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Charles Meredith: Religions in focus


Dear Friends,

Good morning. In a minute, I’ll share my conversation with Lori Beth Wagner, the new pastor at the Quakertown United Methodist Church and her observations concerning what Methodists say about gay ministers, gay marriage and the like. But first, two items on the weekend of April 6 and 7:

First, the Children’s Developmental Program (Quakertown) is hosting a “Pig and Swig” Fundraiser on Saturday, April 6, at The Meadow of Saucon Valley in Hellertown. The goal is to raise $5,000 for summer camp scholarships and other enrichment programs. Tickets cost $50 each (send your check to CDP, 995 Doylestown Pike, Quakertown 18951).

And the next day, Sunday, April 7, the Quakertown Band will hold its annual concert at the Strayer Middle School (Ronald Reagan Drive in Quakertown). Although admission is free, I encourage you to make a donation (112 N. Hellertown Ave, Quakertown 18951).

Founded in 1877 (the same year as the Quakertown National Bank), the Quakertown Band originally was known as the Germania Band, because it was named after the Pennsylvania Germans who populated the town and its band.

World War I and our fight against Germany made anything with a hint of German influence taboo. So the Germania Band was changed to the Quakertown Band. This year, the program’s theme is “Portraits of America…sounds of reflection.” I never miss the band’s annual concert. See you there.

And now to the main topic.

An Associated Press story of March 3 concerned three, major U.S. churches in turmoil: Roman Catholic, Southern Baptist and United Methodist continue to struggle with sex abuse and LGBT issues.

“For the U.S. Catholic church, the clergy sex-abuse sandal that has unfolded over two decades has expanded dramatically,” the AP story began. (We discussed that topic last week.)

“The Southern Baptist Convention, America’s largest Protestant denomination, confronted its own sex-abuse crisis a month ago in the form of an investigation by the Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News,” the AP continued. “Those newspapers reported that hundreds of Southern Baptist clergy and staff had been accused of sexual misconduct over the past 20 years, leaving more than 700 victims with little in the way of justice or apologies.”

And finally, “The United Methodist Church, the largest mainline Protestant denomination, ended a pivotal conference in a seemingly irreconcilable split over same-sex marriage and the ordination of LGBT clergy.

“About 63 percent of the delegates voted to maintain bans on those practices and strengthen enforcement, dismaying centrists and liberals who favored LGBT inclusion. And now, Methodists are faced with the choice of leaving the UMC or considering acts of defiance from within.

“Three out of four millennials who live in the U.S. support same-sex marriage and do not want to be a part of a church that makes their friends feel like second-class Christians,” the Rev. Adam Hamilton said.

His Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas, is the nation’s largest UMC congregation. He believes that the Methodist rules will push youthful pastors and other young adults away.”

I called the Rev. Lori Beth Wagner, the new pastor of Quakertown’s United Methodist Church, for her take. “Have you seen an erosion of members in your congregation?” I asked. “No,” was the short answer.

On the telephone, Pastor Wagner’s voice is youthful and peppy.

I told Pastor Wagner that for years, I’ve been curious about Jesus’ observations about homosexuality. In my search of the four Gospels, I found nothing on the subject. She agreed with me. “Jesus said nothing about homosexuality,” she replied. “But he had plenty to say about love and faith.

“What is important is Jesus’ mission … loving people no matter what. We don’t have to be caught up in the fighting,” she added. “The church needs more faith, not more politics.”

Pastor Wagner told me that she has many groups that want to talk about issues. “Our only requirements are that our conversations be kept confidential and non-judgmental.”’

If I were a Methodist, I’d want her to be my pastor. Her church has a big event scheduled for June 9. It’s a tent meeting from morning ’til night.

Sounds interesting.

Sincerely, Charles Meredith

By the way, I learned that the covered bridge that sits in the fields of South Perkasie was moved to its present location in 1958. Built in 1832, the bridge needs $150,000 to restore it. When Perkasie raises the money and begins the work, the borough should move the covered bridge so it actually crosses the Branch Creek, a tributary of the Perkiomen, rather than have it marooned in a field.

P.S. As I mentioned last week, Dr. Robert Leight is giving a talk about Quakertown’s involvement with the underground railroad before the Civil War. It helped slaves escape from the South to freedom in Canada. In the 1850s, Quakertown’s Richard Moore was a member of Richland Meeting.

His property, just a few blocks south of the meeting house, was a “station” on the underground railroad.

Leight’s talk will be at McCooles’ Arts and Events Place at 7 p.m. on March 28.