Should Chuches Be Tax-Exempt?

[1] In 2002, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) was involved in a lawsuit over the “parsonage exemption,” a provision in the federal tax code that allows “Ministers of the Gospel” to exclude from their taxable income the value of a parsonage or other congregation-provided housing allowance.[1] On its own initiative, the federal appellate court hearing […]

The Kenosis of Christ in the Politics of Paul

“As she listened her tears ran and her body was melted, as the snow melts along the high places of the mountains when the West Wind has piled it there, but the South Wind melts it, and as it melts the rivers run full flood…” (Homer, Odyssey, 19.204-207) “… he emptied himself…” (Philippians 2:6) “… […]

Gathered and Scattered: Worship and Service as What it Means to Be Church

[1] From here…. Some years ago a woman from a congregation in the Northwest offered her congregation’s mission statement: “Gathered to worship, scattered to serve.” [2] It stuck in my imagination — for any number of reasons — but in part it stuck, because it so succinctly stated the mission of the church: worship and […]

What does it mean to be “Church?” The mission of the Church in Light of Three Biblical Images

[1] When theologians speak of the “mission of the Church” they usually try to describe what the Church is to do in the particular environment in which it is found. Of course, there are many biblical texts that provide direction for this: the Church is to make disciples by baptizing people from all nations and […]

How the Church Prays in Times of War

[1] Allow me to try to state the situation in which I think we find ourselves, since our perception of our situation governs our praying. I think there’s a sense in which the current war began on September 11, 2001 when attacks on the World Trade Center precipitated a “war on terrorism” with far-reaching consequences […]

Ethics and the Promise of God: Moral Authority and the Church’s Witness

We have lost our moral compass… The ethical consensus of our society has been steadily eroding… The church urgently needs to speak clearly and forthrightly to this situation of growing moral anarchy…. [1] Such concerns and convictions are common today. Moreover they have been a perennial complaint in virtually all societies. Within the church, however, […]

Models of Oversight: A Paper for a Joint Meeting of Convocation of Teaching Theologians and Bishops’ Academy

[1] This good occasion brings together two groups that divide the magisterial responsibilities that belonged to the Wittenberg faculty in the early decades of Lutheranism. Luther functioned well because he was surrounded by a gifted group of theologians who worked together, sharing the task and compensating for each other’s weak points. Many in that circle […]

The Debate over Ordained Service by Homosexual Persons in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

[1] The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has been mired in debates about ordained service by non-celibate gay and lesbian persons since 1976. [2] In 1976, two presbyteries (local districts) overtured General Assembly, the denomination’s highest governing body, for “definitive guidance” whether persons who openly acknowledge a homosexual orientation and practice may be ordained. The 1978 General […]

Homosexuality in the Danish Lutheran Church

[1] In the Church of Denmark a pastor can, after having sought guidance by his/her bishop, offer a “divine service” for a homosexual couple that has decided to enter into a so-called registered partnership. In order to understand this state of affairs, it will be helpful to review some basic information about the religious situation […]

A Review of The Courage to Lead: Leadership in the African American Urban Church by James H. Harris

[1] Most people are familiar with the phrase “you can’t judge a book by its cover.” There are times when you can’t judge one by its title either. The Courage to Lead tends to fall into the latter category in my estimation not for the lack of relevant material for which there is a great […]