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WVU-P launches religious discussion series by exploring diversity in Christianity

Photo by Jeff Baughan Jason Blackwell, preaching and involvement minister at Lynn Street Church of Christ, gestures as he answers a question during “Religious Freedom: Exploring Diversity Within the Christian Faith” Thursday evening at West Virginia University-Parkersburg.

PARKERSBURG — Religion is a touchy subject. It can be as uniting as it is divisive. Each denomination with its differences and beliefs dealing with the teachings of The Holy Bible.

West Virginia University-Parkersburg hosted a six-person panel in the first of several discussions of religion Thursday with “Religious Freedom: Exploring Diversity within the Christian Faith.” Future panels will cover a variety of religions.

While there were six denominations on the panel, the Rev. Marjorie Bevans, rector of Good Shepherd Episcopal Church, stated heaven is not going to be a place of denominational neighborhoods. “Heaven is not going to be a place where there is an Episcopal place, there’s not going to be a Baptist place. The Bible says it’s going to be one place.”

She added on the subject of social injustice, “social justice is not in the Bible, just justice,” she said. “We’re given the ability to discern right from wrong. God shows us in the scriptures how to protect the innocent and hold the guilty accountable.”

Jason Blackwell, preaching minister at Lynn Street Church of Christ, had said earlier, “We at the Lynn Street Church of Christ like to say ‘We’re only Christian but we’re not the only Christians. Christ said ‘others will know you by the way you treat others. We can’t have a faith that does not lead us to love others. Our faith is not to be lived inside the walls of the church.”

Photo by Jeff Baughan The Rev. Marjorie Bevans, rector at Good Shepherd Episcopal Church, explains her thoughts during “Religious Freedom: Exploring Diversity Within the Christian Faith” Thursday evening at West Virginia University-Parkersburg.

The Rev. Joseph Hill is the Little Kanawha District superintendent of the West Virginia Conference of the United Methodist Church. “The scripture is primary but there is room beyond the basics,” he said. All believers “are gifted in some way by God. From being the priesthood of all believers, all are gifted in some way by God,” Hill said.

One such verse is 1 Peter 4:10. “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.”

Hill added some are motivated by attention, some churches become engaged and motivated by numbers but that’s the wrong motivation.

The Rev. Linda Steelman, minister at the First Congregational United Church of Christ, told of her childhood and church attendance by saying, “I grew up in a family where it wasn’t a question of were you going to church but at what time did we need to be there.

“John 17:21 was quoted around the house quite often,” she continued. The verse from the New International Version reads “that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”

“Denominations are often spiritual but not united. Christ is the head of the church,” she said.

“I wasn’t going to do this,” she said as to being a minister, “but God had other plans.”

Shane Ward is the pastor of the Mineral Wells Baptist Church. He emphasized while numbers are important, the church “should keep the sanctuary holy,” he said. “The challenge seems to be baiting the hook to get the people through the door. We should keep the sanctuary… God’s word needs to be kept at the forefront. You don’t invite sin in just to celebrate numbers.

“God is holy and just. God’s throne is surrounded with the singing of ‘Holy, Holy, Holy”‘ he said in reference to Revelation 4:8.

“We are all called to holiness,” said the Rev. John Rice, pastor of the St. Francis Xavier and St. Monica parishes. “Tradition of the church is one of great blessing but it has also become a great hindrance in ways.

“We are all made in the image of God,” he said and added people are not to keep their faith hidden, but to let it be seen by others. “If the pulpit is the only place I’m heard, then I’m ineffective.

“Some days we’re better at the latter part of Matthew 25 than others,” Rice said. The latter part of Matthew 25: 35-36 states in the King James Version “For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.” Verse 40 adds “And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”