I received a press release last week from the Secular Coalition for America, a group of “atheists, agnostics, humanists, freethinkers and other nontheistic Americans,” announcing plans to establish a chapter in Georgia to lobby state lawmakers.
Among the things they don’t like in our state are the annual Clergy Day at the state Capitol and a law that “requires” that “In God We Trust” be printed on license plates. They need to do their homework on this one. There is no law that requires “In God We Trust.” That is an option available to anyone that wishes to have it. The Secular Coalition also doesn’t approve of the Legislature opening their sessions in prayer. Please don’t go there. Our Legislature clearly needs all the help they can get, divine or otherwise.
Ironically, I read the press release while attending the North Georgia Conference of the Methodist Church in Athens, the Classic City of the South and home of the University of Georgia, the oldest state-chartered university in the nation. (Can I get an Amen?)
The conference meets annually to conduct the business of the Methodist Church in North Georgia. The South Georgia Conference does the same thing at its gathering in Macon.
I wish the Secular Coalition folks had been there. They would have been warmly welcomed by a group of loving Christians, and by the time the Rev. Eddie Fox, world director of evangelism for the Methodist church, got through preaching to them, they would have been standing and whooping like the rest of us. Methodists can whoop it up when they want to.
To understate things greatly, Eddie Fox can preach a lick or two. Even Billy Graham says so, and I would come a lot closer to believing what Billy Graham says than a group of nontheistic Americans, whatever that is.
Bishop Michael Watson guided us smoothly through three days of preaching, praying, budgets, recognitions and no small amount of pontifications. (And, yes, Methodists can pontificate, too.) Some of the discussions were a little esoteric for me, but for the most part I learned a lot. Mainly, I learned of all the good works taking place in the Methodist church in Georgia and all over the world.
This is what the church is supposed to be about — feeding the hungry, tending to the poor, the sick, the elderly, the homeless and bringing the Christian message to the unchurched. That is why I get impatient with people who get hung up on narrow interpretations of the Bible and think their way is the “right way” and the only way. Horse feathers. The church isn’t about using the Bible to prove who is right and who is wrong. That’s God’s decision. The church is about caring for and helping those in need.
As a public service, it is my duty to announce to my many Baptist friends that we Methodists ordained a number of new ministers last week, including (you guessed it) several women. After the service, I immediately rushed to Sanford Stadium to see if God had unleashed a plague of locusts to devour the hedges, but all seemed well. I guess God likes women preachers as much as I do.
One of the most poignant moments of the week was the memorial service honoring those clergy who had passed away since last year’s conference. Among them was Mack Tribble, who I loved like a brother — still do — and who participated in the marriage of both our children. I am positive that when God drew up the plans for a kind and caring minister that radiated Christian love, Willie Mack Tribble was his prototype. I’m not sure what my chances are of getting to heaven, but if I can get even a temporary visa, I am going to see my family first and then I am going to hunt up Mack Tribble and thank him for what he meant to me.
As for the Secular Coalition for America, this is a free country and they have as much right to lobby legislators as the rest of us. (I would humbly suggest the atheists bring lots of money and free tickets to tractor pulls if they hope to have — pardon the pun — a prayer.)
However, I must warn them that after spending last week with some of the finest Christian people I’ve ever met, they have their work cut out for them. Never underestimate the power of a Methodist. Can I get an Amen?
You can reach Dick Yarbrough at firstname.lastname@example.org or P.O. Box 725373, Atlanta, Ga. 31139.