29 April 2012

Life, Abundantly, a sermon on the contraception debate, April 29, 2012

Romans 8:18-30
I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.

We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.


Early in the Methodist societies, Charles Wesley asked a member to leave because his theological views were extreme and were influencing other members in a negative way. The man appealed to Charles’ brother John, who said his views were wrong, but he could stay as long as he did not try to unduly impact others. The man never returned. Mr Wesley remembered that encounter in a sermon called “The Catholic Spirit”—catholic with a little “c,” meaning universal, not as in the Roman Catholic Church. Wesley said this: “Though we cannot think alike, may we not love alike? May we not be of one heart, though we are not of one opinion?” That attitude has been a hallmark of Methodist churches for nearly 300 years. Our members are not required to agree on every issue of politics or theology. Our General Conference, which meets every four years and is going on right now in Tampa, produces our Social Principles (our Social Creed we’ve used the last two Sundays is based on them). These Principles are not considered church doctrine, and folk are free to disagree. But one of our great Methodist traditions is that we are not silent on issues that surround us. We believe our faith speaks directly to the world. That “Catholic spirit” Wesley spoke of is especially vital as we explore today’s topic in our “Holy Conversations” series: The Contraception Debate.

For months now we’ve heard talk in the media of a “war on women” perpetuated from all sides of the political spectrum. State after state, including our own, has withdrawn funding or other types of support for organizations like Planned Parenthood.  Access to abortion is becoming more difficult—sometimes only when the life of the mother is in jeopardy or the pregnancy resulted from rape or incest. For nearly forty years, since the Supreme Court ruled abortion must be legal in every state, a culture war, Pro-Life vs. Pro-Choice, has raged in our country. Both sides have been caricatured to the point that their arguments for or against abortion are no longer understood fully. Pro-choice advocates are spoken of as anti-religious, secular, radical folk who see an unborn child as a random encounter of cells. Pro-life advocates are religious zealots who want to imprison women in their own bodies. No one ever considers the real possibility that thinking, loving, rational persons of faith see real, moral questions at play here. And that there could even be the possibility of coming together to achieve common goals.

Fundamental to understanding The Contraception Debate is one of those great existential questions of faith: “When does life begin?” Some say life begins at the moment of conception. They point to scriptures such as Jeremiah 1:1: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,” or Psalm 139: “You knit me together in my mother’s womb,” as proof of God’s handiwork from the earliest, most fragile moment. Yet science cannot point to a specific moment where life begins. Roughly half of fertilized eggs do not become embryos, so they are naturally discarded—does that mean they were not human? If an egg does not continue in the growth cycle does it have a soul? Or is the question of life more about viability—when the baby is able to survive outside of the womb on its own? Does human life begin at the moment of birth itself?

The Roman Catholic Church, and many evangelical Christian groups, define the moment of conception as the beginning of human life. This teaching originates from St Augustine of the Fourth Century. At the point of conception a soul is created, made in the image of God. Therefore  abortion is an act of murder—the intentional taking of human life—and it is strictly forbidden and innocent life should be defended at all costs. A very small number of people have taken this belief to its most radical extreme, shaming women who pursue abortion or even to the point of bombing clinics and murdering doctors. The idea of life beginning at conception even forbids abortion in cases of rape, incest, or when the mother’s health is endangered by the pregnancy. This stance is not meant to belittle the mother in any way; but because her pregnancy is considered an equal human being as she is, yet without means of controlling its own fate, it is innocent and is given a higher moral value. 

Some Catholic theologians offer a so-called "seamless garment" theology, a reference to Jesus' crucifixion. When Jesus was crucified, the soldiers rolled dice for his clothing. But his outer garment, which was seamless, was not torn. In the same way, there is a consistent ethic of human life. It is the gift of a loving God, who alone is the just judge with ultimate authority. Life's integrity does not end with birth; it continues our entire life, from childhood to adulthood to eventual death. The "seamless garment" theology of life defines Catholic views of abortion, stem cell research, contraception, poverty, capital punishment, and end of life issues. The only authority over human life is God, who created all things. And we are made in God's image. We'll come back to this "gospel of life" next Sunday.

This same theology of life informs Catholic doctrine on contraception, which is also forbidden. Contraception of any kind, surgical, medicinal, on the part of a man or a woman, trespasses upon God’s will, whether a child is to be created or not. Human will must never trump God’s will. Recently two teachers in Catholic schools, one in Ohio and another in Indiana, were fired for pursuing medical avenues for becoming pregnant—one through in vitro fertilization and the other through artificial insemination. The school leaders said teachers must serve as moral exemplars. A lawsuit alleges one of the teachers was called a “grave, immoral sinner” by the leader of the school. The so-called “morning after pill,” which is available in vending machines on a few college campuses for $25, does not induce abortion, but stops ovulation. This adds a whole new level to the discussion!

Others within the “Pro-life” camp would allow for legal abortion in certain difficult situations: if the mother’s health were endangered, or in cases of rape or incest. With these limitations on the reach of abortion, proponents of this stance do not assign the pregnancy  the same rights as the mother. Her situation takes precedent, unlike the traditional Catholic stance, which, one could argue, is more morally consistent—life of pregnancy and mother are equal. In the State of Texas, a woman who wants an abortion is required to have a sonogram and then wait 24 hours for the procedure. You’ve heard in the news the struggles between Austin and Washington over public health funding. Recently Nebraska and Mississippi enacted laws strictly limiting access to abortion, and Arizona may soon cut off all public funding to such organizations as Planned Parenthood. Of course we've heard lots about the Susan B Komen Foundation's recently reversed controversial decision to limit funding for Planned Parenthood.

Yet there are persons of faith who see this debate from other perspectives. Many sincere persons of faith do not regard conception as the beginning of human existence, especially since it is such a random, near miraculous event. Some would argue that real human life doesn’t begin until the neurological system begins to function, when there is real communication between mother and child. Or even when the pregnancy is viable outside the womb. Or at birth itself. If we polled the congregation we’d probably be split equally with where human life begins. It’s that difficult to define. For those who do not believe life begins at conception, but at some later time, the possibility for abortion is more acceptable, especially earlier in the pregnancy. As a means of birth control most persons of faith would not support abortion, and our Social Principles rightly condemn it as a means of gender selection. But there are other factors to consider: one study found poor women are four times more likely to have unplanned pregnancies, five times more likely to have unintended births, and three times more likely to have an abortion than higher income women. Another study showed of the roughly one million abortions performed every year nearly half were because birth control was not used—and a recent study of women under 30 showed 2/3 of their pregnancies were unplanned.

Contraception also provides benefits to women and men that go beyond the question of when life begins. We know that contraception stops the spread of sexually transmitted disease, so many regard this as a public health issue. Medicines used for contraception offer other health benefits to women. We’ve seen good news recently about a lowering of teen births—9% in 2010, and nearly half over the last two decades. This would be due to a variety of factors, from abstinence education to access to birth control. There is no one answer, unlike what you’ll hear in political discussions on TV. Yet Texas still ranks fourth in terms of teen pregnancies, just behind Oklahoma—and I don’t like being behind Oklahoma in anything—so we have work to do.

In Romans 8 Paul writes about the whole creation waiting anxiously for its renewal. He uses birth metaphors to grab our attention: "The whole creation has been enduring birth pangs until this moment." In hope we yearn for a new reality when God will unite all that divides us. "Who hopes for what is seen?" What can we hope for? Listening ears, loving hearts, respectful spirits. Faith enough to see that while the world around us seems fractured and dysfunctional, with the Spirit's influence we are being brought closer to God's vision for the world.

Jesus said, “I came that you may have life, and have it abundantly.” –John 10:10. Advocates for birth control argue that by offering a variety of options abortions will be limited- as much as reduced by 50%. Persons of faith, pro-choice and pro-life, can find common ground in the truth that human life is a sacred gift of God, and we should do whatever we can to honor and protect it. Later, after worship, read in our study guide what our Social Principles have to say about contraception and abortion. Again, these are not considered church doctrine, so feel free to disagree with them. But they should help us continue a conversation in a “catholic spirit” way that John Wesley talked about. The talk of a "war on women" will not get us there. The more we understand what we believe, and why, the more we will be able to work together to ensure life abundant for all of us, made in God's image. In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

27 April 2012

Contraception Study Guide


This study guide will accompany the message "Life, Abundantly," which will be delivered at Oak Lawn this Sunday. I will post the sermon here later.

When do you believe human life begins? At conception? When an egg becomes a fetus? When the fetus is viable (able to live outside of the womb)? At birth?

The CDC reported recently that teen births fell 9 percent in 2010, to 34.3 births per 1,000 girls aged 15 to 19, the lowest rate since such records were first tallied in 1940. The Los Angeles Times reported a general downward trend in recent years, with the overall teen birth rate down 44 percent over the past two decades. 

Highest teen birth rates:
Mississippi
New Mexico
Arkansas
Texas
Oklahoma

What do the United Methodist Social Principles say about contraception?
“People have the duty to consider the impact on the total world community of their decisions regarding childbearing and should have access to information and appropriate means to limit their fertility. We affirm the right of men and women to have access to comprehensive reproductive health/family planning information and services that will serve as a means to prevent unplanned pregnancies, reduce abortions, and prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS." 

What do the United Methodist Social Principles say about abortion?
"The beginning of life and the ending of life are the God-given boundaries of human existence. While individuals have always had some degree of control over when they would die, they now have the awesome power to determine when and even whether new individuals will be born.
Our belief in the sanctity of unborn human life makes us reluctant to approve abortion. But we are equally bound to respect the sacredness of the life and well-being of the mother, for whom devastating damage may result from an unacceptable pregnancy. In continuity with past Christian teaching, we recognize tragic conflicts of life with life that may justify abortion, and in such cases we support the legal option of abortion under proper medical procedures. We cannot affirm abortion as an acceptable means of birth control, and we unconditionally reject it as a means of gender selection.
We oppose the use of late-term abortion known as dilation and extraction (partial-birth abortion) and call for the end of this practice except when the physical life of the mother is in danger and no other medical procedure is available, or in the case of severe fetal anomalies incompatible with life. We call all Christians to a searching and prayerful inquiry into the sorts of conditions that may warrant abortion. We commit our Church to continue to provide nurturing ministries to those who terminate a pregnancy, to those in the midst of a crisis pregnancy, and to those who give birth. We particularly encourage the Church, the government, and social service agencies to support and facilitate the option of adoption.
Governmental laws and regulations do not provide all the guidance required by the informed Christian conscience. Therefore, a decision concerning abortion should be made only after thoughtful and prayerful consideration by the parties involved, with medical, pastoral, and other appropriate counsel."

“Separation of Faith and Life?” Discussion Guide


This study guide accompanied the "By Faith..." message delivered at Oak Lawn 4-22-2012.

What first comes to mind when you hear the words, “political” or “politics”? What connotations are there for you?

The word “politics” comes from the Greek word polis, or city. It refers to groupings of people. Anywhere folk gather together is, therefore, political by its nature: the country club, a Rangers game, a city council meeting. Yes, even churches are political entities. In fact, the word religion is derived from the same word for ligament—a connection. So when people say, “The church is too political,” or “The church should stay out of politics,” what are they saying?

What are the benefits—as well as the risks—of the church having a voice in the political arena? Should Christians be silent when it comes to their faith, or does being a person of faith obligate us to express ourselves?

Since 2010, more and more people want the church out of public life: even 40% of those who self identify as conservative Republicans want churches to refrain from joining the conversation (30% in 2004). Why the change?

More and more people under the age of 30 are self-identifying as “Nones,” those who profess or follow no particular religious expression—this increased from 12% in the 1990s to 19% last year. How is this trend impacting our political actions and discourse? How should persons of faith respond?

The United Methodist Church has a long history of concern for social justice. Its members have often taken forthright positions on controversial issues involving Christian principles. Early Methodists expressed their opposition to the slave trade, to smuggling, and to the cruel treatment of prisoners.
A social creed was adopted by The Methodist Episcopal Church (North) in 1908. Within the next decade similar statements were adopted by The Methodist Episcopal Church, South, and by The Methodist Protestant Church. The Evangelical United Brethren Church adopted a statement of social principles in 1946 at the time of the uniting of the United Brethren and The Evangelical Church. In 1972, four years after the uniting in 1968 of The Methodist Church and The Evangelical United Brethren Church, the General Conference of The United Methodist Church adopted a new statement of Social Principles, which was revised in 1976 (and by each successive General Conference).
The Social Principles are a prayerful and thoughtful effort on the part of the General Conference to speak to the human issues in the contemporary world from a sound biblical and theological foundation as historically demonstrated in United Methodist traditions. They are a call to faithfulness and are intended to be instructive and persuasive in the best of the prophetic spirit; however, they are not church law.  The Social Principles are a call to all members of The United Methodist Church to a prayerful, studied dialogue of faith and practice.
For more information on our Social Principles, and to read them in full, visit www.umc.org.

22 April 2012

"By Faith..."

The first in a series of messages on relating faith to issues in the news.

"By Faith..."
Romans 5:1-11

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,  through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.


You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.


Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.


I'm excited for our new message series, "Holy Conversations." In fact, the only others more excited than me are Pastors Kerry and Gregg, since they don't have to preach! We'll explore topics in the news recently and how our faith speaks to them. The reaction to the series has either been excitement or dread- we'll see how it goes- if anything, it will be memorable!

When we decided to offer this series I set up a new folder in my email called Holy Conversations. For the past few months, every tweet from TEXAS MONTHLY or Amnesty International or THE ECONOMIST or THE HUFFINGTON POST that had to do with an issue for the series has gone in that file. This being an election year, these issues are much more prevalent. That folder in my email has more than 50 links for the series- and grows every day. So everyone is talking about stuff like immigration and marriage equality- except the church. Or, I should say, most churches. A few voices are out there, representing some viewpoints, but when the rest of us are silent there is a potential for danger.

During the last presidential election I was so interested in these questions that I offered two sermon series called "Ripped from the Headlines." I wrote my doctoral project on the experience, and we're building on those findings during this series. You know, because there is another presidential election this year. You knew that, right? After each 11:00 service we'll have an opportunity for further discussion, as well as a guest speaker. AND LUNCH. Plan to stay today to hear from Dr Bill McElvaney, a legendary preacher, teacher, and social justice advocate. You'll find the complete roster of guest speakers in the newsletter section of your bulletin.

I used to be a huge fan of THE SIMPSONS. One of my favorite characters was Grandpa, who lived in the local retirement home. There was a sign by the front door: "Thank you for not discussing the outside world." You'll notice on your bulletin cover we've placed the same sign outside the church (sorry, Mr Tree!). Many Christians, as well as congregations, have this attitude. Somehow it makes us more comfortable if we have an unwritten agreement to avoid any possibility of disagreement. A have an old friend whom I've known since PreK; he and I don't discuss politics anymore, because we could not figure out how to do so peaceably. But in the church we need these conversations. They help us to exercise our faith- and minds. People always dread politics in the church. "Keep the politics out." "The church is too political."

The word politics is derived from polis,  a Greek word for city- or any grouping of people. Any time people get together it's political. The grocery store, a Rangers game, a rally of some sort. When Jesus promised to be among any 2 or more who gather in his name, maybe it was because of the potential danger of politics! The word for religion is very similar. Religion refers to a ligament, a connector. Religion binds people together, including all of their opinions, disagreements, and views. In other words, religion is inherently political.

Recently the Pew Research Forum released results of a survey of religious people and their beliefs about faith and politics. They tracked how people felt about from 1968, the height of the Civil Rights movement, in which the Church had a major voice, and 2010. By 1968 a majority of Americans wanted the churches to retreat from the public discussion- 53%. Over the next three decades, however, that attitude changed. Fewer people wanted the churches to be silent- the number dropped to about 40%. The gap was narrowed because of two factors: the mainline, diverse churches stopped being socially active, and many far-right, fundamentalist voices sprang up. These voices were very divisive, but appealed to many people who were concerned with moral decay in the society. One of these leaders was Pat Robertson, who said this in 2004:

"We are in danger of becoming two Americas, not one. On one side are those who reject biblical norms and Christian values in favor of abortion-on-demand, radical feminism, intrusive central government, homosexual rights (including homosexual marriage), pornography and sexual license, weakened military defense, and ever-increasing role for non elected judges, and the removal of our historic affirmation of faith from the public arena.

On the other side are those who believe that biblical standards are truly the glue that holds society together. They are men and women who respect human life at every stage, who stand for the sanctity of marriage, who want limited government and lower taxes, and who do not wish to give veto power over public actions to tiny, radical minorities. We believe in free enterprise and a strong defense, and we want judges who serve in our courts to decide cases on the basis of established law rather than trying to write the law to suit their own whims."


Now, maybe you're thinking, "It's Pat Robertson and nobody listens to him anymore." Maybe so. But the idea that there are only two ways of seeing the world- conservative vs. liberal, freedom vs. tyranny- is not unique to Pat Robertson. During the 70s/80s/90s those voices became fewer and louder. And people responded. But now we've seen the pendulum swing in the other direction. Today the number of those wanting the church to be silent and removed from the public discourse is 53%~ the same as it was in 1968. People have become so tired of the rhetoric that they've had enough. This is especially striking among young people. Those under 30 by large majorities see the church as hypocritical, judgmental, and anti-gay. Even young people who self-identify as evangelical are in line with those trends. Another factor here is the dramatic increase of young people with no religious associations. Nearly 20% have no religious affiliation at all. They simply feel the churches do not reflect how they see the world.

See what happens when the church withdraws from the public discussion? There are no dissenting voices. No differing perspectives. No one is challenged, so faith and understanding cannot increase. We must not be  silent about our faith. It has such profound insights to share. In the Romans text Paul challenges Christians boast in their faith. Because of the grace we have received we boast about who we are- we even boast when we suffer trials. How can you boast if you are silent? How can churches be boastful about the extravagant grace of God if they are not allowed to speak? Grace, love, mercy, forgiveness... they would have a great impact on how people see us. In Bible study this week we read Hebrews, which is a letter meant to encourage those who are struggling with their faith. In Chapter 11 the writer lifts up the great heroes of the faith who achieved great things. Using the phrase "by faith" over and over, the writer exhorts us to remember the examples of our heritage: "By faith" Abel's offering was accepted. "By faith" Abraham followed God. "By faith" Moses appeared before Pharaoh. "By faith" the Israelites crossed the Red Sea. Then in Chapter 12 the writer encourages us to follow Jesus, the Pioneer and Perfecter of our faith, as we finish the race ahead of us. No one boasts quietly. No one races alone.

The church is, by nature, political- it's got people in it! United Methodists have always understood our faith to be one that is active in the world. We have Social Principles, approved by every General Conference, which are tools to start conversations. They are not binding and do not reflect  every single person's viewpoint. You may not know this, but there is a United Methodist Building literally across the street from the Supreme Court and the US Capitol. We have an active voice in government. One of the consistent themes of Scripture is God's demand for a just society. We'll talk about it each week during the series. Persons of faith may not remain silent in the face of injustice. We must be the ones who speak out in the face of moral failure. Always respecting the rights of all, particularly those who disagree. The prophet Amos said, "Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream." You and I, through our voices and actions, can start the water flowing!

Jesus called a broad spectrum of folk to be his disciples. They didn't all come from the same school, share the same occupation, etc. They were fishermen, tax collectors, religious zealots. You and I also come from a variety of backgrounds and traditions. It's what makes Oak Lawn a vital community. We want to be a place where we practice intentional diversity. Democrats and Republicans, Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street. After Jesus had a final meal with his followers, he washed their feet and the prayed with them before his arrest. He said, "Everyone will know you are my disciples if you have love for one another." And he prayed: "Father, as yo and I are one, so may they be one." Jesus did not pray for everyone to get along all the time, forever. He did not pray for everyone to be polite and happy all the time, forever. He prayed for unity. If you have unity in the church, then you can serve together, love together, share together. Regardless of your political affiliation. John Wesley spoke about a "catholic spirit" (little c- not the Roman Catholic Church). We can be united and diverse. It is possible!

A couple of years ago Christy, Linus, and I had lunch together. We stopped to pray before eating. During the meal, a man left his table and paused at ours. Placing a $20 bill on our table, he said he appreciated our faith. See- there are advantages to being a public Christian! Live out your faith. It's part of our DNA. Do it in a way that respects others' opinions, but don't be shy about expressing your faith. When we are silent, we concede the public conversation to the loudmouths. Then what happens is everyone assumes all Christians believe the same thing. Break your silence! In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.

19 April 2012

"Holy Conversations: Seeking Unity in a Divided World"


This Sunday at Oak Lawn we’ll begin a new sermon series, “Holy Conversations: Seeking Unity in a Divided World.” We’ll explore some of the moral issues we’ve been hearing about in the news recently—and how our faith speaks to them.Every Sunday as I stand before you to preach, I am aware of, and thankful for, the great trust you give to me. You trust that the words I speak are not merely my own, but are inspired by God, and have come about through faithful study and prayer. 

This series will make folk uneasy. It should. But not talking about such issues in the context of a trusting, loving family of faith is worse. I preached two series like this in Prosper during 2008 and wrote my doctoral project on the experience. It will be very clear that the goal is not to endorse one party or the other, nor to accept the pastor’s conclusions as ultimate authority. Instead, we’ll encourage folk to examine what they believe—and why—and share it in community. Following each sermon there will be an opportunity to share food, thoughts and reflections, and hear a different perspective from a guest speaker. This could be a real opportunity for spiritual growth. If the church is silent—or only one perspective is offered, and therefore accepted as gospel—what message is sent to those beyond our walls? I covet your prayers, trust, and support. Thank you. Here is a list of topics we will consider during the sermon series:

·      Separation of Church and Life?
·      The Contraception Debate
·      Capital Punishment
·      Immigration
·      Marriage Equality

Dr William K. McElvaney is a long time peace and justice advocate in both the local church and the academy. He served fifteen years as pastor of United Methodist congregations; twelve years as president of Saint Paul School of Theology (United Methodist) in Kansas City, Missouri; and eight years as LeVan Professor of Preaching and Worship, Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas.

Dr Sheri Locklear Kunovich is an assistant professor of Sociology at SMU. Her research and teaching interests include: Wealth and Inequality, Women and Politics, Research Methods, Sociology of Gender, Social Change in Eastern Europe, and Distributive Justice Attitudes. Her research focuses on understanding and identifying the structural mechanisms that produce social inequality.

Dr John Holbert, Lois Craddock Perkins Professor of Preaching, Perkins School of Theology, SMU. His teaching specialties are preaching, the Hebrew Bible, and literature. Research interests also include fiction and religion and storytelling.

Dr Susanne Johnson, Associate Professor of Christian Education, Perkins School of Theology, SMU. In addition to her regular teaching and research specialties, she is currently teaching a new, experimental course this semester called "Immigration, Bible, and Practical Theology."

Rev Eric Folkerth is the pastor of Northaven United Methodist Church. Eric is an award-winning singer-songwriter, as well as a leader of Connections, a unique band comprised of United Methodist clergy and layfolk, which has raised more than $100,000 for the United Methodist Imagine No Malaria campaign.

Join us for these Holy Conversations!
Easter Peace and Joy!
-Frank