Church bureaucracy is blasted
About six months ago, the Rev. Herbert Valentine of Baltimore became moderator of the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. at one of the most closely observed religious conventions in years.
Valentine, 56, the head of the Baltimore Presbytery, was elected national church leader as the denomination met in Baltimore for its annual general assembly. It was at that gathering that the church considered and then, overwhelmingly, voted down a controversial report advocating a less traditional view of sexual morality.
National media converged on the assembly as if it were a major political convention. They were lured, of course, by the sex report and the proverbial gnashing of teeth it was causing among many church members. Valentine couldn't have picked a stormier time to assume his new post.
Now, midway through his yearlong tenure, Valentine has acquired some insight into the workings of the church at a national level. And apparently, according to a recent interview released by the church's news office, he isn't too pleased with what he has encountered.
In the interview, Valentine blasted the church for its "stultifying and counterproductive" bureaucracy, charging that it "rewards caution more than courage, maintenance more than greatness."
A possible solution to the church's pattern of "playing it safe," he said, is to "encourage creative self-expression because there is a terrible price to pay if we put a cap on our peoples' reservoir of hope and faith and vision. . . . [Otherwise, church members] will increasingly leave us, saying, 'I don't need this any more.' "
Valentine has continued to lead the Baltimore Presbytery while serving as moderator. He is expected to stay in the local job when a new moderator is elected at the general assembly in Milwaukee next June.
An ecumenical service marking the anniversaries of the Berlin Wall's dismantling and Germany's reunification is to take place at 7:30 tonight at Zion Lutheran Church, 400 E. Lexington St.
Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Methodist, Baptist, Presbyterian, Episcopal and United Church of Christ clergy are scheduled to participate. The main homilist will be the Rev. Frederick Wenner, pastor of Evangelical Reformed Church, United Church of Christ, in Frederick.
An adult choir accompanied by organ and brass and a children's choir from Zion's German-language school will perform.
A family Hanukkah celebration will be held Sunday from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. at the Jewish Community Center, 3506 Gwynnbrook Ave., Owings Mills. Admission is $5 a family. Reservations are required. For more information, call 466-9200, Ext. 234.
St. Patrick's at 200
St. Patrick's Roman Catholic Church, 317 S. Broadway in Fells Point, begins its bicentennial observance with a mass at 5 p.m. Saturday. Archbishop William Keeler will be the celebrant.
The parish, the first in the Baltimore archdiocese, was established in 1792 on the third floor of a building at Bond and Fleet streets. Send religious news items -- about events, local personalities, etc. -- to Religion Notes, c/o Patrick Ercolano, The Evening Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore 21278.