Scandal won’t define Christianity’s works
Recently, the San Antonio Express-News published reports of abuse within some Baptist congregations where a few unchecked pastors preyed on members looking to them for faith guidance. This follows the Boston Globe’s years of reports on the larger Catholic Church, in which some clerics were quietly reassigned after sexual abuse. We feel for these victims and are grateful to the news organizations that exposed them.
While these larger church institutions work on solutions to these awful problems, it is also important to remember the quiet good works done by everyday Christians in this community, the state and throughout the world. The church’s message of grace to everyone — even those accused of heinous acts — is affirming. And this grace is reflected in the daily assistance to people in need around the world.
Christians are human and, therefore, imperfect. Christianity’s institutions are sometimes bogged down with rules and practices that sometimes leave vulnerable openings for those with bad motives. But we should not let these failings extend to the entire body as it seeks to do good works.
Rev. George Lumpkin of Fredericksburg United Methodist Church on Sunday spoke of Christians’ work in social justice. That doesn’t necessarily mean activism, but it can. It means embracing the Bible’s central tenet of helping the less fortunate and help them maintain their dignity during hard times.
Lumpkin asked his parishioners to ask what this community would be like without the works of Christians, and pointed out the works of just a few of the churches and faith-based ministries in our community.
He brought up the faith-based missions of The Good Samaritan Center, which helps hundreds of people each week with medical and dental assistance, and the Hill Country Community Needs Council, which assists with counseling, domestic abuse and financial help for those who are struggling. The Salvation Army steps in with shelter and help during disasters.
He mentioned locals who have been to Austin Heart Hospital, owned by Seton Hospital, a Catholic ministry. Or St. David’s Hospital, which was begun by Episcopalians. Or Southwest Texas Methodist Hospital or Baptist Memorial Hospital in San Antonio.
“Really, Christianity invented the modern idea of a hospital,” he said. Locally, Hill Country Memorial was begun with local donation drives by citizens who thought it a part of their Christian practice.
St. Thomas Orthodox Church is a small local congregation, but are active in running a food pantry to help this community’s needy. Holy Ghost Lutheran is deeply involved with civic engagement on many levels, including child care, as is Bethany Lutheran. The Cowboy Church reaches out to those who might feel uncomfortable in a traditional church setting. First Baptist Church hosts Fellowship of Christian Athletes events to reach out to and guide local teens. Misión de Candelilla has its border medical ministry. Memorial Presbyterian Church hosts all kinds of different groups doing ministry. And Lumpkins’ own church has a ministry that provides some food to children who may not get much at home on weekends and it hosts Living Well Center, and builds ramps for those challenged by mobility issues.
The Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday message each year is hosted by the local Ministerial Alliance, which is also looking into affordable housing issues.
“Can you imagine this community without the body of Christ?” Lumpkin asked.
Christians are daily charged with remembering not to judge the less fortunate, but to lift up and assist without regard to whether we think they “deserve” it. “Take care of the widow, the alien and the orphan,” Lumpkin reminded, and not for the adulation or public recognition.
Hundreds of millions of Christians around the world do so each day, modeling the good book’s main character. That’s a comforting thing to remember for our personal faith and for the larger body of Christianity when our institution’s failings are on public display.
We are grateful for the unselfish, faithbased care provided by this community. – K.E.C.