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Jeffrey Lord’s article on being a member of the UCC reminded me of what the difference is between tolerant and radical churches and the damage a bad minister can cause to the former.
I grew up in Jamestown, New York and due to the fact that my family was heavily involved in the First Baptist Church (my great-grandfather had helped get the then current church built in 1915) became a member in 1960. Note that this was an American Baptist Convention church, not a Southern Baptist one, and more conservative and reserved.
I went into the Army in 1968 but kept my faith (still do) and thus missed some key changes. My father became a church deacon and as a result had to sit on the board to select a new minister. The one they selected was a somewhat unknown quantity who had been a Southern Baptist from Indiana and (unfortunately for us) was blessed with an activist wife who was a “joiner,” and soon after they were accepted in 1970 got herself voted onto the Jamestown School Board.
Fast forward to Mothers’ Day 1971. This was always a big day for the church, as nearly everyone showed up (the membership was around 1200, big for Jamestown) and it was a good time for all. Except this particular year the minister’s sermon was on the faithlessness of women and Sodom and Gomorrah with “so-and-so went down into Sodom and committed 12 whoredoms and so-and-so went down into Gomorrah and committed 17 whoredoms…” Within one week membership had dropped to 700 and within a month to 350. Note that these people voted with their feet and pocketbooks when they had a totally irresponsible and vitriolic minister.
But due to the tick-like engorgement of his wife and her burrowing into the local government it took several years to get rid of this man and start to restore the church. The replacement was unfortunately worse, as he was a liberal (!) activist and not happy the membership (only back up to about 500 or so) was not behind him. As a result the church was destroyed one night in a mysterious fire (something the FBI later noted had happened to a previous church where the new minister had been pastor.)
When I came back to bury my father in 1985 the church was rebuilt but tiny with less than 200 apparent members. But they had a good minister by then, neither a screamer or a radical.
I know there are still good ministers out there who understand they must minister to the soul and the spirit and not politics or counter-religious issues. The pastor of the First Methodist Church in Lone Oak, Georgia, was one of those when I attended services in his church in 2002.p>But the fact that the UCC stands behind someone as nearly sacreligious as the alleged Reverend Wright and over 20,000 members see nothing wrong with this type of behavior tells me more about the specific church and the denomination. I feel for Mr. Lord being stuck with such people. br> — Cookie Sewell br> Socialist Republic of Maryland
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