Category Archives: Theology and Ethics

Homophobia is Contagious

Yesterday Jenny and I and a few other people went over to the Bishop’s town hall meeting in Salina. There were non-affirming people there, and some of them were quite vocal. I returned home even more convinced that while homosexuality is not communicable, homophobia is contagious. (And I’m not saying that everyone who is non-affirming is homophobic, but some of these folks definitely were.)

God Comes to Us

“In the story of God’s relationship with humanity, the answer is always grace—God approaching us. In the final analysis, we don’t go to heaven; God brings his heavenly abode down to earth, having re-created the universe so that there is a new (that is, radically renewed) heaven and earth. We do not go to God, but he comes to us.”
— Matthew W. Bates [1]

This is true not only of the life to come but of our lives here and now. God grace is forever reaching out to us.


[1] Matthew W. Bates, Salvation by Allegiance Alone: Rethinking Faith, Works, and the Gospel of Jesus the King (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2017), 139-140.

Evil Being Done in Our Name

I’m sorry for bringing it up, but sometimes I experience a deep, burning, fire-in-my-bones need to be on the record about an issue (see Jeremiah 20:9).

The Trump administration has released a 68-page report on international human trafficking. This report stated, “Removal of a child from the family should only be considered as a temporary, last resort.” [1] At the same time children as young as three years of age are being forced to appear in immigration court by themselves, without their parents. Not only are the children there without their parents, according to NBC, “They are not entitled to an attorney but rather are given a list of legal services organizations that might help them.” [2] How does a three-year-old make use of a list of legal services organizations? How do we expect justice to be done when there is no one present to advocate for the child? How do we expect them to make their case when they are not yet old enough to comprehend the dangers that prompted their parents to take them and flee? This is wrong. This is insane. This is evil and it’s being done in our name. There may not be much we can do, but we must do that much. I urge you to call and/or write your representatives.

P.S. According to other reports I heard, this occasionally happened under previous administrations. It was wrong then, and that doesn’t make it right now. Taking a wrong practice and making it far more common, does not make it right.


[1] Noah Bierman, “Ivanka Trump Helps Unveil Administration Report That Decries the Effect of Separating Children from Parents,” Los Angeles Times, June 28, 2018, accessed June 29, 2018, https://lat.ms/2NbOfUP.

[2] Christina Jewett and Shefali Luthra, “Toddlers Are Having to Appear in Border Courts All Alone,” NBCNews.com, June 28, 2018, accessed June 29, 2018, https://nbcnews.to/2KATUWo.

You Already Believe

Do you ever worry that you don’t believe in God? Dallas Willard has a keen, insightful response:

“I never worry about someone who wants to believe, because I know they already believe enough to want to believe more. If they did not already believe a great deal they would not even want to believe.”


Dallas Willard, Life without Lack: Living in the Fullness of Psalm 23 (Nashville: Nelson Books, 2018), Kindle.

God is Like Jesus

I think this one speaks for itself:

“The historic Christian doctrine of the divinity of Christ does not simply mean that Jesus is like God [the Father]. It is far more radical than that. It means that God [the Father] is like Jesus.” — Elton Trueblood


Elton Trueblood, cited by Rachel Held Evans, Inspired: Slaying Giants, Walking on Water, and Loving the Bible Again (Nashville, Tennesee: Thomas Nelson, 2018), 55-56.

Of Aid for Immigrants and Romans 13

Yesterday, a parishioner asked Jenny and me if there was a United Methodist Organization working with the refugees and asylum seekers who are being detained and separated from their children. Indeed there is, please see the link below.

On the related issue of the interpretation of Romans 13, which has been cited to defend the current administration’s policy of separating immigrant children from their parents, I’ll just follow the lead of another pastor and point out that the man who wrote Romans 13 was executed by the state for his steadfast refusal to submit to the governing authorities when doing so was in conflict with his obedience to Christ.

Link: http://njfon.org/donate/

Some Things That Need to Be Said

Last Thursday (May 24, 2018), a diverse collection of older clergy (they refer to themselves as elders, but that’s a bit confusing because it’s often a technical term meaning different things in different churches) put out a declaration at a public worship service and the website reclaimingjesus.org. I recognize that said declaration is not perfect and that it represents only one perspective on our current situation. Nonetheless, it contains many things that I think need to be said. I don’t want to stray into partisan politics and I fear that sharing this link will be seen as doing just that, but I feel that my position as a preacher compels me to offer this as a much-needed affirmation of some core gospel teachings.

Here’s the link: http://www.reclaimingjesus.org/

If you prefer to read things when they are printed out there is a link to the declaration in PDF format at the bottom of the page.

What do you think? Feel free to let me know what you think at john@revcollins.com.

New iPhones and Life in the New Creation

In the past, I’ve tried to explain the continuity between our present bodily selves and our bodily selves in the new creation with a computer analogy from N. T. Wright. The analogy was as follows: when we die, God uploads our software to God’s hardware until such a time as God will give us new hardware on which to run our software. Seeing puzzled looks, I tried to elaborate and used the example of a time when I got a new iPhone. Adam Hamilton has a new book out in which he has done the same thing. Here’s his version:

How is it that our essential self continues when the brain, which seems to serve as our hard drive and central processing unit, no longer lives? And how does such a transfer from our physical body to whatever spiritual body God has prepared for us actually occur? I use an iPhone. My phone was several years (and three models) old and starting to run a bit slower, the charge wasn’t lasting as long, the memory was full, and the phone seemed to need to restart from time to time. So I purchased a new one. The new phone came with upgraded features. It was faster and had more memory and new capabilities. I opened the box, powered it up, and logged in using my e-mail and password from my old phone, and voilà: my pictures, songs, videos, e-mail, texts, apps, and files— all of my memories— on my previous phone showed up on my new phone, having been stored in “the cloud.” As I watched my new phone come alive, with all my old data on it, it struck me that this process was analogous to what Christians believe happens in our death and resurrection: everything that makes us us— our thoughts, memories, personality— will continue to exist, albeit in an imperishable (upgraded!) body, a spiritual body, with God.

 

For those of you who are Android fans, I’m sure there’s an Android equivalent, I just don’t know what it is.


Adam Hamilton, Unafraid: Living with Courage and Hope in Uncertain Times (New York: Convergent, 2018), Kindle, 212.

Why Are We Even Talking About Homosexuality?

I don’t remember who it was exactly, but in one of the first two appointments I served, a parishioner, commenting on the discussion of the issue of homosexuality at Annual Conference, asked: “The Bible is so clear homosexuality is wrong, why are we even talking about this?” It’s a question that deserves an answer. Especially in light of the fact that we have already had people leave our congregation over this issue and that a special called session of General Conference will gather to discuss and debate removing the Book of Discipline’s prohibitions on the ordination and marriage of gay and lesbian men and women in 2018.

Jenny and I are not looking to change your mind about this issue. We believe that we seldom change our minds on significant issues like this based on a discussion, a debate, or even a book study. But we do want to help those who hold to a traditional interpretation of the biblical teachings on homosexuality understand how others who claim the name of Jesus Christ can affirm gay and lesbian persons. For those who are on the other side and affirm gay and lesbian Christians, we want to help them understand how they can hold this view without merely relegating the Bible to the status of an ancient and notably dated, book to be gleaned for inspirational quotes but otherwise ignored.

With those goals in mind, We’re currently reviewing God and the Gay Christian: The Biblical Case in Support of Same-Sex Relationships by Matthew Vines. Early in his book, Matthew writes:

Like most theologically conservative Christians, I hold what is often called a “high view” of the Bible. That means I believe all of Scripture is inspired by God and authoritative for my life. While some parts of the Bible address cultural norms that do not directly apply to modern societies, all of Scripture is “useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16–17, NRSV). [1]

Nonetheless, Matthew has come to the conclusion that:

Christians who affirm the full authority of Scripture can also affirm committed, monogamous same-sex relationships. [2]

That’s the view we’ll be trying to explain, and in the process, we hope to answer the question: “Why are we even talking about this?” Again, we’re seeking only to promote understanding, not to change minds (see the second paragraph above). The reason we won’t be studying and discussing a book on the traditional view: we all grew up and are already familiar with the traditional view.

We’ll have more on this possible book study soon. In the meantime, please don’t go anywhere—we would miss you just as we miss those who have already left.


[1] Matthew Vines, God and the Gay Christian: The Biblical Case in Support of Same-sex Relationships (New York: Convergent Books, 2015), Kindle, 2.

[2] Matthew Vines, God and the Gay Christian: The Biblical Case in Support of Same-sex Relationships (New York: Convergent Books, 2015), Kindle, 3.

Praying for Palestine, Israel, and Us

I try to keep this blog focused on the life and faith of our local church, but sometimes that same faith compels to say something. Now, with yesterday’s violence in Gaza strip, is one of those times.

My understanding of the United States’ decades-long, previously bipartisan, approach to moving our embassy to Jerusalem was that it would come at the end of the peace process when the age-old conflict between Israelis and Palestinians had been put to rest. Under this approach, the moving of the embassy was a “carrot” to encourage the peace process. Now without the conflict being resolved, the embassy has been moved to Jerusalem, a blatantly pro-Israel move that prompted Palestinian protests.

So far, 60 Palestinian civilians have been killed and thousands wounded. I pray for the Palestinians, I pray for the Israelis, I pray especially for the Christians in their midst, a small minority under intense pressure. I fear that the United States will never again be seen as an honest broker for peace and I pray that we can somehow regain our standing and again be able to do some good.

The idea, held by some American Christians, that the United States’ recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel will hasten the coming Kingdom of God is so ludicrous, that I have nothing at all to say about it. I pray for the eyes of those who believe that nonsense to be opened.

Abuse is Grounds for Divorce

I’ve always viewed abuse (either physical or emotional), as grounds for divorce but had difficulty succinctly explaining why. A few days ago, in a series of tweets, Rachel Held Evans shared a pithy explanation that I’ll be referencing from here on out:

First of all, Jesus’ teachings on divorce were intended to protect women from exploitation, not create new laws that would further exploit them.

Second, Jesus’ whole posture toward the law was that its purposes are thwarted when it is used to perpetuate human suffering. This is why he healed on the Sabbath. It’s why he stopped the religious leaders from stoning the woman caught in adultery.

I truly see no difference between sending a woman back to an abuser “because the Bible says so” and surrounding a woman for a stoning “because the Law says so.” And I have no doubt that Jesus would prioritize a woman’s life over a legalistic interpretation of Scripture again. — Rachel Held Evans

The only thing I would add is that the abuser is sometimes a woman and the abused is sometimes a man.


Rachel Held Evans. Twitter post, May 4, 2018, 11:56 a.m. to 12:01 p.m., http://bit.ly/2I30QH8.