Recently, a few pastors of Open and Affirming churches have gotten calls from a man calling himself Terry W. Johnston. His basic story has been the same: abandonment by his sister, full-blown AIDS, a church back home, and a friend with a bus ticket. Two of these pastors helped him financially. When he called me, he gave me a name of a UCC church, a city, and a pastor's name. I decided to check it out and found that there was no such church or pastor. Based on this information, I declined to help him.
I have no idea how many churches he has contacted, but I think it wise to caution people about this story. It is my guess that the man really does need help. Still, folks need to know that the story around his need is concocted before assessing how and if they are inclined to help.
The Rev. Paul Tellstrom
Mt. Hollywood Congregational UCC
News off the mark
The small news item, "Abolitionist remembered," in the July-August issue is off the mark. Samuel Sewell was not an ordained minister, but a judge and noted diarist in colonial Boston. It was in fact his son, the Rev. Joseph Sewell, who was pastor of Old South Church from 1713-1769. There is no evidence that Joseph denounced slavery 300 years ago. Instead it was his father, Samuel, who denounced witchcraft and his involvement in the hysteria in the 1690s. He bowed his head in contrition while the Rev. Samuel Wellard read his confession to the congregation of Old South. This event is commemorated in a mural on the wall of the Boston State House.
Aside from this quibble, let me say that United Church News is a neat, well-done product that I am delighted to receive.
Richard H. MacKay
Scholarship an affront
Many UCC members disagree with church positions on controversial issues such as homosexuality and abortion rights. These members have nevertheless continued to support the UCC because of the greater good for which our church stands.
The creation of a scholarship fund specifically designed to increase the numbers of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender UCC pastors is an unacceptable affront to these faithful members. This fund goes beyond promoting acceptance of homosexuals. It demonstrates a preference for church leaders who engage in these lifestyles.
The decision creating this offensive scholarship fund should be reversed immediately. Delay in doing so increases opposition to already established church positions on ordination of homosexuals, abortion rights, and other divisive issues, and thereby threatens the future of our church.
Paul M. Hallacher
St. Peter's UCC
State College, Pa.
Hard question ducked
I was glad to read two thoughtful points of view on the assisted suicide debate in the September issue. However, a hard ethical question is ducked when one of the writers draws little distinction between medically-assisted prolongation of life and medically- assisted suicide.
One of these continues the age-old tradition of saving life. The other is murder, even though both actions are motivated by the desire to relieve suffering. Suicide itself is a moral/ethical/legal problem we've not resolved, and it is further complicated when another person assists it.
The Rev. Daniel L. Johnson
Euclid Avenue UCC
Many questions remain
The question of choice is never solely an individual question. Almost no one makes the decision for suicide in a vacuum, outside of a web of family and friends.
It is easy to generalize that all cases of euthanasia involve people in poor health and ready to die, and to accept that every physician will always be thorough, thoughtful, caring, and compassionate, as one writer reports Dr. Kevorkian is described. But individual cases are always different.
Is there never pressure, in ways subtle or direct, to decrease the financial or emotional burden? Do people never feel guilty about the cost of their care, the burden of their illness? Are they lonely because they are placed away from family and friends? Is euthanasia alone the answer, or the issue?
Or is how, and why, and in what ways we provide medical care, and simple human care, more to the point?
The Rev. Robert M. Jeffers
St. Peter UCC
In the September "Current Comment," Editor W. Evan Golder somehow finds vice presidential nominee Joseph Lieberman's faith inspirational. Commending Lieberman for "the effect of his religion on his life," the column ignores the fact that Lieberman is a walking contradiction.
The senator condemns President Clinton's outrageous behavior but then votes to keep the national embarrassment in office. He obeys the fourth commandment but conveniently ignores the sixth as he supports the infanticide of partial birth abortion. He quotes easily from the Old Testament but ignores its teachings about the sinful nature of homosexual behavior. He is for some privatization of Social Security and for school vouchers but quickly abandons these positions to conform to those of Al Gore.
Inspirational? Hardly. Hypocritical? Clearly.
Bethlehem Steltz Reformed UCC
Glen Rock, Pa.
No big deal
Excuse me, but what is the big deal about officiating at weddings, and why is it suddenly the latest focus of whining? So what if we have to fill out a little paperwork? I served local churches and served at weddings for over 15 years; the total time spent on paperwork for them was mere hours, and it involved nothing more laborious than licking a stamp, nothing more frightening than a papercut. No government official ever told me I couldn't marry two people, nor was I ever required to marry two people who I believed shouldn't be wed.
This kind of thing is reason number one why the UCC is becoming irrelevant, or worse, mocked. We waste more energy on self-serving crusades against the latest "bogey- person" and manage handily to ignore issues of real substance, of real pain and concern to people in need.
What a load of hooey!
The Rev. Steven E. Swope
Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif.