OPEN LETTER TO MAYOR JAVIER JOVEN: Church leaders say remarks were disparaging

Dear Mayor Joven,

We greet you in Christian love and want you to know that we pray for all of our community leaders. Connection Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) is one of the oldest congregations in Odessa; we are celebrating our 115th anniversary in June! We are writing because our church’s witness has mattered for a long time in the city of Odessa, and we want to correct your characterization of both Tom and Patti Sprawls in our community. We experienced your recent remarks as disparaging of our brother and sister in Christ. We can only assume you do not know them well at all.

Tom and Patti have been an active part of our congregation for over 20 years. Tom is an Elder who leads a weekly men’s Bible study and is known for his gifts of evangelism and service. Patti is known for her gifts of hospitality and service. She is an Elder who serves communion with tender care to our homebound elderly members and often ministers to bereaved families. They are regular in worship, stewardship, and Christian witness. They both trusted Christ as their Lord and Savior decades ago and continue to live out their faith in Him, with integrity and intentionality.

When Tom was asked to run for city council, he considered it prayerfully, as he does any serious decision. This even includes the way Tom was ultimately elected, when a coin toss was suggested with his constituents in mind, in order to save the additional expense, time, and resources that would be needed for a runoff election.

To suggest that this vote is a decision that Tom made without heartfelt prayer and the consideration of his constituents is disingenuous and unfounded. To then suggest that he should be pressured into changing his mind is also disheartening.

Your remarks questioning his Christian faith come from your apparent belief that to be Christian is to advocate for criminalizing abortion. Our understanding is that you are requiring what Christ did not require. We, even as Elders of our church, do not assume to speak for our congregants on this issue, or any other. Our church tradition, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), has only one test of Christian faith: the great confession from Matthew 16:16. “You are the Christ, the son of the living God.” The remainder of our faith is worked out as a matter of conscience and continuing growth in Christian maturity. We object to your making how one votes on this issue into a test of faith.

We ask you to recognize and validate the diversity of the entire Odessa community, including the diversity within the Christian witness here in Odessa. We ask that you remember Jesus’ last prayer for his disciples in John 17:21: “that they may be one.” We pray you will join others in finding ways to bring our community together for the common good.

Grace and peace to you,

The Connection Christian Church Elders

Beth Carrell

Kay Castle

Amy Hendrick

Marita Hendrick

Joni Hires

Chuck Isner

Susan Paddack

Todd Richardson

The Connection Christian Church Pastors

Dr. Joe Weaks Dr. Dawn Weaks