I laughed out loud when I first heard Martin Luther’s explanation of how the Reformation happened: “While I have been sleeping, or drinking Wittenberg beer with my friend Philip and with Amsdorf, it is the Word that has done great things. . . . I have done nothing, I have let the Word act. It is all powerful, it takes hearts prisoner.” When I was sitting there in Intro to Church History sessions, preaching and reforming sounded heady, or easy. And now flying under the radar of the teetotaling family in which I was reared, I drank with my friends Philip and Tom, and I anticipated how powerful the word would be in my ministry. I was even poised to answer cleverly the pastoral question, “Can Methodists drink?” The answer, of course, is “Some can, some can’t.”
James C. Howell is senior minister of Myers Park United Methodist Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, and author of What Does the Lord Require? Doing Justice, Loving Kindness, Walking Humbly (Westminster John Knox).