Pastors: Approved and capable

It is a pleasure to welcome Randy Harris as Book Editor of the OUTLOOK. As you see from his bio he brings a great love of reading and an appreciation of books in many fields to this position, to this new venture.

We are grateful for the excellent work of Lillian McCulloch Taylor of North Carolina, who served as book editor for more than fifteen years. When Lillian came on board, the OUTLOOK still maintained "The Outlook Book Service," which was a true distribution source for curriculum, pastoral resources, and books. Like many of you, I can remember when one could receive orders from the Book Service faster than from any other Presbyterian enterprise. When Lillian began, her responsibility was multifold including promotion, reviews of resources.

Waiting for the end

If The Left Behind series of novels were not enough to disfigure the Christian faith in the public square, now we have the television series Revelations, an obvious effort to cash in on the fears and heresies of American life. These entertainments are fed by dispensationalists and pre-millenialists who have swirled into public influence in the last decade. They present a fantastic, anti-biblical view of how believers are invited by the Jesus of the Gospels to wait for his return when he shall come in glory to judge both the living and the dead.

Perhaps more pointedly than anywhere in Scripture, Matthew's gospel calls the church not to investigate apocalyptic events to discern when Christ will return, but to be obedient here and now. In the parable of the Last Judgment, where no one is left behind, we are divided into sheep and goats, and then Jesus tells us why. We have done the right thing (or the wrong thing) to him, as he is represented in real, historical time by his brothers and sisters, his "little ones" who were hungry, thirsty, naked, sick, and in prison. Some interpreters understand this to mean that the nations (gentiles or outsiders) will be judged by how they have treated members of the church. Other interpreters claim that this is a call to universal human obedience, and that all people of all religious persuasions will be judged (and received or rejected) by these criteria.

Pentecost Meditation: When God dreams drive us

Pentecost Meditation on Joel 2:23-39

Frequently in the morning, after I’ve walked the dog, I’ll come in, get a cup of coffee and sit down on the kitchen floor; and then, when my wife joins me, I’ll ask her what she dreamed about. Most of the time, Ann says she can’t remember. But I remember what I dream about; and I enjoy relating the vivid things that come to me in my sleep. (Well, some of them, at any rate. A few I keep to myself.)

How far we have come

For my installation as Minister of Word and Sacrament at Second Church in Richmond, Hanover Presbytery, at my request, invited Father William Stickle to sit with the Commission and take part in worship. Bill was priest at St. Peter's, the oldest Roman Catholic congregation in the city. I remembered my friendship with him and with his successors as I watched John Paul II's funeral.

I also recalled that at Union Seminary (now Union-PSCE) in John Leith's theology class I learned what papal encyclicals are. Like no one else in my experience, Leith caused us to understand their importance -- not only to Roman Catholics, but to theological and ethical discourse in the holy universal church for the common good of the world's peoples. We studied Rerum Novarum (1891) and Mater et Magister (1961). My final year at seminary we joined an ecumenical conference of students and faculty at St. Mary's Catholic Seminary in Baltimore on the place of Scripture in our tradition.

John Paul’s interfaith legacy will be difficult to follow

“I believe that today God invites us to change our old practices,” said Pope John Paul II, speaking to some 80,000 Muslim youth in a stadium in Morocco in 1985. “We must respect each other, and we must also stimulate each other in good works on the path of God.” Christians and Muslims have “badly understood each other, opposed and exhausted each other in polemics and wars. Dialogue between Christians and Muslims is today more necessary than ever.”

Weak leadership all around us

I get it wrong about as often as I get it right. But I have learned, partly through my own mistakes, that healthy leadership will generally contain these three elements: thoughtful assessment, shared and transparent process, and seeking the good of the whole. Not only will better decisions be made, but the led will follow with confidence and trust.

A view from the other side

John Paul II has died. The television pictures of that frail, physically impaired gentleman had long prepared us for the news of his passing. He was eighty-four years old, and had been in failing health for many years. May he rest in peace.

Popes have always interested me.

The austere, aristocratic figure of Pius XII contrasted with the almost folksy, rotund John XXIII who opened the windows of the Roman Church so that new breezes could blow in. Paul VI stood bravely before the United Nations and pled for peace in the days of the Vietnam War. Alas, his successor, John Paul I lived only a month after his election, to be followed by the robust Pole, who took the name John Paul II, to honor his immediate predecessors. I have read biographies of many of them, finding their leadership styles to differ, even if the power they held was in every case almost absolute. To this Presbyterian the idea that one man could be given absolute authority in matters relating to faith and morals has been incomprehensible. Yet, each of these men has also been very much a member of the human race, with individual characteristics, foibles, quirks that are common to all humanity.

Older adults enhance Churches’ ministries

For years, a church’s declining membership concerned its leaders. Their solution— a youth ministry. After several years, the church pastor acknowledged that the effort invested to attract young families was not working. The pastor’s conclusion was simple and refreshing: “I have been telling the session that perhaps it’s time to be who we are, a church for older adults.”