“These events are a great opportunity for people to be enlightened. Too many people get three hours off on Good Friday and don’t do anything about it. If they come to these events it could change their lives. God is trying to show us that we need to be ready for Christ’s return. This is still history in the making and people can still be a part of that history, it’s not too late.”
Every year, a handful of Defiance area mainline Protestant, Catholic, and ecumenical Evangelical churches get together for a community Good Friday service. This year’s service will be held from noon-3 p.m. at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church. Immediately following the service, Christians will gather at St. Mary’s Catholic Church for the annual Stations of the Cross walk. According to the Defiance Crescent-News (behind paywall):
There will be 14 stops on the way, to read scripture and pray in remembrance of the 14 stations of the Via Dolorosa (Way of Sorrows). Of the 14 stops, seven will be read and spoken in Spanish.
Good Friday truly is good, because Christ died for us on the cross and rose on Easter, giving us the gift of salvation that he freely offers to us. To celebrate as a Christian community with the Outdoor Stations of the Cross, we realize that our faith is such that we can take it out to the streets and be a witness to everyone, that we do believe in his death and resurrection.
The Stations of the Cross is a pilgrimage. For those of us who can’t go to the Holy Land, we walk here so we can recount the steps that Jesus took. This walk is a chance to be together with people from our community, and with Jesus, to not only understand his suffering, but to also understand the great love he has for us.
Christians doing Christian stuff on Good Friday…no big deal. What I find amusing is the notion that these events are some sort of statement affirming Christian unity. Most Defiance area churches do not participate in these events. Many local churches don’t even believe Catholics are Christian. Some Baptist churches not only consign Catholics to hell, they also doubt the Christianity of people attending liberal or mainline churches.
Father Muller thinks walking the Stations of the Cross is taking their Christian faith out to the streets as a public witness of belief in the death and resurrection of Jesus. I hate to break it to Muller, most people don’t give a shit. Many local businesses give employees Good Friday off or allow them to attend Good Friday services. Despite this, most locals — who are overwhelmingly Christian — will not be in attendance at either of the Good Friday events.
Apostle Smith thinks if people attend these events their lives could be changed. After all, Jesus is coming soon! What will be said that hasn’t been said countless times before? There’s not one person in Defiance County who hasn’t heard some version of the Christian gospel. Everyone knows who Christians say Jesus is and what supposedly happened to him 2,000 years ago. They know all they need to know, yet, come noon tomorrow most local residents will be busy living life, preparing for the REAL meaning of Easter — the Easter bunny, eggs, chocolate, and other candies. What Smith and his fellow religionists fail to understand is that, yes, people are becoming more enlightened, but this enlightenment is leading them away from, not towards organized religion. Despite all the religious pontificating from Republican presidential candidates that suggests otherwise, American Christianity is in decline — especially among millennials. There will come a day in the not too distant future that Good Friday services and walking the Stations of the Cross will be little more than relics of a bygone era.
My letters to the editor of the Defiance Crescent-News often result in local Christians venting their spleen in my direction. I have no doubt that my recent letter about creationism will agitate the faithful, resulting in a new spate of letters denouncing evolution and atheism. Sometimes, letter writers make things personal. For example, here is a comment left by a local resident on the Crescent-News website:
Only problem that you have Gerencser is that you have yet to prove evolution is fact or disprove that there is a deity. So you really dont know any more then anyone else.. And isnt it so strange that you claim to be a minister from a diploma mill in Washington state and yet this is how you respond? Hows that working out for you since Ohio does not recognize this diploma mill? Hope you have not tried to marry anyone as the JAG of Ohio would not look too pleased if you did. Anonymous3371
I have a good idea who this asshole is, but since I don’t know for sure, I will refrain from attaching their name to this comment. If you would like to read other Christian responses to my letters to the editor, please check out the new Local Response Page. This page is currently 12,000 words long. I will continue to add to it anytime there is a letter to the editor that mentions me by name. You can find all of my letters to the editor here.
Now, about the scurrilous allegations in the aforementioned comment.
On July 7, 2013, a local Fundamentalist Christian by the name of Daniel Gray wrote:
Bruce Gerencser should use facts in his letters. His latest rant is so full of errors as to make his point completely obtuse. Here are a few examples…
…The fact that Gerencser can marry anyone is laughable. He received his claimed ministerial credentials by professing a faith in a deity and swearing to follow that religions teachings. So unless he does so, then his authority to marry anyone under the same is null and void. Anyone he marries could actually find that they are not and never have been married. And last, the only way to change our Constitution is by a constitutional amendment…
…History and facts yet again destroy the views of Gerencser. He should be used to that by now.
Here’s my response to Gray:
This letter is my brief response to Daniel Gray’s recent letter to the editor.
Gray continues to paint me as a liar, a deceiver, immoral, and an all-round bad person. Gray does not know me personally, so I am not sure how he comes to the conclusions he does about me. I have never made one of my letters personal, yet Daniel Gray and a few other letter writers think it is okay to attack my character and suggest that I am not a good person.
As a public figure, I know I must endure such attacks, but I wish my critics would focus on the issues rather than the person. If they would like to have a public discussion on these issues, I am quite willing to participate in any public forum they put together.
On July 21, 2013, I wrote another letter to the Defiance Crescent-News stating:
For the third time Gray suggests that I am not legally able to marry people and that anyone married by me is in danger of having their marriage invalidated. Gray seems to not understand the legal requirements for being licensed to marry people in Ohio. I meet all the statutory requirements and I am duly licensed to marry people in Ohio. Anyone can verify this by doing a ministerial license search on the Ohio Secretary of state’s website.
On August 25 , 2013, fellow shit stirrer Willy Pack, came to my defense:
…Our secular government guarantees all of its citizens freedom of religion and freedom of speech. Fundamentalists, however, have made many clumsy attempts aimed at silencing Mr. Gerencser through intimidation and denigration.
Can anyone doubt that if they had the power of past ages, they would summon him before the court of the Inquisition? They all seem to be vying for the position of head inquisitor. What would be his crime other than not sharing their beliefs and daring to say so publicly? Are they really that intolerant of others’ beliefs or just afraid their beliefs cannot stand up to a little scrutiny?
With all of the different religions, denominations and sects on this planet, one thing is for certain: We are all going to hell according to somebody’s religion.
Once again, let me provide proof of my ordination and my legal right to perform weddings in the state of Ohio:
Bruce Gerencser Ordination, Emmanuel Baptist Church, Buckeye Lake, Ohio April 2, 1983
Bruce Gerencser, Ohio License to Marry, May 2,1983
Bruce Gerencser, Universal Life Ordination, March 15, 2011
Bruce Gerencser, Ohio License to Marry, March 22, 2011
And here’s the final proof, straight from the Ohio Secretary of State’s Minister Licensing database:
Bruce Gerencser, Ohio Secretary of State Minister Licensing Database
The charge that I have a degree from a Washington state diploma mill is absurd. I attended Midwestern Baptist College from 1976-1979. I was an average student who worked a full-time job, attended church three times a week, ran a bus route, and preached at a drug rehab center while attending college. Need proof?
What’s next? Proof that I am circumcised? Proof that I am married, have six children, and eleven grandchildren? Sadly, some local Christians have no shame. They are quite willing to smear me in public if it means it will make me look bad or cause others to question my credibility.
To Daniel Gray, Anonymous3371, and anyone else who seems to be obsessed with lying about me? I will let Mikey Wilson speak for me:
What follows is a letter I submitted today to the editor of the Defiance Crescent-News. It should be published in a few days. I encourage readers to read a letter to the editor I wrote in 1999 about the same the subject. You will quickly see that my viewpoint has changed a wee bit over the past 17 years.
If I didn’t know any better, based on recent letters to the editor and church advertisements touting young-earth creationism, I would think that we are living in the 1920s — the era of the great creationist versus evolution debate.
We are almost 100 years removed from the Scopes monkey trial, yet Christian fundamentalists are still trying to hoodwink unwitting people into believing creationism is a scientific theory. Not only do they want the scientifically ignorant to believe that creationism is a scientific theory, Fundamentalists also want them to believe that it is the only explanation for the biological world.
Readers of the Crescent-News need to understand exactly what Christian fundamentalists are saying. According to them, the universe was created by the Christian God 6,020 years ago, in six 24-hour days. They also want you to believe that 2,000 years later God, in a genocidal rampage, killed every living thing with a flood, save Noah, his family, and two of every animal.
While these stories make for wonderful bedtime readings to children, they have no business being taught, outside of a comparative religion class, in the public school classroom. Creationism, along with its gussied-up sister intelligent design, is religious dogma, not biological science. I am of the opinion that any public school teacher found to be teaching creationism should immediately be removed from the classroom. We owe it to our children to make sure that they are taught sound scientific principles. God did it, is not such a principle.
I am sure my letter will bring howls and gnashing teeth from local Christian fundamentalists. They will, as they always do, cut and paste supposed rebuttals of evolution from bastions of ignorance like Answers in Genesis or The Institute of Creation Research. What they will fail to produce is peer-reviewed studies supporting their creationist claims. If creationists want to overthrow evolution, then I suggest they start publishing papers in non-Evangelical science journals. When the weight of the arguments become so overwhelming that they cannot be ignored, I have no doubt that scientists will declare creationism the winner.
This will never happen, of course, because creationism is theological in nature, not sound biological science. If people want to believe that a mythical God created the universe 6,020 years ago, fine. Ignorance is a permitted vice in a free society. But we should insist that public school children be taught science, and not long-discredited religious myths.
Now that’s a headline. What follows are photographs I shot while out and about in rural Northwest Ohio.
I found this sign along U.S. Hwy 127 south of Sherwood, Ohio. Recently, the Defiance Crescent-News featured an article written by Isaiah Ross about this sign:
Along U.S. 127 and Paulding County Road 424 is a cross that simply states: “Get right with God.” Amid word that the beloved cross would be removed, the past few weeks have been filled with heated emotional debate.
The cross was to be picked up by the American Sign Museum located in Cincinnati, whose founder Tod Swormstedt said the acquisition was supposed to be a birthday surprise from his girlfriend, Nancy Herbert. Herbert’s friend Cate O’Hara was heading up to Bryan with her daughter when she noticed the sign off the side of the road. O’Hara, knowing Swormstedt’s involvement with the American Sign Museum, contacted Herbert to inform her of the cross. The surprise was reportedly ruined when Swormstedt was notified of it after a local newspaper ran a historic account of the cross last week. However, Thursday morning, he received news that the sign was no longer available for pickup.
The cross was placed there by Rev. Harrison Mayes around 1966 in his journeys throughout the country. Mayes took to working in the coal mines at a young age, and when he was a young man, an accident caused him to be trapped in a mine. He prayed and prayed to God, vowing to live the rest of his life in God’s service if he survived the predicament.
His prayers were answered. Mayes made it through to fulfill his side of the covenant, so he took to his bike and used his building skills to construct, paint, and place his signs where he saw fit.
Through the course of his life, Mayes made many signs, each of which is large enough to be easily seen and read from the road. All of them share a similar message of being prepared and getting saved. Several signs stand erect in the greater region around his home in Fork Ridge, Tenn., but they are present in 22 different states. Some are as far north as northwest Ohio, where locals have seen the Cecil area cross and one that used to be near Antwerp before an accident destroyed it. As he knew his days were coming to a close, he began writing on his signs where he wanted them placed, in hopes someone would continue the efforts of his lifelong promise…
Across the road from the Get Right With God sign I found this billboard:
Isn’t it good to know that the Bible is a one-stop shop for all your decision-making needs? Need to decide what to make for dinner? Check the Bible. Need to know if brown shoes go with blue slacks? Check the Bible. I’m sure that the billboard owner has a more spiritual intent in mind, something along the lines of getting saved.
Tuesday, Polly and I drove to Fort Wayne to attend the Dayton Dragons vs. Fort Wayne Tin Caps baseball game. I’ve been battling an upper respiratory infection for the past week or so, and by the time we got to the stadium I was in no shape to sit in 93-degree heat and watch a game. So we turned around and came home. Here’s a sign I photographed on a country road outside of Antwerp, Ohio.
Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.
On Friday, the godless, anti-American,socialistic, communistic, jihadist, liberal, satanic-inspired U.S. Supreme Court overturned Ohio’s constitutional ban of same-sex marriage. Ohio Governor John Kasich, also known as Mr. Wall Street, publicly admitted the marriage battle is over: (link no longer active)
“I’ve always felt that marriage is, you know, one of these traditions between a man and a woman, but the Court has spoken. And I’ve said all along that when the Court makes a decision, we abide by the law of the land. And they made their determination and—just move on. It doesn’t mean I’m not disappointed, I am, but the decision has been made.”
Williams County Commissioner Al Word, formerly the sheriff of Williams County, evidently slept through high school government class. Word told The Bryan Times (behind paywall):
“Why don’t they change the voting process so the minority always wins? I believe everyone should be treated with respect, whoever they are, but this has gone completely over the edge. I’m in total disbelief and most people don’t realize the gravity of the whole thing. It changes who we are and how our issues get decided.”
Evidently, Word thinks the United States is a democracy where the majority rules. However, as anyone who has ever taken a government class should know, the United States is a republic with a representative form of government. Majority or minority has little to do with it, and in the case of the Supreme Court ruling, the issue is the court’s interpretation of the Fourteenth Amendment, especially the equal protection clause.
I understand why Word is upset. In 2004, Ohioans voted to restrict marriage to “only a union between one man and one woman.” This constitutional amendment passed 62-38 percent statewide. In Williams County the margin was 73-27 percent. According to The Bryan Times, the voting margins were similar in nearby Defiance, Fulton, Henry, Putnam, Paulding, and Van Wert counties.
But, let’s look at the numbers (link no longer active) for God’s Kingdom-Northwest Ohio Division, also known as Williams County. In 2004, there were 26,722 registered voters in Williams County and 18,294 of them voted on the marriage amendment. (68% voter turnout) 13,275 voted for Issue One, and 5,019 vote against the amendment. Yes, 73% of those who voted cast a vote in favor of the marriage amendment. However, when measured against the number of registered voters, the number drops to 50%. As in the case of most Ohio ballot initiatives, they are voted up or down by a majority of a minority. (in 2004, Ohio had its largest voter turnout in years)
I think Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown is right when he said:
“The court has spoken. The public is behind the court and the court speaks for the public…I am convinced Ohio voters, if they had it to do over would agree. Marriage equality is the law of the land now, period, just like civil rights. It’s a victory for everyone, gay and straight. Those who disagree will be relegated to the dustbin of history.”
After the Court’s decision, The Bryan Times contacted “virtually every church in Bryan” to get a response. Only two pastors responded: Pat Schwenk, pastor of New Hope Community Church and Kevin Kellum, pastor of Grace Community Church. Both pastors were deeply disturbed by the ruling.
This is certainly not the firs time the U.S. Supreme Court has made a ruling contrary to the truth of God’s word. It’s not a decision we celebrate, nor is it one we despair over either. God is still in control. Regardless of the moral and spiritual drift happening in our country, our response should be to faithfully honor God first, while loving others–even when there is disagreement.
Troubling, for a number of reasons. The church’s worldview of marriage has always been that it’s a vow between a man and a woman. Now we’re in uncharted territory. We’ve talked about openly with the congregation. Our doors are open to any race, gender, and (sexual) orientation. We still have hope and we still believe and obey the word of God and depend on him for guidance on our lives, and we continue to look to God for his definition (of marriage). I’m concerned that there is a whole generation of young people who have no foundation in the church’s teachings, and with this ruling, I expect that to continue, to present a challenge to the church.
Don’t be blinded and misled by the talk of loving others and open doors. These words are loaded with Evangelical presuppositions, and all that is meant by their perfidious words is:
Yes we love homosexuals, they need Jesus, so our doors are open so that they can repent and find Jesus as their Lord and Savior. And if they don’t, they are going to be eternally tortured by God in hell.
Neither pastor is willing to openly and without reservation embrace homosexuals and welcome them into the membership. Married same-sex couples will find that very few local churches are willing to treat them as they do married heterosexual couples. As long as the Bible is the authoritative standard, same-sex couples will neverbe treated justly, fairly, and equally in churches like New Hope and Grace Community Church.
Over in Defiance County, the Crescent-News asked readers what they thought of the Court’s ruling. Here’s what several local fundamentalists had to say on the newspaper’s Facebook page:
I left more comments on the Crescent-News’s page than anyone else, yet when the newspaper printed many of the comments in today’s edition of the paper, none of my comments were printed. It’s hard not to conclude that they either “overlooked” my comments, they were too long, too intellectual, or they didn’t want to give the village atheist any more press.
The Bryan Times was able to find an openly gay local man willing to comment. Here’s what Denver Henderson of Bryan had to say:
“Yesterday, I could do anything everyone else does–buy a car, own a house, pay taxes, fall in love–but there was always one thing I couldn’t do. Tomorrow I can. It’s not a big national question of ‘Can we?’ anymore. Now it’s the personal question of ‘Do we want to?’ (That kind of freedom is) what it feels like to be a part of ‘We the People.’ It’s a big deal. It’s history happening right now and you don’t get to see that very often.”
Over the years, I’ve tried to give the Crescent-News editorial staff the benefit of the doubt when it comes to things like not printing my comments, but I have reached a point where I am no longer willing to do so. If I am missing something here, then I’d love for Steve VanDemark, Dennis Van Scoder, Todd Helberg, Mark Froelich , or Bruce Hefflinger to point it out to me. From “lost” letters to the editor, a “lost” 35th wedding anniversary announcement, numerous resumes submitted for a photography position flushed down the toilet, and no response to emails, comments, and tweets, it’s hard not to conclude that the newspaper has no interest in engaging me at any level. Even when fundamentalists personally attack me in their letters to the editor, making inflammatory and untrue statements, the newspaper says nothing. Why is this?
Grace Community Church is a part of the Ohio Mennonite conference. While there has been some movement towards accepting same-sex marriage at the national level, I suspect most NW Ohio Mennonite pastors/churches consider homosexuality and same-sex marriage a sin.
New Hope Community Church is a garden variety Evangelical church. Here’s their doctrinal statement (proof texts removed):
The Infallibility of the Bible
We accept the miracles, creation, etc., as literal accounts.
To repudiate any portion of Scripture as unreliable is like changing an inch on a ruler.
If one inch is changed, the entire system of measurement is altered.
The Absolute Diety of Christ
The Virgin Birth of Christ
The Historical Creation of Man
Man did not accidentally evolve from lower forms of life.
God created man as a unique spiritual being.
The Sinful Nature of Man
Man is not basically good.
He is basically evil.
The Substitutionary Death of Christ
Others have died difficult, martyrs’ deaths.
Jesus is the only One who died for the sins of the world.
The Bodily Resurrection of Christ Some say Christ arose in spirit or His teaching lives on.
But the Bibles teaches Jesus arose bodily from the grave.
A Literal Return of Christ to Earth as Promised
The Resurrection and Assignment of All People to Heaven or Hell
We are sometimes criticized for too rigid a stand.
But Jesus said, “Narrow is the way…”
In response to a letter I wrote to the editor of the Defiance Crescent-News, an elderly local Christian sent me the following letter:
Please reconsider. Even if we choose to believe there is no hell, doesn’t make it so. I saw the pictures of flowers you posted and it showed how you enjoyed them. In Hell, you will never be able to enjoy anything. There will only be torment forever and ever. I don’t want anyone to go to that place and certainly God does not want that for you either. When you truly come to know Jesus, you will gladly and willingly surrender your all to Him and following His commands will not be burdensome to you. It will just flow out of your heart of love for Him.
Perhaps you were a religious person who never truly had a relationship with Him. I beg you – please reconsider before it is too late for you. He loves you so much. The precious blood of Jesus was shed for you, don’t let it be in vain. What about your wife, children, and grandchildren? If you die and go to hell, you will regret that you had a part in taking them there with you, and you will want someone to go and tell them the truth.
Please reconsider. Count the cost. This life is so short, but eternity is forever. Wouldn’t it be better to endure this life and all it’s problems with Jesus, than to be in hell for eternity and have to bow down to the authority of God anyway? I pray God give revelation to you and your family regarding heaven and hell. I say all this in the love of Jesus. I know this will be considered as evangelism, but please read it. I pray you make the right decision.
Let me summarize. Why should I become a Christian?
I love flowers and there are no flowers in hell.
Because I was a religious person who never really knew Jesus.
So I don’t have to be accountable for my wife, children, and grandchildren going to hell.
Is this the best that Christianity offers theses days? As the writer said:
Wouldn’t it be better to endure this life and all it’s problems with Jesus, than to be in hell for eternity and have to bow down to the authority of God anyway?
My answer is no. I would rather endure this life and all its problems without a deity, knowing that when I draw my last breath I have lived my life well and that I can, with peaceful assurance say, this is enough.
I have no doubt that the person who sent me this is sincerely concerned for my spiritual welfare. Been there, done that. Christians need to understand that I am an intractable atheist. Arguments like those found in this letter are shallow, contradictory, and easily refuted. Better for this man to seek after those who have some interest in the Christian message . There is nothing a Christian can say to me that is going to make me suddenly see the error of my way and cause me to repent. Experts have tried, but here I am, wallowing in my depravity, enjoying my last few moments on earth before I step out into eternity and join Hitch in hell.
There seems to be no end to the sermons printed in the editorial section of the Crescent-News. Intractable warriors for the Evangelical God preach against homosexuality, same-sex marriage, abortion, and the evils of socialism, humanism, secularism, and atheism. Letter writers claim to know the mind and will of God on every matter, warning that failure to heed their preaching will result in God pouring out his judgment and wrath on the United States. They warn that two people of the same sex marrying will bring an end to Western civilization. Yet, it seems that their preaching is falling on deaf ears.
Several months ago, St John’s United Church of Christ came out of the closet and declared themselves to be an open and affirming church. This means gays and same-sex couples are welcome at St. John’s. When I read the news report, I could hardly believe it. I thought, have I been beamed away to an alternate universe, to a county where people are not judged for who they love or how they express intimacy? No, right here in Defiance County, a church that is not ashamed to welcome one and all.
Young adults are increasingly gay friendly and are no longer interested in the bigoted, homophobic religion of their parents. Some of them join the ranks of the nones, those who are atheists, agnostics, or indifferent towards organized religion. On many of the issues that seem to cause Evangelicals great consternation, young adults show that they think love, fairness, justice, and compassion are more important than dogma and literalism.
When I read the letters from Evangelicals, I see an aging group of people desperately trying to regain power and control over a culture that has little interest in what they are selling. 40 years ago, instead of focusing on personal piety and good works, Evangelicals sold their soul to groups like the Moral Majority and the American Family Association. They traded their place in the community for political power. They abandoned reason and rationality and became the purveyors of ignorance and bigotry. And now they are being weighed in the balance and found wanting.
Come June, despite millions of Evangelical prayers, conferences, rallies, and sermons, it is likely that the U.S. Supreme Court will set aside state laws forbidding same-sex marriage. I wonder how Evangelicals will respond? Will they turn to the heavens and ask God why he turned a deaf ear to their prayers? Will they point the finger at their homophobic rhetoric and bigotry? I doubt it. It will be atheists like me, liberals, socialists, and the Kenyan-born usurper in the White House that will be blamed for their inability to return America to the love, joy, and peace of the 1950’s.
Evangelicals are like the prophets of Baal in 1 Kings 18. They call out to the heavens asking their God to show his power and act on their behalf. Yet, from my seat in the atheist pew, it seems their God is either deaf or on vacation.
Great news from the land of Christian fundamentalists and right-wing Republicans…St John United Church of Christ in Defiance has officially come out of the closet. Tim McDonough, religion writer for the Defiance Crescent-News, reported today that St John’s is now an open and affirming church, a designation given to churches who welcome gays and same-sex couples into their assembly. Here’s an excerpt from McDonough’s front page article (behind pay wall):
Following a 16-month discernment and education process, the congregation of St. John United Church of Christ in Defiance has voted to become an open and affirming church. Open and affirming is the United Church of Christ’s designation for congregations, campus ministries and other bodies in the UCC, which make a public covenant of welcome into their full life and ministry to persons of all sexual orientations, gender identities and gender expressions.
“This process really began back in April of 2013 when we were having a congregational meeting,” said Pastor Bob Jencks, who has been serving in an interim role at the church since August of 2012. “We were having a discussion about our identity and our purpose when someone said, ‘we’re the liberal church in town.’ I asked, ‘what does that mean?’ The response was, ‘we’re open and affirming.’
“The truth is, we were not,” continued Jencks. “I explained that there was a process we had to go through to have that designation. At that time, there was only one church in northwest Ohio that was, and that was First Congregational United Church of Christ in Sandusky. The pastor there (Lenore Kure), was at one time the director of Christian education here, so we reached out to her, talked about the process, brought that information back here, where it was voted on that we begin that process.”
Melissa Davies, chairperson of the open and affirming committee, explained that the process was all about educating the congregation as to why St. John UCC wanted to have the designation. “The UCC denomination is pretty progressive, and within the denomination churches have the opportunity to signify themselves as open and affirming, after a discernment process,” said Davies. “At the end of the process, churches vote whether or not to carry that distinction. We started with a series of educational congregation-wide sessions, where we learned what science has to say about sexual orientation, what the Bible has to say about sexual orientation, and how quotes from the Bible are used to ostracize people.”…
…At a congregational meeting in January of this year,a vote was taken to see if St.John UCC would become an open and affirming church. With more than 50 percent of the church in attendance,the vote to carry that designation was a resounding 52 for, and only two against. “To be in this part of Ohio, which is more traditional, that vote was surprising,” Davies said. “We know we tend to be more progressive leaning on social issues, but it was a little strange in our meetings when we realized that a pushback that we thought we would get, really just wasn’t there for a large majority of our congregation…
…Both Davies and Jencks do expect that some members of the congregation may stop going to church at St. John UCC since the vote, and both expect some feedback from the community. “We haven’t had anyone come out and tell us they are leaving the church, but if anyone has, they haven’t been vocal about it,” said Davies. “We really just want to be a welcoming place to worship.” Said Jencks: “We haven’t heard anything yet (from outside the church), but this is conservative northwest Ohio. We’re taking this stand because it is a social issue, we believe it’s an important one, and we believe Jesus accepts all people…
I can’t wait to see the letters to the editor from local Christian culture warriors who are deeply offended by St John’s rejection of their fundamentalist homophobia and bigotry. Should be an entertaining couple of weeks. I think I will wait until all the fundamentalists are done venting their spleen before I write a letter to the editor. Might as well let the chosen ones have the first word.
Congratulations to Pastor Jencks and the fine people of St John United Church of Christ for willingly putting equality, justice, compassion, and science first. They rightly recognize that far too many local Christians use the Bible to abuse others, denying them the right to love and marry whoever they want.
For you who live in more progressive areas, you might not realize how big of a deal this is. Tonight, despite the pain I am in, I feel good. It’s nice to see goodness and decency prevail in at least one corner of rural NW Ohio.
According to the WBNO website, the 65-year-old Bryan Times will no longer be printing the newspaper in-house. This end 150 years of a local newspaper being printed in Bryan, Ohio.
This comes as no surprise as small-town newspapers such as The Bryan Times try to adapt to the changes in how local residents get their news. As with TV news, newspapers have an increasingly aging subscriber base. Younger adults no longer turn to the TV or newspaper to get the news.
The Bryan Times made a stab at having a website with blogs and other internet news, hoping to attract those who use the internet to get their news. I doubt anyone at the newspaper would consider the website initiative a rousing success. The Times, like the Defiance Crescent-News, hides most of its news behind a paywall.
While I understand the economics behind such a move, younger adults will just look for some other news site at which to get their news. Having grown up in an age where most everything on the internet is “free,” most younger adults are not willing to pay for online news. Young adults live in a world where they can stream unlimited movies with Netflix or stream unlimited music with Spotify for less than $10.00 a month. In their mind, paying $8.99 for a newspaper they can read in a few minutes is an unnecessary, frivolous cost. They might spend the equivalent amount of money buying ring tones for their smartphone, but young adults increasingly no longer see the value in a printed newspaper.
As I looked up the links for the aforementioned newspapers, I noticed that many of the newspapers had been bought out by larger media companies. What were once local, independent newspapers are now owned by media giants such as Gannett. I suspect the newspaper industry will continue to contract until almost every newspaper is a subsidiary of a Wall Street media giant. Future historians will write of the days when America lost the voice of a free press.
The Bryan Times remains a family-owned independent newspaper. The Cullis family has owned the paper for many years. Christopher Cullis, the same age as I am, is currently the publisher. Years ago, when I first started writing Community Voice editorials for the Times, Cullis told me that my editorial could be any length, but if I wanted people to read it I should write 800-1,000 words. This proved to be good advice.
Several times, Cullis called me after I submitted an editorial to ask if I really meant to say _________________? In most cases the answer was “No,” and he would suggest a better wording. I appreciate his help in making me a better writer.
Sadly, with the Times moving its printing to Fort Wayne, 18 people will lose their jobs. I suspect some of these employees have worked for The Bryan Times many years. No doubt, their layoff was a difficult action for the Cullis family to take.
In 1946, Grant Brown opened Brownie’s Restaurant in Bryan, right next door to The Bryan Times. It was Bryan’s first drive-in restaurant. As a teenager, I ate many a hamburger at Brownie’s. For a time, I even had a weekly tab that I paid each payday. Facing competition from the chain fast food restaurants that moved into Bryan in the 1970s, Grant Brown closed Brownie’s in 1975. The Times bought the building and tore it down to make way for a building expansion.
Will The Bryan Times go the way of Brownie’s Restaurant? I hope not, but I wonder if there is a future for the printed newspaper? It is increasingly cost-prohibitive to print a newspaper, and being unable to significantly raise subscription prices, newspapers cut the one thing they can cut: their employees.
I wish the Cullis family nothing but the best. The Bryan Times is one of the best small town newspapers around. From my Mom’s letters to the editor in the 1960s to my own letters to the editor and Community Voice editorials, The Bryan Times has graciously allowed us to voice our take on the world. I wish them nothing but the best, even if I have my doubts that a prosperous future lies ahead. Someday, we will realize what we’ve lost as a result of the decline of American newspapers. For now – hey, did you see what J-Lo and Kim Kardashian did today? OMG!
Recently, Brittany Maynard, a brave woman with terminal cancer, took her life. As a resident of Oregon, Maynard could legally choose to commit suicide. Many religious people are incensed over her suicide. A Papal Monsignor called Maynard’s choice reprehensible. Pope Francis called such acts a sin against God. Evangelicals have taken to the internet to denounce Maynard, suggesting her suicide landed her in hell.
Here’s what the religious need to understand: those of us who are not so inclined are not moved by quoted Bible verses and threats of God’s judgment and hell. For us, a God who controls life and death and afflicts people with disease, is a fiction. Everywhere I look, I see suffering and death. I reached a point where I asked, where is God? Eventually, I concluded that the Christian God was a figment of my imagination, an imagination fueled by 50 years of Christian indoctrination.
The Bible encourages people to pray, have faith, and hold on. The faithful are assured that God only wants what’s best for them. Suffering is turned into virtue, some sort of badge of honor. Those who suffer will be rewarded in heaven, the Christian preachers say. Of course, we have to take their word for it because no one has come back from the dead to testify to the veracity of the suffering for God sermons.
I am more inclined to believe what I can see. What I see is suffering and death. I should do what I can to alleviate the suffering of others. Imagine one of my children suffering from a painful disease and I have a cure for the disease. However, I am not willing to give my child the cure because I think his suffering is good for him. What kind of father would people think I am? Yet, the Christian God gets a pass when he does the same. If we consider a human who withholds that which could alleviate suffering reprehensible, surely we should view God the same way.
Theodicy, the problem of suffering and evil, is one of the reasons I am no longer a Christian. Like Baal in I Kings 18, when it comes to suffering, war, famine, disease, pain, and death, the Christian God is AWOL. Elijah mocked the prophets of Baal, suggesting that their God was on vacation, talking with someone, sleeping, or using the toilet. Could not the same thing be said for all gods? It seems quite clear to me, we are on our own.
At the heart of Maynard’s choice is the right to self-determination. As a person who suffers with unrelenting chronic pain and debility, I want the right to say, no more. Unlike many religious people, I see little value in pain and suffering. I endure it for the sake of my wife, children and grandchildren, but my family knows that there might come a day when I am no longer willing to do so. I want that choice to be mine.