helper for Adam.
3. Prior to creation was there too much or too little water?
Yes. In Genesis 1, the dry land appears out of the water in verse 9. In Genesis 2, the earth was dusty, and "a flow would well up from the ground and water the whole surface of the earth.
4. Were man and woman created at the same time?
In Genesis 1, it certainly appears they were created at the same time. (Also look at Genesis 5) In Genesis 2, Eve was created later. By the way, fitting helper could more accurately be translated "companion." Because the subservience implied by fitting helper is not implied by the original Hebrew word. (This is what I am told, I haven't taken Hebrew yet.) Supposedly, this word is even used for God helping man in the Old Testament. There are some really crazy explanations about this.
5. What was the serpent?
I guess I asked the wrong question here. I should have asked who. Tradition tells us that the serpent was Satan. But, there is no hint of that in the text at all.
I am curious to read what you all think of this? For another example, you can look at the Noah story. How many of each animal were taken into the ark? How long was the flood?
Let me know what you think.
Thursday, September 08, 2005
Statesville is about 40 minutes from our house, and the drive is all interstate. So, the commute time for her will be about what it was to Bayshore, although the distance will be longer. She will be working 3 Days a week: Sunday, Monday, and Wednesday.
This job is just another sign that we are doing the right thing. I am very proud of Gay, and I am also very excited for her. This move has not been easy for either of us, but God never promised the journey would be easy. He just promised to be with us.
I will post the answers to the questions I asked tomorrow. I have been swamped with work this week, and haven't had much time to do anything other than read and write about the History of Christianity. I'll try to post a personal update as well.
Monday, September 05, 2005
He said, "Go out and stand on the mountain before the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by." Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. --1 Kings 19:11-12Please continue to pray for those who have been affected by hurricane Katrina and those who are trying to care for them.
Sunday, September 04, 2005
1. When were the sun and moon created? What impact does this have on the creation story?
2. Was man created before or after the animals?
3. Prior to creation, was there too much or too little water?
4. Were man and woman created at the same time?
5. What was the serpent?
All of the above questions can be answered in the first 3 chapters of Genesis. On the phone and in e-mail, people are asking me what I am learning, so I am going to post some of it here.
"Out on a Limb" was the theme of this year's orientation.
Out on a Limb? — Not Yet!
by Bill J. Leonard
On July 7, 2005 terrorists blew up 3 subway trains and a city bus in downtown London. Over fifty people were killed. And you came to Divinity School.
In the spring of 2005, Pope John Paul II died and was buried in one of the great medieval spectacles of the 21st century. Millions of people went to Rome. And you came to Divinity School.
In July 2005, Joel Osteen led his 35,000 member congregation at Lakewood Church, Houston, into their new quarters at the Compaq Center, a former basketball arena, which they promptly packed out with over 20,000 people attending each weekend. Joel's never been to Divinity School, but you've decided to give it a try!
In August 2005 over 1850 American soldiers have been killed in Iraq; and only God knows how many Iraqis. And you came to Divinity School.
In August 2005 the mother of a 22 year old soldier killed in Iraq decided to camp out in front of the Texas White House outside Crawford, Texas in hopes of an audience with the President of the United States in order to urge that he brings the troops home. And you came to Divinity School.
In her New York Times column for August 10, 2005, commenting on that mother in that place, Maureen Dowd wrote that "the moral authority of parents who bury children killed in Iraq is absolute." Can you exegete that haunting phrase or any of these events I've just described? Can you offer "an explanation or interpretation" (hence exegete) a medieval and a post-modern spectacle, both drawing huge numbers of people in the year of our Lord 2005? Can you exegete — offer an explanatory note — biblical, historical, theological, spiritual, pastoral, that says anything to a mother or father who's twenty-something son or daughter was snuffed out by a roadside bomb or suicide bomber? After a week, a semester or three years in this Divinity School will your exegesis of these texts and contexts be the same one you'd offer right now?
This Master of Divinity program which you are beginning does many things but one central issue is surely centered in this important question: Can you exegete texts and contexts past, present and future? Can you dig into the texts, the sources, the resources and struggle with the ideas that have engaged and divided religious communions from Canaan to Constantinople, from Syria to Saddleback Valley? Actually, we are less interested here in your opinion of these and other events, than we are in your ability to document that opinion, or build a case for it, or struggle with ancient ideas and primary sources that might in-form or re-form your opinion and analysis. In coming to terms with those sources and resources you will make yourselves very vulnerable to us as faculty (for sure), and also to each other, and to the sources themselves, both ancient and modern. In short, I suppose, we could say that you get out on a limb.
Vulnerability is at the heart of our communal experience here at the WFU Divinity School. Every graduate program requires a certain vulnerability from its students as they face examinations, papers, class discussions, and other evaluatory experiences. But at divinity school we add God, faith, dogma, doctrine, tradition, dissent, spirituality and doubt to the mix. Was it Martin Luther who reminded us that one becomes a theologian—by "living, dying and being damned?" (And that's just in the first semester!) Yes, you are out on a limb here. There will be classes when you wish you hadn't said what you said out loud and other classes where you wish you'd said something, anything, just to let people know you are thinking about these issues even when you aren't sure where it will take you. Yes, you are out on a limb, gambling that you can do this degree in three years apart from illness, family crisis, personal angst, and economics, economics, economics. What we hope and encourage you to do is to take advantage of the University infrastructure — student insurance, writing center, counseling center, basketball tickets — that will under-gird your pilgrimage here amid the vulnerabilities.
But in a much larger sense, during this next three years you are hardly out on a limb at all. Indeed, our hope for you is that this academic program and this community of pilgrims serves as an anchor, a foundation, or a tree trunk even, not a limb. For it is out there, in the world, in the thick of things that we are most vulnerable, most out on a limb as women and men "for others." Some of you will move from this degree to a church were you will crawl up into a pulpit at least 45 Sundays a year, climb down into a text taken from the lectionary or the sermon roulette process we Baptists often manifest, take your clothes off (theologically and homiletically speaking) in front of a group of people, and make yourself exceedingly vulnerable to differences of opinion, ethical division, theological dispute, and perhaps even charges of heresy before it is done! That's life on an ecclesiastical limb. We've got to help get you ready for that.
Or you'll find yourself in the emergency room at 2 a.m. when somebody's teenager has wrapped a car and perhaps themselves around a bridge or a lamp post and they need somebody, anybody to help them deal with life's, perhaps death's, unexpected turns. Can we do anything here that helps anchor you even slightly at that unpredictable moment? Or can you deal with the homeless and the city council in your particular locale in the name of justice and goodness and God? We'll hope to get you ready for that.
You've got plenty of company among that "cloud of witnesses" that went ahead of us. These days I think often about Ann Hasseltine, an early nineteenth century woman who as a young woman attended Branford Academy a "finishing school" for young women who couldn't go to Harvard, Yale or Princeton. While there she read Jonathan Edwards' monumental work not yet a century in print entitled The History of the Work of Redemption. Caught up in that work she decided that she should go out as part of the fledgling missionary movement invigorating her generation of young Christians. But she was a woman and they weren't sending out women on these global endeavors so she looked around for a husband who was on the same theological page and found Adoniram Judson, a recent graduate of Williams College. The two went out to India in 1812, sent by the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions a congregational agency founded in 1810. On the ship to India, they exegeted the Greek New Testament a bit and decided they should become Baptists, a scandalous act if ever there was one. Indeed, she hurriedly wrote to a New England friend, "Can you ever forgive me, my dear Nancy, when I tell you that I have become a Baptist?" Of their method, she wrote: "We procured the best authors on both sides, compared them with the Scriptures, examined and reexamined the sentiments of Baptists and Pedobaptists, and were finally compelled from a conviction of truth, to embrace the former. Thus, my dear Nancy, we are confirmed Baptists, not because we wished to be, [that's the truth then and now!] but because truth compelled us to be. We have endeavored to count the cost, and be prepared for the many severe trials resulting from this change of sentiment." (McBeth, sourcebook, 207-208)
And was there a cost. The Judsons went to Burma, began a new mission there and were ever out on a limb in need of funds, friends, and protection from hostile governments. She learned the language quicker than he by spending her time on the streets and in the markets. He was arrested and imprisoned; she bribed the guards to get him food and medicine. He was released and she died in childbirth in 1826 at the age of 37. But all that began perhaps because she read Jonathan Edwards in a woman's finishing school. Two centuries ago, a woman went out on a limb, apparently with exegesis, on changing denominations and heading for Burma. She died there. This summer I had dinner at the Baptist World Congress with the president of the Baptist Union of Myanmar who says he is the great-great-grandson of the Judsons in the Christian faith. Not all of Ann Hasseltine Judson's children were stillborn.
Now that's what it means to be out on a limb and that is the heritage that women and men take up as you begin your work here. The limb is out there, but the work begins here.
And then there's Jesus, whose stories are filled with people who venture out on assorted limbs, don't they? Good Samaritans who crawl down into the ditch with the abused one after holier people have 'passed by on the other side,' that great KJV line about the safe ones. A prodigal, even, who find life so miserable that he decides that he'd just as well make himself vulnerable to the parent whose economic legacy if not patience he'd used up considerably. And that impractical woman who spent most of what she had on perfume to anoint the Galilean's head and feet as if he really were the Christ of God. So Jesus says to them then and there and to us here and now: "As you go proclaim the message: "The Kingdom of Heaven is upon you.' Heal the sick, raise the dead (?), cleanse lepers, cast out devils. Your received without cost; give without charge. Provide no gold, silver, or copper to fill your purse, no pack for the road, no second coat, no shoes, no stick; the workers earns their keep....Look, I send you out like sheep among wolves; be wise as serpents, innocent as doves…. But when you are arrested, do not worry about what you are to say; when the time comes, the words you need will be given you; for it is not you who will be speaking: it will be the Spirit…speaking in you." (Matt 10: 6-10;16-20 NEB) Hearing those words it is clear that we are all "out on a limb" out there, in the world. We'll try to get ready for that, here, together.
And that brings me to one more story on this day of introductions and orientation. Not long ago I was asked to lecture to Lutheran ministers on pre-millennialism and the "left behind" series, that collection of non-fiction fiction volumes sweeping the best-seller lists with stories of the "end times," the "rapture" of the church, and the terrors of Armageddon. Reading those books, standing in Borders, I decided this: I think I'll write a one volume sequel called "Stayed Behind," that describes a group of Christians who decided that if the "rapture" came while they were in the world, they'd hold on to a tree (or perhaps a limb) and not go. They'd stay right here. Why? Because they read another story Jesus tells about the shepherd who had 100 sheep and although 99 were safe in "open pasture" as the New English Bible says, he would not rest until the "missing one" (somewhere out there in the wild) was home at last. They (dare we say we) stayed behind--no elitist rapture, no safe escape, but out on a limb, with Jesus, till the last one comes home. Now there's an exegesis worth pondering, if Jesus tarries and even if he doesn't.
Welcome "home" to the WFU Divinity School. Let's work to get there together.
Wednesday, August 31, 2005
You can make a donation through CBF by clicking here.
Tuesday, August 30, 2005
I finished my first Tuesday at Wake Forest today. On Tuesdays, class starts at 9:30 am and finishes about 9pm. I have 3 classes, plus Divinity School chapel. Gay joined me again at chapel today; the speaker was the new president of Wake Forest University, Nathan Hatch. The classes are Art of Ministry, History of Christianity, and Church and State in America. All of my classes are in the same room, Wingate 202. I took a picture with my call phone and posted it to the left. All the seats have power outlets. They used to be wired for Ethernet, but WiFi has made that unnecessary.
I'm very tired tonight, so I am not going to post any more right now, and may not post more until this weekend, because I have a LOT of reading to do. I'll try to post some of what I am learning this weekend, because I have had some requests for that. I think a lot of people will find it interesting what a moderate seminary is teaching.
Gay and I continue to appreciate your prayers.
Friday, August 26, 2005
If I were rich, I'd have the time that I lackI was sitting in class listening to the dean of the divinity school talk about the history of our faith. All of sudden I started thinking how lucky I was to be there listening to one of the foremost Christian historians in the country. I was doing something very few Christians get to do. I get to spend 3 years studying about God, the church, and the Bible. What a blessing! What a responsibility! I know that I have been given this gift for a reason. I have to take what I am learning and share it with those who are not lucky enough to get this experience.
To sit in the synagogue and pray.
And maybe have a seat by the Eastern wall.
And I'd discuss the holy books with the learned men, several hours every day.
That would be the sweetest thing of all.
I also started feeling a huge sense of gratitude to those who have made it possible for me to get there. I have thanked people before, but this is something I cannot do often enough. I want to thank those who have helped me get this far by supporting my financially, emotionally, and spiritually. I hope to make all of you proud of me.
I may not have a lot of money, but I certainly feel like a VERY rich man.
Wednesday, August 24, 2005
I started today with Old Testament Interpretation 1. We went over the syllabus for about 10 minutes and then we dove right in, starting with Genesis 1:1. Dr. Neal Walls, the professor of this class, said we are going to ask a lot of questions in this class that we may not answer. We are going to learn the questions to ask in this class, and then answer them later in Theology courses. He led the class in a very discussional style, which I really liked, and I am really looking forward to what I am going to learn in this class.
I tried to post to the blog yesterday, but blogger was having some problems and ate my post. We had our first chapel service yesterday. It was called "A Service of Beginnings." The speaker was one of the associate deans of Wake Forest. She spoke about Abraham and Sarah "tenting" (packing up everything they had and following God) and compared that to what we were doing. The title of her sermon was "I feel like moving on," and she closed with a hymn of the same name that she played on the accordion. She was a great speaker, and it was a good service. I was also very happy that Gay was there to share it with me. After lunch, we went to a luncheon hosted by Ardmore Baptist Church. Local churches will be sponsoring lunches for us every other week, which is also a great thing.
I have taken the first steps on what is going to be a lifelong journey. I don't know where I am going yet, and I know the journey is going to be hard at times. But I am not traveling alone. The Lord is my guide, my wife is on the journey with me, and I have a LOT of people praying for me.
Monday, August 22, 2005
After the first day of orientation, most of what we have covered has been organizational and practical matters such as student health care, parking, library, etc. Writing about that would be exceptionally boring, so I am not going to do it.
I registered for classes today, so I will give you an idea of what my schedule is like.
Old Testament Interpretation 1: Mondays and Wednesdays 2:30-3:45
History of Christianity 1: Tuesdays and Thursdays 1:30-2:45
Art of Ministry 1: Tuesdays 9:30-10:45 and Thursdays at 11
Church and State in America: Tuesday Nights 6:30-9pm
Congregational Health: Thursdays (will start sometime after 3pm)
Church and State in America includes a trip to Washington October 13-16, and the class ends after that. Congregational Health will end about that time as well. This means I will be taking 13 hours this semester. 15 hours per semester are required to graduate, but I plan to enroll in a CPE program this summer which will make up for the hours I am missing.
Classes will start on Wednesday, and I am looking forward to it.
We are still trying to get moved into the condo. We like where we live, we just wish the boxes could magically unpack themselves. I haven't been able to help much because I have been at school most of the time, but Gay has done a great job. We will be mailing out some postcards with our new address on them shortly, so be looking for them in your mail.
Sunday, August 21, 2005
The first day started with an icebreaker, we were divided into groups of 4, and given a question to answer. After each question we moved to another group of 4.
The icebreaker was followed by the dean's luncheon, which was held in the lower auditorium of the divinity school. During lunch, we all said it felt like we were being recruited, because everything was set up so nicely. We were joined at lunch by members of the faculty and staff. Dr. Diane Lipsett, Professor of New Testament and Christian Origins, was the faculty member at our table. As always, Dr. Leonard's address was amazing. He discussed many of the events that have happened in the last year: the death of the pope, the London subway bombings, Joel Osteen's church, and the war in Iraq. He said that one of the things we would be called on to do throughout the rest of our ministries would be to provide explanation, discussion and enlightenment on the events that shape our world. As an example, he said he was recently asked to address a group of Lutheran ministers about the Left Behind series of books and premillenialism. (I don't want to get into a theological debate about this here, we'll save that debate for when I get there in my studies.) Dr. Leonard said he would like to write a sequel to the Left Behind books called Staying Behind. He said the book would be about a group of Christians that "grabbed onto a tree limb" when the rapture came, in order to help the people who are left behind. He used the parable of the lost sheep as support for his position. The shepherd refused to rest until the one sheep who was lost in the wilderness was returned safely home, and that we should use that example throughout our ministries. He concluded by saying that we would develop life long mentors and colleagues during our stay at Wake Forest, and welcomed us "home" to the Divinity School at Wake Forest University. Dr. Leonard has an amazing ability to both affirm and challenge, and I am always energized and excited after I hear him speak. I am also amazed at how active he has been during this whole orientation process. He seems to be genuinely interested in getting to know each and every student, and how we are handling this major transition in our lives.
After lunch, we headed back upstairs for a discussion of the curriculum. The program takes 90 hours to complete, with a typical course being 3 hours, There are some electives that may be taught only for a few weeks that are fewer hours. Here is a summary of the program requirements:
6 hours in either Greek or Hebrew (I will take both)
6 hours in Old Testament Interpretation
6 hours in New Testament Interpretation
3 hours in an additional Old or New Testament elective
6 hours in the History of Christianity
3 hours in a world religions course
6 hours in Christian Theology
3 hours in Christian Ethics
3 hours in either a history or theology elective
13 hours in Art of Ministry (Vocational Development/Internships)
3 hours in Homiletics and Worship
3 hours in Introduction to the Spiritual Life
3 hours in The Ministry of Pastoral Care
3 hours in Multicultural Contexts for Ministry (more on this later)
23 hours of electives
After we discussed the graduation requirements, we started talking about the Multicultural Contexts for Ministry course. These course combine classroom and travel experiences. The classroom portion of the course covers the people, culture, and history of the region we are going to visit. We then visit the area we have been studying and talk to the people who are ministering there. We were told this is not a mission trip, in that we are not going to do missions, we are going to learn and observe how the people there do missions and to observe the culture and challenges of ministry in areas that are different from what we are used to. There are currently 4 options in this course: Appalachia, inner city New York, Cuba and Romania. (The current administration has made travel to Cuba more difficult, so there are currently no Cuba trips planned.) The travel typically occurs for 10 days over spring break, and we are required to raise at least some of our own money for every trip except the Appalachia one.
I think many of you are able to see why I chose Wake Forest. The program is just incredible. They are really trying to balance academics, practical experience, and real-world learning. All of the new students are really excited about the program, and we are looking forward to getting started.
Next we had a discussion on plagiarism with one of the librarians from the Wake Forest library. This was followed by a student panel on what to expect in Divinity School. We were told to expect to be reading between 400 and 600 pages a week. After the panel, we had a break.
Once we came back from the break, we began the discussion of the Art of Ministry courses. These courses are designed to help us figure out where we fit in ministry, and provide us with the real-world experience we need. Each course includes a small group (5) that gives us time to talk about the issues we are dealing with and problems we are having.
This discussion was followed by the community life panels. There was one offered for singles, and another for couples/single parents. Most of the spouses of the students attended this meeting, and it was nice to see that there were other people going through the same kind of things Gay and I are.
The day concluded with the "Dinner on the Dirt," a picnic dinner in front of the divinity school. All of the students' families were invited to this event. Gay and I had dinner with a couple from St. Petersburg that doesn't live far from us here either. Gay and I both hope to get to know this couple more. Dr. Leonard came and sat with us, because he said he hadn't had the chance to talk to me yet, and wanted to know how I was doing.
It was a very long day that started about 10am, and didn't end until after 7. But it was also a very affirming and fulfilling day. I truly feel blessed to be at Wake Forest, and I am looking forward to what God has in store for me.
Monday, August 15, 2005
Thursday, August 11, 2005
We thank you for all your prayers, and please continue to pray for us as we make these final moving steps.
Friday, August 05, 2005
The following is an article I wrote for this week's newsletter at Bayshore:
As many of you know, Sunday July 31 was our last Sunday at Bayshore Baptist Church; a place that has played a huge part in our lives for the past 5 years. On June 3, 2000, we were married here; Gil was ordained as a deacon in 2002, and we were both ordained as ministers here in June. We have both worked at the church either full or part-time in the past 4 years, and we have made friendships that will last a lifetime. We appreciate the opportunities we have had to serve and grow alongside many of you.
We would especially like to thank Nancy Burke for being a mentor to the two of us. She has always been there to encourage and support us. If she didn’t have the answer we were looking for, she helped us find someone who did. She was willing to give us responsibilities that helped us grow as church leaders and learn valuable lessons that will help us throughout our ministry. Entering the ministry can be a very scary experience, and I wish everyone could have someone like Nancy to help guide them along the way.
In the coming weeks, we will be packing and moving to Winston-Salem. At the end of August, Gil will begin studying at The Divinity School at Wake Forest University. Gay has several job prospects at churches in the Winston-Salem area, and will have some final interviews at the end of August. We both appreciate all of your prayers during this time of transition in our lives.
We also would ask for you to continue to pray for us over the next several years, as we try to find where our ministries fit into the body of Christ. 1 Corinthians 12 compares the body of Christ to our own bodies saying: "The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ." Making the decision to enter the ministry and surrender every part of your life to Christ is only the first step. The second step is discerning where and how he wants us to serve. That means putting our own wishes and desires aside, and saying, as the old hymn does, "Wherever he leads, I’ll go." Finding the right place is essential for the body to function as God intended it to: "so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it, if one part in honored, every part rejoices with it." We will continue to pray that everyone at Bayshore finds their "part" in the body of Christ, and we would ask that you do the same for us.
We plan to visit Bayshore as often as we can. You can keep track of us on Gil’s online weblog at http://revgil.blogspot.com.
Yours in Christ,
Gil and Gay Gulick
Wednesday, July 27, 2005
This weekend will be our last Sunday at Bayshore. Gay and I are going to miss a lot of the people who have helped us along our journey, but we know we are following God's will for our lives.
A few of our friends at Bayshore threw us a farewell party a few weeks ago, and there are some pictures online now. You can view them by clicking here. Thanks to our church photographer John Parker for these pictures.
Once Gay and I get settled in Winston-Salem, I will resume editorial style posting, and I plan to do a lot of documenting of my Seminary experience on this site, so check back in a few weeks.
Monday, July 25, 2005
We actually sold the house to a very nice Christian couple who is very excited about the house. I saw them getting a flyer last Saturday, and went outside to ask them if they would like to see the house. They really liked what they saw, and we were able to cut a deal right then. They were very excited to find out I was going into the ministry. We didn't get what we wanted for the house, but we got enough, and more than I thought we ever would for our house. We will be able to pay our debts and buy a condo with what we make on our house. It will be nice not to have to pay rent or a mortgage while I am in school.
In the time between signing the first and second contract on our home, we lost the contract on the condo in Winston-Salem. Ironically, we went back to our first choice with the same they had turned down the first time, and they took the offer this time. So, we will be moving into a brand new 2 bed/2 bath condo in Winston-Salem's Ardmore area. It is almost exactly half the size of our current house.
We close here in Tampa on August 9th, and in Winston-Salem on the 12th.
Here are some pictures of the model:
Friday, July 08, 2005
I'm sorry I haven't posted anything recently, but it is amazing how much time selling a house takes up. We have had some offers, but nothing has panned out. Please, keep this in your prayers. I will feel like a huge weight has been lifted once the house sells.
If you like what you see, and are interested in buying it, leave me a comment!
Monday, July 04, 2005
The day we were to leave, we found out the contract on our home had fallen through. That put a damper on the start of the trip, but we were eventually able to put that behind us for the rest of the trip.
The facility where CBF was held, the Gaylord Texan, was absolutely amazing. CBF was able to get great rates on this facility because they booked it while it was still under construction. To get a look at the facility, you can visit their website by clicking here.
We started on Wednesday afternoon with the CBF leadership institute. The institute was led by the dean of Duke Divinity School, Greg Jones. The topic of discussion this year was bringing excellence back to ministry. Jones said, "...What is important is that churches need to keep God at the center as the reference for excellence.Â
Breakout workshops and worship services began on Wednesday. The first workshop I attended was led by Bill Leonard, the dean of The Divinity School at Wake Forest University. Leonard discussed the changing face of church denominational identification. Many churches are now organizing based on worship styles, ethical issues or forming ecumenical groups based on geography rather than organizing under the old denominational system.
The second workshop I attended was led by Eddie Hammett, senior leadership and discipleship consultant with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. Hammett discussed the challenges, methods and rewards of working with post-moderns on their "spiritual journeys." Hammett said we have to throw away a lot of methods and language we have been taught to use in evangelism, and instead use the language that postmoderns are using. He said that postmoderns are looking for meaning in their life experiences and come to the Bible with that perspective.
This year, CBF established the Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Offering for Religious Liberty and Human Rights. The offering will be used to support ministries of the CBF and Baptist World alliance related to religious liberty and human rights in the United States and around the world. CBF collected more than $30,000 for this offering during the assembly.
The first night's speaker was Albert Reyes, president of the Baptist General Convention of Texas and the Baptist University of the Americas. Reyes said that missionaries no longer needed passports and airline tickets to witness to people of different races and ethnic backgrounds, but that those people were now living in our cities and neighborhoods. "In the 21st century, our neighbors are anyone we encounter in our daily life: the bus driver, the teacher, the sales clerk, the prostitute, the mayor," he said. "And that neighbor might be Arab, African-American, Asian, Indian. Whoever you encounter is your neighbor: the hopeless, the helpless, the one who doesn't have anything to eat in the favelas of Brazil or the one dying of AIDS in Africa."
Throughout CBF, we made periodic visits to the resource fair. The resource fair provides a great opportunity for networking and learning about the newest resources available to churches.
Day 2 started with a business session and worship service. In his keynote address, CBF Moderator and pastor of First Baptist Church of Christ in Macon Georgia, Bob Setzer appealed to churches to be the presence of Christ in the world by focusing on their local community and participating in the global missions enterprise. The service concluded with the serving of communion.
After the worship service, Gay and I attended the Baptist Joint Committee on Religious Liberty luncheon as guests of The Divinity School at Wake Forest University. All of the speakers discussed the importance of the preservation of the first amendment's prohibition of the any government activity that establishes or prohibits the free exercise of religion.
After the luncheon, I attended a workshop lead by Fischer Humphries a professor at Beeson Divinity School at Samford University. This workshops discussed Christian theology, protestant theology, Baptist theology, and even the differences between fundamentalist and moderate Baptist theology. As with most workshops, we concluded with a question and answer period. Every workshop I attended was standing room only, and workshops were offered that were of interest to students, church staff, laity.
During the Friday night worship service, 19 new missionaries were commissioned to serve in the United States and around the world. The missionary service is always one of the highlights of the General Assembly. Daniel Vestal, CBF's Coordinator, concluded the worship service with an excellent sermon entitled "Being the Presence of Christ in All the World." I could not do the sermon justice by summarizing it here, but the transcript is available on the CBF website.
Gay and I always enjoy CBF. It is hard to describe the feelings you get being around so many like-minded Christians. It provides us with an opportunity to worship without worrying anything else. It provides us the opportunity to visit with friends we only get to see a few times a year, and provides a time for spiritual development. We always leave CBF feeling spiritually revived and renewed.
You can read more about this year's CBF General Assembly by visiting their website at www.thefellowship.info.
Sunday, July 03, 2005
Saturday, July 02, 2005
Thursday, June 30, 2005
Wednesday, June 29, 2005
Monday, June 27, 2005
Well, Gay and I are off to CBF in Dallas, Texas tomorrow. We just got back from a trip to Winston-Salem where we put a contract on a condo. I will provide a link to some pictures here later on in the week. Some issues have arisen with the contract on our home here in Tampa. I think they can be resolved, but Gay and I would certainly appreciate your prayers on this. I hope to have everything resolved by tomorrow; Gay and I would certainly enjoy CBF more if we knew that everything was set with the house.
I may do a little mobile-blogging from CBF, and post a few pictures I will take from my cell phone, so keep your eyes open over the next several days!
Thursday, June 23, 2005
Gay and I are headed to Winston-Salem this weekend to make a decision on housing. The builder at the condo we wanted to buy was unwilling to accept an offer that was contingent on our closing on August 3rd, so we now have some decisions to make.
Wednesday, June 22, 2005
Here is the quote from the address:
“I am proud that we have now opened billions of dollars in grant money to competition that includes our faith-based charities,” the president said. “For example, my administration awardedTake a look at College Park's website (click here) and you will notice that they identify themselves as a CBF church, and they do not link to the SBC or any SBC organizations, such as Lifeway, on their links page. Baptist Press, the "news" arm of the SBC even had to mention the CBF in their story on the address. Here is the quote:
in College Park Baptist Church , $5.8 million to build 68 homes for low-income seniors.” Orlando, Florida
You can get the full story on the address from EthicsDaily by clicking here.
The president described Southern Baptists as "the armies of compassion, at home and abroad." He said the White House awarded $5.8 million to College Park Baptist Church in Orlando, Fla., to construct 68 homes for low-income senior adults. (On its website, College Park identifies itself as "a Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF) church.")
Tuesday, June 21, 2005
Monday, June 20, 2005
Sunday, June 19, 2005
Saturday, June 18, 2005
Thursday, June 16, 2005
Now, according to a story at EthicsDaily.com, leaders of more than 40 family groups have sent letters to the SBC asking them to adopt this resolution because "hundreds of thousands of individuals who are concerned about the presence of homosexual tolerance and diversity programs within the public school system in
The line in the above paragraph that really bothers me is "the presence of homosexual tolerance" phrase. I believe that as Christians, we are called to be more than just tolerant, we are to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. Jesus didn't give any qualifiers to this commandment.
The article on EthicsDaily goes on to say: "The leaders said gay-straight alliances, diversity clubs, tolerance classes and even programs with "safe-sounding" titles like anti-bullying or safe schools are being used by homosexual groups to get their message that "gay is okay" through schoolhouse doors." If an anti-bullying program is trying to teach that it is not ok to harass kids who are of a different than you, and one of those differences is homosexuality, I don't see anything wrong with that. It is not "okay" for a Christian student to beat up a homosexual student because he or she is gay. We need to be teaching that! There is a difference between allowing someone to be different and endorsing those differences. We can love for someone, we can care for someone, and we can certainly be tolerant of a sinner without endorsing their sin. Especially since we are all sinners to begin with.
Tuesday, June 14, 2005
Here is a copy of the remarks I made during the ordination:
I want to start by thanking the many people who have helped bring me to this point in my life. I was lucky enough to be brought up in a Christian household. My father was a deacon, and my mother worked in the nursery. I was also able to attend a Christian school, West Hillsborough Baptist. In fact, Paula Parker, Bayshore's pre-school director, was my third grade teacher and my principal after that. My family attended church nearly every Sunday, and I remember my brother and I trying to be the first one to see Bayshore's steeple. I remember attending Christmas Eve services here and nearly setting Jean Meadow's hair on fire one year. I attended childrens' choir on Wednesday nights, and can still remember some of the words to Rainbow Express and Down by the Creek Bank. I would not be the man I am today without the strong parenting my mother and father provided me.
I want to thank Tom Pinner, my pastor throughout high school and college. Tom has always been there for me whenever I have had questions or been struggling with something. During my college years, he invited me to breakfast at least once a year, just to see how I was doing. It was Tom's sermon on Christmas Eve 2003 that finally pushed me into accepting God's call into the ministry. Tom has been a part of nearly every major event in my life, and I am so pleased that he is able to be here tonight.
I want to thank Bayshore Baptist Church. Those of you who have not attended other Baptist churches recently, don't know what a unique church this is. Many of my beliefs are at odds with most other baptist churches, but at Bayshore I have found a place of encouragement and support for my spiritual journey. I especially want to thank Nancy Burke for her friendship over the past several years. For much of that time, Bayshore was without a pastor, and Nancy became the senior minister. However, she always had time for Gay and me whenever we needed to talk. Nancy was the one that first urged us to attend the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship General Assembly in Charlotte in 2003. It was this CBF meeting, more than any other single event, that influenced my call into ministry. At CBF, I realized that I was not alone in my beliefs. I was fellowshipping and worshiping with thousands of others with similar beliefs.
In November 2004, Gay and I visited 4 seminaries in 8 days. At the end of the trip, we were both sure that the Divinity School at Wake Forest University was where God was calling me. Ironically, this was not our first or even our second choice before the trip. I was accepted in December, and thanks to Wake Forest's endowment, a Cooperative Baptist Fellowship Leadership Scholarship, and a scholarship from Bayshore, I am proud to say that nearly all of my tuition is paid for. I chose Wake because I believe they have a program that combines rigorous academics with the practical experience I am going to need for my ministry.
I look at my entering the ministry as a start of a journey, possibly the toughest journey of my life. Although I don’t know exactly where the road is going to take me, there are a few turns I will not take. I will not take any turns that steer me away from the four fragile freedoms that identify us as Baptists. These freedoms, which have been under attack for nearly 20 years, have been well defined by Walter Shurden at Mercer University. Shurden says the first freedom is Bible Freedom, the historic Baptist affirmation that the Bible, under the Lordship of Christ, must be central in the life of the individual and church and that Christians, with the best as most scholarly tools of inquiry, are both free and obligated to study and obey the scripture. The second freedom is soul freedom: the inalienable right and responsibility of every person to deal with God without the imposition of creed, the interference of clergy, or the intervention of civil government. The third freedom is church freedom: the Baptist affirmation that local churches are free, under the Lordship of Christ to determine their membership and leadership, to order their worship and work, to ordain whom they perceive as gifted for ministry, male or female, and to participate in the larger Body of Christ, of whose unity and mission Baptists are proudly a part. The final freedom is Religious freedom: the Baptist affirmation of freedom OF religion, freedom FOR religion, and freedom FROM religion, insisting that Caesar is not Christ and Christ is not Caesar. I believe these distintives are vitally important to our future as Baptists.
I will also not take any turn that asks me to use the Bible or Jesus to oppress any group of people. Too often, tremendous evil has been done in the name of Jesus or with the “support of scripture.” Matthew 25:40 says: “Whatever you did to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did that to me. Imagine what the world would be like if we as individual believers, and the church as a whole took the time to measure our actions against this verse. And, Romans Chapter 8 says, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? I am convinced neither death nor life, neither the present nor the future nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. So, who are we to say that anyone is separated from the love of God? I take the great commission seriously, we need to go and take the good news to everyone, not wait for them to come to us, or only take it to those we feel are worthy to receive it.
I will not take any turn that asks Christians to identify only with one political party and one narrow discussion of values. Instead, I will pave a new road with a new broad discussion about our values, one that includes biblical stances on war and peace, the environment, education, health care, and the single most mentioned social issue in the Bible, poverty. The church has lost its prophetic voice on these issues, and its time to bring it back.
I am so grateful that my wife, Gay, is going with me on this journey. I cannot imagine a more perfect partner to help me along the way. She is not just my wife, she is my teammate. Whenever I have been afraid, she has reassured me. Whenever I have had doubt, she supported me. And whenever I have met resistance, she gave me the gentle push I needed to get through it. Gay, I love you; you are the biggest blessing God has given me. I know our journey is going to be hard, but I know together we can get through it, and even have some fun along the way.
I want to leave you with a quote Dr. Bill Leonard, the Dean of Wake Forest Divinity School, read to us during our visit. Frederick Beuchner's Book, The Alphabet of Grace has a paragraph toward the end of the book that describes a call into ministry. It moved me to tears during the luncheon, but it describes much more eloquently than I can what the past couple of years have been like for me.
"I hear you are entering the ministry," the woman said down the long table, meaning no real harm. "Was it your own idea or were you poorly advised?" And the answer that she could not have heard even if I had given it was that it was not an idea at all, neither my own nor anyone else's. It was a lump in the throat. It was an itching of the feet. It was a stirring in the blood at the sound of rain. It was a sickening of the heart at the sight of misery. It was a clamoring of ghosts. It was a name which, when I wrote it out in a dream, I knew was a name worth dying for, even if I was not brave enough to do the dying myself and could not even name the name for sure. Come unto me, all ye who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you a high and driving peace. I will condemn you to death.