SERMONS – East Anchorage United Methodist Church

This is written in 2020. I am in the process of throwing away things, but I found a sermon or two that were very creative (I think) and since East Anchorage United Methodist Church is now closed, there is no place to send old sermons for historical purposes, except for the Conference Historian, so here they will be.

DECEMBER 9, 1984   “THE WAY”  2nd Sunday of Advent

“Leo Tolstoy once told a parable about seven prophets who gathered together in a vast desert. They stood in a circle, each of them holding a lantern up to the light of the sun. None of them could look directly into the sun, but in their different lanterns they saw different shapes and colors. The refracted light they proclaimed to be the only light, and on the evidence of their seven observations they founded as many religions.”                                                (Source – page 30 Pulpit Resource, Vol 6, No. 4 Oct-Dec 1978)

Story of the elephant and 3 blind men:  One said it is like a wall; another said it was like a rope; another said it was like a tree.

DECEMBER 23, 1984   4th Sunday of Advent

Attendance last week: Church School 49; Worship 116

At 10:45 a.m., there was an Advent Recital for fifteen minutes with a French Horn Quartet composed of Dave Donaldson, Dan Heynen, Mike McVee and Bruce Ross.

SERMON: “WONDER”

In the midst of it all, the wonder of it all:

The wonder of God loving the world so much, not only that God sent a child, but that God sent a child in a humble way: IN BETHLEHEM, of all places.

The Wonder of God using angels on high, shepherds from the fields, a lowly handmaiden, a carpenter, one who works with his hands. Gloria in excelsus deo.

In the midst of a world which stresses tribal loyalties, God would select someone from the line of David, whose ancestor was a Moabite – Ruth.

THE WONDER OF IT ALL.

In the midst of a world which stresses armed might, with the legion of Rome, the power of the emperor, the Greek/Roman traditions, God would select someone from powerless Palestine.

THE WONDER OF IT ALL.

In the midst of a world which defined religious loyalty in such narrow terms, the WONDER OF A GOD who would continually push down the barriers created by priests and religionists. Salvation was not just for the Jews, but also for the Gentiles. Salvation was not just for those who faithfully followed the tenets of the law, but for the common people.

Salvation was for everyone. For ALL who thirst….

THE WONDER OF IT ALL … this humble child grew to be an adult. One who took ALL the sins of the world upon himself. A sacrifice which destroyed ALL need for other sacrifices to the Gods.

While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. THE WONDER OF IT ALL.

It is no wonder that those who believe are filled with awe at this Christmas time. May yet more believe and be satisfied.

JANUARY 13, 1985  “POSITIVE ACTS OF RESISTANCE”

Motivation for sharing this meditation heard at a meeting of the General Board of Church and Society on October 31, 1984, as shared by Haviland C. Houston, General Secretary of the General Board of Church and Society, United Methodist Church follows:

There are many forces at work in our society, including the United Methodist Church, which are comfortable with and even advocate, the status quo in a wide variety of situations.

There are also some forces which feel called by God to challenge the status quo, even to the point of accepting prison sentences, in order to call attention to a wide variety of evils, which they perceive are wrong and capable of being changed.

It is not my view that all Christian United Methodists are called to take such a stance on these issues, but it is my view that we are called to be supportively aware of what is happening, and in some cases, even to be supportive, of those who feel so called.

Hence, today I am called to share some of the biblical and theological basis for some of those who have resisted injustice and social evil in other times and places…as well as give some examples which challenge Christians in the 1980’s.

This will contain a heavy dose of facts and issues, but I trust that some of you will try to remove distractive thoughts from your mind and take this journey with me.

I am heavily dependent upon a meditation shared by Haviland Houston, General Secretary of the General Board of Church and Society of The United Methodist Church.

(her meditation)

“One of my earliest recollection of a Bible Story is my mother telling me about the baby, Moses, and how he was hidden by his sister and mother in the bulrushes to protect him from the King who wanted to kill all the boy babies. Of course, I had no idea what a bulrush was but that really didn’t matter – it was an exciting story and full of intrigue.

But the story of Moses, which we often begin with the 2nd chapter of Exodus, really begins with Chapter 1 and an account of the actions of two courageous women. We read there that a new King arose to rule over Egypt, but he did not know anything about Joseph and so he was fearful of the people of Israel in every sort of way, and he shared that fear with the Egyptian people.

The Scriptures tell us that they were fearful of the numerical strength of the people of Israel; of their physical strength; of their organizing strength; of their procreation strength; of the possibility of their lack of loyalty. And because of those fears, we are told they oppressed the people even more, but the more the people of Israel were oppressed, the more they multiplied, and the fears of the Egyptians doubled and tripled.  They pressed down on the people even more and made their lives bitter with hard service.

At this point, a very interesting story occurs. The King speaks to the Hebrew midwives, one who is named Shiphrah and the other Puah. Being a mid-wife was a very important vocation for a woman in those days and one that held status. The King made it very clear to the two women what he wanted. As they performed the duties of a mid-wife, they were simply to kill the baby if it were a boy – but if a girl, they were to let it live.

But the King didn’t know something important about the two women. They feared God. They feared God more than they feared the King and so they did not do as the King commanded them, but let the male children live.

So they got called in again! “Why have you done this, and let the male children live?” And then comes one of the cleverest, frankly most humorous, answers I’ve ever heard. Shiprah and Puah told the King that “the Hebrew women are just not like the Egyptian women for they give birth easily and their babies are born before either of us gets there.” How’s that for an answer? Virginia Mollenkott in her book, THE DIVINE FEMININE, calls this a “strategic side step.” Whatever you call it, Shiphrah and Puah had exhibited moral courage.  They had engaged in a POSITIVE ACT OF RESISTANCE.

As I reflect on the role and responsibility of the church, I would say one of our main responsibilities is to exhibit this kind of moral courage in our own lives, and to be the kind of leaders in the church and in the community who call and enable others to exemplify moral courage through POSITIVE ACTS OF RESISTANCE. 

The Biblical record and the history of civilization are full of accounts of courageous women and men who engaged in POSTIVE ACTS OF RESISTANCE in different ways and for very different reasons.

When Noah built the Ark, it was a POSITIVE ACT OF RESISTANCE;

When Esther went before the King to plead for her people, it was a POSITIVE ACT OF RESISTANCE;

When Jesus healed the sick on the Sabbath, it was a POSITIVE ACT OF RESISTANCE;

When Paul defied the jail and jailer and took another approach, it was a POSITIVE ACT OF RESISTANCE;

When Martin Luther nailed his 95 thesis to the Wittenburg door, it was a POSITIVE ACT OF RESISTANCE;

When Susanna Wesley gathered her daughters and sons together and taught them not only reading and writing; but also philsophy and religion — it was a POSITIVE ACT OF RESISTANCE;                                                                                                                                           

When John Wesley preached to coal miners, it was a POSITIVE ACT OF RESISTANCE;

When Carrie Nation took her hatchet to the Saloon, it was a POSITIVE ACT OF RESISTANCE;                                                                                                                                          

When Susan B. Anthony defied tradition and marched in front of the White House in behalf of women’s right to vote, it was a POSITIVE ACT OF RESISTENCE;                               

When Eleanor Roosevelt asked the hard questions about an inclusive society in a day in which no public figure was doing that, it was a POSITIVE ACT OF RESISTENCE;         

When Mary McCloud Bethune spoke out about and worked diligently for the rights of young Black people to a quality education, it was a POSITIVE ACT OF RESISTENCE.       

When Rosa Parks refused to go to the back of the bus, it was a POSITIVE ACT OF RESISTENCE.                                                                                                                                           

When Martin Luther King, Jr. taught and led a non-violent movement in the midst of violent reaction; it was a POSITIVE ACT OF RESISTENCE.                                                           

When Native Americans, Russell Means and the Bellecourt brothers, walked from San Francisco to Washington, D.C. to protest federal legislation abrogating treaty rights, it was a POSITIVE ACT OF RESISTENCE.                                                                                               

When Bishop Oscar Romero challenged the political systems in El Salvador and advocated for human rights, it was a POSITIVE ACT OF RESISTENCE.                                     

When Kim Dae Jung returns to Korea in behalf of freedom and democracy, it will be a POSITIVE ACT OF RESISTENCE.                                                                                                         

Everytime Bishop Desmond Tutu confronts the government of South Africa, on behalf of the Gospel, it is a POSITIVE ACT OF RESISTENCE.                                                                       

And the list could go on and on….

When the United Methodist Church wrote its Statement of Social Principles and developed the Book of Resolutions, we were saying to the denomination and to the world, we will take positive action to resist those directions and systems in our society and world that are unjust to any citizen; that dehumanize human beings; that cause us not to cherish our children and youth; the kind of directions and systems that do not make for peace; that trample on the human and political rights of others; that reduce the care of the earth and its resource to selfish and thoughtless acts.

Let me remind you that we are all recipients from those who have gone before us. Our foremothers and forefathers were often specific about the situations and systems in society they intended to resist. They were willing to exemplify moral courage as evidenced in the 1908 Social Creed.  How will those who come after us look back on us? What will they say we cared about? How will they describe our moral courage?

Martin Luther King, Jr. said it this way: “The ultimate testimony is not where you stand in moments of comfort or moments of convenience but where you stand in moments of challenge and moments of controversy. On some positions cowardice asks the question, is it safe?;  expediency asks the question, is it politic?; vanity asks the question, is it popular?; but conscience asks the question, is it right?

“There comes a time when a person must take a stand that is neither safe nor politic nor popular, but must take it because we have decided that the ultimate question in life is not what happens to my job, my prestige, my popularity, but the ultimate question is, what happens to the cause of truth and when you don’t stand up for it you die at that moment.”

One of the most agonizing statements about the failure to speak up, to show moral courage, comes from the lips of a German Protestant pastor, Martin Niemoller. He opposed Hitler and the Nazis, and spent some eight years imprisoned for his courageous stand against the Nazi dictator. Speaking of his experience Niemoller said: “The Nazis came for the Communists and I didn’t speak up because I was not a Communist. Then, they came for the Jews and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew. Then, they came for the trade unionists and I didn’t speak up because I was not a trade unionist. They, the came for the Catholics and I didn’t speak up because I was a Protestant. Then, they came for me – and there was no one left to speak up!”

No matter who you are, what we say and do makes a difference! Let me, in closing, challenge you with some POSITIVE ACTS OF RESISTANCE.

The failure of this Congress just adjourned to enact the 1984 Civil Rights Act will call us once again to practice POSITIVE ACTS OF RESISTANCE again the erosion of the rights of all persons in our nation and around the globe.  (Easy to update even in the years following 2020.)

Three teen-agers threw a man off a bridge in Maine this summer because he was gay, and he drowned because he couldn’t swim. Does the church have a POSITIVE ACT OF RESISTENCE for the kind of social climate that would even remotely suggest such action to anyone, much less teen-agers?

Do we have any POSITIVE ACTS OF RESISTANCE left for capital punishment? for the resurgence of the KKK? for violence in the home? for the spread of toxic waste dumps? for the violations of human and political rights at home and abroad? for the absurdity of continuing the senseless killing on our highways because of drunk drivers? for the seeming never-ending unwanted pregnancies of teen-agers? for excessive restrictions on immigration? for a military build-up far beyond necessity? for a pornographic mentality that takes its major toll on women and children?

We serve a loving God. But we too must fear God – fear a separation from God because we have not been faithful disciples. We must empower ourselves to identify and take actions on social issues that will make our communities and world more loving and just. Our personal faith in and commitment to Jesus Christ will give us the moral courage to be who we need to be … to do what we need to do … to engage in POSITIVE ACTS OF RESISTANCE.

Then we will be able to be the kind of leaders in the church we need to be, and to challenge and enable others to be courageous in both word and deed. It is my prayer that the church, by the actions of its people will be a FACE OF HOPE for the whole world. If we are to be this FACE OF HOPE, the signs of the times tell us that we will have to continue in the train of those who have gone before and often engage in POSITIVE ACTS OF RESISTANCE.  Shiphrah and Puah feared God more than the King. They knew what they had to do. May God grant us wisdom and moral courage. May God deliver us from all our fears, including being unpopular because of the stands we must take and the witness we must make. And may we always be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine.  Hear our prayer, Oh God.

Attached:  The 1908 Social Creed, from the Doctrines and Discipline of the Methodist Episcopal Church, 1908.

The Methodist Episcopal Church stands –

For equal rights and complete justice for all men in all stations of life.

For the principle of conciliation and arbitration in industrial dissensions.

For the protection of the workers from dangerous machinery, occupational diseases, injuries and motality.

For the abolition of child labor.

For such regulation of the conditions of labor for women as shall safeguard the physical and moral health of the community.

For the suppression of the “sweating system.”

For the gradual and reasonable reduction of the hours of labor to the lowest practical point, with work for all; and for that degree of leisure for all which is the condition of the highest human life.

For a release from employment one day in seven.

For a living wage in every industry.

For the highest wage that each industry can afford, and for the most equitable division of the products of industry that can ultimately be devised.

For the recognition of the Golden Rule and the mind of Christ as the supreme law of society and the sure remedy for all social ills.                        

 

FLIGHT LOG from the 1970’s by John J. Shaffer

While in Nome, Alaska, I was motivated in 1977 or so to share a newsletter with 200 persons. Why 200? That was the minimum number required by the post office for bulk mailings.

It was designed to give me a statewide voice on some issues that were important to me. Earlier I had edited a newsletter for the Alaska Christian Conference of Churches while in Juneau. I found it to be a useful way to stimulate and inform some of my contacts in Alaska.

For some strange reason, I did not date them. My best guess for the first one is 1976. When I went to Nome, I had assured the Mission Superintendent Ac C. Wischmeier that I was capable of doing the pastoral work and care that was needed in Nome. By the time I did some work on alcohol sales and abuse, I was well enough established that most of those who participated in the churches I served (United Methodist and Presbyterian) were supportive of me. Plus the Superintendent and Bishop were more than supportive.

Why I picked this title is not in my memory bank, but the word is common in Bush Alaska and I did take Ground School for a private pilot’s license. I took the School until we had the lesson on weather and I decided my life should be in the hands of others and not myself. The weather patterns between Nome and Anchorage could change while one was flying. Sadly, one member of my Ground School died on her first solo flight. Perhaps I will share some of my flight experiences in Alaska, but not here.

FLIGHT LOG F L I G H T L O G Volume I, No. 1    Perhaps 1977
Editor: John Shaffer, Nome, Alaska
(I may leave some items out at my discretion.)

Fact: People do not read their mail.
Result: Such persons miss a lot of trivia and a lot of vital information.
Slightly Related to this: I am going to publish irregularly a newsletter which will go to 200 persons within the Alaska Missionary Conference. It will be unofficial, filled with opinions and concerns which either come to my attention or I consider important.

TERMS:
Our Annual Conference adopted new committee titles.
     CHURCH AND SOCIETY replaces Christian Social Responsibilities.
      DISCIPLESHIP replaces Christian Nurture.
       GLOBAL MINISTRIES replaces Christian Outreach
        LAY ACTIVITIES AND TEMPORAL ECONOMY remains the same.                                        To be on Board, learn these Committees.  What they do is also important!

RESOLUTIONS:

We adopted a Resolution related to the “World Peace Tax Fund Bill”. Amendments prohibit me saying whether we were for or against, as an Annual Conference, but it was nice to see a public issue debated again. No mention (in resolutions) were made of the important State issues of Subsistence and D-2 lands…The Annual Conference was against violence and alcohol abuse, referring to other resolutions.

OTHER ACTIONS:

-Blocked an attempt to remove membership as a 50% factor in figuring apportionments. Heard Bishop Jack Tuell indicate displeasure at the drop in membership during the past five years. I remember my personal irritation several years ago when the Alaska Mission leadership was severely critical of one pastor who had cut his membership rolls that year. Bishop Tuell avoided this approach in his “State of the Church” address when he lamented the decline over several years, but I would hope that no member of our conference would receive a demerit for following the dictates of the DISCIPLINE of The United Methodist Church. True, it may not be a virtue to remove 100 members, but who can judge the way in which members are added by some of us?

So roses to those churches which made their membership roles more accurate in 1976 (at least two) and also roses to those who showed a significant increase (at least three). Here in Nome I could cut the membership by 70 persons with a few days work in that area, but who wants to risk the displeasure of the cabinet? Praise the Lord for the pastor who corrected the Nome rolls by 153 in 1967.  (Added in 2020:  It was Benjamin Laird.)

-Assigned the first worker priest to North Star in North Kenai.  Good Luck, Mel (Vostry). At this point, no one is offering more than good luck….

-Authorized (for at least the sixth year) work to proceed at Bayshore West in Anchorage. Don’t know why it took conference action and comment to get started, as I thought local churches could provide such ministry anytime, anyplace, but lots of good words were said about this new step. Seems a lot of people want more church extension….

       *Wonder whatever happened to ecumenical cooperation?

       *Wonder if the Christian witness by Roman Catholics, United Presbyterians, etc. is as valid as United Methodist witness at such places as St. Mary’s and Wasilla, etc.

Speaking of ecumenical cooperation, North Pole starts as an United Church on July 1st under the leadership of an United Presbyterian pastor. Will we give as generous support to him as United Methodist pastors (John Tindell, Don Hartman, William Trudeau, John J. Shaffer) have received from the Presbyteries of Alaska or will we do less, speaking specifically to the fact that Presbytery allows each of us full voting rights, as well as paying our travel costs to the main meetings? I hope we can develop as much pride in this bold move as we have in the proposed move at Bayshore, West. It was accomplished by coooperation in Fairbanks.

(Editorial Note 2020:  All of these cooperative parishes still exists, but at one point an United Methodist administrator proclaimed:  “No More” and that attitude has prevailed.  They work, but they require more administrative energy from the denominational administrators.)

SALARY SHARING 

Thanks need to be extended to those churches who have been and will continue to be sensitive to the need for help in salary support for those churches receiving such aid.  It helps ease the feelings of those of us on minimum salary while the top range now hits $17,696 or so.  Those on minimum start near $10,052 up to $13,844 while self supporting churches start at $10,720 and go up to $17,696. (Figures based on 1977 estimates and subject to change with new personnel.)

FUTURISTIC GOALS (heard around conference)

     Bishop for Alaska – 1980

     Provisional Annual Conference – 1984

     Self Support (of a sort) – 1982.

(UPDATE 2020 – Alaskans are now lobbying to be a Mission District of the Pacific Northwest Conference, but a coronavirus pandemic has postponed the 2020 General Conference, so stand by for future developments.)

UNCONSTITUTIONAL

Each time (1972 and 1976) General Conference passes legislation affecting those with little influence in the church: such as “worker priests”, “clergy-couples” and even “mission conferences”, it seems that the legislation is picked to pieces by those who are fearful of change, as well as by those with more noble motives. Surely, with the brains which exist in United Methodism, a solution could be found.

D-2 LANDS  (gave address and shared info about hearings)

….express yourself!  Seldom do we have the opportunity to influence the use of land.

HUNGER TASK FORCE

We are urged to write our Representatives and Senators in Congress to Support the “BREAD FOR THE WORLD GRAIN RESERVE PLAN”. The delegates to the Annual Conference took the easy way by adopting a resolution. More effective will be your letters of individual concern. We also adopted Hunger as an emphasis for the coming year.

FLIGHT LOG   F L I G H T  L O G  Volume I, No. 2      Editor, John J. Shaffer

FOOD FOR STAMPS  (details not included, as it may be out of date.)

MESSENGER EDITOR by Don Nothdurft, pastor Camas United Methodist Church May 29, 1977.     Subject:  proposed B-1 manned supersonic bomber.

Ending paragraph:  Perhaps we need to take a serious and critical look at our concept of ‘security’.  Jesus prescribed ‘going the second mile’, ‘being reconciled with your brother’ and even ‘loving your enemy’. To seek security by such means is risky and may be costly – but no more so that ‘deterrance’ which is based on the costly threat of mutual annihilation!
——————————————————–

Thomas a Kempis: “All men (persons) desire peace, but few men (persons) desire those things that make for peace.”

Stanley Stefancic:  This country’s major problems stem “from the kind of Christian teaching that has shaped American thinking…a kind of selective Christianity that is currently drifting towards authoritarianism.”

EVERYBODY IS RIGHT…OF COURSE (or are they?)

Quotes from United Methodist Reporter

5/6/77  “When local congregatons get social action-oriented, they decay, and I think they’ve seen that. Our sickness (membership loss) may have been the first step toward health.”  –  Bishop Paul W. Milhouse, President of the Council of Bishops, The United Methodist Church.

6/17/77  “Bishop (Abel) Muzorewa also urged the class to be ‘prophets of action’, saying people ‘who are oppressed especially need our help.’  Christians, he continued, ‘must be engaged in turning the world right side up!'”  -Bishop Abel T. Muzorewe, Bishop from Zimbabwe, speaking at commencement for Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, Illinois.

5/6/77  “A church fully committed to social service loses the heart of its motivation.” – Bishop Milhouse, Oklahoma Area Bishop, also the location of the Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference.

6/17/77  “Fortunately, Methodism’s leading world evangelist knows better. Dr. Alan Walker said recently, ‘The need now is to develop the larger evangelism which accepts biblical scholarship and recognizes that the Christian gospel seeks both the conversion of men and women and to build a just world society.’ (THE INTERPRETER, May, 1977, p. 41)

The General Conference also knows better. Our current missional priorities and theme, “Committed to Christ…Called to Change,’ recognizes the inseparable mutuality of personal and social ministry.

I believe that United Methodists will hear men (and women) such as Alan Walker and will heed the stated call of our General Conference. I think that they will find ways — both at home and on all connectional levels — to engage in a whole ministry. I do not believe that they will settle for half a gospel, even when offered to them from the most prestigious administrative/pastoral office in the denomination. They know that it is both uncriptural and unWesleyan.  — C. W. Brockwell Jr., Louisville, Kentucky, ‘Letters to the Editor’

(Editor’s Note: When traveling in Zimbabwe (Rhodesia) in 1971, I found the church there to be very much alive and growing. It has continued to grow, even with the active oppostion of the government currently in power.  The Christians with power in today’s world are active in two areas:  Social service and evangelism.)

QUOTE or “I didn’t say it.”

“The charismatic movement offers us a way to the devil, not to God…if some say unless you have the gift of tongues (glossolalia), you don’t have the filling of the Holy Spirit, that’s simple heresy and the Church needs to rediscover the courage to say so…The doctrine of the charismatic movement is absolutely false, although they have recaptured the communal dimension of the church by meeting together in small groups for Bible study and prayer.” -Dr. Dale Bruner, Whitworth College religion professor, speaking in Morning Bible Study, Synod of Alaska-Northwest, 1977, in Spokane, Washington.

FLIGHT LOG   F L I G H T  L O G   Volume I, No. 3   Editor: John J. Shaffer  1977

BE AN ACTIVIST!  Write a pubic official at least once each year.  It will help influence public policy. It will remind elected officials that someone “out there” cares, and it is what helps make our system stay honest!!! Pick your own issue from the thousands available.

Provided Address for Governor, Senators, Representative and President.

This week I wrote to President Carter about some young people experiencing excessive jail terms in Bolivia. The letter was stimulated by a mailing received from LAOS/AFS, relating it to the issue of human rights.

THE EPISCOPALIAN, July 1977

Bishop of Alaska, David R. Cochran, had an interesting article entitled: “Can Jimmy Carter Save the Church?” in which he comments on the need to save ENERGY in the church, relating specifically to the style and cost of many meetings held by the church. Quoting out of context, Cochran wrote: “At a meeting of the bishops at a resort some years ago, one brave bishop brought his sleeping bag and bedded down in a nearby church.” … “This is a serious goal: to bring about a simpler, less-expensive, and less wasteful lifestyle as church members, individually and corporately. It is serious because our credibility as Christ’s faithful soldiers and servants is at stake.”

(2020 Note:  “That train left the station long ago.”)

EDITORIAL  reprinted from “The Bering Straights”, considered by some to be Nome’s best newspaper.  July 15, 1977, page 3.  (2020 note: it was the best newspaper and I was one of the founding members.  It disappeared when the Nome Nugget became a better newspaper.)

“TO DRINK OR NOT TO DRINK”

“News broadcasts on both Nome radio stations last Friday brought news to the drinkers and non-drinkers of our area that should have far reaching implications for the future.”

By an unanimous decision (that means no one of the court justices disagreed with the decision) the Alaska Supreme Court ruled that ordinarily sane persons who commit crimes while intoxicated cannot claim insanity as a defense. This may have some affect on the decisions rendered by the judicial community of Nome.

The case at issue was that of a Juneau man who killed a drinking companion by stabbing. He was found guilty and given a stiff sentence. The high court said ‘Where an individual has knowledge of the adverse effects of his drinking and can choose whether to drink or not to drink, society can legitimately expect him to conform his conduct to its demands.’

Since it is obvious that a large number of drinkers have a choice about whether to drink or not to drink, it will make a difference in judicial attitudes towards those who kill or maim friend or foe while intoxicated.

It is hard on those who have chosen not to drink to have loved ones hurt or killed by an intoxicated person. It is harder still to see that formerly intoxicated person back on the streets quickly, with the clear potential of ‘doing it again.’

If a person chooses to abuse beverage alcohol, he or she is responsible for the results – both in this case and in the quality of life which exists in home and community.  Think about it!” 

SERMON EXCERPT:

“Supplementing Your Faith” by Gordon L. Corbett, Synod Executive Presbyteries of Alaska & Yukon, printed in THRUST.

“We went through some rough experiences in the late 1960’s and early 70’s and a lot of people were shaken in their feelings and attitudes toward the church. We’ve all learned a lot from those experiences and I think we’ve come through to some clearer ideas about what the purpose and mission of our churches is, and we are now going about our work with more confidence and enthusiasm. Churches and ministers are worshipping and caring for their members and trying to help the needy people in their communities and they are not trying to be social change agents and they are not running off in so many different directions.”

(2020 Reminder by Jjs.  A town found that people were driving off a road and injuring themselves, so they built a hospital to care for the injured.  They were helping the injured.  It was a very caring thing to do. Then some one suggested putting up a guard rail.  That person was a change agent.)

(Another 2020 thought by Jjs:  when in Nome one bar owner was very caring.  When  his customers drank themselves into a stupor, he was very caring and rich.  He let them sleep on the bar room floor.  He was saving them from freezing.  I was trying to get him to follow the law and stop serving drinks to people who were obviously already drunk.  I was attempting to be a change agent.  I failed, in part, and Nome continued to care for its victims.)

EDITORIAL COMMENTS:

Who should be social change agents in our society today?

We may have some simpler ideas about the purpose and mission of our churches (therefore much easier), but we must constantly struggle with the central question: “Are we faithful to what God would have us being and doing today?” or “Are we just comfortable because we do not have children dying in foreign lands?” Injustice, oppression and denial of human rigts continue throughout the world. If we back away from this to take care of those in our own community ONLY, we may have happy days, only to give our children the whirlwind to reap.

Here are some challenging thoughts from Dom Helder Passoa Camara, a Roman Catholic Archbishop of Olinda and Receife, Brazil, speaking to the General Synod of the United Church of Christ (UCC): (see The United Methodist Reporter, July 22, 1977, p. 4.)

“In times like these, personal conversaion, always necessary and indispensale, cries out for a social conversion.” …  “The little one, the oppressed one, isolated, alone, if he has the audacity to raise a cry for human rights, will be crushed at once. United, without violence, but without fear, united in defense of their rights, the little people are invincible,” … “We Christians will in a wonderful way help to create … a more just and human world .. if we convince ourseves that the greatest charity which God expects of us is, without hate, with love, to help create justice.”

All this is to say, to get to the ‘bottom line’ is that we may need to spend more effort at being social change agents, not less.

EVANGELISM

Methodist Federation for Social Action says (U.M Reporter July 22, 1977) that “wholistic evangelism” is a priority for the coming year, along with opposing the neutron bomb. They declared: “Personal evangelism is not the whole gospel.”

Presbyterian Commuenique, June 1977 shared the content of the “Chicago Call: An Appeal to Evangelicals” which contains “A Call to Holistic Salvation’ saying: “We deplore the tendency of evangelicals to understand salvation solely as an individual spiritual and otherworldly matter to the neglect of the corporate, physical and this-worldly implication of God’s saving activity.”

After learning that both spellings for the adjective is correct (from my biggest dictionary), I was able to reflect how close we are in theory.  Now if we could just get closer in practice and respect the different ‘gifts’ we each bring to the total church.

FLIGHT LOG    F L I G H T  L O G     Volume II, No. 1   Editor: John J. Shaffer  1978

PRACTICING WHAT I PREACH:

Those who are aware of life in Nome, Alaska, are also aware that the editor has been busy lately, spending some energy on being a “social change agent”, on the issue of sale of intoxicating liquor. The situation is very complex, as we deal with economics, personal freedom and a wide variety of human sin.

We have succeeded in getting the issue placed upon the ballot and we have succeeded in getting the town concerned, perhaps for the wrong reasons, but if the issue of alcohol abuse is addressed, perhaps it is worth it all. I praise God for supportive church members and a supportive denomination.

While we don’t get a lot of hassle, the advice of one person that clergy should ‘stick to the gospel’, inspired the following article. (and more)

STICK TO THE GOSPEL written by John J. Shaffer

One of the businessmen, not often in the sacred halls of the local churches in Nome, made a plea that the ministers “stick to the gospel!” Worthy advice, to be sure. Just for the record, here are some aspects of the gospel for your weekly meditation:

1)   First, the words of the prophet Isaiah: “What do you mean by crushing my people, by grinding the face of the poor?” says the Lord God of hosts. (Isaiah 3:15)

2)  Or, dealing with the profit motive, we listen to the words of Jesus: “For what is man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? (Matthew 16:26a) or building on that: “Fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matthew 10:28b)

3)  One text that suggests itself in the discussion of quality of life in a town or village is found in Luke 2:34-35: “But take heed to yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a snare; for it will come upon all who dwell upon the face of the whole earth,” or Galatians 5:19-21: “Now the works of the flesh are plain: immorality, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, party spirit, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and the like. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.”

But the gospel of the Bible needs some modern information, too. Last year the Interdepartmental Coordinating Committee (I. C. C.) prepared a report for the Governor of Alaska which indicated that the alcohol industry provided $7.4 million dollars for the State, while at the same time costing the taxpayers $17.8 million dollars. The report is available for anyone who wants to read it. It isn’t in the Bible, but the truth of it must be heard: For every $1.00 provided by the liquor industry in the State of Alaska, the cost to the taxpayer is $2.40!

SO, we shall “stick to the gospel”.  The important point is that: “He who has ears to hear, let him hear,” (Matthew 11:15) what the gospel is saying.  God loves you!

(printed in the GOD AND OTHERS feature of the BERING STRAIGHTS, May 12, 1978)

One of the important contributions we all are able to make to the growth of Christian influence in our communities is to support a “free pulpit” or free clergy. It is easy to do when we agree with what a minister is doing or saying, but not so easy when we disagree with content or actions. Be very careful to note that I am not suggesting that we follow the clergy – disagree, criticize, but be supportive of his or her right to speak or act as God leads. To do otherwise, is to weaken the possibility of creative Christian witness.

RELATED to the topic are these words from an STC newsletter:

“McClain (pastor of First UMC, San Diego) notices that ‘most people do not come to church to hear about political issues, in the first place,’ but to have their basic anxieties, personal problems and loneliness ministered to. He is sensitive to the parishioners who feel they have been challenged so often, they are at a point of saying: “put one more thing on us, and we’re gone.”

“But there needs to be a balance,” he says. Beyond nurturing individuals in pain and despair, ministers ‘need to attack those things in society that made the people sick in the first place.’  Eventually they must speak out against those social evils which have become so flagrant that to maintain silence woud in effect endorse them. When ministers are not willing to preach their convictions on controversial issues, then, to Charles McClain, they ‘do not deserve to be heard.'” 

1).  My critics find it hard to believe, but a philosophy like this led me to avoid using worship services as a place to urge persons to support our drive for signatures on a petition. In fact, it was not mentioned from the pulpit.

2). The real issue in Nome is the social evil of alcohol abuse and greed. It may be that the drive to establish controls may eliminate the need for such drastic action, but “no sale” has been a good tool to promote action and discussion, plus the element in our village which wants no control may win the political battles and hence the voters will have no choice but to eliminate the alcohol industry’s privilege of legal sale.

FURTHER COMMENTS ON SERMONS:  (from LIFELINE, Minister’s Life)

“for improving sermons — First, to communicate with people, chat with them on the street, spend time with the sick and pained. Find what they are afraid of, what is hurting them. Second, after discovering where people hurt, give it a name. Teach from the Testaments. Third, after having touched people where they hurt, and having given it a name, open avenues through whch the pain can be alieviated.  Be sure that these avenues are in keeping with what the people can do.” (words of Dr. Harry Levinson of The Menninger Foundation.)

IMPORTANT QUESTION:  “Does anyone have a moral right to possess weapons that could destroy the world?”  (from article by Garry Wills, “Modern Prophets?” The Baltimore Sun 3/11/78)

FLIGHT LOG   F L I G H T  L O G    1978  Volume II, No. 2   Edited by John J. Shaffer

GAMBLING BILL PASSES ALASKA STATE HOUSE

CS SS HB #751 “An Act establishing an Iditarod Trail Race Sweepstakes Classic”

We are opposed to liberalized gambling law. However, this is obviously a minority position among the decision-makers of our state.

This bill is a bad bill. No one has been willing to spend committee time to make it into a good bill.

It is permissive – using words like “may” and “Consider”.

It provides for the posible use of vending machines or mechanical devices in the total operation of the lottery.

Today it is in the Senate – assigned to just one committee:  Judiciary, according to my information. We are urging further hearings and more committees, such as Commerce or State Affairs.

EVANGELISM:

“A ‘simplistic, popular evangelism that retreats from reality, sanctifies the status quo and ignores the desperate hungers of the world is..an extension of sin…’  ….’If our purpose in turning to God is to seek bliss, either in this life or hereafter, we have failed to understand and respond to the bibical message.'”                                                                                                                             (Bishop James Armstrong, UM Reporter, April 28, 1978)

“those most insisten on an increase in missionaries for the more narrow evangelistic purposes found that most of the fraternal workers attending insisted that evangelistic efforts apart from human ministry are largely ineffective and are only partial expressions of the gospel.”                                                                                                                                                                         (Rev. Clinton March, formerly General Assembly Moderator)

“YOU CAN’T LEGISLATE MORALITY”

This is a meaningless phrase that gets used a lot when someone tries to improve the ground rules for operating in our society.  Here are some thoughts, mostly borrowed:

-If it were not for ethics and morals, the law of the jungle would reign.

-Laws do affect the moral character of the people they are enacted to govern. The very fact that the state places itself on one side or another of an issue, through the acts of its legislative body, has powerful value.

-The purpose of legislation is not to change the moral character of individuals, but to restrain individuals and groups from the commission of immoral and anti-social acts.

-We do not enact laws prohibiting hatred, but we do enact  laws prohibiting murder.

GETTING DOWN TO THE BASICS

General Rules on the use of a building. (copied from an Episcopal Church bulletin)

  1.  If you open it, close it.
  2. If you turn it on, turn it off.
  3. If you unlock it, lock it.
  4. If you break it, repair it.
  5. If you can’t fix it, report it to the Sexton.
  6. If you borrow it, return it.
  7. If you use it, don’t abuse it.
  8. If you make a mess, clean it up.
  9. If you move it, put it back.
  10. If you don’t know how to operate it, leave it alone.
  11. If it belongs to somebody else and you want to use it, get permision before taking it, and
  12. If it doesn’t  concern you, don’t mess with it.       

CHOOSE A CHURCH

A church directory company, the largest in the nation, tells us in one of their publications why people chooe a church: 9% for architectural beauty, 18% for convenience to their homes, 14% previous church affiliation, 3% minister’s personal visit, and 56% direct or indirect contact from a layperson. This means that YOU have more to do with winning people to Christ and His Church than anyone else.                          (from Pontiac, Illinois, CIRCUIT RIDER, my parent’s retirement church.)

THE CHURCH AND POLITICAL ACTION

The following announcements were made in a church:

“The chrch building be made available to groups to discuss tax resistance, civil disobedience and opposition to governmental activity.”

“In support of the freedom movement, we commend our members who went to the harbor and forcefully unloaded his majesty’s cargo into the harbor.”

“We support the women of the church in their boycott of British tea and the use of Liberty tea.”      

                 These were issues in the Old South Church, Boston, in 1776.

FLIGHT LOG   F L I G H T  L O G  Volume 2, No. 2 1978?   edited by John J. Shaffer [Numbering System went haywire.  Sorry about that.  (2020)]

LEGISLATIVE ISSUES:

(There comes a time when the general public either influences the direction of specific legislation, or other forces determine the outcome.)

Example #1

Those involved in the promotion of the Iditarod Trail Race are gearing up to promote a new form of gambling for Alaska and Alaskans. Under the guise of whatever enthusiasm the citizens of this state have for the race, we now are faced with a new place of legislation entited: “An Act establishing an Iditarod Trail Race Lottery”. It is currently known as House Bill No. 751.

It is so poorly written that soon it should be known as CS for HB 751.

Sources indicate that it will probably pass, if it is brought to the floor soon.

You would be wise to read the bill before contacting your legislator, but it gives much power to the commissioners who would run the lottery – too much power!!

The worse concept is that the original bill allows for the “use of vending machines or mechanical devices” to distribute the chances. In addition the limit on lotteries is increased to “no limit”, although the Iditarod Trail Race would only receive $250,000.00. The balance goes to the General Fund.

IF THIS IS NOT THE BACKDOOR STEP TO UNLIMITED GAMBLING IN SOME FORM IN SOME PLACES OF ALASKA, then I have not been watching the constant pressure to open Alaska to liberalized gambling since 1962!

The bill is currently placed in the House State Affairs Committee, Bob Bradley, Chm. Pouch V, Juneau, Alaska 99811.

Then it goes to the House Finance Committee, Steve Cowper, Chm.

I have written a four page paper on the subject of this bill and gambling, if anyone wishes a copy. The best phrase follows: “The bill itself, as written, is filled with enough loopholes that one might be able to drive a team of huskies through, with room to spare.”

Some of you may think that this stand will be unpopular in Nome. True, but Nome is the only city I know where the Lion’s Club has consistently had an Easter Egg hunt at 10 a.m. on Easter Sunday. Try competing with hidden money in the eggs, with our hidden hard boiled eggs! This year we thought the Lions Club had gotten religion, but then the Nome Kennel Club sponsored Dog Sled Races on Easter Sunday morning — at 10 a.m. Being opposed to liberalized gambling laws is not my biggest problem in Nome!

Example #2

HJR No. 65  Relating to the World Peace Tax Fund: it is scheduled for a hearing in the House Commerce Committee on April 7th at 8 a.m. , Joe McKinnon, chairperson.

This is the type of legislation which is difficult to pass, because it only affects a few persons, who are deeply concerned about the amount of money being spent on military purposes, not only in America, but throughout the world.

This concept was supported by the Alaska Missionary Conference of the United Methodist Church in June of 1977 by a vote of 26 for and 14 against. It is of historical interest to note that this same issue was defeated on the first vote (19 for and 24 against) when several delegates did not know what was really involved in the issue. A chance to read some of the material personally turned the vote around.

The wording of the adopted resolution by that conference is found on page 34 and 35 of the 1977 Journal.

The “World Peace Tax Fund Bill” (in Congress) would permit taxpayers who cannot conscientiously finance military programs to have that part of their federal taxes placed in a federal trust to be used for peace projects.

The highest moments in our national history have been those times when the majority has endeavored to protect the full rights of minority groups. This issue stands as another opportunity for us to do the same again. Rather than make criminals out of some of our most sensitive and moral citizens, passage of this type of resolution would help to create the climate of opinion for the passage of the national legislation mentioned in the resolution.

It makes sense to me to provide an alternative for those of our citizens who are conscientiously opposed to war, so that they do not have on their own conscience those dollars spent by the military-industrial complex, now so powerful in our land, to perpetuate their own brand of national defense or destruction, as the case may be.

There is a proud record of citizens in our history who have opposed this use of their tax dollar. I would be proud of a nation which would give such persons an honorable way to express their opposition to war and their belief in finding peaceful means of resolving conflicts.

Some are hurt when American financed weapons are used to cut down innocent people in other parts of the world; others are rightfully fearful of what the development of weapons ike the neutron bomb are doing to our national soul!

FLIGHT LOG   F L I G H T  L O G  Volume II, Number 3  John J. Shaffer, Editor  1978

GAMBLING

To say I could not believe my eyes would be untrue, but to say I was disappointed would be true, as I read in various newspapers that the Alaska State Legislature adopted HB 751, relating to the Iditarod Sled Dog Race Sweepstakes Classic or whatever name it ended up being called!

Here in Nome the “committee” spokesperson says that they drafted a quick bill that would be ‘perfected’ by the legislature. This bill is very loose and has no real limitations on the governing commission. To their shock, the bill was basically adopted as written in the first draft. To my shock, it was adopted without any real in-depth hearings on the contents of the bill and it was adopted on the last day of the legislature. This type of irresponsible legislative action only makes for anger and a reaction that may someday cause iniatives to be proposed that will really shake up the legislature. Mr. Jarvis in California says that the voters are “mad as hell”.  The same could happen in Alaska, when persons move from words to actions.

The only real hope lay with Governor Jay Hammond.  After much deliberation, he decided to veto the bill. I have thanked him personally here in Nome.

Several persons flew from nome and Anchorage for a personal audience, so the vested interest ran very deep.

The actions of this legislature are interesting: they adopted a budget which had to have several million dollars cut in order to balance. They adopted a gambling bill by a large margin, with the behind-the-scene word being that they hoped the governor would veto it, thus making several special interest groups angry. If this is true, then it was a political manuever designed to hurt the governor in an election year. I would hope the citizens of our state are able to see through this kind of activity to be supportive of the governor in the hard task handed to him by his political opponents, many of whom aided this process by their silence and/or votes.

“In the vote in the House on June 6, 1978 “Shall CS SSHB 751 pass the House?”

Yeas: 3l  Anderson, Beirne, Bennett, Bradley, Brown, Buckholdt, Carpenter, Chatteron, Cotton, Cowper, Duncan, Eliason, Freeman, Gruening, Guy, Haugen, Lethin, Loveseth, McKinnon, Malone, Meekins, Miles, Nakak, Ose, Osterback, Parr, Rhode, Schaeffer, Snider, Swanson, Urion.

Nays 7  Dankworth, Hayes, Kelly, Miller, Phillips, Rudd,  Smith

Excused 2  Akers, Gardiner  (see changes in voting listed later)

In the vote in the Senate on Sunday, June 18th, the 161st day of the Session, the roll was taken with the following result:

Yeas:  11  Colletta, Ferguson, Hohman, Meland, Poland, Rodey, Sackett, Sumner, Tillion, Willis, Zieger.

Nays:   7  Bradley, Butrovich, Hackney, Huber, Orsini, Rader, Ray.

Excused:  2  Croft, Kerttula

Here is how a reporter (John Greeley) describes the process in the ALASKA ADVOCATE, page 6, June 22, 1978.

“3:15 p.m. — After a brief cooling-off period, the Senate is back at it again over what, in the last several years at least, has become a session-ending ritual. That is, another attempt to expand the relatively short list of names declared just after statehood as Alaska’s legalized gambling outlets.”

Up for debate is a house bill that creates a sweepstake for those with a yearn to bet on the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.

“This is just another step down the road to open gambling”, says Fairbanks Republican Glenn Hackney, invoking the memory of Leonard Seppala’s run to Nome on the Iditarod trail.”

“On the other hand,” says Ferguson, “it’s all good, clean fun, and besides, a sweepstakes will mean the state won’t have to help pay for the race next year.”

Appropriately, the vote on the bill is 117 to 7 to send it back to the house….”

“11:20 p.m. After passing the budget bill, the Iditarod sweepstakes measure and rejecting yet another several million dollars in rural schools, the House has nothing left to do.”

The legislature adjourns at 11:36 p.m. sine die. Another brilliant chapter in the annals of Alaska legislative history.  (editorial comment)

(on this final vote the role shows Akers & Gariner voting YEA & Brown voting NAY with Freeman, Gruening, Osterbak, Schaeffer excused.  28 yea, 8 nay, 4 excused.

UPDATE on liquor iniative in Nome, as of 8/1/78

The Nome Common Council (City Council) has placed the isssue: “For the sale of intoxicating liquor, yes or no” on the special election to be held the same day as the state Primary August 22nd..

Whatever else is proven by this battle, the style of operation of the power structure in Nome has never been more evident & the difficulty of bringing aboout real change has also been made abundantly clear. A few folk feel that Nome will never be the same.

(Two Comments by John J. Shaffer: dated 5/2/2020:  The Nome Common Council hurried to put the issue on the ballot in August instead of November, hoping to suppress the vote by making it difficult for those at summer camps to vote.   Just for the record, my wife was a member of the Nome Common Council during this period of time.  I would not have attempted this effort without her being on the Council.  They couldn’t officially do some of the sneaky stuff some City Councils do.  Two or more council members could not meet without including her.

FLIGHT LOG Volume III, No. 1   edited by John J. Shaffer  (this may have been the last one)  1979

DANIEL BERRIGAN

Sources indicate that Daniel Berrigan will be in Juneau, Friday, March 7, to stay until Monday, March 10.  When and where he will speak is not yet decided, but it will provide an excellent opportunity for persons to become aware of his struggle to sensitize the nation on issues of war and peace…life and death, as well as help persons to make personal decisions about their own peace making journey.  (If you don’t know who Daniel Berrigan is, let me know & I will share some information about him.)

(2020 Comment by Jjs:  I announced his Juneau speech in the Nome worship bulletin and at the end of the service during announcement time, one layperson stood up and shared how offended he was by my sharing this meeting (1,000 miles away from Nome) and then he made some derogatory remarks about Berrigan and affirmed that he should be in prison.  When he was done, a young adult who happened to be Jewish stood up and shared how offended he was by the remarks that had just been made, because Daniel Berrigan was a hero of his.  Then I gave the benediction and we all went home.  Helen Fagerstrom was so happy about the argument, saying “Let’s do this again some time.”  At least it added some spark to the service. ) 

CAPITAL PUNISHMENT

“Those who use the Bible to go around justifying capital punishment had best not forget that this same Bible calls for capital punishment for adultery, disobedience to parents, and 19 other offenses.”     – Rev. Will Campbell

“I insist that a Christian does not have the option of participating in, or approving of, capital punishment. To judge another human being, whom God loves in exactly the same way and to exactly the same degree as he loves each one of us, as being utterly beyond redemption, as being unworth to continue to live, unworthy of compassion, is not to follow but to reject the teaching of Jesus that we are to love one another as he has loved us. Capital punishment, involving that kind of rejection of the teachings of Jesus, may be what the U.S. wants at this particular hour, it may even be what most people who identify themselves as Christians want, but it is still wrong just the same. It may be approved by institutional Christianity and the church, but it is contrary to the teachings of Jesus.”  (The Reformed Journal)  (Source: CONTEXT, October 1, 1979)

ZIMBABWE-RHODESIA

Wouldn’t it be interesting if European countries had refused to recognize the infant United States because half of President Washington’s cabinet was not American Indian?”    — Martha W. Livingstone, Chatsworth, IL.  (United Methodist Reporter, September 21. 1979)

SEX

“As we read the mass of literature available on the subject, it seems to me that we need to return to a more private view of a person’s sexual orientation. Both the heterosexual and the homosexual should at least keep his or her sexual orientation and practice in the bedroom. That would be an improvement over the closet, to say the least.”  (editorial comment)

DOES THIS HAVE ANYTHING TO DO WITH CHURCH?

-If your car starts once in three times, do you consider it faithful?                                                 -If the paper boy skips the Monday and Thursday editions, would they be missed?           -If you fail to come to work two days in a week will your boss congratulate you?                -If the deep freeze goes off now and then do you say, “Well, it works most of the time.”?-If the water heater greets you with cold water half the time, do you call it a faithful servant of the house?                                                                                                                                                 -If you miss a couple of mortgage payments in a year’s time will the mortgage holder say, “Oh well, ten out of twelve isn’t too bad.”?                                                                                           -If you miss church are you really missed?  YOU BET YOUR LIFE YOU ARE!                                                                         (borrowed from 1st Christian Church, Ontario)

COPIED

“Yes    you have to be careful about this Jesus.                                                                                                            He is not who we think He is. He is who He is.                                                                                              He is not who we want him to be.  He is who we need Him to be.                                                      He is not who we expect Him to be. He is one eternal surprise.                                      He comes on straight and simple  clear and commanding   deliberate and demanding   awesome and assuring.                                                                                                                                      Yes, you have to be careful about this Jesus.                                                                                                                              He demands our all – ‘Come, follow me….’                                                                                                        He gives his all –  ‘No one takes my life.  I lay it down of my own will…..’                                          He returns His all – ‘Those who believe in me shall never die….'”                               (Excerpt from “You Have To Be Careful About This Jesus” by Rev. Robert T. Young)

E. G. Barrett, Hope, Alaska

TRIBUTE to E. G. Barrett of Hope, Alaska

This material is from personal letters and thoughts shared by a resident of Hope, Alaska.  I think he came to Alaska from Detroit, Michigan, where he was an accomplished musician  (violin?).  He shared that talent at community gatherings in Hope (fiddle?)  Hope is a small community on the south shore of Turnagain Arm in South Central Alaska, part of the Kenai Peninsula Borough.  Mr. Barrett loved to talk, but he also was a prolific writer.  As I have said elsewhere, I learned more from him about the first five centuries of the Christian Era than I did in seminary.  He loved to bait fundamentalist preachers and since I was not one, he treated me very kindly. I visited Hope regularly during the summer of 1961 when I was the Summer Furlough Pastor on the Moose Pass Circuit, which included Moose Pass, Girdwood, Cooper Landing and Hope.

March 22, 1984  (Letter written to United Methodist Alaska Missionary Conference Thom White Wolf Fassett about ministry in Hope, Alaska by John Shaffer.)

Dear Thom:

The attached letter (dated August 26, 1961) would be an example of the type of ministry that was available at Hope to Benjamin Laird and myself.  (I was the summer pastor in the year 1961.)

Here was an old timer who would not relate to fundamentalists, often throwing them out of his cabin, because they assumed he was not saved before they bothered to know him as a person.

He respected Ben Laird and obviously had much dialogue with him, as he did with me. I have a twelve page letter from him which I treasure. (It will be included in this post.  Hopefully there will be few typing errors.)  Mr. Barrett read the early church fathers deeply and had more knowledge than most seminary professors of that era of Christian literature.

Yet he had escaped and withdrawn to Hope from Detroit, Michigan, reason unknown. An accomplished musician, he would not have related to formal religion for any reason, yet there was a mutual ministry in occasional home visits.

This would be my primary evidence, both of the deep respect that United Methodist pastors enjoyed with some individuals in Hope and of the vital ministry that took place which does not and will not show up in statistics. I share this one letter for your own enjoyment of that individual.

(signed)  John J. Shaffer

Letter from E. G. Barrett, Hope, Alaska, dated August 26, 1961 (when I was the summer furlough pastor for Ben Laird).

:Buenos dias, Amigo mia:

You will doubtless remember, that I once expressed dissatisfaction with the incomplete Bibles in use by all the orthodox Christian Churches; that I had further stated, that until I had an opportunity to become familiar with ALL the material that should have been incorporated in both the Old and New Testament, it would be impossible for me to join, or identify myself with any particular sect or group.

It has been my contention, that something was sadly lacking in the King James Version as well as the Catholic Bibles; there is truly something VERY wrong with the average person’s conception of a Supreme Being, and there is something VERY wrong with the ordinary person’s interpretation of much that Jesus meant to teach. Apparently, most Christians study the Bible the same way that a dumb kid in kindergarten learns to spell “Cat” — repeating the letters over and over, while THINKING OF SOMETHING ELSE! They say the right letters and words; they make the proper sounds; but fail to see the deeper meaning in even the simplest saying of Jesus Christ; ANYBODY can rattle off the “Lord’s Prayer” or say the Catholic Rosary so fast that it is almost unintelligible; they can spin a prayer-wheel; all this is of no benefit whatever.

To be of value, Christianity has to be MADE TO WORK, as taught and promised by Jesus Christ! It has to produce Peace of Mind; it has to produce HEALTH, and if it fails to do so, then something is very wrong, NOT WITH CHRISTIANITY, but with the manner in which it is understood and APPLIED.

We have been warned against this, even in the incomplete Bibles now in use: we have been cautioned about “Sounding Brass, and Tinkling Symbals—”

The ordinary “Christian” appears to be motivated by FEAR, and only interested in “Getting Saved’—he should be mainly interested in becoming a BETTER individual, and worthy to receive all those benefits promised by Jesus, which he claims to believe in. The “Fear” motive is a very low and disgusting reason for being “Pious”; a desire to do and be right, because it IS right, seems to me, a more mature and sensible approach.

I have had an opportunity, this summer, to read all that missing material that SHOULD have been in the Bible from the beginning; I cannot agree with SOME of the beliefs, conceptions and opinions held by followers of orthodox “Christianity” in it’s present mutilated and distorted form.

Solomon says: ————-With all Thy Getting, Get UNDERSTANDING” — Damn it, THAT is what I am trying to do!

I agree that “A good Tree Bringeth Forth Good Fruit” —-  But can the best tree of which you may conceive, bring forth a bountiful yield of good fruit, if half it’s branches have been hacked off, and ony a few twisted sprouts allowed to remain?  (Mr. Barrett used red ribbon for some words. I will use “bold” instead.)

Even the New Testament in common use, contains much wisdom, so well hidden that it is missed entirely — and those missing books and manuscripts contain a lot more, which taken along with what is in common use, completes the picture and serves to make plain many things that priest, preachers and teachers have been in the habit of disposing of by saying: “A MYSTERY OF OUR HOLY RELIGON’ —-

This is ridiculous!

There should be no MYSTERY to TRUTH.  I simply do not believe that Jesus Christ ever intended to either deceive any one, or to with hold from any one, NECESSARY information that would benefit them!

The with holding was done, by the Early “Christian Fathers”: a gang of unprincipled cusses who tried to, and succeeded in, enslaving the whole race for more than a thousand years! You can hardly claim that Jesus Christ ever intended to innaugerate such an evil period as the “Dark Ages”: IT TAKES AN EVIL TREE TO BRING FORTH SUCH FRUIT!

John Wesley, the founder of your Church, believed that healing of disease was still possible just as in the time of Jesus. I think — in fact I practically KNOW, that it is! But the average “Christian” has such a warped conception of the whole thing, that he is not in the position to “Receive”; the “Cure” is there — but even Jesus Christ cannot fill a pail with water, if it is already full of something else!!!

All this leads up to the following statement as my position:

I cannot honesty identify myself with ANY group or Church, which bases it’s conceptions and interpretations on incomplete or warped and mutilated records. Some of the doctrines of orthodox Christianity do not agree with either the true teachings of Jesus, or known biological, historical and geological facts! If I said I believed these things, in order to get into the church, I WOULD BE A LIAR AND A HYPOCRITE: there are too many liars and hypocrites in the Church already — THAT’S JUST WHAT AILS IT!

I’ve never yet met any preachers or other teachers who could really explain the discrepancies in both the Old and New Testaments, but these old manuscripts SHED NEW LIGHT on the whole thing. Those old Gnostic Christian Manuscripts contain much material that is very essential to a true understanding of what Jesus intended to teach. Those early Church “Fathers” were a gang of cut-throats and scoundrals!

CHURCH FATHERS! Jesus said, “Call NO Man Father ——”

I have no kick against Jesus Christ: I deplore the fact, that His teachings have been mutilated, warped, twisted and obscured by unscrupulous men with an “Axe to Grind”.

I will talk with you further on this matter; “Come, Let Us Reason Together”!

To some extent, my present opinion is infuenced by a peculiar and unprecedented experience, which I will not discuss in this letter; I would not believe it, if it had happened to any one else, but facts are stubborn things, and cannot be brushed aside with a mere wave of the hand and a wise line of talk about “Mystery” and co-incidents;

Nothing happens, with out a cause — so then, where do we go from here? ? ? ? ?

In the words of Pilate, I ask: WHAT IS TRUTH?

Jesus did not answer him, and for good reason for in the material world, NOTHING is absolute TRUTH in it’s self, but subject to the law of relativity; There is only ONE ABSOLUTE TRUTH: The Mind of the Infinite, and to seek pure TRUTH anywhere else, is to be “Side-tracked” and led into error. Saying a beautiful prayer, while thinking about the latest model car, is not the way.

Because the physical world is not true REALITY, and our senses are a part of the physical world, it is impossible for us to see reality with phyical eyes, or to seek TRUTH through reason that emanates from the physical brain: A spiritual “Illumination” is necessary — I suppose you call it “Holy Spirit” — and I doubt very much if most people who use the phrase, “Holy Spirit”, really understand it, or know what they are talking about! The phrase rolls glibly off the tongue — “Sounding Brass, and Tinkling Cymbals”!

The Early Church “FATHERS” used to sell little bottles of “Holy Spirit” to the Faithful; Apparently THEY didn’t know what it was either!

————— He raised His eyes and with a look so stern,                                                                                                 It made me with a thousand blushes burn;                                                                                                    Replied: –his manner with disdain was spiced                                                                                    — “WHAT”  I A CHRISTIAN?   NO INDEED!         I’m Christ.

Gotta quit;    G’by————(signed) E. G. Barrett

Letter written by John J. Shaffer to Mr. E. G. Barrett, Hope, Alaska, on October 26, 1966, when I was the pastor at the United Methodist Church of Chugiak.

Dear Mr. Barrett:

My visit with you this past summer was enjoyable. I appreciate the fact that you have read widely in church history and doctrine. You had mentioned that you enjoyed the magazine THE PLAIN TRUTH which is published by Herbert W. Armstrong.

Shortly after talking with you, I read in the June issue which had an article on the size of Noah’s ark. It attracted me because you and I had discussed the biblical terms as far as size was concerned and agreed that it was not large enough for the task.

I personally consider this story to be a mythological attempt to answer certain questions about the way humankind found itself on this earth. Literal debates about size and possibilities become irrelevant in this view.

As you can see from the enclosed article, Armstrong bases his whole approach on a literalistic interpretation of the Bible. Even though you like many of his ideas, I would be so bold as to caution you against swallowing Armstrong.

Could you double check the size of the ark as figured out by your research on the question? I would be interested in having a record of your findings.

Sincerely,  John J. Shaffer (Chugiak, Alaska)

Letter written by E. G. Barrett, Hope, Alaska, on October 30, 1966 to John J. Shaffer, living in Chugiak, Alaska.  (A mystery:  How did he write such a long letter so quickly?)

Dear Mr. Shaffer:

Your letter just received; I will try to answer it as intelligently as I am able — but this subject is not only a difficult one, but also a most important one; difficult, because the only language WE have, is one that has been developed to apply to and describe EARTHLY things: if we think in WORDS, and try to understand or describe divine or SPIRITUAL event, condition or thing (?), we are handicapped right from the beginning by this fact; and if we try to visualize spiritual events, conditions or things, we have no earthly experience with which to compare them; that is apparently the reason why St. John expressed himself as he did in Revelation: He said: “I Was In The Spirit On The Lords Day” — he had a vision of INFINITY, and then tried to tell what he saw in EARTHLY language; and he did it pretty well, I think! (I’ll return to this statement, “I Was In The Spirit” later).

Now there is no danger that I will go “overboard” in regard to Armstrong: I am a THINKER and that fact would make it impossible for me to blindly accept EVERYTHING he says: I may admire his aggressiveness as a speaker and I may agree with him that prophecy is a fact—that’s as far as I go.

His conception of a Supreme Mind or BEING is childish, just as the ideas of 90% of the human race are CHILDISH; he apparently visualizes GOD as having form like a man—but Jesus has said: God is SPIRIT and they who worship God must do so “In Spirit And In TRUTH”—

Now Spirit has no FORM; it is not limited by dimension; it is NOT subject to time; the instant you attempt to drag INFINITY down to physical form subject to the limitations of dimension, then it is no longer INFINITE, because Infinity means WITHOUT LIMITATIONS.  ANYTHING HAVE PHYSICAL FORM simply can NOT be Eternal nor Infinite; the Bible states that we are “made In God’s IMAGE”—I think this resemblance is of the mind or spirit, and not of PHYSICAL bodies.

Armstrong denies the existence of any human Spirit or soul, probably because Solomon said “Man Has No Pre-eminence over the Beast”: Solomon was talking about man UNDER THE SUN, in the physical world. I KNOW that we DO have a Spirit from PERSONAL EXPERIENCE, and as far as I am concerned that point is settled. If Armstrong wants to remain on the level of a mud-turtle or a lump of coal, that doesn’t affect MY opinion.

In regard to holding a childish conception of the Deity: IF Christ told the truth, and God is pure Spirit, then to visualize this Supreme Being as a BIG man having FORM is to create a false God in the mind, it is MENTAL IDOLATRY, because it is worshipping a God of our own mental creation and is only one little step removed from actual PHYSICAL idolatry!  WE ARE CAUTIONED NOT TO DO THIS!  How about it ? ? ? ? ?

Jesus had COMPLETE knowledge of every wise or truthful thing that had been written before him; He many times referred to previous writings in the words: “It Is Written”—-many of His statements and parables were QUOTED from previous writings: the Dead Sea Scrolls contain many of those parables and sayings, written 100 years before he was born; supposed to have been written by Essenes. It is believed by many that Jesus was a member of this strict religious group.

The Catholic “Christian Fathers” thought they had destroyed all those records, and thought no one would ever be able to decypher Egyptian—And the Roman Catholics DECEIVED and controlled the whole human race for more than 1,000 years.

Of all the Reformers, only ONE stands out as being completely unselfish and Sincere: JOHN WESLEY.

The personal lives and habits of Calvin, Luther, Knox and a few others, won’t bear very close scrutiny!

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There is a school of thought, that believes that the account in Genesis Chapter 1, pertains to a SPIRITUAL creation: that man was created as a SPIRIT creature on the Astral Plane, and that his errors and disobedience caused him to be imprisoned in a physical body in the world of form; and all human spirits were created in the beginning and each has to live a lifetime on earth where they have an opportunity to either go right or wrong. (MOST of them are NOT improving!)

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Now about that Flood and the Ark:

There is a great deal wrong with THAT story, UNLESS one adopts your opinion, which is very plausible: I hadn’t thought about it, in this light.  (JJS: My view is that the early stories are not history, but myth, designed to provide meaning to those of faith.)

There is plenty of proof right in the earth that not JUST ONE but several floods have occurred during the earth’s history. Just recently,  a group of nosey scientists let a camera with light on it down in the ocean in a spot where water was two miles deep and obtained pictures of stone columns that were MAN made in some remote time! And I do NOT agree with Jehovah’s Witnesses (added by jjs: “and some fundamentalists”) that the earth is only 6,000 years old: The Bible says, that a day with The Lord, is as a thousand years, and a thousand as a day, so if you multiply 6,000 years by 365, you will know how many days there are in 6,000 years: then multipy those days by 1,000 and you will be nearer to the truth!

The Bible account says that the waters prevailed upward for 15 cubits—22 1/2 feet –until the highest mountains were covered; now today, there are many mountains nearly THREE MILES HIGH! So one has to believe one of two things: either those Bible writers were ignorant of mountains in other lands, or else in Noah’s time the earth WAS LEVEL and all those mountain ranges were pushed up either during the time the Ark was afloat, or afterward. Now water 25 or 30 foot deep over the whole LEVEL earth could easily “Abate” if this were the case, because we now have parts of the ocean that are 5 MILES DEEP; So if upheavals in the earth’s crust occurred during the flood that would explain it: the mountains WERE pushed up at SOME time—SNAIL shells can be found on mountains THREE MILES HIGH! (Added by John Shaffer: we found  such evidence on Alaska mountains a hundred miles from today’s ocean.)

On the other hand, if water covered mountains 3 miles high, then there would be water 9 miles deep in parts of the ocean —it would HAVE NO Place to go, and couldn’t “Abate”; It couldn’t escape into space either, because of gravity;and if gravity was suspended, air would escape first being lighter; so that won’t work.

IF there really was a flood, then it certainly happened before the mountains came.  The Bible don’t SAY so, but that is how it appears to be.

In regard to the dimensions of that Ark: those figures are ridiculous! The shape of the Ark would be ridiculous, whether you use the ordinary cubit of 18 inches or the Royal Cubit of 24 inches.

Using the ordinary cubit, it would be 450 ft. long, 75 ft. wide, 45 ft. high; can you visualize such a monstrosity? It would look like this.

(Shaffer here:  don’t have the technical skill to duplicate Mr. Barrett’s sketches:

side view with 3 floors fitting the elevation of the Ark; windows on top floor

view from top showing the Floor Plan)

The area of all three floors would be 101,250 square feet. Now there are today, 100,000 distinct species of animals on earth, and 75 have become extinct within the last 50 years. Now there were TWO of each kind on the ARK; but I’ll be fair and call it just 100,000—–

That means that there would only be about 12.011 square INCHES OF FLOOR SPACE FOR EACH “Critter” — tough on the elephant!

And that little window only 1 1/2 foot square! Where the Ox Is, there is bound to be litter — and to get rid of all that “Litter” Noah would have to keep that window plugged; how much air would get into the Ark through that silly little window? What about food for all those animals for at least 7 months? An Elephant eats 250 lbs. EVERY day; 7 x 30 is 210 days; 210 x 250 is 52,500 lbs. of food, or slightly more than 26 TONS — 26.0250. But there were two — so there had to be about 52 tons of elephant food — more if there were seven.

It takes a half acre of browse to support a moose every day: a moose does not eat hay; can’t live on it. Two moose need 250 acres of browse for 7 months —Did Noah roll up a big farm and store it on the ark for moose feed ? ? ? ? ?

(Note by John Shaffer added in case anyone ever reads this.  Mr. Barrett had moose in his back yard on a regular basis, so I am sure this is what motivated him to include them in his essay.  A letter he wrote about moose in 1969 is at the end of this Post.)

A South American Ant-eater eats 1/2 bushel of LIVE ants every day; that means two require 250 bushel of ants to last 7 months — BUT: an ant hill containing a half bushel of ants, requires at least 5,000 square feet of area to live on; So two ant-eaters woud need 250 bushel of ants, whi ch required l,250,000 square foot of forage for seven months. Of course the ant-eaters were each limited to 12.011 inches, square inches of floor space: a spot 3 inches by 4 inches in size – pretty crowded!

This is only TWO species; there are still 999,999 to provide for, and unlike Noah, I haven’t time to figure it out: I am 73, and haven’t 120 years to give to this problem.

One more point:

It would be biologically impossible for animals such as horned toads, gila-monsters, ostriches, and other tropical creatures to live in the same temperatures as polar bears, penguins and artic foxes; Tropical animals like a horned toad can’t live where it is much below 70 and polar bears can’t live in temperatures much above zero; What about them? Do you use that old Cliche: “With God, ALL Things Are Possible?” Even God cannot turn a grind-stone both ways at the same time — not in this physical world.

(Note by John Shaffer:  while this is intended as a tribute to the mind of an unique individual, as I type this, I would have pointed out to Mr. Barrett that a polar bear survived quite nicely at the Alaska Zoo in Anchorage, with temperatures above zero most of the time. That is, if I could have gotten a word in.  Perhaps that is why he liked me.  I didn’t interrupt him and I loved his stories.)

Both Armstrong and the “Jehovah’s WITnesses” claim to believe this Ark story is LITERALLY true; but a person who THINKS will be obligated to look upon it as an ALLEGORY or the writing of an ordinary ignorant HUMAN.

(Incidentally, that “Word” Jehovah is as Phoney as hair on a billiard ball! The Hebrew word JHVH was considered too sacred to be pronounced by the Hebrews, so the word Adonai (Lord) was used instead; the Tetragrammaton JEVH had no vowels, and no one now knows how to pronounce JHVH. The first time that PHONEY “Word” Jehovah appeared, was in a translation by Tyndale, who felt sorry for the Lord and decided to help Him out by re-naming “Him”! That was nice of old Tyndale, to let the Lord know who he really was!)

BUT:

The Lord is said to have told Moses: “I AM that I AM” — NOT I AM that I WAS or I AM that I WILL BE, but I AM; for Eternity and the Infinite is ONE CONTINUOUS NOW, a situation in which TIME does not exist at all in Infinity because it is a dimension of matter that has taken FORM in the physical world; Infinity and spirit is not limited by dimension as objects in the world of Form are. Therefore, Eternity has no past nor future, but only a NOW — it just IS: past, present and future are all ONE in Eternity. I hope you can stretch your imagination far enough to understand and “Visualize” this — ARMSTRONG can’t think that high and far! HE can’t understand the fact, that TIME is a man-made idea based upon the rotaton of the earth, and has nothing to do with Infinity.   On some other planet, whose speed of rotation was different, time would be different from ours, but Infinity would remain UNAFFECTED.

The human BRAIN alone is incapable of visualizing or forming any true conception of Infinity or Eternity: that is because it is merely a PHYSICAL organ composed of physical matter; but the MIND CAN form a conception of Infinity, because the MIND is not physical matter; SO if you think with the MIND, you can approach TRUTH; Armstrong and also those Jehovah’s Witlesses cannot do this, because they both admit (with quite a bit of pride, too!), that THEY have no soul nor spirit, but are just hunks of animated matter — even a mud-turtle is more than THAT!! Truly, “There Are None So Blind, As Those Who WILL NOT See!”

You might read H. G. Wells’ story: “The Country of the Blind” — I am not a follower of Wells in so far as his Atheistic theories go; but that story shows what happens to a THINKER, when he is obliged to live in contact with those mindless clods who lack the capacity to think above material things.

You must be aware of the fact, that there are MANY errors in both the Old and New Testaments; now then there are three ways in which one can approach these errors and apparent self-contradicts.

One:

 He can say, with Armstrong: “Every Word In The Bible Is The Word of God, TRUE in EVERY Particular, whether it is so or not.”

Two:

He can make the mistake of the atheist and infidel: say, “Well If One error Or Contradiction Occurs in The Bible, Then Not ANY Of It Is To Be Relied Upon.”

Three:

Or he can take the sensible and INTELLIGENT view of the problem: To me it isn’t very hard to understand; knowing the limitations of the purely HUMAN brain. I can understand how even a Prophet, inspired by God, could sometimes lose contact with the Supreme Mind and perhaps allow some of his own ideas to appear in his statements and writings. To suppose that ANY human, no matter how perfect, could maintain constant contact with Divinity hour after hour, day after day, and year after year without now and then losing contact, is not reasonable; and just as a car will travel a few feet after you turn off the ignition and disengage the clutch, so a human channel could go a bit farther after Divine inspiation was withdrawn. I see no other reasonable explanation, for the errors of the Bible. The false statements are due to those early followers of Constantine.

It is preposterous, for one to assume that God would be ignorant of “His” own Creation! A Being with infinite knowledge certainly knows all about every thing on this little earth, so it follows that any false statement found in the Bible is due to the IGNORANCE of human writers, and not the word of God; it seems to me, that if one takes a statement that he KNOWS is false, and still insists it is God’s word, he practically calls God a liar, and is guilty of the worst kind of blasphemy! I can’t see it any other way.

Consider the following errors that are in the Bible: Can you honestly say that you believe God was so ignorant of his own handiwork, that HE made all these mistakes?  I DON’T THINK YOU CAN DO IT!

No. 1

Exodus Ch. 9. V, 3, 4, 5 & 6  ALL the Egyptian Cattle died.                                                          Exodus Ch.11. V. 5 —–Moses theatens to kill cattle already dead!                                          Exodus Ch. 12. V. 29 — The Lord killed those animals AGAIN!                                          Exodus Ch. 14 V. 9  — Pharaoh chased the Israelites with dead horses!

Question: IS this the word of an INFINITE Creator? Did “He” have a poor memory? Or is it the writer of a muddled human?  (Shaffer answer: the very human biblical editors blended stories together without reconciling the differences.)

No. 2

Leviticus. Ch. 11. V. 6 — A hare or rabbit does NOT chew a cud; Only ruminants, with a double or compound stomach do so!

No. 3

Leviticus. Ch. 13. V. 47-59 — Leprosy is caused by the bacillus Leprae (discovered by Hanson in 1884), and can only live and multiply in living human tissue; A piece of cloth cannot HAVE the disease even though it might carry the germs; this chapter distinctly states that a piece of cloth can acually be sick with the disease:

Question: Would God, having created the leprosy germ, be ignorant of the fact?

No. 4

Leviticus 14:40-48. Here we have the statement, that a STONE WALL can actually be ill with leprosy.

Question: Would an Infinite Creator be ignorant of the nature of leprosy?

No. 5

Genesis 30:37-39  This is ridiculous; CONCEPTION takes place, when the spermatazoom penetates the ovum. The time between copulation and conception can vary all the way from 20 minutes to 36 hours; in order for Jacob to be sure that these animals would conceive while at the watering trough, IT WOULD BE NECESSARY FOR HIM TO HOLD THEM THERE, LOOKING AT THOSE RODS FOR 36 HOURS!  And there being no connection between a mother and the embryo, it is impossible for a mother to “Mark” her offspring: The only Thing a mother influences, is growth, her only connection being a food supply.

Therefore this is “An Old Wives Tale“, and NOT the word of a creator who has infinite knowledge!

There is NO Christian Bible compiled at ANY date, that is free from error.

Now if Jesus was The Son of God in a PHYSICAL sense, as nearly all pious people believe, he could only have had ONE Grandfather–his MOTHER’S father; yet according to Matthew, Jesus’ grandfather was Jacob; but according to Luke, he was Heli! See Matthew 1:16 —then Luke 3:23.  WHICH ONE TOLD THE TRUTH ? ? ? ? ?

There are hundreds more errors in the Bible, and I haven’t time to list them; I haven’t time to show the parallel that exists between the cult of the Egyptian Osiris and the New Testament.

—————————————————-

Are you aware that:

The Bible refers to the BAT as a bird, not an animal?

Describes the earth as being FLAT?

Biblical writers thought the earth was rigid, and could not rotate?

There are words in the Bible, NOT FOUND IN THE ORIGINAL MANUSCRIPTS? (could be the work of those “Christian Fathers under Constantine!)

That Jesus contradicts himself MANY times?

That there is one besides God, who is GREATER THAN JESUS?

There are two CONFLICTING accounts of the TEN COMMANDMENTS, The creation of the world, and THE FLOOD?

God refused the prayers of deformed people?

——————————————————–

NOPE!  I AM NOT TRYING TO TEAR THE BIBLE TO PIECES: I merely state the FACTS as they are, and it is not MY fault if those early “Christian” Fathers (Roman Catholic) messed up the whole thing when they COMPILED and EDITED both the Old and New Testament — I don’t think it was God’s fault either.

Those old devils were unprincipled, depraved, RATS, and trickery, lies and fraud were the stock in trade of that gang; back there, about the year 800 it was a common practice for priests to sell the “Faithful little bottles, containing several doses of “The Holy Spirit”!

It is an historical FACT,that the CHURCH also sold gullible saps little bottles containing MILK from the “Virgin Mary” — imagine THAT!

Is it any wonder that the Christian Bible is FULL of errors, false statements and preposterous tales, when it came through the hands of such a gang? CAN YOU GATHER FIGS FROM THISTLES? Does an evil tree bring forth good fruit?

As a guide in MORALS the Bible is worth study, although it is inferior in some respects to the Bhagavad Gita; The Bhagavad Gita was NOT compiled and edited by cut-throats, arsonists nor rapists — those who DID write it were sincere and of pretty high motives; (KING CONSTANTINE, who influenced the compiling and TAMPERING with the manuscripts we call the BIBLE, was a detestable, sub-human rat, and a murderer; the “Church” took him in because he had an army that could be used to cram their religion down the throats of every one and control the whole race.)

The Bible that Armstrong says is the Word of God and every word true, came from that gang of rascals; it is almost exactly the same as a Roman Catholic Bible:  Too bad; BUT THAT IS HOW IT IS!

“Christian” doctrine requires belief in the Resurrection of the BODY; the Bible doesn’t say whether this is a Physical body, or the astral body mentioned by St. Paul. If an astral body is meant, I’ll go along with THAT — but resurrection of the physical body is ABSURB, and the belief came directly from Egypt: those early Church “Fathers” lifted a whole lot of ideas from Egyptian religion, WHEN THEY EDITED THE NEW TESTAMENT!

According to Genesis Chapter 2, it took God some time to create the first man — had to stir up a mud-pie, and breathe life into it–and it was just ONE.

He must have gained quite a bit in knowledge and power since then in order to suddenly create several MILLION physical bodies: GOING TO TAKE A LOT OF MUD! However, it is plain, that Chapter 2 has no business being in the Bible in the first place.

(John Shaffer here:  No problem, if you see this as two separate stories from two separate sources.  Plus it helps if you don’t read the stories as history.)

But we all have an astral body already, even if SOME people don’t know they have it: thousands  of people have lived all their lives, without ever knowing they had an appendix or a thalamus gland;  so what? They don’t know they have it, because most people’s CONSCIOUSNESS is directed OUTWARD to the physical world of form, instead of inward — they are MATERIALISTIC, even while they rant of “Spiritual” things!  Didn’t Christ say “LOOK WITHIN?” Armstrong can twist this to mean something ELSE, but no doubt Christ meant just what he said! How many do that? About 1% — they DON’T KNOW HOW; NEITHER DOES A MUD-TURTLE!

____________________________________

Now it isn’t possibe to get the complete picture by reading just the Old Testament and nothing more: there is also the Hebrew Talmud and the Torah which SHOULD be studied in the original Hebrew. There is also the Holy Kaballah, a stupendous mathematical SYSTEM which purports to explain not only the Creation of the universe, BUT MAN’S PLACE THEREIN. The Urim and Thummim together with the Kaballah were used by priest and prophets as a means of foretelling future events! The Uria & Thummin were kept in the same place as the Ark of the Covenant.

Last summer, a man said to me: “But We’ve Got Enough Information To Get Us To Heaven” —

I ASSUME that all his information came from the Bible; if it satisfies HIM that’s fine; IT DOESN’T SATISFY ME,  however!

Now I am NOT antagonistic toward preachers, except those arrogant, self-appointed sort, who suddenly think they ought to take charge of OUR “SPIRITUAL” development AS A MEANS OF IMPROVING THEIR OWN TEMPORAL AND FINANCIAL SITUATION!

SOME of thse people never went to a theological seminary, nor in fact ever really STUDIED anything much — they assume a top-lofty and superior attitude, and begin telling ME that I should get a Bible and read it — even though I have read it from cover to cover 6 or more times!

For a young squirt, who is hardly dry behind his ears, and whose I.Q. is hardly above 75, to start teaching a man who has spent 60 years in the study of every possible line of thought that has any bearing upon the most important subject of all, is in poor taste, to say the least!

Mrs. Henry Straub of Anchorage (now deceased), immediately assumed that I lacked most of my marbles: when I quoted the Lord’s Prayer, she said I misquoted it — that I should say “Who” instead of “Which” — when I asked her to get HER Bible and take a look, she said: “MY Bible says Who” — then she looked and saw that I was right; yet SHE posed as a fit teacher for low wretches such as she believed me to be.

Now a man who claims to be an authority on RELIGION should know something about the 5 great religions, even if he DOESN’T believe them. This Henry Straub brought two friends to see me, in an effort to get me saved — (Before he knew if I had ever embraced Christianity or not!) and wanted to baptize me right away; one of his friends started “Teaching” me, and so I quoted from The Bhagavad Gita: HE SAID HE’D NEVER HEARD OF IT!  SOME STUDENT!

(John Shaffer here:  in the 1980’s, when I was the pastor at East Anchorage UMC, some one was promoting something like the Christian Yellow Pages.  Hoping to impress me, he informed me that he had graduated from Oral Roberts’ Seminary.  In the course of the conversation, I mentioned Gandhi.  This “scholar” had never heard of Gandhi.  In the spirit of E. G. Barrett, I asked the fellow to leave my office.  I could understand why someone might not have heard of Gandhi, but not some one who claimed to be highly educated.  It was as shocking as those students today who have heard nothing aboout the Holocaust.  This may be  gift of Texas school texts.  This helps create SOME STUDENT!)

The part I quoted, was in regard to “Covetiousness; the last Commandment in the Christian Bible, isn’t the only place you will find it forbidden; The Bhagavad Gita classes DESIRE right along with covetousness; It says: “Thy first Task should be To Conquer This Foul Dweller Of The Mind. Mastering first the Senses and Sense Organs, Do Thou Then Proceed To Put To DEATH This Thing of Evil”.  Why is this? Because DESIRE creates NEED, Need creates Use, and the decline from perfection begins: Christ said; BE THOU PERFECT, EVEN AS THY FATHER IN HEAVEN IS PERFECT”; What is perfection ? ? ? ? PERFECTION DESIRES NOTHING, NEEDS NOTHING, USES NOTHING, for it is sufficient unto its’ self. True perfection is impossible in THIS physical world of form, for perfection is an attribute of INFINITY:  THINK ABOUT IT.

Now reason is not the same thing as logic; neither one will lead to TRUTH unless we START with an absolute TRUTH. Because there is NO Truth on this earth which is not modified or balanced by an opposite fact, we cannot EVER reason upward from a physical fact and understand or explain TRUTH as it exists in INFINITY.  BUT: if we can focus the MIND (not the brain) upon Infinity and reason downard, we can reason truly UNTIL WE REACH THE PHYSICAL PLANE which is bound by dimension: then we no longer have complete Truth, but MERELY OUR IDEA OF IT!  THINK ABOUT THAT. 

The reason that the Bhagavad Gita looks upon DESIRE as an evil thing, is this: Desire results in NEED, need results in USE, use results in HABIT and habit results in ENSLAVEMENT; in spite of all this tak about FREEDOM, no one really IS free. The Internal Revenue Office owns our income, the A.M.A. tries to own our bodies and the churches want to own our souls (if any) except in the case of Armstrong: HE ADMITS HE HAS NONE! (Snicker)

That fellow who was here last summer, said:  — “But We Have All WE Need to Get to Heaven”; — HAVE WE ? ? ? ? ? Let’s look into it.

When those Church “Fathers” were engaged in compiling the Bible and editing the Gospels, they also REVISED and altered the Old Testament as well; they borrowed or stole ideas and writings from Egyptian records as well as from every available source, and incorporated them in both their version of both the Old & New Testament; that is why the “Buluk” Hymn, which was used in Egypt to venerate the Sun-God Amon-Ra during the reign of Amen-Hotep III was “Lifted” WORD FOR WORD and now appears among the Psalms as the work of King David! The story of “Moses In The Bull-Rushes being found by the King’s daughter” was “Lifted” from writings in which King Sargon III had the same thing happen to HIM several hundred years earlier!

The suffix “MOSE” was common to several Egyptian names of kings and nobles: Example Thutmose — and the Word Moses is plural, meaning two or more; now Egyptian HISTORY does not agree with the Old Testament account, and from their records it appears that during the reign of Amen-Hotep III this man “Moses” held a high position in the king’s court; the religion at that time was the worship of ONE god, viz. OSIRIS; the Israelites also worshipped ONE God, a different one: JHVH.

Now then, when Amen-Hotep III DIED and Amen Hotep IIII became Pharoah HE began to revive a dozen or more old “Gods” and made them the State Religion; this man or men, “Moses” made a great fuss and adopted the God of the Israelites; the King demoted him— reduced him to the level of a slave nearly. And that made “Moses” good and sore! He aroused the Israelites to rebellion and they made so much trouble that the Pharaoh was glad to get rid of them; No miracles by Moses are mentioned in the Egyptian writings.

Now these Egyptian records were in the Alexandrian Library, which contained over 700,000 volumes of priceless manuscripts; so in order to hide and cover up their skull-duggery, those “Christian” Fathers and Bishop Theophilus burned the library, and the church tried to lay that onto the Arab tribes — NO SOAP!

Now it is generally believed by ordinary Christians, that these Roman Catholic Christians merely killed off the true followers of Christ — that is not strictly correct: They made a business of hunting down, and killing Gnostics, Essenes, and all those writers of manuscripts that did not agee with the brand of religion they were organizing. After they had liquidated all those who opposed them, this Catholic told Constantine that he was sure that they now had a clear field, and that all that old knowledge had disappeared from the Earth!

HE WAS WRONG! He didn’t know that the writings of Appolonius of Tyann who preached about a hundred years before Christ was born, and whose writings and sermons CONTAINED MUCH OF THE SAME MATERIAL WORD FOR WORD as the sayings now believed to have originated with Christ — he didn’t know that SOME day this would come to light!

Neither did he know that SOME day, the Dead Sea Scrolls would pop up to confound the whole Christian world! (It is interesting to note, that even PROTESTANTS are against any one finding out what those scrolls contain!)

And he didn’t know, that some day the ROSETTA STONE woud give mean, snoopy students a clue to the Egyptian language!

He never suspected, that some day it would be known that 98% of Solomon’s Proverbs were “LIFTED” from earlier writings: “The Wisdom of Amenamore”

Or that some day, Napoleon would invade Egypt, and camp at the place where the Israelites crossed over — and that when his field marshal asked him about crossing he said: “Have patience — the water will recede in a week or two, just as it always does every year at this time”!

Those Church “Fathers” EDITED and REVISED what we now call the Gospels; They didn’t say the Gospel BY St.Luke, Matthew, Mark or John, but ACCORDING To: NOBODY knows WHO wrote them, but they DO know who edited them and “Screwed Them Up” beyond any hope of repairing the damage! They have Jesus making a PUN, which is the lowest form of wit, and in LATIN at that: Jesus spoke Hebrew and Aramaic; They have him saying: “Thou Art Peter (Petra, small rock in Latin) AND ON THIS Rock I Will Build My Church — No such word as church in Hebrew or Aramaic.

This “Saying” was put in there to lay a foundation for a SUCCESSION OF POPES: PETER having been given “The Keys To Heaven & Hell”.  Now they also have Jesus saying: “No Man Cometh Unto The Father, Except By Me”. — This makes it possible for a Catholic Priest to CONTROL the “FAITHFUL”,  for the Priest claims to be the Vicar of Christ, and HE would talk to GOD about it. This is called “Going Around Robin Hoods Barn”  —–

The Gnostics believed it was possible and allowable, to approach God directly: if they were wrong, WHY DID JESUS SAY: “In This Manner Shall Ye Pray: “OUR Father Which Art In Heaven — evidently, those old scamps forgot to delete that saying of Christ!

————————————————————

The Jewish archives contain a BIRTH record of this person we now call “Jesus Christ” — THEY state, that he was the son of a Roman Soldier: Jehoshua Ben Pandira; that his mother, under Jewish Law could have incurred the death penalty, IF her husband had “Put Her Away”, as he meant to do; That in order to get out of a “Jam”, she concocted the story, that an Angel told me that God did it; and Joseph then claimed to have had a dream, etc. So if THAT is fact, the whole belief in the Divinity of Jesus rests upon a dream supposed to have been dreamed by this “Joseph“!

The fact that the coming of  “Messiah” was prophecied in the Old Testament, means nothing at all, because this could have been stuck in there AFTER his birth, even as late as the year 325 — those church “Fathers” were busy from the year 325 ’til 400 EDITING BOTH OLD AND NEW TESTAMENT. The controversy: Origin vs. Celsus pertains to this birth record. You might read three books by Dr. R. Bernard, A.B. M.A. Ph.d. as follows:

“The Dead Sea Scrolls, and Life of The Essenes”

“The Secret Life of Jesus, the Essene.”

“Appolonius of Tyanna, Mystery Man of the Bible”

“The Unknown Life of Christ”

One other:  “THE GREATEST FRAUD IN HISTORY” by Nicholas Notovitch

—————————————————————–

Dr. Bernard is a highly educated sholar, a life-long student. HE says that Appolonius was the one whose work is now attributed to Christ, and that the man, Jehoshua Ben Pandira, was the one crucified — for trying to overthrow the government. HE says that the early Christian “Fathers” juggled and twisted every thing to gain their own ends.

Well, they DID control the whole human race for a THOUSAND YEARS! The Christian churches all do a lot of hollering about all those Christian Martyrs. The TRUTH is, that only about 240 were ever killed, BUT after the church established Christianity BY FORCE OF ARMS (Constantines army) they killed an average of 10,000 every year FOR 400 YEARS — 400 Ad ’till 1050 Ad.

THAT ADDS UP TO FOUR MILLION INNOCENT PEOPLE BURNED AS HERETICS OR WITCHES. Thousands more were imprisoned, in dungeons with bread and water to live on. Napoleon’s army raided one of those places that still existed in his time, and found victims chained to walls, where they had been for years; All this done in the name of Jesus Christ!

There are people TO DAY who would do the same if they COULD. They are the ones who want to FORCE their religion into the Public Schools!

One reason that the race is decadent is because of the after-effect of that thousand years of mental darkness. We hear a great talk about a “War on Poverty”, while the Government encourages all sorts of efforts to make people poorer we hear about a “GREAT SOCIETY”. Can you found a Great Society upon Juvenile Delinquency, Crime, Political Corruption, Immorality, poisoned air, food and water, and pornography ? ? ? ?

Now then: As long as Christianity is as it is, and as long as Christianity is based upon The so-called Apostles Creed, I will not accept it, because there are things in the Apostles Creed that I cannot swallow. I don’t accept these things and ideas:  Vicarious Atonement, Parthenogenesis.  Resurrection of a PHYSICAL body.

I do NOT believe that EVERY word in the Bible is the WORD OF GOD.  The Bible says the sun stood still, making a long day — I don’t believe any creator wrote that, because the earth don’t stand still while the sun whirls around it — and a Creator would Know better. The sun is 92,000,000 million miles away — use “pi” and figure how big a circle the  sun would travel every 24 hours!

No danger that I will follow Armstrong: many of his statements in the Plain Truth magazine pertaining to early church history are FALSE; and he doesn’t know what he is talking about when he refers to the world of Form as “Matter”

That is like pointing to a house and saying “Brick” —-. Form is merely the manner in which matter manifests it’s self.

I spoke of SINCERE preachers, and also the other sort; THERE IS STILL another variety:  the sort who will stoop to the lowest form of dishonesty in order to influence some one. That Henry Straub is a case in point:

He was telling me how Voltaire “Spent His Life Fighting Against God, And Then How On His Death-Bed, He Cried Out To The Lord, and Said: Oh God, (if there be a God) Have Mercy On Me–I Must Die Abandoned By God And Man”;

Now this was a most contemptible LIE: Voltaire was mourned by hundreds of poor people he had helped; his last words were: “I Die, revering God. Let me die in peace.”

Like many others, Straub found it easy to SLANDER A DEAD MAN! Another preacher told me how Robert Ingersoll got scared and suddenly got “Saved” on his death-bed; THAT ALSO WAS A LIE, and his wife said so.

THAT SORT OF PREACHER MAKES ME BOILING MAD! Mad, because they take me for a FOOL, mad because they will lie to gain their ends, MAD because they will slander a dead man — what does the Bible say about BACK-BITING, and speaking despitefully of others ? ? ? ?  Either alive or dead ? ? ? ?

————————————-

A woman of my acquaintance, started “Saving” me a while ago; I tried to explain to her my reasons for not joining any chuch. She said: “You Are Trying To Destroy My Faith, And Offering Me Nothing To Take It’s Place” — The answer to That is: When Hercules (Greek Mythology) was ordered to CLEAN the Egean Stables, HE WAS NOT REQUIRED TO REFILL THEM!

One last thought: Samson said: With The Jaw-Bone Of An Ass, Have I Slain A Thousand Men” — so what?  WITH THE SAME WEAPON, Armstrong has paralyzed the minds of a HUNDRED THOUSAND!

And now Buenes, Adieu, Leib Wohl, and DOMINUS VOBISCUM!

E. G. Barrett,  Hope, Alaska 99605

(attachment)

This letter was written to make my position clear, and show why I don’t join any Church. You should feel flattered – I couldn’t spend this much time on every one who talks to me about religion.  (JJS – I was flattered)

If any more of them start reforming me, I’ll refer them to you, as you now know what I think – well not quite all, but enough, to answer.

Do you have what “Faith” is?  Belief without evidence in what is told by one without knowledge, of things without parallel.  Theological schools teach you what they want you to believe – No More,  No Less.

(Note by JJS:  True of some schools, but not all. I would now refer Mr. Barrett to Claremont School of Theology as an example of a theological school that is different than his image, as of 2020.)

P.S.

My typewriter is no good – but here’s another thought: take some card board boxes and build a model Ark to scale 1/8 inch to the foot –

It will be:

4.68 ft. long

9.3 inches wide

5.63 inches high

Windows 3/16 inches square.

Now place two or three mice in each level and see how long it takes them to die of suffocation.  I already know!

There were several thousand animals including Noah and his wife on that tub!  I can’t help but think how long it must have taken the South African Sloth, that only travels a few feet a day, to crawl the whole length of the United States and Canada, cross the Bering Straits, and get where Noah was, and do it upside down!

Golly!

(Note from Mr. Barrett dated 1/31/67)

When you look at a mountain, a grain of sand; an ocean or a rain-drop; a flower or a star – or even a miserable worm or a woman (ugh!) – You are seeing “God” manifesting as form.

It’s as simple as that! It doesn’t matter whether a rabbit chews a cud or not –

It doesn’t matter what some one believes – Truth is all that matters, and there is no truth, short of infinity.

Everything in the physical has its opposite – Infinity has no opposite.

There is one peculair trait or attitude common to nearly all very religious Christian people! They appear to think that no knowledge exists outside of their Bible, and that anything not in the Christian Bible is of no value; their minds are closed to everything except this one book – a book teeming with errors, and contradictory statements. I’ve read it through four times and studied every part of it, in the light of considerable knowledge and common sense – I know the historical facts pertaining to the origin of Christianity.

There is  Chinese proverb which says:

He who knows not, and knows not that he knows not is a fool — Shun him.

He who knows not, and knows that he knows not is ignorant – Teach him.

He who knows, and knows not that he knows is asleep – Wake him.

He who knows, and knows that he knows is wise – follow him.

(But this is not in the Bible)

More Words – Letter to the Editor in the Anchorage Times dated 3/25/69

Another Word on Moose by E. G. Barrett, Hope, Alaska

I would like to express a few opinions in connection with the recent “moose massacre” which was not only foolish, but atrocious to the last degree. If the people who instigated this farce had been content to wait just three weeks, those pregant cow moose would have gone back into the hills and their calves might have been born without pestering the timid people of Anchorage.

I concede that too few moose can not eat the browse down and it may grow up beyond reach of young calves, and they might starve; on the other hand, too many moose might eat all the browse up before spring and that might cause some to starve.

So what? It would be the weak ones that starved, leaving the strong to reproduce, which is the natural order and results in improvement of the specie. Certainly these bright biological “experts” must have heard of the Darwinian law of survival of the fittest. This law applies to other forms of life also. In British Columbia, it is illegal to cut trees, and they are so thick they almost touch each other. This causes the strong ones to grow straight and tall, with no knots for 30 or 40 feet — the small ones finally die, but what of it?

I came to Alaska 11 years ago (added-1958?), and for six years rambled all over the area around Resurrection Creek, and Fox Creek, also Big Indian; I never saw a moose skeleton or body of one that died of starvaton during that time and old men tell me that they never did.

Thse college experts are mostly young men, who have not lived long enough to gain a true perspective. I am 75 and have lived to see more than 50 species of wild life exterminated: I saw most of the song birds in Michigan destroyed by poisons.

When you destroy a pregnant moose, you reach into the future. At least half of those pregnant moose carried heifer calves, each of which might produce six calves during their life. The mother of this calf might produce three more. That is ten moose destroyed every time you kill a cow which is carrying a heifer calf. I think it most contemptible.

(Letter dated August 18, 1986, to The Rev. Dr. Richard Gay, Hope, Alaska 99605)

Dear Dick:

The enclosed material (a few pages of material by Mr. Barrett) will reveal that Mr. E. G. Barrett came to Alaska in approximately 1958 and that he was still alive in 1969…..

I am pleased to share with you that which Mr. Barrett shared with me. He was an unusual gentleman. Since you had at least one encounter with him, you will appreciate it all the more….

I am sorry that I can not document the date of his death.

Sincerely, John J. Shaffer

                                            

Highlights of my ministry

WAPELLA METHODIST CHURCH (Central Illinois Conference)  1957-1959

Details of this experience can be found elsewhere.  The church was very difficult, as they had voted to become Baptist, but remained Methodist when they discovered they didn’t own the building. A college professor recruited me to do pastoral calling and youth work the first year (not under appointment), predicting, correctly, that in one year they would ask for me to be the pastor.  He was correct and they did.

The next year I was actually appointed as the pastor (1958-1959). I had a choice betwee coasting or working very hard.  I worked very hard:  900 pastoral calls in one year, working very part time.

ST. JAMES METHODIST CHURCH, DANVILLE, ILLINOIS  (1959-1962)

My title was Minister to Youth and my employment covered my time at Garrett Biblical Institute (now Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary).  I worked with Senior Pastor Dr. Paul Curry and Associate Pastor Leonard Sutton.  It was a wonderful experience.  I didn’t have to work with the Official Board (governing committee) and there were 100 active youth in the programs of the church.  I learned lots.  Dr. Curry allowed me to preach many times and my youth honored me in the last year by arranging for me to speak at the graduation baccalaureate.

MOOSE PASS CIRCUIT (Alaska)   Summer 1961

St. James allowed me to spend the summer of 1961 in Alaska as a summer furlough replacement for Benjamin Laird.  There were four groups and three churches: on Sunday I had a service at Moose Pass;  on Monday I had a service at Girdwood; on Tuesday I met in a house church at Cooper Landing at the south end of Kenai Lake; finishing on Wednesday at Hope.  Often I would stay in Hope for a day or two, organizing repairs and upgrades on the 1944 log building there.  Hope became a favorite place over the years, as the church eventually became a retreat center.  This is also covered in more detail elsewhere.  I was also expected to be a volunteer at Birchwood Camp, which took two weeks out of my summer.

KENAI PARISH

MY NOTES: Ben Blastus Obolla (African student sponsored by Methodist Men), Construction of Tustumena Chuch; Kenai-Soldotna Conflict; David Cooper story; Calvin Fair Family; Military Fire; Earthquake reflections; Soldotna Progress Days (Horse B.I.N.G.O.); Clam Feeds; Ministerial Association

When I was asked to return to Alaska full-time, I was slated to be the Associate Pastor at Ketchikan.  However, I fell in love and Barbara Dadd Shaffer not only agreed to marry me, but also to return to Alaska with me.  St. James had offered me a full-time job as Minister of Evangelism, but I decided to go to Alaska for three years.  The plan was to return after three years and Barbara would have completed her seminary degree.  That never happened.

The Superintendent changed my appointment to the Kenai Parish (two for the price of one?) and the rest is history, so to speak.  Without going into great details, four families in the Kenai Church had been very close to the former pastor, sharing baby-sitting and more.  They were not able to adjust to this particular change for many reasons. Our first year at Kenai was very difficult.  Life was wonderful in the other two churches, so that helped.

We drove 100 miles each Sunday, doing three worship services and three chuch schools. In three years, we put 100,000 miles on the Rambler provided by the Board of Missions.  In fact, we picked the car up in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and drove it from Illinois to Seattle.  A honeymoon paid for by the General Board of Missions.  Thank you very much.

The United Methodist Men of the parish were very active.  It involved about thirty men.  They decided to sponsor a student from Kenya for his senior year of high school.  This was expanded to include a college degree at Alaska Methodist University.  So Ben Blastus Oballa of Kenya was brought to Alaska by United Methodist Men for his Senior year of High School.  Because of racist issues, he had to attend the prom by himself.  After graduation, he attended and graduated from Alaska Methodist University.  When we visited Kenya in 1971 we made arrangements to visit with him in Nairobi.  His dream of being a leader in his country did not materialize because of tribal tensions.   He worked for a multi-national company and died much too young.

Highlights included programs for the Parish United Methodist Men. This included participating in a Men’s Conference in Anchorage that attracted national figures such as Jackie Robinson of baseball fame, Episcopal Bishop James Pike and Quaker Elton Trueblood. Our parish meetings attracted as many as 30 men for a dinner and program.

One time Alaska Methodist University professor Dr. Richard Gay came to speak to the group and at a meal in our home, he noted I was reading a book. He noted I had underlined one paragraph and he asked why.  I didn’t have a clue and he quoted the paragraph from memory.  I still didn’t have a clue.  Impressive display of photographic memory.

We coordinated the construction of the Tustumena Church.  It was built on pilings right next to the Tustumena School, half-way between Kenai and Ninilchik. Prior to that we met in homes or a quonset hut at Clam Gulch.  Six very faithful families.

There was a serious conflict between Kenai and Soldotna.  Each wanted to dominant the area economically.  Kenai was several miles from the main highway from Anchorage to Homer, but every time there was new activities, there was a political fight.  When new area-wide government was created (called a borough), Soldotna got the offices.  After all of the bitter conflict, Soldotna got most of the items:  Kenai Peninsula College, the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District offices and the Central Peninsula Hospital is in Soldotna.  Fighting produced a win-lose scenario.  We will never know what cooperation might have accomplishd.  One of my successors at Kenai was so afraid of the anger in Kenai that they had their baby delivered in an Anchorage hospital, 160 road miles away, and not in the Soldotna hospital, 10 miles away.  When I was there, I even had the nerve or gall to preach on the issue one Sunday.  Little feedback, so I don’t know what it accomplished.  Probably the folks from Soldotna loved it and the folks from Kenai endured it.  It didn’t change any attitudes or behaviors, based on subsequent history.

While I was there, Dr. Paul Isaak started the process and invited the Mayor of Kenai, Bud Dye, to be on the Board of Directors.  Agreeing to do this proved to be too hot for Mayor Dye, so he resigned.  I was then asked to serve on the Board, representing Kenai.  I left town shortly thereafter, but I don’t think there was any causitive connection.  Who knows?  The reality is that appointments tended to be for 3 years then and I left after 3 years.   But five families were probably glad to see me go.

I was not afraid to stand up to bullies (and there were one or two in the Kenai congregation), so who knows what goes on behind the scenes.  Except for the gambling issue in Soldotna, I did a great deal to grease the skids for the formation of the Soldotna Methodist Church, the Central Peninsula Hospital and much more.  At his direction, I assisted Mission Superintendent Meredith Groves in purchasing land for a future Soldotna parsonage and church north of the Spur area. This work did not require the consent of the Kenai Church.  As of 2017, the Kenai Church has 69 members and the Soldotna Church has 75 members.  The average attendance at Kenai was 37 and the average at Soldotna was 47.

Even now, there would probably be resistance to the idea of sharing the same pastor.  I do not follow such things closely.

On November 1, 1964, I preached a sermon titled “Anti-Communism and American Freedom”.  At the next Official Board meeting, a constituent of the congregation came to protest my sermon.  In the course of the meeting, he asked if he could request equal time to correct the damage I had done.  After a pause, I said “Yes”.  Eventually he realized I had just answered his question.  So he then said:  “May I have equal time?”  And I said “No”.  I softened it by offering him one page in a church newsletter to state his case, but he refused. He was not a person to be brief, which was only one of many reason I didn’t offer him the pulpit.  Fun times.

Now to share the David Cooper Jr. of Ninilchik story.  He was a Junior in High School. Due to conflict with his father, David Cooper Sr, he came to live with us for awhile, but after a few weeks with us, he realized that home was not so bad. I attempted to run a tight ship.  He had just started to notice girls and after several years of running free, he didn’t like restrictions from his father or from me.  After resisting sharing where he was going with friends, I insisted that he at least tell me what direction he was going, to aid me in looking for his body, if he should not return home sometime.

Calvin and Jane Fair drove many miles to church, even in difficult weather. Another family won’t walk one block in the same weather.

There was a fatal fire on the Wildwood Military Base. I provided pastoral care and walked with a distraught father while he dealt with his grief over the loss of his children.  He was very angry with God and I was concerned about potential suicide, so I walked with him in some very cold weather for a period of time.  Mostly I listened.  It was not the time to tell him that God was not responsible for the death of his children. He had broken base rules at leaving underage children untended while he and his wife were “enjoying” themselves at a drinking establishment.  I was called by the base commander because the chaplain was not available.

We also dealt with the aftermath of the Great Earthquake of 1964. It registered 9.2 on the Recter Scale.  We lost $.67 worth of stuff, but I held the doors of cabinets to save our new china.  Over 100 people died in the entire State of Alaska and I had the difficult task of conducting a funeral for five members of one family who disappeared at Whittier.  It was very complicated, even more so because no bodies were ever found after the tidal wave hit.

When we arrived in 1962, there was tension with a few Kenai families who were unhappy losing the former pastor. It was “trial by fire” for a newly married couple.  My predecessor did not do pastoral calling, but when he agreed to stay for a few more weeks while Barbara and I got married and traveled to Kenai, he and his wife called on many people.  She cried and they communicated that they didn’t really want to leave.  It did not make for a good situation for us.

One Sunday at Tustumena, a man named Mr. Miller was angry at something he heard in my sermon. At the Adult Sunday School class everyone told him that I had not said what he thought he heard. He backed off, but he was still very angry.

Mission Executive Allen Rice was driven from Kenai to Seward by Barbara on icy roads. Some one had not tighten the lug nuts on a tire, but Barbara stopped at a service station in Soldotna and they fixed it.

One summer I blew the whistle on an illegal gambling scheme for the Soldotna Progress Days. Using B.I.N.G.O. cards, there was to be gambling on horse racing. The promoters cancelled the entire fair and blamed me for their decision.

Near the end of our stay, there was a major fire at a hotel under construction one block from our home. Because of our bedroom location and no windows on the north side of the house, we slept right through it.

Ninilchik United Methodist Church sponsored a razor clam feed as a fundraiser. Barbara was assigned the job of making six pies. She learned to make wonderful pies.

I attempted to create a Ministerial Association with fifteen members. When I invited the Catholic priest to attend (after Vatican II), some ministers objected. The Assembly of God pastor came to me afterwards and shared that being in the same room with a priest praying put a pain in his stomach. We were left with only five members in the group.

Barbara and I were willing to stay in Alaska, so I asked the Bishop if he wanted us to stay and he indicated that he did.  He couldn’t understand why so many pastors left after three years.  Problem:  there was no communication on that particular subject.  I learned to be pro-active with such issues.  Others did not. Being pro-active served me well several times.

UNITED METHODIST CHURCH OF CHUGIAK AND BIRCHWOOD CAMP

MY NOTES:  Camp-Lost Children episode (Lori Staats); Abused 12 year old from Kansas and Seward; Trash event with Loren Rodebush; Fish experience.   Church-Built new sanctuary; O.W. Lowe Sr. episode; hikes to Eklutna Glacier; Cross Event and working with Community Action Agency (Johnson’s War on Poverty).

Accomplishment:  Changing name so the focus was on the United Methodist Church and not on the physical location, as we attempted to attract people from Eagle River, Birchwood, Chugiak and Peter’s Creek.  Name stuck.  Don’t know if it worked.  We decided not to start an United Methodist Church in Eagle River and the Presbyterians came instead.  Opportunity missed, in my opinion.

Lost children episode: One time I was told to pick up two Fairbanks children at the Birchwood Crossing.  I assumed that was the crossing near our camp, but was supposed to be a crossing several miles away near the Birchwood Airport.  No one met the children, so naturally they told their parents and he never forgave me.  Lori Staats was one of those children.  A Good Samaritan picked them up and brought them to safety.

In 1961 there was an abused child who came to camp from Seward.  He was 12 years old and his back was scarred.  He had ran away from his home in Kansas and ended up in Seward.  When other campers teased him, he took a stick of wood and hit another boy over the head and then ran away from camp.  By some miracle I found him and prevented the boy who had been hit from taking revenge.

Being responsible for the railroad crossing, I put up a barrier, which a nearby neighbor resented.  He would knock down what I put up.  Finally I got something stronger than his truck and was able to identify him from the paint on the pipe.  He was a very violent man who made his children steal from his neighbors and then he would threaten the neighbors when they objected.  Being very brave (not), I never interacted with him directly.  When one of his older children was arrested for armed robbery of a lumber yard in Anchorage, he disowned his son (for getting caught??).  When I visited that son in jail, he was very sad.

Some one was dumping trash on the camp road.  I went through the trash very carefully and discovered from whence it came.  Since it was not from the violent man, I decided to confront the culprit.  I took along Loren Rodebush, our camp caretaker, who was very big & wearing his military uniform.  When I got to the home, there was a party.  I knocked and the owner denied all responsibility for the crime.  With Loren at my back, I said I wasn’t there to determine guilt, but I merely wanted to know whether or not he wanted me to place the garbage in his garbage can or if he wanted me to leave it in his yard, like he did on our camp road.  He chose his garbage can.  End of dumping.  I was very brave with Loren standing behind and above me.

While at Chugiak, we built a new sanctuary.  Lay members Harold Abrams (in charge of new construction for all of the military bases in Alaska) and Stan Nickerson provided tremendous lay leadership for the project. Harold Abrams would stop each evening to check on progress on his way home from his Civil Service job.  Wonderful people.

The architect (to save money) had gotten beams that were a bit rough and he wished to stain them a light green.  One member (O. W. Lowe, Jr.) thought this was a terrible idea. When he could not convince anyone else, he lost his temper, announced he would never attend the church again and stormed out of the meeting.  Later I went to his home and told him that he was a valued person.  This took until the wee hours of the morning.  He stayed.  Several years later (at least 30 years) he and his second wife visited us in Spokane, Washington. He could hardly contain himself until he informed me that the beams had been sanded and they were now their natural color.  He finally got his own way.

While picking on O. W. Lowe, Jr., he could get a whole chapter by himself. Every year he went on an extensive moose hunt that involved floating down a river. The year his wife was very ill (she did die), the church took up a cash love offering so he could do a fly-in and get his moose in one day.  I was dispatched to give him the gift.  He became very angry and rejected the gift.  He was very independent and self-sufficient and did not need charity.  I returned to my home and then I became very irritated, if not angry.  I was faced with having to return all the cash gifts.  So I went back to his home and told him that he owned it to his friends to take the gift in the spirit they were giving it.  He very quietly accepted my argument and took the money and had his one day hunt.

When the new church was built (over built), I tried to use ropes to encourage (force) people to sit closer to the front.  Bill came into the space, ripped down the ropes and said some strong words.  Turns out that in his childhood, someone had tried to control where people sat in a New England Church, so it wasn’t going to happen in “his” church.  Perhaps out of guilt (who knows), one Sunday he encouraged everyone to sit on the front rows.  When I entered from the side door, I pretended to be very shocked.  Lots of laughter.  It never happened again.

We often drove to the end of Lake Eklutna and hiked to Eklutna Glacier.  However, it became too dangerous.  After the 1964 earthquake, when land shifted, small rock projectiles would come crashing off the surrounding mountains.  One time I allowed some children to play on the glacier and frozen river.  Two weeks later I returned and the cave where they had played was now a roaring stream of water.  We never returned.

A young man came to our church and offered to build a cross.  He also built one at St. John.  I found a spot below the church where the cross could be built and we held a few services there.

I decided to buy a fish net and hire some Eskimo friends to fish across Knik Arm with them getting 1/2 of the catch and me getting 1/2 the catch.  I provided the money and they provided the labor.  The first year the power went off at the camp and the fish spoiled.  The second year, thieves took all the fish.  That was when we realized we need a camp caretaker and hired Loren and Julia Rodebush for that position.  But I didn’t try to get fish again.

While at Chugiak I got involved in the programs related to President Johnson’s War on Poverty and became President of the Greater Anchorage Community Action Agency.  It was a very interesting experience.  One very pushy member was trying to get me to recognize me and he stood on his chair.  I still ignored him.

This gave me some name recognition.  So when a member of the John Birch Society was getting name recognition and doing better in each election, I decided to run against him for the State House of Representatives.  With the permission of an interim Bishop, I had plans “in case I got elected”.  I didn’t, but I was able to derail the efforts of the John Birch Society member.  In the 1966 election, he had made it through the primary.  In 1968, he did not.  I ran 35th out of 49 candidates for 28 positions on the final ballot.   Fourteen to be elected.  But I ran 3rd in the Eagle River-Chugiak area when we lived.  Who knows what might have happened if I had run again in 1970, but we will never know.  I was transferred to Juneau as a pastor.

JUNEAU-DOUGLAS LARGER PARISH

When I was appointed to both Juneau and Douglas in my second year, there was some pressure for us to move to the Douglas parsonage.  We refused.  So the Douglas parsonage was rented.  One Coast Guard family rented it for awhile. One day the father indicated to me that there was no heat in the 2nd floor of the parsonage.  On cold nights, his children had to camp (sleep) in the living room.  At least one of the trustees implied that this was impossible.  None of the former pastors had complained.  So I checked with several former pastors and all verified they had had that problem with their children.  But did they ever tell anyone?  No.  Perhaps they didn’t want to deal with the hostility of some of the trustees.  For whatever reason, I didn’t have that concern.  They were already hostile for one reason or another.  The problem was corrected.

There was consistent hostility from some members at Douglas, so it almost became humorous. Business meetings were not pleasant experiences.  But we all survived in the end.  Two families were very supportive and helped me navigate the situation.

While in Juneau, I became a leader of the anti-war movement.  I was not radical enough for the radicals in the peace movement, but any participation was too much for the other side, so it was a wild ride.  It was interesting that I had 100% support from many members of the older generation.  At one point, some members of that group wanted to block the Egan Expressway at rush hour as a protest against the war.  I objected and since I would lead the action, it never happened.  But I was rejected by many members and I resigned from my position of leadership.  So for awhile, both extremes were angry with me.

In 1971 Barbara and I took a seven week trip to Africa and the Holy Land.  Seven laypersons (men) filled the pulpit, most talking about the balance between evangelism and social action.  Attendance was high during my absence.

While we were traveling, plans were made for sponsoring a Lay Witness Mission.  When I left, there were plans to have two of them:  one in Douglas and one in Juneau. When I returned, they had decided to have them together, alternating locations.  When I reminded them that they had voted to be separate, one woman said that the Holy Spirit prevailed over the vote and indeed it did.

During the Lay Witness Mission, one speaker asked us to imagine that the rock in his hand was God and we were to pick up the rock and share our reaction.  Eventually one man took the rock, announced that the rock was not God and slammed it on the altar table and stomped out of the church.  Later in the evening, I made a pastoral call and told him of my disappointment in his actions.  He repented and life went on.

Some of the liberals in the Juneau Church boycotted the Lay Witness Mission worship services and then called me to a gathering which was considering leaving the church.  They asked me “what happened”?  I told them about some of the positive changes in people and when I was finished, the group quietly disbanded without any further discussion.

We enjoyed a spirit of cooperation between the two congregations for a brief period of time, but the decision of the State of Alaska to take the Juneau Church property soon ended that spirit.

I inherited the Juneau Youth Hostel when I came to Juneau (it was in its second year when I arrived), but I spent a lot of energy defending it from critics.  I even grew my beard longer to offset the nasty comments the police chief and others made about bearded hippies.  At some point there was a drug raid that included the hostel, but of the 19 people arrested, none were at the youth hostel.  I got into a war of words with the District Attorney, but I got a promise from the Chief of Police that they would behave better in the future.

In the midst of all of this (our church was never locked) a rape occurred in the church sanctuary, so there was a lot going on.  I monitored the trial.  When the victim (who had been flirtatious and drinking) learned what the prison sentence would be, she refused to cooperate.  As the young man left the courtroom a free man, I had a few choice words with him and a few accused me of finding him guilty.  Well, he was guilty and he put the youth hostel at great risk.  What I did with the young man was give him some hotel money and request that he not step foot on our property again, unless it was to attend a worship service.  He didn’t.

When we took steps to finally lock our church at night, we couldn’t find the key.  As we shut down the church property and turned it over to the State of Alaska, it was important to secure the building.  On at least one occasion, I allowed a homeless man live in the church for a few weeks.  He was very responsible and helpful, for which I was and am grateful.

The State of Alaska took our property by right of imminent domain to build a courthouse and we lost our church.  The decision was made to merge with Northern Light Presbyterian to form the Northern Light United Church.  Barbara and I returned for the 40th anniversary of that church and found it to be thriving.

But the experience destroyed all the warm fuzzies from the Lay Witness Mission.  The Juneau Church was divided, voting to merge with the Presbyterians by a very narrow margin.  In fact, my vote decided the issue.  I came very close to a nervous breakdown (depression?), but whatever happened, I was dysfunctional for one week after the vote.

But then I kicked into a gear that made it all happen.  Two women at Douglas became very vicous, but they were unsuccessful at changing anything.  They wanted access to some of the money Juneau received from the forced sale of the property.  Juneau had been offered $120,000 for the property.  The trial produced an increase to $180,000 and the state had to pay our $30,000 lawyer cost.

The lawyer for the State of Alaska thought he had some inside information from one of the United Methodist church members and he called me a liar when I was on the witness stand.  This made the judge upset, plus I had a letter in my pocket from the Governor of the State of Alaska that proved I had told the truth on the witness stand.  It was a good day.  One could speculate as to why I had that letter in my suit pocket, but I was glad it was there.

One of the things I learned at Douglas was that new ideas needed to percolate for at least one month.  Some of the program ideas didn’t happen until after I left – like having some concern for the lower income families in our community.

Separate from all issues was the sponsorship of the Juneau Youth Hostel.  It was housed in the Methodist Church and it was switched to the new united church, but it was a source of much heart-burn for the Presbyterians.  They believed some of the mis-information that had been published in the local newspaper.  Many believed that arrests had been made at the hostel during the drug raid.  Even though the newspaper wrote a clarifying article, some chose to belief the mis-information.  People are sometimes funny in a strange sort of way.

Some one at the Board of Global Ministries office in New York City made a claim for the $180,000 unless we reinvested it in Juneau property.  Within a short period of time, we purchased the Whitehead House (one of the better homes in the downtown area). I had some thought of it being a parsonage, but that didn’t happen.  It was a Teen Home for awhile and eventually it was sold to the American Youth Hostel group in Juneau and it continues as a Youth Hostel to this day (2020).  Sadly, the fire marshall made us tear out the cedar that lined the closets.

When Northern Light Presbyterian Church and Juneau United Methodist Church merged, I lobbied for the new name to be Northern Light United Church, which made the Presbyterians so happy that they offered to pray the Lord’s Prayer the Methodist way. It became obvious that both pastors needed to move on, so that new and fresh leadership could be found.  I accepted this decision, but the Presbyterian pastor fought it. That didn’t make the transition very pleasant, but it happened.

One of my tasks, while in Juneau, was providing leadership for the S.E. Alaska Camp, which was called the Argetsinger Camp on my watch. Lots of physical energy was spent keeping it maintained.  With the help of a wonderful young adult named Ladd Macaulay, we were able to turn the camp over to the school district for their Outdoor Education Program, operated by Ladd Macaulay.  Again, several persons objected, but it happened.  One of the first things the school district did was upgrade the kitchen at significant cost (Memory $100,000)  After a year or so, the School District decided to punish the voters (who rejected a bond issue) by shutting down their two most popular programs.  This was pre-school and outdoor education.  The camp came back to the Methodists.  No one ever thanked me for the brand new kitchen.

COMMUNITY UNITED METHODIST CHURCH, NOME, ALASKA (1974-1981)                  NOME PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH (1975-1981)                                                                                     (together) AYWAAN BERING SEA LARGER PARISH, along with Savoonga Presbyterian Church and Gambell Presbyterian Church with both on St. Lawrence Island.

This is dealt with elsewhere, but we were there for seven years.  Both of us were very busy, but Barbara was even busier.  She had many positions while we were in Nome:  Executive Director, Nome Community Center (half a year):  Special Assistant to the Governor for NW Alaska (2 1/2 years) and Member of the Nome Common Council (City Council) (3 years).

EAST ANCHORAGE UNITED METHODIST CHURCH  (1981-1988)

When it was time for us to leave Nome, there was only one opening and we received it:  East Anchorage United Methodist Church.  It was next door to the Chugiak-Eagle River Parish, but separated by a military base.  I decided not to be a public advocate for much of anything, so it was a quiet seven years, for the most part.

I would try to have a creative sermon at least once a year and it always stirred things up.  During my seven years there, I had a sermon on Capital Punishment and South Africa.  One woman asked for a “hearing” on my preaching.  Only ten people showed up, but she found out that most people appreciated the stimulation of such sermons, rare as they might be.  It was obvious that a few wanted zero stimulation.  By this time in my ministry, I was able to convince many that I was open to listening to their points of view and this served me well.

I tried very hard to make the church grow and failed.  There was a very large trailer court near by and during my time there, one family tried our church.  I attempted to open up a dead-end street south of our church and came under attack from neighbors who liked their semi-private road. I learned that some participants liked a small church, so they resisted the idea of growth.  The church had an average worship attendance of 100 when I was there.  When the church celebrated its 50th anniversary, the bishop came and shared in closing the church.  Attendance had dropped to 25 or so.

I volunteered to “take care of” the Hope Retreat Center and spent many pleasant days there.  My members thought I was working and all was well.

After seven years at East Anchorage, I applied for a Charles Merrill Fellowship at Harvard and was accepted.  Meanwhile, there was a crisis at a church in Sitka and I was transferred there in 1988.

UNITED METHODIST CHURCH OF SITKA  1988-1995

Barbara was at General Conference with her work with General Council on Finance and Administration (two 4 year terms) and I was helping Gania Trotter staff a hospitality room for Alaska Pacific University.  One day the District Superintendent called me. We knew what was coming and agreed to accept the appointment to Sitka.

The couple at Sitka had a marital crisis and the Bishop wanted us to provide some stability for the congregation as they weathered the storm.  It was much more difficult than I could ever have imagined.  I had studied the issue of transference in psychology.  We experienced it.  Imagine going to a new congregation and saying “Oh, by the way, we are taking three months off in our first year for continuing education at Harvard.”  We got through it all and some healing eventually came for members and the church.

When we returned from our sabbatical, we started Disciple Bible Study.

I was asked to assist Sheldon Jackson College by teaching World Religions for two quarters. I got rave reviews.  It may have helped that all students (except for one) got A’s and B’s.  Don’t know where I got the idea, but on the first day, I passed out a copy of the final exam.

We enjoyed a new sanctuary that had been built by the members.

After seven happy years there, we felt it was time to leave Alaska.  Ketchikan wanted a younger pastor and I was no longer young.  Hostile administrators were not going to do me any favors.

I asked the Bishop if there might be a place for me in the Pacific Northwest Conference and he assured me that he would find a place. He was true to his word.

MANITO UNITED METHODIST CHURCH, SPOKANE, WASHINGTON

MY NOTES:  Snow storm; ice storm, history relating to Kirtland Cutter, AHA!!!!, Squirrels, Pigeons and 15 tons & what do you get? – 5 foot clearance for storage.

This was a wonderful appointment for us.  They thought I was young.  The superintendent had told them I was old.  When I discovered the she was the same age as myself, I never let her forget it.  I showed up for the interview with three guns, storing them at her house.  Just for the record, I no longer own the guns.

The sanctuary had been designed by famed architect Kirtland Cutter.  It was his last job in Spokane, but he built many mansions on the south hill.

The Christian Education wing was massive and very good for community service.  Pre-school, counseling service and emergency housing all were or became part of our service to the community.  My plan was to stay there seven years and retire, but I changed my mind and asked for another appointment, which I received.  The helpful bishop was elsewhere and the cabinet was not in the mood to do me any favors.  I was moved immediately.

Not really a highlight, but as soon as I arrived, I was hit by the church’s decision to remove the American Flag from the sanctuary.  A military veteran wanted me to return it to the sanctuary.  Since it was a decision of the Administrative Council, I refused to do so.

While at Manito, I was able to go to a sermon resource conference in Canada that published AHA!!!  It was very stimulated and impacts my preaching.

I had a battle with resident squirrels at the parsonage, so I trapped them and transported them to a welcoming forest 25 miles away, until the owner said:  “Enough!”  The issue at the church were pigeons in the tower, so that was corrected with some screening.

At some point, some walls had been knocked down and the gym floor was raised to ground level for the fellowship hall.  Underneath the fellowship hall, in a five foot crawl space.  So I removed fifteen tons of debris (with some help on one occasion from members of Americorp) and produced a five foot clearance area for storage.  I did this for exercise on my “days off”.

One of my favorite memories was the day of the “big snow” when it snowed many inches during worship.  With my Toyota truck, I was able to pull cars out of the school parking lot effectively.

Another storm put so much ice in the trees that many broke off 1/3 of the way from the top.  Quite a sight to behold.

One of the stronger programs at Manito was known as “Elderberries”, an older adult group that planned regular activities.  Completely led by others, it was refreshing to be able to participate as a member and not the leaders.  It was also when I learned that the next crop of retirees objected to words that reminded them of the aging process.  So “elder” was a turn-off and the same thing was true at the next church (Stanwood) where the word “silver” in “Silver Sages” turned off some potential participants.  Never solved that problem.

I was having so much fun, I decided not to retire in 2002 and made myself available for one more appointment.  This was arranged by the “cabinet” in just a few weeks.  So quickly, that the “cabinet” failed to appoint my replacement for one full year.  The first two suggested appointments (female) turned them down.  If forgiveness is in order for the person or persons responsible, that has not happened yet.  It was obvious that some members had an agenda that didn’t have much regard for my well-being nor the well-being of the local church.

STANWOOD UNITED METHODIST CHURCH   (2000-2008)

MY NOTES:  At the beginning, issue of inclusion and at the end, issue of human sexuality; during highlights included the 5th Thursday trips and the addition of stained glass.

Having said that I would not accept a smaller church, the cabinet found a church with equal membership to Manito.  Both Manito and Stanwood had 400 members.  When I went for the introduction, the superintendent had no knowledge of my past background, so I quickly supplied some information.

The church was very welcoming and our eight years there were pleasant and productive, after the first year.  Three very conservative families did not appreciate my theology or social stances.  The lay leader “hated” the United Methodist Church.  He had served for eight years.  My pattern was to ask persons to serve in top leadership posts for two years.  When he was removed, the skids were greased for them leaving the church and becoming Free Methodists.

One family provided heavy financial support for James Dobson’s organization known as “Focus on the Family”.  There was an attempt to “fire me”, but when that failed they left the church. One of the themes of my early preaching in Stanwood was the important of “inclusion”.

A fourth family stayed.  Dr. Ed Blair had been my New Testament professor at Garrett and he was satisfied with the content of my preaching.  During my time at Stanwood, I helped celebrate the life of his wife, Vivien.  He put some pressure on me to “come back” and do his service when he died, but I resisted.  When I came as his pastor, he could barely remember me as a student, but by the time I left I was “one of his better students”.   He was a wonderful person.  It was a pleasure being his pastor for eight years.  I helped his intensive library end up at Seattle University.

While serving as the pastor at Stanwood, we had to put on a new roof.  I lobbied for “red”, as lots of people didn’t know we existed.  But I failed, so lots of people still don’t know the church exists.

One humorous member on the “color” committee for something at the church suggested that they send me a telegram in Hawaii:  (containing this message)  “We couldn’t decide on the color, so you must decide.”  I had made it clear that “colors” had been the “bane” of my existence at several churches.  Elsewhere I have shared about the beams at the UMC of Chugiak in Alaska plus there was a big fight about this at Juneau.

That and “worship wars” are not missed by me, now that I am retired.

When we went to Stanwood, there was a van that was not being used.  So I created a program called “5th Thursdays”.  It was essentially a field trip “somewhere” four times a year. It was wonderful for some of the retired members and it forced me to do something creative four times a year.  We did some major field trips to Victoria B.C., Cannon Beach in Oregon, Leavenworth and a play in Vancouver B.C.  Others were small things such as visting a Kangaroo Farm near Arlington or a buffalo farm near Sedro Woolley. If anyone ever expresses an interest, I could probably summarize the 32 things we did in our 8 years at Stanwood.  But first I would have to find my lists.  During my ministry, we were given a small bus that we shared with Josephine.  They kept it running and we got to use it occasionally.

Another highlight was the addition of stained glass windows.  One Sunday while preaching on the value of symbols, it was obvious we didn’t have many, so Chris and Pam Fredericksen arranged for a famous artist (Jack Archibald) to do a window at the entrance of the church.  It was titled “Immanence”. It featured an abstract design on either side of the church entry with bold colors radiating out from a circle. Jack agreed to share some reflection on his work:  “I had an old friend, long gone now, who said, ‘For those who ask no questions, there are no mysteries,’…I think what my friend meant was that life isn’t a riddle, it’s more like music…Immanance is that force, that energy, that spirit, that goodness, that whatever name you want to call it that permeates the world…These windows are small grace notes in the music I hear in a world I do not at all understand. I hope, given their context, they make a joyful noise.” It was a great honor to have Jack share his talents at “breaking glass” with us in this way.

This modern art upset an artist in the church, Jo Hagloch, so she set out to create some realistic art.  She trained seventeen people in the process and we had three beautiful windows in the fellowship hall celebrating blue herons, snow geese and eagles.  When I saw her eagle design, I objected and risked telling her that I wanted an eagle that looked like an eagle, not one mostly in white.  By some miracle, she agreed with me.  The result added a great deal of beauty to our fellowship/worship area.

A member of Rotary (Lew Neelds) did two windows celebrating our early building and our current building.  This was paid for by Kert and Norma Lee Kertson.

Finally a member (Bob) commissioned a window in memory of his wife, by an Everett studio (Covenant Art Glass) that celebrated rhododendrons.  A major addition to the spirit of the church without any budgetary implications.

We also spent some energy on human sexuality issues near the end of my stay in Stanwood.  Then it was off to retirement.

RETIREMENT

MY NOTES:  Reading, Conference Secretary, Volunteer Work, such as Primetimers and driving people to medical appointments, plus Gardening.

We spent the first eight years of our retirement in a lovely home with a view.  In 2016 we move to Wesley: Lea Hill in Auburn, Washington.  For a while I did some driving for Catholic Charities, but it got too complicated.

The Bishop recruited me as the Pacific Northwest Conference Secretary in 2008 and I served for four years.  He asked me right after giving Barbara the Bishop’s Award for her work in the conference.  Not a good time to say no.

When I retired, I was asked to be the “Minister to the Retirees”, which involves helping to plan a retiree luncheon at Annual Conference, edit an occasional newsletter to the retirees and represent the retirees on the Conference Board of Pensions.

I also served on the Conference Older Adult Council, helping with a fall retreat at Lazy F Campground for several years.

Other retirement activities has included reading, traveling and gardening.  I operated an u-pick dahlia garden (400 plants) in Stanwood and now in Auburn I have two garden plots in a community garden, growing miniature pumpkins for Barbara.  One of our churches also recruited me to establish a dahlia garden on their property.

There are four churches that occasionally ask me to preach on a regular basis: Guemes Island Congregational, LaConner United Methodist, Federal Way United Methodist and Auburn First United Methodist.  Otherwise, I enjoy listening to others.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

QUOTES I LIKE

QUOTES I LIKE

Here are some quotes gathered over the year that had an impact on me. One source is a newsletter I published in the 1980’s for ideas that didn’t fit in the church newsletter, but I wanted to share them with persons in my circle of influence. It was titled SECOND SERMON.

DR. HARRELL BECK of Boston School of Theology (He published very little of his scholarship, saying that he would let his students do the writing of books. One of his students was Martin Luther King Jr.) This quote was given to me in 1986 as I discussed “universalism” with him.

“It is our love for Jesus Christ which mandates our love for persons in whatever tradition or condition. Can’t people get that? Universal salvation is a term which scares people, in part because the church has so often had to have some prey, to be vindictive. What is this psychic need among so many of us? Isn’t it enough to know God’s love, to be grateful for it, and to exercise it as fully as we are capable of doing? And I wonder, whether in the eyes of the Perfect One there is all that (much) difference between those who have made confession/profession and those who have not. Of course I sense the importance of making our profession but not if it cripples us…”

Dr. Beck was married to an Egyptian. Some one once asked Dr. Beck if his wife was a Christian. He paused (dramatically) and said that yes, “she became a Christian about 2,000 years ago.” She was raised in the Coptic Christian heritage, which dates back to shortly after the time of Jesus. Mrs. Leila Beck entertained my wife and I in her home when I was a Merrill Fellow at Harvard Divinity School in 1989. Dr. Beck had died in a doctor’s office as they were preparing for a trip to China. She was very sad, as she had given Dr. Beck to the church for years and years and in retirement, she was hoping to have him for herself. It was not to be. He had spent years giving lectures all over the world and was highly regarded in many circles for his scholarship and speaking ability. When he sensed the need, he would say to his listeners:  “Are you listening? Are you with me?” And usually we were. He was one of the few who could speak for an hour and you still wanted more. His lectures were given in the same style as his preaching. When he died, I felt a great deal of grief. The United Methodist Church lost a giant.

BORN AGAIN

“Being born again is to being a Christian as Kindergarten is to being an educated person.”         -Thomas H. Dahl

Thomas H. Dahl was a colleague in Alaska who made the decision to become a lawyer.  He was the pastor in Homer from 1964-1966 when I was the pastor in Kenai.  Our families would get together several times during the one year we overlapped.  They had small children, so we would usually go to Homer.  One time we went to seafood processing plant in Homer and purchased ten pounds of King Crab legs for $5.  Yum…Yum….  It was so expensive, we thought.

Then Tom was appointed to the Juneau Church from 1966-1969 and it was there that he decided to go to law school.  He played a role in helping to get me appointed as his successor in 1969.  He stayed in Juneau as the Director of the Model Cities Program until he went to law school.  When he came back to Alaska he was in private practice until he was tapped to be an Assistant Attorney General.

A CREED FOR ALL AGES

“I think that evangelicals and liberals can get along quite well as long as evangelicals are willing to admit, as I do, that the evangelical position is only a Christian position and not the Christian position. It is when persons establish a particular theological stance as the only legitimate one to have in order to be part of the household of God that real trouble starts…”            -Dr. Tony Campolo  11/4/85 (quoted with permission by the author) Tony was another person who could speak for one hour and you still wanted more. I got to hear him in Boston (again in 1989) and more recently as a guest at a nearby camp, operated by the Free Methodist Church.

QUOTE from a personal letter dated 10/16/85

“It sounds like you have a little more excitement in your town than we do around here. We don’t have a rabid fundamentalist preacher like the one you describe;…Recently I saw a publication from the International Committee for Biblical Inerrancy. One statement caught my eye. It called for readers of the Bible to be: ‘discriminatory in their reading, to recognize poetry as such, and metaphor as such, that one should not interpret it literally; but take into account the kind of literature one was reading…’ I couldn’t believe my eyes, that sounded like what we were taught at both IWU and Garrett. At that time it was condemned as liberal. My, my, what changes!”

QUOTE from Time

December 2, 1985  p. 84 quoting Lis Harris, NEW YORKER Staff Writer.   “I do not like the Lubavitchers’ rigidity, the absoluteness of right and wrong that they perceived. I consider unsureness to be the proper condition of life.”  (article in Religion section on Hasidim Jews)

Quote from Iowa Bob Williams dated Christmas 1980

Every problem is a real challenge that responds to my best. Never once would parishioners and church officials ever let me either work on obvious, simple, urgent, relevant and consistent goals/plans or do the things necessary to achieve them. Once a parishioner had “the nerve” to put “it” in words as I came to a new parish – “Don’t you be raising any question about the nature of the church until after we make a lot of money on this project.”  “Too heavenly to be of any earthly use.” “What has the Gospel got to do with what we’ve always done in our church!” “Be practical.”

We keep preaching and teaching as though it made some significant difference when recent civil rights legislation enforced should be convincing that “we don’t think our way into new ways of acting, but act our way into new ways of thinking.”

MY LEGACY

MY LEGACY

My mother was a life long teacher and learner. Through United Methodist Women and otherwise, she did a great deal of reading. For years, she participated in the School of Christian Mission sponsored by United Methodist Women, which was recently renamed “Mission U”.

I developed the same habit or tradition, attending such schools as provided in Alaska and the Pacific Northwest Conference. One time I was asked to be a teacher of a class on Christian Social Concerns. One of the students was a person who did not agree with some of my public positions on legislative issues and she took the course with one purpose: “To try and understand why I did what I had done in the political arena of the State of Alaska”. This turned out to be very useful because I eventually became her pastor and she was able to handle that with what I would call a sense of maturity and respect, all because of her decision to try and understand where I was coming from theologically and biblically. Thank you, School of Christian Mission, now Mission U.

While I lived in Alaska and while my mother was still alive, we developed the pattern of writing letters to each other on Saturday evenings. It was a great way to maintain contact and enabled us to share thoughts at a deeper level than occasional phone calls. That opportunity and experience was something I cherished at the time.

I learned a lot about her and she learned a lot about me. My father, on the other hand, was not as comfortable with my life and work, fearing for my life when I took on the “principalities and powers” in various situations. He did not accept the fact that I was just following his example.

Mother would share what she was reading and I would share what I was reading. I miss that in many ways and I am finding that no one in the next two generations are interested in such things. But that is another story. If anyone was interested, I would let them know what I am reading and experiencing in life, even in retirement.

As my own theology has shifted (and hopefully grown), there have been many factors. For years I said that I would focus on interfaith issues when I retired. But that happened earlier when I was asked to teach a college course on “Religions of the World” at Sheldon Jackson College. To prepare for that experience, I did a massive amount of reading on that subject. Got it done before retirement.

In retirement, I have participated in a lot of small group studies, based on books by various contemporary theologians and pastors. For years I said that I wanted to write a book on the subject of universal salvation, a concept that has become very important to my belief system. I did preach it in my last four churches. In fact, a dear friend at the first of those four churches came up to me after one of my sermons and said: “John, we all agree with you. Why don’t you move on to another subject.” Ah, the honesty of family and friends.

But lots of people don’t agree with me. So it is helpful to find others who have lived life and come to the same conclusions that I have reached. In fact, two persons have written a book on this subject that is so good, that I will no longer have to write my book. They have done it for me.  The book is: “If Grace Is True: Why God Will Save Every Person” by Philip Gulley (Quaker minister) and James Mulholland (United Methodist and American Baptist).

Once I started preaching this theology, I found that lots of people agreed with me. The first one was an eighty year old woman visiting in Hana, Maui, Hawaii, when I was a one month (March, 1981) pastor there. She shook my hand at the door and said something like: “Young man, you just preached me back into the church.” I never looked back from that point on, though I didn’t shake up my Presbyterian friends in Nome, as I was too close to the end of my time there to work it through with anyone.

East Anchorage handled it well, the folks at Sitka thought “some new ideas would be good for them” so they didn’t veto my coming there and Manito in Spokane eventually got a three sermon series that I published without any kick back.  However, when I came to Stanwood, there was a group that resisted my preaching to the point that they became Free Methodists. But at least I knew they were listening. My views were present in the early church (first 500 years after Jesus), but they were suppressed, some times violently.  Boy, was I born in the right era!  Thanks mother Bernice and father George and God.

As I am writing this in 2015,  I would recommend several books to anyone who wishes to have more understanding of the issues surrounding this theology.

Recommended reading:  “A People’s History of Christianity: The Other Side of the Story” by Diana Bulter Bass.  She is also the author of “Christianity for the Rest of Us”.  Dr. Diana Butler Bass started out as a Methodist, but is now an Episcopalian.

And if you want to get right to the bottom of the issues and decisions facing modern Christians, try “Permission Granted: Take the Bible into Your Own Hands” by Jennifer Grace Bird.  Part of the glory of this book is that Jennifer was raised with other views and came to her positions through intensive study. She didn’t think women should be pastors, based on what she thought the Bible says, even though her own mother is one. She no longer holds that viewpoint.

Oh, lots of people disagree with me. Some easily assign millions of people to the fires of hell because they just happen to belong to other faith groups than that of Christianity.  Actually, there are some Christians who assign everyone to hell that does not happen to be their brand of Christian. That position has probably caused more people to reject Christianity than any other factor. I have tried to do my part, but my platform has been so small. And the ocean is so very big.

Just to be clear. I believe in hell.  But my position is that it is empty.  Thanks be to God.  Happy Reading. If you know how to reach me, I would even be glad to give you a copy of the book I could have written, given enough time. But Gulley and Mulholland wrote it for me.

TRIBUTES

Tributes

It is a bit self-serving to share positive things that have been written about us, but hey, this is my blog, so I can put what I want here.

From time to time, I have saved unsolicited compliments. Two that come to mind and will be included (if I can find them) came from youth who gave me a difficult time when I was their pastor and their sense of regret, while real, was larger than they needed to make them.

Youth #1 from St. James UMC, Danville, Illinois  (female)   “I showed very little respect for you and what you had to say.  I was a thoughtless child who cared nothing about anyone except myself…”  (then she shared about her spiritual growth through camping experiences.)

Youth #2 from the UMC of Sitka, Alaska (male)  He had moved away and was reflecting on his life experiences:  “I wouldn’t feel comfortable talking to any of the Methodist pastors down here. That is why I’m writing to you. You were never an unapproachble pastor, but more of a friend.  I really wish I had come to church to listen instead of screw around with (unnamed here) in the back.”  Story by me:  One Sunday this youth and the unnamed one were sitting in the back row, talking vigorously while I was preaching.  I just stopped and looked at them.  Eventually they realized what I was doing and they stopped.  I don’t remember if I said anything, like “may I continue?” but few knew what was going on.  It did “cure” them for awhile.

Here are some comments that give me more credit than I deserve, but then I didn’t write them.

Sitka Layperson whose family gave me my greatest contact with humpback whales in Sitka Sound. Up close and personal. He turned off his boat motor and we sat in the midst of several whales for several minutes. Awesome.

Dated: August 1, 2002 from Ray, Aporn, Richard and Robert Stein (Seven years after I was their pastor.)

“You are one of the straightest and most decent people I’ve ever met and you’ve had a measurable impact on my life, speech, demeanor to students and family, personal attitudes and more. We all send our very best regards to you and Barbara.”

MY LIFE STORY

My Life Story – Remarks Prepared For and Shared At RUMMS (Retired United Methodist Ministers and Spouses) April 29, 2011

Life is so interesting. One of my retirement “passions” is reading. Very eclectic to say the least. I lucked into a video on “Anne of Green Gables” and became interested in her story.

Then I read the sequel “Anne of Avonlea” and this is what I read on page 125. (Anne is speaking with 3 other women who are on a picnic. All are approximately age 17. Anne is the local schoolteacher. I trust you read these books long ago, but I waited until retirement to do so.)   Note: in 2019 we visited Prince Edward Island and saw the area that inspired the author.  When I showed great enthusiasm at seeing where Anne “lived”, someone gently said:  “You do know that she is a work of fiction, don’t you?”  Darn reality.

“…The real poem is the soul within them, and that beautiful bit is the soul of an unwritten poem. It is not every day one sees a soul – even of a poem.”

“I wonder what a soul – a persons’ soul – would look like,” said Priscilla dreamily.

“Like that, I should think,” answered Anne, pointing to a radiance of sifted sunlight streaming through a birch tree. Only with shape and features, of course. I like to fancy souls as being made of light. And some are all shot through with rosy stains and quivers, and some have a soft glitter like moonlight on the sea, and some are pale and transparent like mist at dawn.”

“I read somewhere once that souls were like flowers,” said Priscilla.

“Then your soul is a golden narcissus,” said Anne, “and Diana’s is like a red, red rose. Jane’s is an apple blossom, pink and wholesome and sweet.”

“And your own is a white violet, with purple streaks in its heart,” finished Priscilla.

Jane whispered to Diana that she really could not understand what they were talking about. Could she?   (end of quote)

Life is interesting. And now I have something with which to answer this question about what a soul would look like. It almost preaches. My mother’s soul is a large, white, white rose.

(Added later: I have no clue as to what my soul would look like. I dabble in raising dahlias, but there is such variety (thousands) that it would be hard to pick one. Perhaps I am a bit like Jane: “I don’t understand what they are talking about!”)

You asked me to tell of my life story and how my faith was formed or informed. Here is the picture I selected to put on the cover of my mother’s life story. She was a wonderful person and she was responsible for helping me in my spiritual formation. She was a person filled with tenderness, compassion for others and curiosity. My father was also responsible for some of my life formation. He was not as wonderful as my mother, but he was a person with a lot of personal integrity and courage. I observed this as he acted within the community where we lived. But he was also hardheaded.

One of the formatives stories surrounded the issue of selling liquor in our town. At some point the pro-liquor folks attacked the home of the pastor by throwing dirt on his front porch. My father got involved, even though we did not live in the town itself. He had a conversation with the pro-liquor folks and when it came time to vote, even those who sponsored the liquor option vote, voted against it. I don’t know what my father said to them, but I think it could be described as “putting the fear of God in them”. I am sure words such as “bringing charges against them for illegal activity” may have been included.

As far as my mother was concerned, I remember a pastor who could not engage in small talk with the members of the church. Perhaps it was shyness. I don’t know the problem. but it was causing problems. Now some people would just work to get another pastor, but not my mother. She invited the pastor for afternoon refreshment several times and without his realizing what was happening, she gave him some practice in small talk. Not giving my mother complete credit, instead of finding another profession, he went on to be a very successful pastor, if becoming a District Superintendent is a sign of success.

So these two characteristics: compassion and personal courage were mixed up in my journey of spiritual formation. They were both useful in the ministry. I could be a very good pastor for people who were hurting, but I could also be difficult for those who wished to keep me silent on a wide variety of issues.

During my earliest years in ministry, I was mentored by pastors at summer camp, teachers in college (Hessert) and seminary, as well as colleagues in ministry. (Leonard Sutton)

My spiritual life was formed in my home and in a very small Methodist Church in Central Illinois. There was a vital youth group with an average attendance of five persons. At an appropriate age, I came to a personal commitment to Jesus Christ at the altar of that same church. I was allowed to serve on the Official Board of the church, so I learned a lot about how the church operates and I still became a minister.

Through Christian camping, I became active in District and Conference programs, attending an United Methodist school known as Illinois Wesleyan University. My image of education was to be deeply involved in the culture of my college and seminary, but it was not to be. In my Junior year of college, I accepted a call to be the Associate Pastor in one of the most difficult appointments in the Central Illinois Conference, working on portions of 3 days a week. Serving a church while attending school continued for five years in two different appointments. It consumed my time and energy on weekends and I missed all of the weekend culture to be found in the college community and in the seminary setting near Chicago.

When I was appointed as the pastor at Wapella as a college senior, one pastor put his arm around me and said: “Don’t worry about blowing it in this appointment, John, as the only way for you to go in this conference is up.” He was implying that I was starting at the bottom. This church celebrated its centennial on my watch. My research revealed that it had had 55 pastors in 100 years. Prior to me, a non-Methodist pastor (who happened to be a Baptist) had preached against Methodism and convinced a majority of the members that Methodism was a communist organization. They voted to leave the denomination. The superintendent allowed them to vote on the motion and then asked for the keys to the building. When the folks realized they couldn’t take the building with them, they were smart enough to move “reconsideration of the previous motion” and stayed in the denomination, but they were not happy. That was my first appointment in Methodism. The church went from 85 members to 60 in my year as pastor with an attendance of 50 persons. Fifteen people who had been participating in other churches were helped to actually transfer their membership to the church they were attending. I saw that as helping them, as well as helping the local church.

At that point in our history, one of my duties was to report to the superintendent the number of calls or contacts I made in the parish. I meekly complied. The total was 900. It was the second highest in my district, only topped by the largest church which had 3,000 members. Ironically, my second appointment was Minister to the Youth at that same large church in Danville, Illinois. I will never know if there was a connection. I worked there with 100 active youth. Occasionally I preached to 600 persons.

Then two traumatic things happened in my journey. I felt a call to missionary service and I fell in love. Barbara and I went together to Alaska in 1962 for three years. Thirty-three years later we left Alaska in 1995 for two appointment in the PNW conference: Spokane:Manito and Stanwood. I retired in 2008.

Alaska provided to be both interesting and stimulating. We started in a parish that was 100 miles long and not very many miles wide, serving three churches. It was there that a pattern developed. I was an effective pastor, so I keep getting appointments. But I was also engaged in controversial social justice ministries. In my first parish, I was blamed or credited with closing down an illegal gambling operation in the area, called Soldotna Progress Days. In anger the leadership of the event closed down the fair, publicly blaming me, because I had exposed their illegal gambling operation to the authorities in the State of Alaska by writing a letter of inquiry. In what became a pattern, state officials would reluctantly follow the laws of the State of Alaska. Look what has happened since I left the State of Alaska. Following the law appears to have gone out of fashion there, based on the number of legislators who have been sent to prison recently. But I digress.

While in my first parish, I served on a hospital board of directors that was so hot politically that the Mayor of my town (Kenai) had resigned from serving to save his political hide. I took his place. Now the process of appointment making is somewhat private, even today. I moved to another church a short time after this. I do not know if there was a connection and all members of the cabinet are deceased, so we will never know. However, in my defense, the usual pattern then was a three-year appointment.

While traveling in South America recently, I got in touch with a pattern to my ministry. Good pastoral care and involvement in tough political issues. At the next church, I became an expert on The John Birch Society. Most of you have heard of this group. Think Tea Party in work clothes! It is fascinating that the money for The John Birch Society and the Tea Party comes from the same family. I also ran as a candidate for the State House of Representatives as a Republican Candidate. Just for the record, I lost the election and I have now become a born-again Democrat, according to former Washington State Senator Mary Margaret Haugen, a member of Stanwood United Methodist Church.

The Bishop observed my political activities and appointed me to be the pastor in the State Capital of Juneau, Alaska. In my spare time (my day off), I served as a volunteer lobbyist with the state legislature, working on issues for children and prison inmates, persons for whom no one was paid to lobby. I developed a slight reputation. People would come to me to ask for help. I helped increase the amount of money spent on alcohol abuse problems, plus I became the expert on the issue of abortion reform. Alaska passed a liberal abortion law prior to Roe-Wade and I can take some credit/blame for that.

The road got rockier for me. I was a player in ecumenical affairs statewide. In spite of the breakdown in relationship with some Roman Catholics over the abortion issue, I became President of the Alaska Christian Conference of Churches.

I became the pastor in Nome, Alaska and spent four years as a very wonderful, caring pastor. Then my social justice genes kicked in and with the support of my wife, who was then serving on the Nome Common Council, I tackled the issue of alcohol abuse. All hell broke loose. It started after I conducted a wonderful funeral for a twenty-year-old church participant who had had an argument with her boyfriend and in an intoxicated state she went walking in the tundra without proper clothing. I told Barbara I could do wonderful funeral services for years, but I didn’t want to leave Nome without saying a negative word about the dominant drinking culture that existed there. She gave her consent and the rest became history. (Other blog threads will deal with Nome in depth.)

It is somewhat awkward to tell my story in front of Jack Tuell and Ed Stanton, as they both played a role in my ministry. They can tell their own story and they will and they have.

The appointment process in Alaska changed when I went to Nome. Prior to that time (1974) the Bishop and/or Cabinet just decided and informed the church and pastor what would be happening with the appointments. After that date, there had to be an introduction interviews with the Pastor-Parish Relations Committee and then the appointment would be made (fixed?). Perhaps it would be informative to share how that process went for me at Nome.

When I was flown to Nome for that interview, one person attended the meeting and she was not active in other church activities, like worship. In a normal world, the message about lay involvement would have been clear, but I wanted to stay in Alaska, so I didn’t listen to the message and accepted the appointment in 1974.

You might as well know that Bishop Tuell offered to appoint me to First United Methodist Church in Fairbanks in 1980, but the committee refused to meet with me, with the chair rejecting me based solely on my reputation. I don’t think church leaders are cruel or mean persons, but instead of appointing me to Fairbanks, they appointed the late Richard Heacock as the pastor to Fairbanks. I laughed for two solid days when I learned of that appointment. Talk about poetic justice. Richard Heacock was more radical than me, to say the least. Sadly the church divided, but I was spared that trauma or blame.

When I went to East Anchorage the next year (1981) for that interview, the first question was: “What happened in Nome” So I told them and for the first and only time in my ministry, when I was finished, the committee broke into spontaneous applause. I thought I had died and gone to heaven.

In my next appointment (after Nome), I decided to operate in a different way and it worked. For seven year I kept clean. No major public involvements on social issues. No newspaper headlines. I became deeply loved in my local church and community. I supervised a Retreat Center 90 miles from Anchorage. My members thought I was doing church work when I spent a day at the Hope Retreat Center. It was a major shift in my social justice involvements publicly. When the first opportunity came for me to be involved, I gave the instigator $1,000 and told him to make the headlines in the newspaper. It worked. We won the cause and I didn’t get the credit or the blame.

To complete the Alaskan cycle, when I went for the interview in Sitka, Alaska, I started with them (theologically) at the point where I was in leaving East Anchorage. At East Anchorage I was focusing on the inclusive love of God so strongly that one lay person came up to me after a sermon and said: “John, we all agree with you. Why don’t you move on to another subject?” My honesty in the interview at Sitka made the committee think about it overnight. They decided hearing something new and different would be good for them, so those who were hearing something new from me decided to accept me as their pastor. God and the cabinet had saved the best for last in Alaska. Sitka was a wonderful experience for us. We could have stayed there forever, but something inside of me thought it wouldn’t be good for them or me to be there forever, so I was able to transfer to the Pacific Northwest Conference and get an appointment in Spokane.

During my ministry, I divide my work in two sections: 1961-1981 (twenty years of social activism) and 1980-2008 (twenty-eight years of being much more cautious). Even with the concept of guaranteed appointments, I was not paranoid, as there were people “out to get me”. I had better relationships with some people who disagreed with me on my public and private stands on a variety of issues because I didn’t beat people up from the pulpit on a regular basis, just occasionally. People actually came to believe that I respected their opinions, even if they were different from my own…with some exceptions.

What created the difference in my style? I was asked to serve as a pastor for one month in Hana, Hawaii, in March of1981. It started whole new direction for my ministry. It actually helped me to become more honest in my preaching. I started telling theological truth from the pulpit, bringing the best of what I know about biblical and theological scholarship. Five sermons at Hana. (Inclusive gospel, science and religion) The best summary of that experience was an 80 year old woman who slowly came up to me at the door of the church, saying: “Young man, I want you to know that you just preached me back into the church.” Wow! I had waited a lifetime to hear some affirmation like that. Only time in 51 years to hear those words, but it gave me some hope that I was on to something new and powerful. Telling the truth.

I love to tell this next story. When I came to Spokane for the “interview”, I brought my guns with me for storage at the district parsonage. District Superintendent Ruth Mathis was wondering about me at this point. She had told the local church before the required interview that I was OLD and they were shocked to see some one who was still active and vital. I was excited to learn later that Ruth Mathis and I were exactly the same age and I never let her forget it. OLD indeed!

For the most part, staying out of the public eye (newspapers) was my method of operation in my last four appointments. With the exception of getting major (front page) newspaper coverage for a speech on homosexuality near the end of my five years in Spokane, it was a new way of operating. I had learned my lesson.

In some ways I was and am angry about the change in my life in 1981. Several friends gathered to wish me well as I departed from Anchorage to Sitka in 1988. One of them, the late Tom Dahl, inquired about the change he had seen in me and the reality that I had become a popular person. Yes, said I, it is easy to be popular as a minister. Just focus on doing nothing that rocks the boat and you, too, can become popular.

But, less you think I completely caved in, I managed to offend a few people in my old age. When I discovered that the Spokane River was so polluted that pregnant women were advised to stay out of the river, I managed to comment on this reality, only to discover that the lawyer for the polluting industries was a member of my congregation. He refused to listen to me preach ever again and tried to work against me behind the scenes.

At Stanwood, my insistence on using the word “inclusive” alienated one man who was willing to help finance James Dobson’s ministry known as “Focus on the Family”. I soon discovered that several church leaders, including the lay leader, hated the United Methodist Church as a denomination. When they were removed from leadership, they decided to serve God in the Free Methodist Church. I have gotten a great deal of satisfaction in informing people that in my last year of ministry, before I was forced to retire because of the age requirement, 40 persons joined the Stanwood United Methodist Church, with 24 of them joining by Profession of Faith. It was a great way to end my full-time professional ministry.

(The following story was not included in the speech, due to time constraints, but I have chosen to include it here.)

Riley Case is a former District Superintendent in the State of Indiana who writes a lot for the Confession Movement in the United Methodist Church. (A small lobbying group made up of clergy and laity. In my opinion, some of the clergy are frustrated because they couldn’t get elected Bishop and the laity are frustrated because they can not dominate the church.) I have chosen to jab him from time to time as he pontificates that all of the problems in United Methodism are caused by liberals.

He wrote that “progressive Christianity” has never won a following for Jesus. He was commenting on Rob Bell’s new book on hell and he took this opportunity to be critical of United Methodist bishops and pastors who didn’t have his view on hell.

I have chastised him for his generalizations, as this progressive United Methodist pastor (me) received 40 new members in his last year of ministry, with 24 of them being by Profession of Faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. In response to his last diatribe I wrote to him. “You keep saying this even after I told you that this progressive United Methodist pastor received 40 members in my last year of ministry, a majority by Profession of Faith. Shame on you.”

I continued to write to him:

“I have preached several sermons on ‘hell’ and a vast majority of my members were appreciative of my position. I actually like what one Catholic leader said several years ago: ‘THERE IS A HELL and it is empty.'”

“I just got back from a trip to South America and that was hot enough for me.

“The modern idea of hell dates back to Dante’s inferno. Shows what a powerful work of fiction can accomplish. Saw a depiction of hell in a church in Ecuador. Our guide said that it gave her nightmares as a child, but she is still a faithful Catholic. One poor fellow had his body pierced with seven spears and his tormentor (the inquisition even made it to South America – let’s hope it never makes it to United Methodism) was ready to pour some boiling oil down the man’s throat. They left no stone unturned.

“I must confess that ‘grace’ trumps ‘hell’ in my theology.”

(That was the end of my jab for Riley Case. He was kind enough to respond to this note, though I have not heard from him very often lately.)

“John: Thanks for the response to the Happenings article on hell. I am always willing to consider what you have to say. Most of the response to my stuff is from friendlies and it is not nearly as interesting as the stuff I get from folk like you. I probably am not as rigid on hell as it may seem. I have a lot of questions. If we find out in the end that God saves all, well and good. I will accept that. However, I would rather be wrong about preaching hell when it doesn’t exist than to be wrong about preaching there is no hell when it does exist. Then I would have some answering to do.” (Riley Case)                 -The End of that Correspondence. Back to the Speech.

In retirement, I am doing a lot of volunteer work, centered on a term as Conference Secretary and a position called “Minister to the Retirees”. In addition to this, Barbara and I travel “at the drop of a ticket”. I am trying to read more books and magazines, do some serious gardening and drive people to medical appointments through various agencies, including Catholic Community Services in Everett. (that has ended now) Some of you are aware of Barbara’s work with the Bishop’s Task Force for Hope for the Children of Africa, which supports two orphanages in the Southern Congo. Life is good, as well as interesting.

So we continue. I have long maintained that during the time of retirement that we may do our most effective work through contacting decision makers in our society and letting them know what we think they should do. One thing for sure, I no longer have to deal with the people who pay my salary when I do so.

(Postscript:  This is an added thought. When I was in Nome, doing my best, hardest and most difficult work of my ministry, I also helped start and then served a Presbyterian Church as a Stated Supply. As we jumped through the hoops required with the Presbytery of the Yukon, the Lead Pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Anchorage came to Nome and I asked him if he worked three times harder than I did.  He was getting three times the inflated salary I was getting in Nome even with a twenty per-cent cost of living adjustment. I sensed he agreed that he wasn’t working three times harder than me. Which leads me to my point: if United Methodist pastors were all paid equal salaries and received the funds directly from the regional entity, a pastor would not have to worry as much about “biting the hand that feeds him”, as far as social positions and activity is concerned. From the very first church in Kenai, Alaska, it was hard to challenge the stewardship level of those individuals who also “set my salary”. Pastors with “inflated salaries” control much of United Methodism in the United States, so I doubt if it changes, but what I am advocating exists in Great Britain. Perhaps, as our denomination gets smaller, there will be more efforts to create equality in compensation. In my example I was getting approximately $20,000 in Nome and the Anchorage pastor was getting $60,000. When I started in Wapella, I was getting $960, then in Danville I received $3,000 and when I graduated from seminary, I received $5,000. When I retired, compensation was close to $40,000.

SCHISM IN THE UNITED METHODIST CHURCH

Schism in the United Methodist Church

Reflections on and critique of Lyle Schaller’s article in the September/October 1998 issue of The Circuit Rider “Is Schism the Next Step?”  (My basic reaction written in 1998; revised in 2015)

Lyle Schaller asserts, rather forcefully, that the highly centralized polity of this denomination is built on a high level of distrust of local leadership. After reading his article, I respectfully disagree.

The polity of this denomination is built on several things: episcopal system of leadership; the Annual Conference as a central decision making unit; and the local church as an integral part of the Annual Conference.

While there is distrust in many locations, based on personalities and such, I think it is unfair and inaccurate to assert that the system is “built” on that distrust.

As to whether or not schism is in our future, we certainly see schism in our past over a variety of issues:  Pew Rent (Free Methodist Church); Ministry to the Poor (The Salvation Army); Theological Issues (Wesleyan Methodist and The Church of the Nazarene); Slavery (too many to mention, but one is the African Methodist Episcopal Church).

Nothing we are facing now is as important as the slavery issue was. Unless you were there, I doubt if many would be exercised over the issue of pew rent.

Christianity has often been polarized about issues. The very first battle was over the issue of Gentiles: should they become Jews before becoming Christians. That was settled and the church stayed together.

The issues that Schaller identifies are issues upon which sincere Christians have different opinions, but are they enough to justify schism or division? We might as well divide over whether or not the carpet in the sanctuary has tints of red or green, another subject about which people in my local churches had differences of opinion at one time or another.

People argue about the location of announcements in worship: beginning, middle, end or NOT AT ALL. To follow Schaller’s thinking to the ridiculous, we could have the Methodists who believe in announcements and those who don’t. “The Unannounced Methodists” and the “Announced Methodists” and the “Overannounced Methodists.”  (Smile)

Schaller identified the following areas of conflict: Christology, Music, Polity, Biblical interpretation, Apportionments, Multiculturalism, The source of authority, Worship, Evangelism, Ministerial placement, Conference priorities, Theological education and Homosexuality.

The United Methodist Church is not necessarily less attractive today. There are just more options from which one can easily choose, including non-participation. Churches designed to appeal to the various “generations” have been identified in recent years and some are thriving.

Schaller makes little to no mention of the reality that people leave for reasons other than polarization. As I examine the situation in churches I have served, most people leave for other reasons. The reasons vary so much as to require a long list, which might be exhausting, but not exhaustive.

Lyle E. Schaller listed six responses: denial, operational, seeking “common ground”; encourage unhappy people to leave; schism and changing the agenda to focus on evangelism and mission.

His analysis of what is happening in the Southern Baptist Convention over looks the blatant power politics that have effectively suppressed any meaningful dissent.

While there are local churches (we know of two: one United Methodists and one Southern Baptist) that have succeeded in obtaining a big enough majority to leave the denomination and while there are churches under the control of one strong personality or family or clan which would allow withdrawal to succeed, it would be my experience that the majority are not interested in playing that game.

Going back to my original motivation for writing this critique, Mr. Schaller appears to have a strong bias against several things: pluralism, our polity and a premise which I do not accept and he provides no evidence for in this article: “that there is a strong distrust of local (church) leadership”. In my experience, after attending more than 40 local church conferences, even in a church that tried to become Baptist, District Superintendents are very affirming of local church leadership. Consultation was and is alive and well in our system.

Whatever happens, perhaps Lyle E. Schaller, with tongue firmly in cheek, is doing what he does best – trying to stimulate some thinking. If so, I hope it goes in a different direction than he is proposing. It did get him some free press.

Perhaps I need to dust off my own proposal, which The Circuit Rider refused to publish a few years ago. My proposal was to dissolve the United Methodist Church completely, allowing our membership to transfer to other denominations. If done intentionally, we could take over the leadership of several denominations within one year, with the exception of The Southern Baptist Convention. Whether liberal or conservative, we could tip the balance of power in several different denominations, which are also committed to pluralism in one form or another.

Those United Methodists who believe in predestination could become Presbyterians and take over several Presbyterian denominations.

Those United Methodists who believe in speaking in tongues could take over several Pentecostal groups.

Those “high church” United Methodists who appreciate liturgy would have no trouble in taking over the Episcopal Church.

However those who affirm ‘believer Baptism’ would not be strong enough to take over the Southern Baptist Church, but Southern Baptists are so convinced of the truth of their positions that some United Methodists would be quite happy under their roof.

Those United Methodists who believe in service to the poor, while few in number, could take over The Salvation Army. The Salvation Army is interest in being a church and they would welcome the fresh recruits for their army.

I know I am leaving out some sub-groups, but before I distribute these ideas very widely, I could dust off my more complete proposal.  (Actually, I don’t know where those are right now.)  written October 9, 1998

(Postscript:  While it is impossible to apologize to Dr. Schaller, he may have been more correct than I thought 17 years ago. When I retired, my wife and I visited 45 different churches. We stayed in the same community where I had been the pastor for eight years and the cabinet asked me to worship elsewhere for one year. We complied with that request. Upon more than one occasion my wife and I commented on the good quality of our experiences, especially in the area of preaching. Some conference leaders communicated disbelief in this possibility. That would be a sign of distrust of clergy leadership.)

In spite of the small minority still pushing for schism, I continue to believe it is a very, very bad idea.

ICELAND 2015

ICELAND 2015

We just returned from spending several days in Iceland.

Why Iceland?  We had stayed there for a couple of days in Reykjavik on a previous trip and wanted to see more of it. Now we have been there twice and still have not soaked in The Blue Lagoon, so we may go again someday.

We traveled with a company called gjtravel  (Gudmundur Jonasson Travel) and were pleased with the experience.  It was called the Grand Tour of Iceland and included the Golden Circle, the Ring Road and the West Fjords area.  Names were very difficult for us, but I will type them in this summary, just to be accurate.  Don’t ask me to pronounce the names.

We went a day early to deal with jet lag and did a few things in Reykjavik prior to the formal tour. We hit some rainy weather and found traveling by taxi was much dryer than walking in the rain without umbrellas.  We did the National Museum of Iceland (near the campus of the University of Iceland), the Saga Museum and a new display of life-sized whales that are found in Iceland, including the giant Blue Whale.  We wanted Barbara’s sister to experience the world famous hot dog and consuming that in a driving rain was not the best experience of the trip, but we did it anyway. Former President Clinton almost created a national incident when he asked for only two items on his hot dog instead of “the works”. Poor intelligence on the part of his handlers. We didn’t make that mistake. We also visited the concert hall with wonderful architecture. It is called the Harpa.

Every day we saw sheep, which are an important part of the economy: think Icelandic sweaters. We saw many Icelandic horses, even getting to pet one, not to mention cattle and chickens and a few dogs.

Agenda:  Day One was getting settled. There is a 45 minute transfer from the Keflavik airport to our Hotel Klettur.

Day Two: We did the Golden Circle tour that includes Gulfoss (with double falls), visited the active geothermal area of Geysir (where Strokkur rises 70 feet every five minutes or so) and finished the day at the ancient Viking Parliament area.  Along the way we saw evidence of fault lines. Before we ended the day we passed through a tunnel under a fjord to reach Borgarfjordur.

Day Three:  We explored the Snaefellsnes Peninsula and went into a Lava Cave made famous by Jules Verne’s science fiction novel about the journey to the center of the earth which goes about 35 meters underground.  We saw lots of lava fields that were formed eons ago. We overnighted in the Grundarfjordur area.

Day Four:  My personal highlight occurred at the westernmost point of Iceland. We got there by ferry and ended at the bird cliffs of Latrabjarg. What did we see?  Lots of birds, including puffins.  They had little fear of humans, so we got lots of close-ups of my favorite bird. The road was rather primitive, but we were blessed with a good driver, so neither of us were anxious.

Day Five:  We drove to the waterfall Dynjandi with its seven levels of plunging.  And we saw lots of beautiful scenery.

Day Six:  We were introduced to a rather authentic replica of the homestead of Erik the Red, the father of Leif-the-Lucky, who was the first European to set foot in North America. I would vote to replace Columbus Day with Eriksen Day. This was the day we were treated to a horse show. We some how ended the day in Akureyri, Iceland’s second largest city at about 18,000 people. An extra was a whale watching tour in the bay. We saw humpback whales. Our travel companions from Hawaii didn’t take that tour. Akureyri is a beautiful city. If we ever return to Iceland, I would like to spend more time there. We had to rush dinner, so we ate at Subway.

Day Seven: We saw Godafoss Falls, Lake Myvatn, walk in the lava field of Dimmuborgir, climbed to the rim of the ash crator Hverfjall, saw hot springs and bubbling mud pools of Namaskard and experienced geothermal fields. Our substitute for the Blue Lagoon was a good soak in the Myvatn Nature Baths.

Day Eight: We reached the east side of Iceland and experienced Dettifoss waterfall in the northern part of Vatnajokull National Park.  We drove into a remote area and got a view of Herdubreide, referred to as the queen of Icelandic mountains.  So many waterfalls! Fortunately, we have pictures to keep them straight in our minds. We drove to Borgarfjordur Eystri. We were introduced to some elf lore, went to a puffin colony, but only saw one puffin. Most had gone to sea for the winter. We stayed at Guesthouse Alfheimar.

Day Nine: We saw a magnificent (large) stone collection. Then we went to the biggest glacier in Europe, but we didn’t see it because of the weather. We spent a short time riding amongst floating glaciers on the glacier lagoon at Jokulsarion. The night was spent near Skaftafell on the southern part of Vatnajokull National Park. We saw glimpses of some wonderful mountains with glaciers peeking through.

Day Ten:  We were allowed to walk close to a glacial tongue. Then on to a black lava beach and bird cliffs near the village of Vik. (Footnote: a cave here has become famous because Russell Crowe was filmed in this cave for the movie Noah.) We went to the Eyjafjallajokull information center and learned about recent volcanic eruptions. And then we stopped at the Skogafoss and Seljalandsfoss waterfalls.  Walking behind one of the waterfalls was a wet experience, to say the least. Our farewell dinner was in a revolving restaurant known as The Pearl.

We traveled 1,572 miles in the 9 days. That is 2,535 kilometers. Some of the walking activities were too difficult for a couple of our members. After one fall, we were quick to suggest that those individuals not tackle some of our options. If you like dramatic scenery and waterfalls and the creative process, I would recommend the trip. Iceland loves to improve their economy. We had been told we didn’t need any local money. That was true. Our credit card worked everywhere, including the hot dog stand.

On the final day in Reykvajvik, Barbara and I visited The Einar Jonsson Museum (sculpture, paintings and drawings) which we would not have discovered without the help of our guide. And we were lucky to hit a “free day” and qualified to use their restrooms. The Lutheran cathedral does not allow visitors to use their restrooms. We were lucky to be able to listen to a visiting choir practice for their concert in the cathedral.