Letters to the Editors

and

Why Pastors Leave Church

Dear Sirs:

Why did Barbara Brown Taylor leave a parish pulpit to fill an endowed chair at a Georgia college, teaching in the religion department?

The Reverend Dr. Douglas Brouwer in his review of Taylor’s memoir Leaving Church writes wistfully of losing such an excellent preacher from the parish. He offers several cogent answers but misses the main reason Taylor no longer is a parish preacher.

She adamantly wants to preach on topics forbidden in local churches. This is what I heard her say as a headline speaker at Calvin College’s 2004 Festival of Faith and Writing. In her Saturday, April 24th, 2004 lecture “Way Beyond Belief: The Call to Behold,” Taylor warned of stern consequences for preachers who offer the whole Gospel loaf, rather than tasty morsels worshippers easily digest. Using her long, lithe hands for elegant gestures perfectly framing her punch lines, Taylor threw up her hands as she exclaimed, “It doesn’t take long for a preacher to find out what parts of the Bible parishioners don’t want to hear!”

With an endowed chair and tenure, it’s easier and safer to proclaim the whole Gospel loaf.

For instance, this summer at the Evangelical Presbyterian Church’s General Assembly, I portrayed Jonathan Edwards, emphasizing how he regularly dealt with wars at his doorstep between settlers and Native Americans with whom the French aligned themselves.

In a precept after wards, the pastors admitted how dealing straightforward with the war in Iraq proved too complicated and controversial. So they skirted it from the pulpit.

Barbara Brown Taylor has escaped the pressure of these constrictions. She got sick of finessing the Gospel and found a pulpit outside the local church where she can sound more like Jonathan Edwards.

Respectfully submitted,
The Reverend Dr. Jack R. Van Ens
President
Creative Growth Dramatic Ministries
Arvada, CO

***

A Reformed Perspective on War

To the Editors:

Thanks for James Bratt’s excellent column, “The Coming of the Lord?” (December 2006), and the note thatPerspectives is launching a “conversation” about the USA’s current foreign policy. David Hoekema’s contribution (“‘Just War on Terror’ Revisited”) was also insightful and provocative.

I look forward to future issues in which the complexity of the current quagmire created by the Bush administration in Iraq is explored from a Reformed perspective. I have tried from time to time in sermons to alert the congregation to the real possibility that the foreign policy of our country is leading us down a path that cannot find biblical support. Such references are usually not well received.

The situation raises numerous issues that should be addressed. For example, when an administration that prides itself in its godliness uses the fear motif to further its political gains in elections, I would expect the Christian community to recognize that this is a tactic far removed from a gospel that repeatedly urges believers to lay their fears aside and put their trust in the Lord. But when I made reference to this in a sermon, I was urged to leave politics out of the pulpit.

Another area that troubles me greatly is the silence of the church when the Bush administration declares that some captured “terrorists” do not merit the protection of the Geneva Convention. Prisoner abuse is advocated by the Bush administration and we dare not utter a word of protest from the pulpit because it might undermine the determined efforts of a prayerful president whom we are told “deserves” our full support.

We launch a costly war, but instead of calling upon the nation to make sacrifices to sustain the effort, this administration cuts taxes for the wealthy and leaves the poor to pick up the financial burden. And not a word is heard from us while we piously worship a Lord who came into the world a poor man and left it without a need for making a will to divide his estate. I can hear the thundering voice of Amos, but the thunder has not echoed from our pulpits.

Now the synod of the Christian Reformed Church has decided it is time to create a new image. Instead of being recognized for our careful reflection on what constitutes a just war, the synod advocates that we become deliberate about being known as “peacemakers” in our following of Christ. This change will not happen overnight, but surely the intentional direction to be taken by the editors of Perspectives in confronting issues of war and peace can be used by God to get us moving in the right direction.

Peace,
Al Hoksbergen
Spring Lake, Michigan

Dear Sirs:

Why did Barbara Brown Taylor leave a parish pulpit to fill an endowed chair at a Georgia college, teaching in the religion department?

The Reverend Dr. Douglas Brouwer in his review of Taylor’s memoir Leaving Church writes wistfully of losing such an excellent preacher from the parish. He offers several cogent answers but misses the main reason Taylor no longer is a parish preacher.

She adamantly wants to preach on topics forbidden in local churches. This is what I heard her say as a headline speaker at Calvin College’s 2004 Festival of Faith and Writing. In her Saturday, April 24th, 2004 lecture “Way Beyond Belief: The Call to Behold,” Taylor warned of stern consequences for preachers who offer the whole Gospel loaf, rather than tasty morsels worshippers easily digest. Using her long, lithe hands for elegant gestures perfectly framing her punch lines, Taylor threw up her hands as she exclaimed, “It doesn’t take long for a preacher to find out what parts of the Bible parishioners don’t want to hear!”

With an endowed chair and tenure, it’s easier and safer to proclaim the whole Gospel loaf.

For instance, this summer at the Evangelical Presbyterian Church’s General Assembly, I portrayed Jonathan Edwards, emphasizing how he regularly dealt with wars at his doorstep between settlers and Native Americans with whom the French aligned themselves.

In a precept after wards, the pastors admitted how dealing straightforward with the war in Iraq proved too complicated and controversial. So they skirted it from the pulpit.

Barbara Brown Taylor has escaped the pressure of these constrictions. She got sick of finessing the Gospel and found a pulpit outside the local church where she can sound more like Jonathan Edwards.

Respectfully submitted,
The Reverend Dr. Jack R. Van Ens
President
Creative Growth Dramatic Ministries
Arvada, CO

***

A Reformed Perspective on War

To the Editors:

Thanks for James Bratt’s excellent column, “The Coming of the Lord?” (December 2006), and the note thatPerspectives is launching a “conversation” about the USA’s current foreign policy. David Hoekema’s contribution (“‘Just War on Terror’ Revisited”) was also insightful and provocative.

I look forward to future issues in which the complexity of the current quagmire created by the Bush administration in Iraq is explored from a Reformed perspective. I have tried from time to time in sermons to alert the congregation to the real possibility that the foreign policy of our country is leading us down a path that cannot find biblical support. Such references are usually not well received.

The situation raises numerous issues that should be addressed. For example, when an administration that prides itself in its godliness uses the fear motif to further its political gains in elections, I would expect the Christian community to recognize that this is a tactic far removed from a gospel that repeatedly urges believers to lay their fears aside and put their trust in the Lord. But when I made reference to this in a sermon, I was urged to leave politics out of the pulpit.

Another area that troubles me greatly is the silence of the church when the Bush administration declares that some captured “terrorists” do not merit the protection of the Geneva Convention. Prisoner abuse is advocated by the Bush administration and we dare not utter a word of protest from the pulpit because it might undermine the determined efforts of a prayerful president whom we are told “deserves” our full support.

We launch a costly war, but instead of calling upon the nation to make sacrifices to sustain the effort, this administration cuts taxes for the wealthy and leaves the poor to pick up the financial burden. And not a word is heard from us while we piously worship a Lord who came into the world a poor man and left it without a need for making a will to divide his estate. I can hear the thundering voice of Amos, but the thunder has not echoed from our pulpits.

Now the synod of the Christian Reformed Church has decided it is time to create a new image. Instead of being recognized for our careful reflection on what constitutes a just war, the synod advocates that we become deliberate about being known as “peacemakers” in our following of Christ. This change will not happen overnight, but surely the intentional direction to be taken by the editors of Perspectives in confronting issues of war and peace can be used by God to get us moving in the right direction.

Peace,
Al Hoksbergen
Spring Lake, Michigan