Letters to the editor
April - May 2009

Seminaries' efforts are encouraging

Many thanks for the challenging and insightful article on the difficulties facing our UCC seminaries.  As former Vice President of Andover Newton Theological Seminary, Don Hill and I struggled with many of the same issues during the last decade.

I am encouraged to hear that some of the schools are making valiant efforts to continually adapt to the changing landscape of theological education and the culture of our congregations. 

William R. Cunitz
Pilgrim Place in Claremont, Calif.

Bangor Seminary's work goes on

Thanks for your article regarding innovation and the seminaries, in which you wrote that Bangor Theological Seminary only had 20 full-time students at the time of the selling of our historic campus.

In 2005, our actual enrollment included 45 full-time and 94 part-time students, for a full-time equivalent student body of 70.

For BTS to enter our third century of preparing church leadership with increased endowment and without delayed maintenance and high energy costs is an innovative transition worthy of recognition.

We would not want anyone in the UCC to finish reading your article with the impression the BTS does not continue to be a true gem of a theological school.

The Rev. Kent Ulery, President
Bangor Theological Seminary

Schools, churches need each other

Thanks for your article "Innovation propels seminaries through the transitional waters" in the February/March issue of United Church News.  It is encouraging to learn that seminaries are beginning to address the need for experiential education in clergy formation.  We in the churches have seen this need for some time, and a number of us have already started trying to do something about it.

For the past three years, my church, Judson Memorial UCC in New York City, has been partnering with several NYC area seminaries (including Union Theological, featured in the commentary) to develop a Training Program in Progressive Ministry from a Congregational Base — exactly this type of education.

As one of our oversight task force members has commented, "Seminaries and seminarians do spend lots of time on social justice issues.  What they don't do is help students learn how to be effective, wise, and successful in focusing on these commitments from a parish base."

Theological seminaries need to work with congregations to offer far more such experiential learning programs.

The Rev. Donna Schaper, Senior Pastor
Judson Memorial UCC

Sexual issues require leadership

In Debra Haffner's article about seminaries preparing clergy to address sexuality issues in their ministries (Feb/Mar 2009) she says, "Seminaries must do more to prepare students to minister to their congregants and be effective advocates for sexual health and justice." While I agree that this would be desirable, I also think adjudicatories should accept responsibility for keeping sexuality issues up front for clergy in their Conferences, Associations and institutions. Furthermore, denominational officials should make certain they are doing their part to promote sexual health and justice within the organization.

Adjudicatories must accept responsibility for promoting sexual justice, including within their own ranks. Seminaries alone cannot do the job.

The Rev. Grant F. Sontag
Mountain View, Calif.

Science, religion can coexist

I consider myself a moderate to liberal Christian, but I feel that celebrating a person like Darwin who through his study tried his best to prove God does not exist or at least the God of Abraham does not exist, is a step too far for even the most liberal Christian. Science and religion can go together when one is not out to disprove the other, this Darwin celebration really upsets me.

Shane Odean
Portage UCC
Kalamazoo, Mich.

Mideast conflict not one-sided

I am saddened by the comments in the Feb/Mar 2009 United Church News by Michael Neuroth when he stated that he "watched with horror as news reports after Christmas began showing images of the Israeli incursion into Gaza.  Now, over two weeks later, more than 700 Palestinians have been killed and thousands injured."

I have to ask, where was Mr. Neuroth when Palestinians, unprovoked, were bombing innocent children and adults in Israel long before this recent invasion? Or what about the suicide bombers they have been sending into Israel for years?

Loberta Staley
Thurmont, Md.

Faith needs good grammar

Your use of the simple model of liberation theology of orthopraxy vs. orthodoxy caught my attention.

Jesus often teaches that you can have the right theology but the wrong actions.  What Jesus is not teaching is that theology is unimportant. Jesus was harshly critical of the theology of Samaritans (who only had the Torah and the book of Job as their scriptures) when he spoke to the Samaritan woman at the well.

Healthy theology, like good grammar, has a wide range of punctuations: commas, periods, question marks, exclamation points.  We in the UCC seem to have one:  the comma.

Early on in my life with Christ a Bible study teacher taught me "information without application leads to lethargy." The opposite is also true. Information with application leads to life.

Bruce Farrell
Myerstown (Pa.) UCC