Pastors warn Christian food and clothing bank not to be too Christian

Pastors warn Christian food and clothing bank not to be too Christian
It is called Lebanon County Christian Ministries, and it is operated by a coalition of churches in Lebanon, Pennsylvania. But as the food and clothing bank's board has tried to address people's spiritual needs along with their physical ones, it has run into trouble. And it seems that much of the trouble is from the pastors of the sponsoring churches.

The Harrisburg Patriot-News explains, "The organization's bylaws state that its ministry 'is a witness to our Christian faith,' but also says it welcomes 'the cooperation of others who wish to share in these ministries as an expression of their own faith commitment.'"

Commitment, however, may be too strong a word.

"A proposed 'faith statement' drawn up as part of a plan to meet clients' spiritual needs drew fire this summer from some ministers and church members," The Patriot-News reports. The statement was scrapped, and now the board is moving more slowly in its efforts.

"The Rev. Richard Luciotti of St. Mark's United Church of Christ said he's pleased the agency is rethinking the policy," says the paper. "He said the first faith statement was 'extremely narrow' and would have excluded some religions."

Excluding some religions from "Christian ministries"? Oh no!

Dwight Hein, pastor of Salem United Church of Christ said the member churches "believe LCCM's purpose 'is to serve those in need, not to proselytize or convert those in need.'"

Who's to say what kind of spiritual direction one should give, asks John Binkley of Trinity United Church of Christ. "What is the right spiritual direction of an organization that purports to be diverse and ecumenical?" ...

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Ted Olsen
Ted Olsen is Christianity Today's editorial director. He wrote the magazine's Weblog—a collection of news and opinion articles from mainstream news sources around the world—from 1999 to 2006. In 2004, the magazine launched Weblog in Print, which looks for unexpected connections and trends in articles appearing in the mainstream press. The column was later renamed "Tidings" and ran until 2007.
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