Saturday, March 29, 2008

The Rev. Richard Lee

"Why is the gospel of love dividing America? The unchurched world views us as judgmental and homophobic. I don't think God is going to ask what label we wore. He's going to ask what did we do for Jesus." What a wonderful statement! The Rev. Richard Lee, Pastor of the Sugar Hill Baptist Church, plans to offer a sermon tomorrow apologizing to some groups who have been ostracized by the church. He says that the church has "too long condemned gays, women seeking abortions, and those who live together outside of marriage." He also says that it has too long ignored the poor. I assume that he means the Baptist church in particular, but there are others who fit this mold as well.

This is a bold move, particularly in the Southern Baptist Church, which has gotten a reputation for condemning instead of ministering. I applaud him for his courage to speak out. I hope that his congregation supports him. More ministers should be ministering instead of condemning and preaching politics. My grandmother used the term "meddling." When the preacher got to preaching politics, she said he had "quit preaching and gone to meddling."

I am not a Baptist. My father and his family were Baptists. I am a Methodist in the tradition of my mother's family. Let me say that I haven't been attending church regularly in recent years, simply because I have become somewhat disenchanted with the organized church. I see more and more congregations spending millions, building monuments to themselves, when they could be spending that money in their communities in so many areas. I think that too often they say that is the government's job, then complain about government handouts. I was riding through a small town recently with a friend who pointed to the large construction project at his church and proudly proclaimed the number of millions it was costing.

In recent years I have seen too many churches turning to politics. Their primary goal seems to be to affect the political outcome of a presidential race. They are considered a voting bloc and seek to change the political climate of the country. They complain that there is a movement to quash the church. For the life of me, I can't see where they are coming from. There are churches on every corner and more being organized every day. I haven't seen a single move by the government or anyone else to take away religious freedom.

A year or so ago I attended the Methodist church in which I grew up. The minister devoted his sermon that day to a political issue over a cross in San Diego and the move to destroy the Christian religion in this country. When I got home, I researched that issue and found that the sermon was very misleading and filled with factual errors. I later found out that during the last presidential election, he left the church open on election day so members could go in and pray just for President Bush, not the country, not all the candidates, just the one of his choosing.

Rev. Lee, I applaud you. I hope that many other members of the clergy follow your lead and take the church where it needs to go. Minister to the community. Welcome those with whom you disagree with open arms. Be real Christians for a change and honestly answer that question, "What would Jesus do?"

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