Post: Readers Respond
I was very distressed by the treatment my letter got in the last issue of Pietisten.
I realized that the letter ran long and that, for space reasons, you'd have to edit it, so your insertion of parenthetical editor's notes didn't bother me per se. What did bother me was what they said.
After hearing your objection to the phrase "organ of Covenant thought" which I used to describe Pietisten in the first draft of my letter, I acceded to your request and omitted it in the second, shorter draft. Much to my surprise, you reinstated it in the printed version, together with a parenthetical note "correcting" me by saying that Pietisten is neither an organ nor ethnic. Thus, I'm left to believe that either your editorial staff screwed up or else you were taking a cheap shot at me.
What really bothered me, though was the parenthetical note in which you purportedly condensed my contrast between the Swedish and American Covenants. You described me as calling our denomination "ecumenically unconscious." I never said such a thing, and I never would. I referred to The Evangelical Covenant Church as "ecumenically aloof or at least neutral." There's a world of difference between being "unconscious," which implies that we are ignorant and unenlightened, perhaps even indifferent, in our interchurch policies, and taking a hands-off stance, as "aloof" implies.
I believe that the Covenant stands apart from interdenominational organizations for a reason, and, along with most Covenanters, I happen to think that it is a good reason. As the most inclusive evangelical denomination around, and one with a membership from a broad array of religious backgrounds, we have to be very careful whom we align ourselves with. While, according to surveys, many of our people are in sympathy with the National Association of Evangelicals (some of our churches independently belong to that organization), the church as a whole has restrained from full NAE membership because it would mean accepting a creedal statement on biblical inerrancy and concurring with the NAE's often heavy-handed representation of itself as the primary voice of America's evangelicals.
As for the NAE's "opposite number" in the public eye, the World Council of Churches, the wide majority of Covenanters are reluctant to enter into fellowship (or even discuss entering into fellowship, as the Annual Meeting showed) with churches who do not preach and teach the need for new birth in Christ, the linchpin of our faith. Also, the leftist partisanship of the WCC scares away many Covenanters. As a political progressive, I'm in sympathy with many of the WCC's aims in the temporal realm, but roping my brothers and sisters into a political philosophy in which they're uncomfortable, and doing it in the name of Christ, is not something I agree with.
Though the Covenant is small and risks becoming even more of a parochial backwater than it already is by being nonaligned, I applaud our stance of neutrality. It best serves our nature as a via media of the larger church and our dialogue with both left and right. as an observer of both organizations bears better fruit than committing to one or the other.
In short, I feel that I have been misrepresented in the pages of your periodical. I'm disappointed, because the many common acquaintances I have with you and David Hawkinson speak very highly of you and your coterie. Being an editor is not a license for self-expression; it's a contract of responsibility to your writers. Gregory Sager, Chicago, Illinois.
[We do indeed owe Mr. Sager an apology — in fact, several. He wrote that Pietisten was an "organ of pietist thought" not "an organ of Covenant thought" as we printed it. It was an editorial "screw up" for which we apologize, We do note that we did not say that Pietisten was not an "organ" as stated above, but that we were not trying to be an organ.
Also, we definitely misrepresented Greg in our parenthetical summary of his comments on Covenant ecumenism. We are sorry for our misrepresentation. What he says above on this matter corrects our error.]
This Winter I have been to the church in my house; the church down the street; the church in my study and the church in my heart. In each instance the sermon for the day was the reading of Glen Wiberg's "What the Evangelical Covenant Church Believes About God" (Pietisten, Winter, 1989). Whoever said that a sermon is prepared to be preached, or heard, only once was mistaken. My heart was warmed, my spirit uplifted, and I rejoiced! Ralph Sturdy, Livingston, New Jersey.
Sure, I'll renew my subscription! I appreciate your hard work and dedication. Things have gone well for me this year and it occurred to me that you guys could use some encouragement. Dick Sundholm, Seattle, Washington.
Pietisten arrived yesterday, full as usual of stimulus, joy, news, and ponderable matter. What a lovely service you four are doing for the rest of us! It is time, is it not, to renew? Enclosed, my check, to be, as they say in Sweden, to be in solidarity with you all.
I still struggle periodically with the question of the new science. In this connection, there are two books by Richard Feynman you may want to look at next time you are near a library: Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman and What do You Care What other People Think? This is anecdotal writing by a Nobel laureate who got more kick out of playing the bongo than from the Prize. His love affair with science was basically puzzle-solving: how to find out how things work. Light throughout. Zenos Hawkinson, Chicago, Illinois.
Thanks for the copies of Pietisten. The recent issue was particularly helpful.
Having no record of ever subscribing, let me do that for the next volume of issues. James Dahlgren, Lester Prairie, Minnesota.
I'm enclosing a check for my 1990 subscription. I read Pietisten from front to back, enjoying every bit of it. I leave my old copies in the church library. Einer Larson, North Easton, Massachusetts.
Thank you for your work. I have benefited greatly from your insight and spirit. Here's to another year. In Christ, Dennis Moon, Granby, Connecticut.
Pietisten continues to make a vital connection/remembrance of just who we are/I am. Bob Greenwall, Stromsburg, Nebraska.
Just yesterday I walked past a monument of Pietism — the gravesite of Rosenius which is in the yard of Johaneskyrka here in Stockholm. It was a cold, blustery afternoon but my heart was "strangely warmed" as I passed through the cemetery. I would like to walk past it again on Allhelgonadagen (All Saints Day) when the gravesites arc illuminated by candles. Robert Elde, Stockholm, Sweden.
Thanks for remembering us with Pietisten — I think you need to increase your subscription rate for your overseas constituency. That postage is terrible. (But don't stop sending it.)
Imagine our surprise when we turned to the centerfold and realized we had Thanksgiving dinner with the author [Shellie Ritchie] and her husband Andy just yesterday. I read the article ["The People Connection: Reflections on Two Years in China," Fall, 1989, pp. 8,9] and then called her to let her know that she is read internationally. One of the other couples at dinner was Don Ekstrand and his wife. Don is a brother of Peter Ekstrand whom we worked with in Zaire. It really is a small world for our Covenant family. Dave and Ann Swanson, Tokyo, Japan.