Thoughts from the Far(rer) Side
By Rev. Dr. Jim Farrer
October 02, 2017

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By Rev. Dr. Jim Farrer
June 14, 2017

 

“I don’t think that word means what you think it does.” Any halfway knowledgeable fan of the movie The Princess Bride can recite that line and receive a chuckle from any other fan. It’s a classic movie line. It always makes me smile. Unfortunately, using words which can have different meanings to people can be problematic…especially if they are buzz words to a particular group.

My beloved United Methodist Church is now involved in a struggle for its future…not that we will cease to exist but more to see what we will look like in the future. And in the midst of the struggle are those words…those words that some of each faction can say: I don’t think that word means what you think it does.

Words like scriptural holiness…does that refer to our position on homosexuality or does it refer to ALL scripture including slavery, divorce, selling our possessions and giving all the money to the poor, women in leadership, haircuts, dietary laws and the rest?

Another word is covenant…does that refer to part of our covenant or all of it including things like paying apportionments, not doing second baptisms, baptizing infants and remaining loyal to the United Methodist Church?

Finally there is the use of the name of (John) Wesley…just wondering which (John) Wesley we are referring to? As I recall a quote from my Bob Tuttle led Wesley class: “He was not a slave to the bugaboo of consistency.” So are we aligning with the Wesley of the classes and rules, the Wesley that was called a “papist”, the Wesley that was accused of being antinomian, the Wesley of the catholic spirit or the Wesley who was not a literalist?

We that love the church seem to be at an impasse…divided into camps based on these words (and of course, many more). I am wondering if it is possible to sit down and talk with mutual respect and to realize many of us love those same words but may understand them differently. I am wondering if there really is a “way forward” for the one United Methodist Church.

I hope there is!

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By Rev. Dr. Jim Farrer
January 26, 2017

 

It seems like everybody is doing a “state of the something” review, so why not our church. However, rather than launching into a multi-page report on the good, the bad and the ugly, I want to lift up a few areas in the life of our church which are indicative of our life together. And, happily, there are amazing things happening here.

Probably the single biggest item that everyone wants to know about is our building project. This past fall our church supported (with a 95+% yes vote) an amazing vision for First UMC. I purposely did not say they supported a building project, because what we are doing with our expansion is supporting a wonderful vision and mission which will allow us to become a community-centered, mission-minded church!

To make this project a reality and double the size of our facility so that we can do ministry in many exciting ways, our financial goal is $13.2 million. At first this goal seemed out of reach, but the great thing about dreaming and living God-sized visions is that God is as invested in our project as we are. Believe it or not, we are only about $500,000 short of our goal and hope to reach that by our groundbreaking on February 26th.

A second exciting part of our life together is the introduction of an entire new program for “faith formation”. We have developed a full-range of learnings for adults in every aspect of their faith journeys. We launched this program with our introductory class dealing with “faith” as well as searching and claiming our understandings of a theology in our own lives.

Another major item in our life is the first ever DeKalb County Child Abuse Awareness Summit. This event will be held at our church on April 13th. We will have as our keynoters Judge Charles Pratt of Allen County and Antwone Fisher (nationally known speaker and writer whose story was told in the movie “Antwone Fisher”). Although this is a community supported event, the idea and much of the driving force came from First UMC!

Besides these wonderful things, here are some other signs of hope within our life together:

  • •  Continued growth in our community involvement
  • •  Missions trips for youth and adults
  • •  Baptisms, professions of faith

Our church had an exciting year in 2016, and we are looking forward to living out God’s vision and mission in the year ahead!

 

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By Rev. Dr. Jim Farrer
August 09, 2016

 

Yesterday, I read an article discussing one of the hot button topics in the church and in our society today. In the article was a quote by someone well-known in church circles. He made the following statement, “Even most liberal biblical scholars agree…” What followed was a statement of why “his side was right” in regard to this issue.

I have to be honest I found this quote unsettling on more than one level. Let me say this to begin with:

  • •  the issue is not simple
  • •  the biblical evidence is not overwhelming
  • •  And from a pastoral care standpoint—the topic needs to be dealt with   many levels including its impact on all of God’s children. 

Another of my concerns is the phrase, “liberal biblical scholars”. My concern has to do with the oppositional nature of the statement and its implication which is: there exist liberal biblical scholars that think one way and conservative biblical scholars who think another. I personally know several biblical scholars and honestly do not know of one who considers him/herself to be either a liberal or conservative biblical scholar – they simply consider themselves biblical scholars. It seems more often that those who evaluate a particular scholar’s position (according to their own understanding and theology) are often the ones who impose the labels liberal or conservative.

One more concern is that this assertion presupposes that such a group—liberal biblical scholars—exists, and we could seek them out for confirmation of this person’s claim about their position on this topic. Thus a strong and powerful position statement is made claiming strong support, and yet there is no way to confirm the writer’s assertion or conclusion.

What is most disturbing to me is that this way of defending his position shuts off any potential dialogue. The writer is positing that “most” liberal scholars agree and even though it is not stated, it could be implied then that “all” or almost all conservative biblical scholars agree. Thus…end of discussion!

Please understand that this is not my attempt to attack this person or even to diminish their stance. However, it is my hope that with the challenges the church is facing we can move beyond statements that further divide to find a place where we can begin an open and honest discussion. 

Even if we do not all think alike…may we not love alike.

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