Letters to the Editor
I enjoyed reading your recent piece about the cancer research grant received by Dr. Richard Mullins. Although he probably wouldn't mention it, you should know that Rickie's mother is herself a long time cancer survivor. She is so proud of her son, and his work on this dreaded disease. Rickie's incredible desire to help others through his research and teaching is in part a result of his parents' love and support. It is gratifying to see that Xavier is proud to have this outstanding individual on its faculty.
I am writing in regards to the article in the Fall 2006 issue entitled "Marketing Salvation: Students learning the business of religion with study of mega-churches" by Greg Schaber. It is very disturbing to me that Xavier is teaching a course on how the Catholic Church can emulate mega-churches. I realize that the Catholic Church is slipping and needs help, but this seems like desperate measures.
To me, the mega-churches are cheap, sleazy, money making schemes that prey on desperate or poor souls. Unfortunately, these souls are increasing due to our country's shrinking middle class and global instability. I feel that Xavier should initiate a course on ways the church can reform itself from the inside to rebuild its integrity rather than to copy a worshipping equivalent to Wal-Mart that would do nothing more than harm that much-needed integrity.
I read with interest in the last issue of Xavier magazine the article by Greg Schaber describing the class taught by Ted Bergh. I truly believe this is a relevant topic and I imagine a popular course.
I am writing from the perspective of a Catholic, who left the church three years ago to attend the Vineyard Community Church in Tri County. The article mentions the Vineyard in Mason (there is one there) and so does a press release that I read on XU's web site. I'm not certain if the students visited the church in Mason or Tri County. Considering the size of the churches they were describing, I would imagine it was the Tri County Vineyard. I feel compelled to write due to several statements in the article.
First of all and most important, I was alarmed at the inaccurate statement concerning "limited doctrine." I can't speak for Crossroads or Solid Rock, but the Vineyard certainly doesn't have limited doctrine. Your article insinuates that they do not take a stand on gay pastors or pedophilia. I can assure you that the Vineyard takes a strong, biblically based stand on both of these issues, among other, socially, emotionally and spiritually relevant topics such as: premarital sex, parent/child relationships, marriage, finances, healing, divorce, etc. Not only taking a stand, but offering encouragement and outreach to members who may need it.
Next, I read in the press release, students who attended a Crossroad's service and found it "over the top." Let me remind you that the establishment during Jesus' time felt that He was "over the top" also. I think that is an unfair generalization to make upon visiting a church once or even twice. I would be interested in what students who have never attended a Catholic Mass would write after only attending a church once or twice? That it was unemotional? Perhaps irrevelant? I would find those comments equally unfair.
Also, I am concerned that the students may come away from this class thinking it's all about numbers and packaging/teaching others to "start their own churches." At the Vineyard, some have been truly called to "plant" new churches in areas of town where there is growth or particular need. For example, Clifton, Avondale and Monroe. This is exactly what St. Paul encouraged believers to do in the New Testament. My fear is that without honest representation and dialogue, students are going to come away thinking it's all about the numbers.
I believe that the Catholic Church needs change and there are some who have true interest in building the kingdom.
Did any of the students, or Ted Bergh contact the pastors of these churches? Did any ask for Statements of Faith, which clearly define the doctrine of these churches?
As an alum of XU with both a bachelor's and a master's, it is important to me that XU maintain it's integrity in all areas. This article will be read by many alums who may have no idea or no opportunity to learn more about these churches. It would be sad and unfair if they came away with the idea they were nothing more than a marketing tool.