Dear St. Lukers,
I think this is the first Weekly Update I have written in three years. It hardly seems possible that so much time has passed and so many wonderful things have happened here at our church. Kim and I have stayed connected, of course, as has our family, especially the grandsons who can’t get enough of VBS and St. Luke’s camps this summer!
In January, I returned to the staff at Pastor Jenn’s invitation to take the role of Teaching Pastor part-time. Since then, many have asked me, “What do you do as the Teaching Pastor?” My answer is, “I teach.” And a few other things, but the focus for me for the next two weeks in particular is teaching (as distinct from preaching) on Sunday. Specifically, this week I will be presenting an overview of the Old Testament, and on August 5, the focus will be on the New Testament. In addition to tracing the theological and historical direction of the scriptures, I will be reflecting on how we use the Bible as United Methodist believers here at St. Luke’s. Because so many of us arrived here from different traditions—or no religious traditions at all—it is important for us to understand Biblical inspiration and application in our faith expression at St. Luke’s.
Pastor Jenn has named this teaching series “So…the Bible.” Since the time that the first writings were collected and understood to be divinely inspired, there has been disagreement within the Jewish and Christian communities about what should actually be included and how it should be used. Most of the disagreements we have about issues of faith and culture have to do with the differing ways we interpret scripture as churches, denominations, and individuals. Our summer musical, “Footloose,” which tells the story, in part, of how the Bible was used to make dancing and rock music illegal in a small town is a reminder that the book that was meant to bring us together in the love of God and our love for each other can be weaponized in ways that are everything but loving.
In February 2019, The United Methodist Church will convene a special called General Conference in St. Louis to consider proposals related to human sexuality that have vexed the denomination since 1972. In 2016, a group of 32 laypersons and clergy were appointed to the Commission on a Way Forward, with the request that they present to the Council of Bishops a proposal to move the denomination through the four-decade impasse. Our own Alice Williams, a former Lay Leader of our congregation and a member of the General Conference delegation has been a member of this globally selected commission. No one knows what the outcome of the Called General Conference will be, but your leaders here at St. Luke’s do not want you to be uninformed as we move through the six months leading up to St. Louis. You can read all about The Way Forward, its history and its work here.
In addition to our Sunday morning teaching sessions, we will be going deeper into the scriptures by gathering for casual worship, Bible study, and Holy Communion Sunday evenings at 6:00 p.m. in the Attic of Building C starting this Sunday, July 29. This week The Rev. Dr. Waite Willis, Jr., Professor of Religion at Florida Southern College (and father of our own Warren Willis!) will be with us to talk about Biblical authority, inerrancy and inspiration. You can learn more about Dr. Willis by clicking here.
And just one more thing. (I know this is wordy but remember it has been three years since I last wrote, and a lot of words are stored up in me!) The LEAD Center will offer our first Distance Learning Class from Emory University in Atlanta.
You can enroll today for “The Parables of Jesus,” a seminary course taught by Dr. Steve Kraftchick of the Candler School of Theology using our new Distance Learning Classroom. You will engage directly with the Dr. Kraftchick through video conferencing and the student learning management system, Canvass. This course is capped at 20 participants so register here and select “courses” to reserve your spot. Because our participants will actually be auditing the course, the semester tuition fee is significantly discounted and course requirements for writing assignments are optional. No tests, either! Class time: Thursdays 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Duration: August 23 – December 6. Cost: $350 for course access (audit) and books.
“So Bill, what do you do as Teaching Pastor?” I hope you know a little bit more now!
With faith, hope, and love,