“OK, Guru-boy. If There’s No Original Sin and Hell, Why Be a Christian?”

Column by Rev. David M. Felten on 1 September 2022 0 Comments

Earlier this summer, I was called out as a heretic and accused of “sitting on Satan’s lap” courtesy of the Institute for Religion and Democracy (the fundamentalist think tank behind the schisms of many of our mainline denominations).

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How is it best to gently question the behavior of a new pastor who seems to be fundamentalist in her thinking and does not like to be questioned?


Dear Reader,

The best time to do this is before the new pastor is hired, of course.  Ideally, all candidates should be given a chance to clearly explain their theology in both written statements and in search committee questions and answers.

Making sure that a new pastor’s theology fits with the mission and makeup of that congregation is crucial.  If, after the pastor is hired, however, it seems not to fit, or was perhaps misrepresented, then the issue should be raised with the appropriate governing board.  It may be that most people are satisfied with the pastor’s theology “as advertised.”  But if there are numerous parishioners who feel a disconnect, then the pastor herself should be called into conversation about it.  This would give her a chance to clarify her theology, as well as to hear concerns about it.  She may have misunderstood what the congregation was looking for, or the congregation may be misunderstanding her—so respectful dialogue is always the first step.

If the pastor is truly unable to be questioned about it, that is a more serious problem.  Nothing is more important in church than intellectual honesty about what the pastor believes, or what people in the pews want and need.  This is not to say that pastors should pretend to believe whatever it is that their people want to hear.  Rather, it is crucial that everyone is clear about this pastor’s theology to begin with, and whether her covenant with this particular congregation can be fruitful.

~ Rev. Dr. Robin Meyers




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