Andrew looks back a decade at some of the original theological bloggers and finds out what we are up to. It’s funny to think I am indirectly responsible for three of the people on that list.
I don’t do a lot of public speaking anymore but when I did, I would have appreciated the kind of feedback that AKMA is proposing here.
Still, one wonders what would happen if sermons were regularly reviewed by a good critic (or by an itinerant representative of the diocese/synod/whatever), or if it were permissible to take preaching as a strong ingredient in such gross indicators as rise or fall in attendance. What if the church were obliged to be honest about the plain fact that some preachers are not as good at their craft as are others? And what if the church recognised that some of the most prominent characteristics in selecting for ordained ministry, and then also for determining appointments, are not co-implicated with preaching skills? What if, to be blunt, ‘preaching well’ is not the norm, but a noteworthy exception?
Opinionated alumni and donors have long scolded PBI leaders for deviating even slightly from the status quo. Even L.E. got flak. After spending 19 years as a missionary in Japan, a Prairie grad named Marvin L. Fieldhouse returned to PBI, disliked what he saw and wrote a fiery undated pamphlet titled “Whither Bound” (described on its stark black cover as “a shocking analysis of current trends at Prairie Bible Institute”). Inside, he recalled seeing Ernest Manning, then Alberta’s premier, on the platform at PBI’s 40th anniversary in 1962, a scene that would have been incomprehensible in the institute’s early days. L.E. had warmed to politics over the years and especially liked Manning, admiring that he kept his radio broadcasts free from politics (“a wiser man than Aberhart,” he once wrote). Fieldhouse was nevertheless incensed. “I honestly wanted to vomit right where I sat in the tabernacle,” he wrote.
L.E. got sheaves of letters from similarly disgruntled American fundamentalists. A Minneapolis woman who’d heard that her niece was using hair rollers at Prairie wrote in 1966, “No wonder that in the picture which she sent home that she looked so worldly—much more so than when she left home. What is happening to your standards up there anyway??” Other letters carried a more menacing tone. After a PBI quartet visited his church in 1977, Pastor George C. Bergland of Le Roy, Minnesota wrote saying he was distressed by the singers’ appearance. “For example, last night, some of the young fellows badly needed a haircut. One of them had a moustache.” Bergland was further offended by “pictures of girls in slacks playing tennis” in a PBI publication. Then came his threat: “I am writing to say that if the trend towards worldly dress and haircuts continues I am sure that it won’t be long before our support will be discontinued. I am sure that the same will be true of many fundamental churches.”
L.E. responded generously even to the kooks. To Bergland, he wrote, “we appreciate folk who hold standards in this day—when the whole world has pretty well gone down the drain.” Yet he reminded his correspondent that “there are greater things that unite us” than moustaches and hairstyles. Still, change came slowly at PBI. L.E. himself resisted faculty efforts to relax rules forbidding male-female interaction, and TVs were forbidden in staff homes until the mid-’80s, after L.E. had died.
Since 2008, Alberta Health Services had been giving out crack-pipe kits as part of the Safeworks program, an effort to reduce transmittable diseases. The kits contained a glass pipe, mouthpiece and cleaning tool and were handed out in an AHS van.
More than 14,500 crack pipes were given out as of June 2011.
However, AHS has discontinued the Safeworks crack-pipe program as of Tuesday, citing the “potential for a legal challenge with respect to distribution.”
Tim Richter, Calgary Homeless Foundation CEO, said the program was an effective first step in engaging hardcore, street-involved crack addicts.
“We’re disappointed the program has been cancelled in the fashion it was,” Richter said. “Harm reduction and giving these crack pipes out was good, smart public health.
“It seems like a knee-jerk reaction on fairly simplistic moralistic ground.”
Some groups, including the Calgary Police Association, recently expressed concerns with the Safeworks program prior to its cancellation. CPA president John Dooks said it set a dangerous precedent.
“It’s implying you can use elicit drugs or unlawful drugs in a safe manner,” Dooks said. “The message should be there is no safe way to use drugs,”
I grew up and still am an evangelical Christian. My grandmother was president of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union in Saskatchewan and I work for the Salvation Army which coined the phrase “demon rum”. Being against harm reduction and all for abstinence is in my DNA. I hate what the drugs do to people. I see it every day but for that very reason, I am for harm reduction. Here’s why. By the virtue that people are coming for free crack pipes, they are doing two things. Realizing that things are out of control and putting themselves in contact with the very people that can help them. That’s why Insite works. Insite isn’t for just any heroin addict. It’s for the addicts that realize that they need help and can’t continue on the path that they are on. Insite isn’t a destination, it’s the start of the journey. The same is with grabbing a crack pipe from a street worker, they are admitting that something is wrong and taking a small step in the right direction.
In Saskatoon there is still some debate about needle distribution, a debate I can’t understand, even from a Christian perspective. You have drug users using dirty needles, passing them around, getting high. Statistics tell us that they are at a very high risk of contracting HIV or Hep C, both are costly diseases to fight and we know many users don’t fight it. As a friend who runs another agency once told me, up to half of our mutual clients have untreated HIV/Aids on any given night. The more I think about it, the more I agree with her. As a Christian who wants the best for them, by taking the needles/crack pipes away, we are just complicating things. I am increasing the risk of a disease that will hinder them rest of their lives or shorten it drastically. A lack of harm reduction options increases healthcare costs in addition to lost potential due to a shortness of life or a diminished capacity for life.
The main reason to do so doesn’t seem to be a legal reason or even a moralistic one, it seems to be driven out of societies dislike and discomfort with addicts and their lifestyles and a desire to punish them. If I can nuance Tim Richter’s stance, this isn’t about a moral stand, it’s a puritan stand, one that says that people that do wrong must be punished.
In my years of working at the Salvation Army, I have known one guy that enjoyed being an addict. The rest hate it and want out but can’t do it yet. On my walks home I run into a client who for years was an ass to deal with. Was always angry at me, always yelling, and threatening. One night he walked in and was clean of the drugs and was quite a nice guy. Entirely different. Part of his path out his hell was harm reduction. He’s been clean (and struggling) ever since then. He rents a place not far from me and is scraping out a legit existence doing a variety of jobs. He stops by to chat when he sees that Wendy and I are around and stops by Wendy’s work to say hello to her. Every time I see him he is always telling me that he is amazed that his drugs didn’t destroy his relationship with the Salvation Army and myself and goes on to say over and over again, how they destroyed almost everything else in his life. His story isn’t unique. I could insert in a variety of names and contexts into that story and the pain is always the same.
When we look at drugs users, the explanation is that it is either a personal choice or they have a low genetic tolerance towards it (in describing Aboriginal Drug Abuse). Both of these answers have the same underlying principle, it’s not my fault or responsibility. One thing we overlook is the societal aspect of drug and alcohol abuse. Drug and alcohol abuse on reserves was not a problem until the Residential Schools opened (The damage was done to those taken and those left behind. How would you handle it if the RCMP took your children a part of a government policy. I know I would be seriously messed up if I lost Ollie and Mark). Now I do meet some men and women that came from extremely stable households who for whatever reason decided to self destruct with drugs as a personal lifestyle choice but for the most part the drug use is a result of escaping horrible family situations, mental health issues and is a part of concurrent disorders. In other words the kind of individuals that we as a society have an obligation to help the most. For decades Canada has had a social safety net for those that need this kind of help. It has generally come in the form of healthcare or Social Assistance but as the drugs have become more potent and addictive, the solutions are more complicated as well. Harm reduction works. It’s not about the pipe, it’s about the pathway out the personal hell they are living in. Alberta Health was wrong to back down and all of Albertans will pay the costs. It’s my Christian faith that calls out for harm reduction strategies, it’s fear and a lack of grace that fights against them.
1. My grandmother would be totally opposed to EVERYTHING that I wrote in this post.
2. I believe the phrase demon rum should be used more often than it is. I try to use it as much as I can at work but to be honest, no one drinks rum anymore and it seems awfully judgemental to say about anything else.
The Crystal Cathedral is for sale. Seriously. According to the L.A. Times
The Garden Grove church, which said it owed more than $50 million to creditors and vendors when it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in October, will file a reorganization plan with a Santa Ana court as soon as Friday. The plan includes the sale of the 40-acre campus to a real estate investment group, alleviating financial pressure from a $36-million mortgage, Charles said. The church has a guaranteed option of leasing the campus for 15 years. After four years, the church could buy back the core buildings, which include the 10,000-pane Crystal Cathedral, the 13-story Tower of Hope, the welcome center and the cemetery.
I am not too heart broken by the news. Wendy and I took a tour of it a decade ago and it had already become a parody of itself then. The highlight was a women’s washroom that cost a million dollars to build. I know things like this are contextual but c’mon, a million dollars for a women’s washroom. Yeah.
We are going to partner with leading mission organizations and denominations by helping them start 50 new church/mission structures around the world that will act as role models for church planting in the toughest parts of the world.
As well as being highly effective fresh expressions of church and mission, these new communities will bring a lasting, holistic impact through these 3 strategies:
1. Through social enterprise and mico-business they will move their ministries towards long-term sustainability.
2. Through social justice ventures they will touch the needy in their cities in measurable ways – ie, a spiritual, social, financial and environmental impact.
3. Through social media streaming they will contagiously share their story to leverage their experience and compel others to follow their examples.
Sneaky . . huh?
These 50 new communities will be fresh expressions of church but, also, because they will intentionally position themselves to impact those on the fringe, we will call them "fringe expressions".
By fringe, I mean the cultural fringe (alternative, non-churched, victimized) the economic fringe (poor, needy, vulnerable) the geographic fringe (church-unfriendly areas and countries) and the spiritual fringe [NOT your father's old-time religion] where traditional church efforts make little progress.
Or in other words, they will go where no fresh expressions or missional communities or emerging churches have gone before.
If it’s something you want to support (and believe me, you do), check out the full post out for more information.
Good interview with Cornel West on the failures of the Obama administration. “I thought he would have more fight and backbone… an extension of Wall Street and corporate elites”.
Theologian David Fitch has a good post on the debate about Rob Bell’s new book
I blame Rob Bell for this inflammatory mess (along with his publisher) because of the excessive bating and provoking all in an obvious attempt to attract attention to his book. This is no way to pastor I say. This is no way to lead. (but it does sell books). On the other hand, to be even handed, I blame people on the Neo-Reformed side as well, people like Kevin DeYoung. Sorry Kevin, I know you mean well but when you do a 20 page review that largely argues out of an incredibly narrow view of orthodoxy with little to no appreciation for history before the 1920′s, it comes off as defensive and parochial. For both sides, the tactics reveal a lack of a place to engage this issue productively for the furtherance of the Kingdom beyond our own personal enclaves (or ambitions). And yet discussing this issue is essential in order to be shaped for a posture for Mission that has been lacking amongst the traditional evangelicals, the church I am part of and remain committed to.
I have been kind of intrigued by the entire debate… not so much that I will read the book or any of the debate but the nature of the debate in itself. Let me explain. Theological debates never used to be like this. They were much more private events, often done through letters, in person, or in small circulation academic journals. Book sales were small. I am going out on a limb and say that Rob Bell will probably outsell Barth’s Commentary on Romans in a couple of months. What used to be a private and contemplative debate has been sped up tremendously through blogs, Twitter, and competing book deals and the resulting conference speaking gigs. All of this is driven by Christian publishing companies that are either shareholder held or are owned by News Corp, famous for taking sides and then profiting from the division.
There is always going to be different ideas in the church. I have some reservations with Brian McLaren’s theology that we have talked privately over (not sure who is right on that… been thinking about it for ten years) and even with David Fitch, I still am trying to figure out his theology of social justice and how to work on it in my context. Hopefully in the next decade I can put to words my issues with it but it needs some more thinking about but my theological reservations don’t need to be tweeted, blurted, and raced out. At the same time, I need to present my ideas in the expectation that some of them are going to be offensive to others. I am a Methodist. I am quite confident that my theology is correct but some of my beliefs stand in contrast to my own denomination even let alone others yet I don’t feel the need to refute and inflame others all of the time. I have my questions about Brian McLaren’s theology, David Fitch’s social gospel and CFL allegiances (I think but check back in 2018), Darryl Dash’s theological worldview (he’s Baptist, same could be said for Santosh Ninan and Kyle Martin), Len Hjalmarson (Anabaptist), Randall Friesen (moved to Alberta and cheered for Brett Favre), or anyone that I know that doesn’t subscribe to a liberal Free Methodist worldview that I do yet i think we have managed to have better discussions than what we saw over this latest dust up. We are always going to have things that divide us (the Hamilton Tiger Cats? Really?!) but can’t we have these discussions without cutting each other off and using the terms heretic. Good grief, Tillich and Barth continued on their correspondence despite seeing the world in very different ways (with evidence that Tillich and a pantheist.
I wonder when we are going to realize that speed isn’t always vital or even desirable in theological debates. The rush to be first or provocative may appease your masters at News Corp, Google, and Amazon but is it adding anything to the church. I don’t think it is. I think what we gained in speed was lost in perspective, contemplation, and depth of dialogue.
While exploring Winnipeg, a co-worker told us about the basillica in St. Boniface. Since I was driving and am a sucker for a great looking church (or ruins of a church), we headed right over there. We jumped out to take some photos. By the time I had snapped 12 photos, my hands were so cold I could not operate my camera any longer, my ears had frozen, and I was having trouble enunciating. Welcome to Winnipeg.
It’s been almost 10 years from the first Soularize in Seattle, and we’re exciting about hosting another learning party in 2011. As usual, this event will unite both traditional and non-traditional teachers, artists, theologians, thinkers, and social activists.
This year – sunny San Diego!
October 12-14, 2011
Save the date and plan to join us for one of the most unique experiences of your life. If you’ve been to a previous Soularize, don’t miss this 10 year reunion event. If you’ve never been before, you won’t want to miss it.
We’re partnering with an incredible church in the North Park neighborhood of San Diego to put on an incredible event that will cultivate a thought-provoking and spiritual experience while introducing a wide variety of ways to connect and grow with others on the journey.
Didn’t Soularize start a year earlier than that in in Los Angeles? Whatever the case, San Diego in October looks inviting. Update: I am planning to be there.
The best part is that it costs $1.99 at the app store.
Described as "the perfect aid for every penitent", it offers users tips and guidelines to help them with the sacrament.
Now senior church officials in both the UK and US have given it their seal of approval, in what is thought to be a first.
The app takes users through the sacrament – in which Catholics admit their wrongdoings – and allows them to keep track of their sins.
It also allows them to examine their conscience based on personalised factors such as age, sex and marital status – but it is not intended to replace traditional confession entirely.
This isn’t their first digital effort
Two years later created a Facebook application that lets users send virtual postcards featuring the pontiff.
Before you mock it, when I went to Bishop James Mahoney High School in Saskatoon, we had a similar checklist to speed up the confession process (as a Methodist, I just judged others silently) so it’s not like this is a new idea. Of course we still had a priest to administer the sacrament.
In the Wall Street Journal
Are we witnessing the death of America’s Christian denominations? Studies conducted by secular and Christian organizations indicate that we are. Fewer and fewer American Christians, especially Protestants, strongly identify with a particular religious communion—Methodist, Baptist, Presbyterian, Pentecostal, etc. According to the Baylor Survey on Religion, nondenominational churches now represent the second largest group of Protestant churches in America, and they are also the fastest growing.
More and more Christians choose a church not on the basis of its denomination, but on the basis of more practical matters. Is the nursery easy to find? Do I like the music? Are there support groups for those grappling with addiction?
It’s not all bad news for denominations
Where hymnody once came from the spontaneity of slave spirituals or camp meetings, worship songs are increasingly now focus-grouped by executives in Nashville. The evangelical "Veggie Tales" cartoons—animated Bible stories featuring talking cucumbers and tomatoes—probably shape more children in their view of scripture than any denominational catechism does these days. A church that requires immersion baptism before taking communion, as most Baptist traditions do, will likely get indignant complaints from evangelical visitors who feel like they’ve been denied service at a restaurant.
But there are some signs of a growing church-focused evangelicalism. Many young evangelicals may be poised to reconsider denominational doctrine, if for no other reason than they are showing signs of fatigue with typical evangelical consumerism.
For example, artists such as Keith and Kristen Getty and Sojourn Music are reaching a new generation with music written for and performed by local congregations. Yes, prosperity preacher Joyce Meyer sells her book "Eat the Cookie, Buy the Shoes," which encourages Christians to "lighten up" by eating cookies and buying shoes (seriously). But, at the same time, Alabama preacher David Platt is igniting thousands of young people with his book "Radical," which calls Christians to rescue their faith by lowering their standard of living and giving their time and money to Church-based charities.
Barth has been variously damned as a heretic, a narrow-minded Biblicist, and an atheist in disguise—and praised as the most creative Protestant theologian since John Calvin.
It was the middle of a tough primary contest, and Rep. Bob Inglis (R-S.C.) had convened a small meeting with donors who had contributed thousands of dollars to his previous campaigns. But this year, as Inglis faced a challenge from tea party-backed Republican candidates claiming Inglis wasn’t sufficiently conservative, these donors hadn’t ponied up. Inglis’ task: Get them back on the team. "They were upset with me," Inglis recalls. "They are all Glenn Beck watchers." About 90 minutes into the meeting, as he remembers it, "They say, ‘Bob, what don’t you get? Barack Obama is a socialist, communist Marxist who wants to destroy the American economy so he can take over as dictator. Health care is part of that. And he wants to open up the Mexican border and turn [the US] into a Muslim nation.’" Inglis didn’t know how to respond.
It was a tough primary campaign according to Inglis
During his primary campaign, Inglis repeatedly encountered enraged conservatives whom he couldn’t—or wouldn’t—satisfy. Shortly before the runoff primary election, Inglis met with about a dozen tea party activists at the modest ranch-style home of one of them. Here’s what took place:
I sat down, and they said on the back of your Social Security card, there’s a number. That number indicates the bank that bought you when you were born based on a projection of your life’s earnings, and you are collateral. We are all collateral for the banks. I have this look like, "What the heck are you talking about?" I’m trying to hide that look and look clueless. I figured clueless was better than argumentative. So they said, "You don’t know this?! You are a member of Congress, and you don’t know this?!" And I said, "Please forgive me. I’m just ignorant of these things." And then of course, it turned into something about the Federal Reserve and the Bilderbergers and all that stuff. And now you have the feeling of anti-Semitism here coming in, mixing in. Wow.
Later, Inglis mentioned this meeting to another House member: "He said, ‘You mean you sat there for more than 10 minutes?’ I said, ‘Well, I had to. We were between primary and runoff.’ I had a two-week runoff. Oh my goodness. How do you…" Inglis trails off, shaking his head.
What drives the Tea Party?
When he returned to the House in 2005, Inglis, though still a conservative, was more focused on policy solutions than ideological battle. After Obama entered the White House, Inglis worked up a piece of campaign literature—in the form of a cardboard coaster that flipped open—that noted that Republicans should collaborate (not compromise) with Democrats to produce workable policies. "America’s looking for solutions, not wedges," it read. He met with almost every member of the House Republican caucus to make his pitch: "What we needed to be is the adults who say absolutely we will work with [the new president]."
Instead, he remarks, his party turned toward demagoguery. Inglis lists the examples: falsely claiming Obama’s health care overhaul included "death panels," raising questions about Obama’s birthplace, calling the president a socialist, and maintaining that the Community Reinvestment Act was a major factor of the financial meltdown. "CRA," Inglis says, "has been around for decades. How could it suddenly create this problem? You see how that has other things worked into it?" Racism? "Yes," Inglis says.
As an example of both the GOP pandering to right-wing voters and conservative talk show hosts undercutting sensible policymaking, Inglis points to climate change. Fossil fuels, he notes, get a free ride because they’re "negative externalities"—that is, pollution and the effects of climate change—"are not recognized" in the market. Sitting in front of a wall-sized poster touting clean technology centers in South Carolina, Inglis says that conservatives "should be the ones screaming. This is a conservative concept: accountability. This is biblical law: you cannot do on your property what harms your neighbor’s property." Which is why he supports placing a price on carbon—and forcing polluters to cover it.
Asked why conservatives and Republicans have demonized the issue of climate change and clean energy, Inglis replies, "I wish I knew; then maybe I wouldn’t have lost my election." He points out that some conservatives believe that any issue affecting the Earth is "the province of God and will not be affected by human activity. If you talk about the challenge of sustainability of the Earth’s systems, it’s an affront to that theological view."
I remember reading a study on why people voted the way they did in 1999. It was the most messed up thing I had ever seen. It literally made sense. They voted against Gore because of the amount of rain they did or didn’t get that year. They voted for Bush because of things that he or any other federal politician had nothing to do with. It wasn’t just some hick in West Virginia either, it was hundreds of thousands of votes on these bizarre issues. Sadly reading stories of racism and anti-Semitism doesn’t surprise me. What a mess for Barack Obama and moderate Republicans to deal with.
I am not sure where I first started following Kester Brewin’s writings. Probably I found some of his stuff on Vaux’s old site and I assume that I heard of his book from either Jonny Baker or Steve Collins’ blog but I ordered The Complex Christ when it came out in England, paid a fortune to have it shipped across the pond and then paid of 18% of Canada’s national debt in import fees. To this day, it is the most expensive book that I have ever purchased. It was worth every cent and I paid for it and lead to a fundamental rethinking of my theology and my understanding of the urban context (it was about that time that several of you started to hate what I posted here).
The other day on Twitter I was waiting for my Kindle to finally arrive when I asked what book I should order. Kester came up with and instead of ordering it, I went online to see if Other was available in Canada yet. It isn’t here in paper form yet but it is available on Kindle and it quickly earned the honour of being the first book I ordered for my Kindle (and hooray, no import fees).
The book hit home for me this week as the debate exploded over political rhetoric in the United States after the attempted assassination of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords outside of a Safeway. Whether or not you agree that themes of violence in political rhetoric contributed to the murders or not, I think all of us agree there is something wrong with how we see people we don’t agree with in this world. Whether that divide is Christian-atheist, moderate-fundamentalist, liberal-conservative, Israeli-Palestinian, black-white, or whether or not we like Kenny G, we tend to dismiss and deride the opinions of those who we disagree with. I don’t know if has gotten worse but I suspect it has. Years ago I used to be a regular viewer of Capital Gang which had the Democrats and Republicans around a table disagreeing. Not only was the dialogue cordial but they actually seemed to enjoy being around each other. Now the Republicans are at Fox News and the Democrats are on MSNBC. Not only are they no longer sitting around the table but they are at competing networks. There isn’t even an attempt to engage or dialog with each other.
For a wide variety of reasons this has changed how we see and interact with each other and Other tries to address that by looking at the Great Commandment, to love the other. While that seems obvious, Brewin addresses the situations where Christianity and the church have largely failed to see God’s creation in other people. As he puts it, what kind of selves do we need to be in order to live in harmony with others?
For me, it’s the biggest question that I wrestle with every day at work and the hardest discussion that we have with staff. In a context of violence, drugs, and anger, how we deal with the other is a definition of how we see them but also ourselves. Once the U.S./Canadian edition hits the shelves, I plan to purchase a bunch for our staff because it’s something that we all need to wrestle with everyday… or at least it’s something that I need to do to remind myself to reset myself and look for God in other people every day.
In a time in my life when I am working hard at getting rid of over 1000 books from my library, I am glad I added this one to my Kindle and look forward to always having a paper version on my shelf.