Letters to the Editor

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Pulpit Supply

Len Vander Zee’s article “Pulpit Supply” (Feb. 2015) brought to mind Paul’s struggle with the church at Corinth. On the one hand, Paul cared not how they viewed him, only how they viewed Christ. On the other, Paul realized they would not value the message if they did not respect the messenger.

To come to the present day, when the “honorarium” works out to $7 an hour, does that really honor the preacher and the message? None of us does this for the money. But all of us hope the message we bring is valued.

Some congregations do not have the financial resources to honor the pastor with a generous check. Those congregations usually find other ways to express their appreciation.

Others just don’t take the visiting pastor’s task seriously. Or perhaps they haven’t thought about this. Perhaps this article will occasion some reconsideration.

—Thomas Niehof
Ames, Iowa

While not an ordained minister, I have been responsible for Sunday afternoon services at a local health care center for more than 25 years. I absolutely understand the amount of time ministers spend to deliver a sermon on a weekly basis (“Pulpit Supply”). But I need to respectfully respond to Rev. Vander Zee’s remark that, when asked to preach in another church, “It’s not charity.” I receive no monetary recompense from Sunday services except for the spiritual support and prayers of a former church. I also have a full-time job to attend to.

If God can use Balaam’s donkey to speak for him, I guess it shouldn’t be surprising that he can do the same through me. I don’t get paid, nor would I care to because it is more than enough for me to be used as a tool by God to make himself known.

—Bill Goossens
Tinley Park, Ill.

Straight Rows

Thank you, Leighton Kolk, for drawing our attention to the legacy of Sietse Buning (“Reformed Matters: Planting Straight Rows,” Dec. 2014). I call Buning’s work “20th-century parables.”

Time moves on and challenges us with new ideas and insights.
Farming, I used fertilizer and chemical weed control; when weeds escaped that control, I had a tendency to curse them. Our son farms the same acreage organic; when weeds escape his mechanical control he allows them to grow for their biological benefits for his crop.

Our granddaughter came across a letter from the local CRC council written 50 years ago, published in the local newspaper, taking issue with the Anglican Church on doctrinal matters. Today we organize events with the broader local Christian community and discover that our confessional unity is much greater than our doctrinal difference.
In the spirit of Buning’s poetry, we recognize the historic significance of our “three forms of unity” and realize that our true unity can be found only at the foot of the cross, trusting that the Spirit will lead the church in mirroring Christ, embracing all.

—Evert Wassink
Forest, Ontario

Amen!

Re Kurt Rietema’s article “Preaching Peace” (Feb. 2015), Amen! Amen! Amen!

—Marlin Hendricks
Lynden, Wash.

Feeling Good

A common theme in two of the February articles (“Feeling Good” and “Why Is It So Hard to Talk about Homosexuality?”) really got me thinking about the “plank in my own eye.” I can’t help but wonder if this powerful common theme was the mysterious working of our powerful God. Both articles pushed me to consider the role of contempt that we often hold in our minds and hearts as we encounter people whose lives and experiences are different from our own. I agree that in order for us to faithfully serve people who are marginalized or outcasts (Nydam and Otten’s words), we need to practice empathy and imagine ourselves in their shoes. This makes us uncomfortable, but until we do, we cannot truly minister to their needs as Jesus calls us to do. Thanks for helping me to realize this.

—Ed Starkenburg
Orange City, Iowa

Why Is It So Hard to Talk?

I appreciated the pastoral tone of Rev. Nydam’s article (“Why Is It So Hard to Talk about Homosexuality?” Feb. 2015). However, the accuracy of a statement in recommendation 4 (“It has become increasingly clear that genetic influence has much to do with homosexual gender presentation”) deserves verification. The  Human Genome Project of 2003 concludes that it is “not scientifically accurate to refer to a ‘gay gene’ as the causative agent in homosexuality.” Unless Rev. Nydam can cite chapter and verse for scientific evidence, his statement appears to lack merit.

—Ivan Mulder
Pella, Iowa

I appreciated Ron Nydam’s thoughts and suggestions on relating to LGBT persons (“Why Is It . . . ”). They need our love, support, encouragement, and relationship just like any other person in our church. Taking the time and effort to get to know them better will help us realize what a burden their sexual orientation is for them, thus making it easier for us to love, support, and encourage them.

However, it is sad that there needs to be a special ministry to LGBT persons when Jesus requires of us that we all minister to all the fellow members of our church.

—Elly VanAlten
Edmonton, Alberta

Ron Nydam raises some interesting and timely questions about how heterosexual persons think about people who are not heterosexual (“Why Is It…”). One answer to the problem comes out loud and clear in the next article (“Preaching Peace”), in which Kurt Rietema discusses alienation caused by the fear of difference. The quote from the young black man on being asked how he felt about Michael Brown’s death in Ferguson, Missouri: “I don’t know, how do you feel about it as a human?” makes me wonder if attaching labels to ourselves and to others is a cause of alienation. If we see each other as being made in the image of God, even though we have all sinned, maybe we can start to rebuild relationships among each other in a manner that God intended.

—George Lubberts
Nobleford, Alberta

Rev. Nydam states, “We are people of the Book. We live under God’s Word” (“Why Is It . . .”). A biblical phrase that we all agree to when seeking to embrace those of non-heterosexuality is “speaking the truth in love.” However, when we choose to ignore, modify, or placate a mindset of cultural or political correctness, we inhibit the work of the Holy Spirit. When truth ceases to be of God, the love that motivates us is at best fake and at worst akin to its opposite. Our pastors, elders, church councils, classes, and synods have led us down that hermeneutic road before, and I pray that it will not be so once again.

—Rick Schmidt
Brantford, Ontario

I disagree with Ron Nydam in his article (“Why Is It . . .”). We are comfortable talking about homosexuality. After all, we have been talking about it since the 1970s. The problem is those who wish to support the active participation [of those who practice] sex outside biblical standards refuse to listen to and accept God’s clear revelations. It does not matter how graciously one confronts sex sins of any kind, the one attempting to shine the light of God’s grace is too often branded old-fashioned, mean-spirited, close-minded, and homophobic.

—Bill Hoogland
Wyoming, Ontario

Professor Nydam gives good pastoral counsel in his article (“Why Is It . . .”). However, even with good pastoral guidance, such conversations are difficult for two reasons:

1. We live in a time when science and experience dictate what right thinking must be. That makes it hard to talk about the human person as the temple of the Holy Spirit being “washed and waiting” in the Christ-life.

2. We live in a culture where the sum total of our identity is caught up in our protoplasm, hormones, and passions. That makes it hard to talk about a chaste and celibate life in Jesus Christ. Such talk is judged antiquated, bigoted.

—Marvin Beelen
Grand Rapids, Mich.

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