Two Special Guests over Two Weekends
Roy Medley on April 5-6
Gene Nichol April 11-13
In the next several weeks, Pullen will be hosting two very important dinners and you are invited. The first will be a grand old fashion potluck dinner with Rev. Dr. Roy Medley, General Secretary of the American Baptist Churches, USA. It’s been a while since we had a really good potluck here at Pullen so here is our chance to redeem ourselves as a true Baptist church. With your potluck dish and the promise of lively conversation that will no doubt be important to our church, we have the ingredients for a fun and meaningful evening. So mark April 5 on your calendar and come to Finlator Hall at 6:00 PM with your favorite potluck dish. Bring plenty to share!
I want to offer a bit of background as to Dr. Medley’s visit with us. As you may remember, some years ago the executive board of American Baptist Churches, USA made an official statement condemning homosexuality as not being compatible with biblical teaching. Furthermore, they stated that ABC, USA would not be hiring people who were gay or lesbian. Like every American Baptist Church at the time we received a letter from Dr. Medley stating these views. What followed was a time of deep struggle and controversy within the American Baptist denomination over the issue of homosexuality. Since that time, the executive board and Dr. Medley have tried to soften the impact of that initial statement and letter to ABC churches. While they have not rescinded their position, they have dialed back the rhetoric around the issue of homosexuality. But within the denomination, the issue is still unsettled.
When Pullen first received the letter from the executive board signed by Dr. Medley condemning homosexuality as not being compatible with biblical teaching a number of Pullenites found the letter disturbing and offensive. The question was raised, “How can we support a denomination financially and otherwise that does not share the same values we share as a church?” And yet, others in our congregation raised a different question, “Do we have to agree with our denomination on every issue in order to be a participating member?” And so, for the last eight to ten years we have lived in between these two questions with strong emotions coming from each perspective.
Every year at budget time, the scab gets picked at again and we find ourselves back in the tension as we debate how much, if any, money we are going to pledge to our denomination. As we approached budget season this past year I was reminded again that this issue is not going away for us and that it was time to deepen our conversation. I suggested to the Deacon Council that we invite Dr. Medley to Pullen to preach and to engage our congregation in a meaningful conversation on this issue. They agreed and I contacted Dr. Medley. Without hesitation, he graciously agreed to come to Pullen on April 5 and 6 to spend some time with us discussing this issue and what is going on in the life of ABC, USA churches. I have been forthcoming with Dr. Medley about the purpose of his visit with us and have prepared him with some of the questions that might potentially be asked. I will say that in all my conversations with Dr. Medley over the years, I continue to find him to be an open, gracious and honest person. And I know that he will come to us in that spirit.
It will be important for Pullenites to show up to welcome Dr. Medley and to engage him in conversation on issues that matter deeply to our ministry and mission. So please, mark your calendars for the evening of April 5 and the morning of April 6 as Dr. Medley will offer the sermon in worship.
W.W. Finlator Lectures in Faith & Social Justice
The second dining experience will NOT be a potluck but rather a delicious catered meal. This dinner, on April 11 at 6:00 PM, will kick-off our second annual W.W. Finlator Lectureship Series in Social Justice. Our keynote speaker for the evening will be Dr. Gene Nichol. Gene Nichol is Boyd Tinsley Distinguished professor and Director of the Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity at UNC School of Law. He teaches courses in constitutional law and federal courts. From 2005 to 2008, he was the 26th president of the College of William and Mary. He was Burton Craige professor and dean of the law school at UNC from 1999-2005; law dean at the University of Colorado from 1988-1995; and James Cutler professor and director of the Bill of Rights Institute at William and Mary from 1985-1988. Gene founded the Byron White Center of Constitutional Law at the University of Colorado and the Center for Civil Rights at UNC.
This evening will honor the legacy of our former pastor, Bill Finlator, and the continued practice of this church to be a people of faith concerned with a social gospel. If you have never heard Gene Nichol you will not want to miss this evening. He is one of the most informed and inspiring speakers on issues of poverty and race in the United States. As someone who has traveled our state this past year listening to the real stories of the underemployed and unemployed, he speaks powerfully about the poverty facing many North Carolinians. And if you have heard Gene speak before, then you know how meaningful the evening will be. Gene will also be our guest preacher on Palm Sunday, April 13. (Remember, we will be worshiping at Jones Chapel on the campus of Meredith College on April 13 because of the Rock-n-Roll Marathon that blocks access to our church.)
For this dinner, we do need for you to sign up by calling the church office by noon on April 8. The cost for the meal is $20 per person. However, please do not allow the cost of the meal to keep you from signing up. We do have a budget to supplement our meal cost if needed.
As a part of our Finlator weekend the Deacon Council is also offering on Saturday, April 12, a day-long training examining the effects of race on economic disparity and institutional decision-making. This program will be led by the Racial Equity Institute out of Greensboro. The organization has an excellent reputation and is growing in its magnetism about its programming – the trainings are expanding from Greensboro to Charlotte and Chapel Hill, involving private citizens, and private and public institutions. So empowering and important has the program become that Mecklenburg County, for example, budgets 10-20 of the Institute’s two-day immersion trainings each year for its employees. As with the Finlator dinner the night before, please call the church office to sign up for this event. The program is free, but the trainers need to know how many will be coming. Box lunches will be provided for $8.50.
Please consider joining me and other Pullenites for dinner on April 5 and 11. I promise you will not be disappointed with the food or the conversation!