No New Direction

You did a good job trying to cover the difficult issue of the resignation and restructuring of the board of directors of the U.S. Center for World Mission [News, March 11]. You mention “accountability and control” as the main disagreement, and I appreciate the fact that you did not make it out to be a matter of ethics or integrity.

There has never been a time when the USCWM did not have a board that had absolute authority and ability to remove Dr. Winter or any other officer. A few members of the previous board realized that were that to happen, the majority of the staff would leave as well. Instead, the majority of the board decided to let Dr. Winter reconstitute a board that would be able to work with him. Contrary to what the article plainly states, 11 of the 17 current board or their wives are former board members, including every one of the founding board members. We are not drifting off into some new direction!

Rev. Greg Parsons, Executive Director U.S.

Center for World Mission

Pasadena, Calif.

Youth ministers can help

I read with concern George Brushaber’s editorial “The Coming Clergy Dearth” [Feb. 11]. In naming responses to the critical shortage of pastors and missionaries, you overlooked youth ministers, who are pivotally placed to meet this challenge. As a full-time youth minister, I feel I should find as many opportunities as possible to present our youth group with the challenge of the ministry. Mission trips, choir tours, and regular missions studies are always concluded in our group with a clear challenge to seek God’s leadership regarding the ministry.

All youth ministers/youth workers [should] realize their position of responsibility to present the “ministry challenge” to their youth groups, creating an atmosphere where God can “call out the called.”

Jonathan Hewett

First Baptist Church

Seminole, Tex.

I would sooner encourage gifted persons to drink bleach than bid them to enter such a joyless profession as pastoral ministry. Simple compassion forbids it.

L. Bert Ramsey

Medicine Hat, Alb., Canada

So George Brushaber thinks we have a clergy shortage. I have yet to see any statistical evidence that would ring an alarm in the broader evangelical community. If anything, the numbers we have suggest just the opposite. The 48 member NAE denominations have nearly 68,000 ordained ministers and more than 4.5 million lay members. That leaves one minister for every 67 laypeople. Does that ratio suggest a shortage?

Not only do evangelical denominations have an abundance of ministers, they have an abundance of candidates. The Presbyterian Church in America, probably very representative, has more candidates than she can possibly place in ministry. At the end of 1989, the PCA had 440 candidates and licentiates. Based on 584 ordinations in the 1980s, those ministers-in-the-wings will have to wait nearly eight years to be placed—assuming no more candidates are added to the pool. Most troubling for the PCA is that while she ordains about 60 candidates a year, at least six seminaries that serve the church graduate several times that number of qualified candidates each year.

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Brushaber needs to view the situation from the eyes of the pulpit committee inundated with résumés once news of a vacancy circulates. I suggest he spotlight a far greater tragedy: an abundance of seminaries whose graduates do not obtain a call to a particular ministry and end up peddling insurance.

Robert W. Patterson

Associate to the Executive Director

National Association of Evangelicals Carol Stream, Ill.

My wife and I are both committed evangelicals, called to full-time Christian service. Frustrated by the growing heterodoxy of the mainline denomination with which we’ve been associated, we’re seeking just the sort of denomination Brushaber describes. Unfortunately, he neglects to name any. Which are on the brink of a clergy shortage? Those praying the Lord to send laborers into the harvest may find they’ve already been provided. Bill and Doris Huston

Miami, Fla.

Jesus said simply, Ask. “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” The church’s approach to the problem begins on its knees.

Paul Koch

Ann Arbor, Mich.

What would Jesus have done?

I was disappointed to read the responses of evangelical church leaders to the war in the Persian Gulf as reported in CT [News, Feb. 11]. Among those whose responses were reported, only Myron Augsburger took a position against the war, saying we need to face what it means to destroy those for whom Christ died. I was struck by how others lined up behind the President, justifying it with the worldly political reasoning that has been used to justify every war.

Could not one have asked: “What would Jesus do?”

Carroll F. King

Rifton, N.Y.

I am struck with the irony I find in CT’s [News] article, especially after having read reports about Marco Lokar, an Italian basketball player, whose Christian convictions against war led him to refuse to wear an American flag on his Seton Hall uniform. Lokar’s simple, uncompromising faithfulness to the way of the cross exposes the extent to which most evangelicals have strayed from the Way followed by the first Christians.

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Christians who refuse to support war do not do so because weapons are too dangerous, but because they are too weak. The way of the cross is the most powerful way in the world to deal with enemies, because it’s God’s way. Nowhere in Scripture do we find God calling us to give our ultimate allegiance to governments or nations. Instead, God calls us again and again to give our ultimate allegiance to his kingdom and his triumphant cross.

Barbara Shiffer

Oneida, Wis.

It’s up to us to help

Regarding the conclusions made by Sharon Fish [“Nancy Cruzan’s Father Knew Best,” Feb. 11], I find very disturbing the casual equating of resuscitation and nourishment by a medical professional. The right of all human beings to water and food by those caring for them should not be equated with a machine that may be breathing for them when they cannot do so themselves. Food and water are not medicine; they are the basic necessities of life. If people are still breathing on their own, then it is up to us, as Christians, to help those who no longer have hands to feed themselves. We are under indictment if we cannot model a better way to care for those considered living less-than-quality lives. All of the best intentions of a father or a court cannot equal decisions of justice based on God’s Word. Such cases are an opportunity for God’s works to be displayed.

Margaret E. Storms

North Lima, Ohio

In our culture, [facing the issue of] when to allow death or even facilitate death, Christians must take the stand of never facilitating death. We must draw the line somewhere. When should the inability to feed oneself be grounds for death?

Perhaps Nancy Cruzan’s life was not one Ms. Fish would describe as one with dignity, but who are we to say? God creates life and God allows death. Are we to say when it is time for her to die?

Carolyn Furney

Lansing, Mich.

If “potential” is the determining factor in valuing life, as Fish believes, would she also support the killing of the elderly, blind, poor, handicapped, or uneducated? Withholding food and water from anyone, in a comatose state or not, would summon their death. Further, to say that “disease is the destroyer of the body, not the absence of calories or a lack of oxygen,” is a lie. Try telling that one to yourself next time your toddler falls into the pool, or puts a plastic bag over his head. Or when your anorexic teen is down to 75 pounds.

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Diane Dew

West Allis, Wis.

Social agenda at Urbana 90?

Christian parents are becoming aware—and alarmed—that the major goal of public-school education has switched from teaching the “3 Rs” to offering group therapy and the National Education Association’s own agenda of “social concerns.”

Alas, it seems that same switch took place at Urbana 90 [“Twentysomething Missionaries,” News, Feb. 11]. We sent our young people there for strong biblical exposition and for clear Great Commission challenge—but they were treated to mass psychotherapy and to the same social agenda they imbibe from their public-school education.

Beulah Williamson

Lancaster, Penn.

CT’s “gift of prophecy”

It is with deep, heartfelt longing that I hope the editor of your North American Scene has the gift of prophecy [Feb. 11]. Under the item “Presbyterians In or Out?” he says, “Among the largest congregations to consider withdrawal, Highland Park Presbyterian in Dallas voted to stay in the PC (USA)” With the gift of prophecy, I assume that he is writing as of May 19, 1991, and I am deeply relieved to know that is what we have done as of that date. But in case he does not have the gift of prophecy, we will have to wait until May 1991 to find out what Highland Park Presbyterian church will do.

Rev. B. Clayton Bell, Sr.

Highland Park Presbyterian Church Dallas, Tex.

Oops! A correction was printed in the March 11 issue.Eds.

Those bulletin stuffers

We thought of copying Eutychus’s article [“No Room in the Bulletin,” Feb. 11] and putting it into our bulletin to share with the congregation. We had second thoughts about this when we realized we had run out of colored paper for that issue. Maybe we will try again next Sunday.

David A. Coxton

Shelby Twp., Mich.

Here are further excerpts from the large number of responses to J. I. Packer’s article “Let’s Stop Ordaining Women Presbyters” in the February 11 issue.

Jesus’ Basic Maleness?

The NT authors knew that God incarnate was a male. They needed no inspiration to see that male titles and offices were therefore the apt ones. How does it follow in any way that Jesus’ maleness is basic to his role as our incarnate Savior? One might as well argue that because God incarnate was Jewish, single, and an inhabitant of a pastoral setting, that Jewishness, bachelorhood, and thorough knowledge of sheep are all basic to Jesus’ saving us.

Predictably, Packer adds that Jesus’ gender makes males the ideal presbyterial representatives of Christ. But why stop there? Why not try to ordain as many Israeli Jews as possible, who are also bachelor carpenters? And experts in the use of hyperbole. And itinerant. And so on.

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Cornelius Plantinga, Jr. Calvin Theological Seminary Grand Rapids, Mich.

I take it the heart of Packer’s argument is his claim that redemption restores what he calls “the creation pattern.” But the argument collapses, for clearly the pattern of male dominance appears in Scripture only after the Fall. The pattern of creation is that of a God whose being transcends gender distinction but who creates men and women in his own image and says “let them rule” over all God has made (Gen. 1:26).

Howard A. Snyder

United Theological Seminary Dayton, Ohio

When Packer says it’s okay for women ministers to preach and teach “to the full” (as long as a male minister is in charge of the church), he is headed in the right biblical direction but still has himself not shaken off the trappings of feminist ideology.

Our mandate from the Lord of the church is to obey his Word and put it into practice whether it conforms to current winds blowing through society or the church. The teaching of Scripture seems plain enough: Only men are to teach and exercise oversight in the church. Let’s not try to wiggle out of it.

Jeff Gregory

Jackson, Miss.

Packer’s article felt like a direct attack on all I have been taught about our Lord and the opportunities God grants us as people. To continue to believe ordination is strictly a masculine privilege is archaic! Packer has conveniently neglected the issue of a woman’s (or man’s) call from God to preach or lead a congregation. Women are not striving for ordination because it is the trend, just as men do not enter the ministry because it is a male-dominated field. It is the call of God that brings them, and it is the same call that will make them valuable and effective teachers of the Word.

Elizabeth Galvez

Fuller Theological Seminary Pasadena, Calif.

Packer writes that “all we are sure of is that … Jesus appointed no female apostles.” If we were to take that reasoning to its logical end, we could also conclude that Jesus appointed no Gentile apostles! Nevertheless, that observation has not kept male Gentiles from presbyteral leadership in the church, including Packer himself—nor should it.

I agree that Jesus’ incarnation was as a male Jew in first-century Palestine. Nevertheless, if we understand the essence of the incarnation to be into maleness and not into humanity, then women are automatically outside the pale of salvation. And Paul’s teaching is very clear that women, along with Gentiles and slaves, are to be baptized in Christ. To say the essence of Jesus’ incarnation is into humanity is not to minimize Jesus’ genus of humanity, and that masculinity (or femininity) alone is not the whole of human nature.

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Rev. Alison L. Barfoot, Interim Rector

Episcopal Church of the Word Manassas, Va.

I invite Dr. Packer to come with me as I minister to patients, staff, and families and observe me using the gifts God has given to me. And I invite him, after I have nurtured dying patients and held their loved ones, to tell me I am not ordained by God to my ministry. Most women in ministry are not “preoccupied with filling a man’s role,” but rather preoccupied with serving God through ministry to all of God’s people.

Chaplain Joyce Hanscom Lorntz

Loma Linda University Medical Center

Loma Linda, Calif.

Women are testifying openly and boldly that they have received a call from God to the ordained ministry. Cultural exigency has little to do with such profoundly spiritual confessions—unless one wishes to infer that these women have all been duped by their secular surroundings or religiously misled. In which case, the only appropriate response is for the church to examine their call with the same openness to God’s will extended to male candidates for ordination. Anything else is a concession to masculine insecurity.

David Lowes Watson

Executive Secretary for Covenant

Discipleship and Christian Formation Nashville, Tenn.

Packer has suggested a solution to one of the church’s thorniest ecclesiastical dilemmas. If we could only return to an age where women were subservient, second-class citizens with no rights, we could put to rest for good the problem of women’s ordination.

Jerry Blacklaw

Jackson, Miss.

I’m not sure Packer takes his argument quite far enough. Could it be that our practice of ordination for church leadership is built on a foundation of tradition rather than Scripture? And should the current debate over this issue be refocused by shifting the question from “Should women be ordained?” to “Should anyone be ordained?”

Dennis R. Borg

Alliance Theological Seminary Nyack, N.Y.

Packer’s essay is the finest treatise I have ever read on this subject. His analysis is transparently biblical, and he does not allow cultural and present-day ideologies to influence his exposition of truth. It merits the recognition of par excellence!

I am thankful to Dr. Packer for offering his skills in theology, exegesis, reason, and writing to the church in a day of much spiritual confusion and worldly compromises!

Dr. R. M. Baerg Saskatoon, Sask., Canada

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