29 June 2006

Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop-Elect Katharine Jefferts Schori on the Diane Rehm Show

Diane Rehm interviewed the Episcopal Church's newly elected Presiding Bishop-Elect, Katharine Jefferts Schori, this morning on her show on WAMU/NPR. I'm listening to it right now, and you can too. I like her. She has strongly-held views (many of which are quite liberal ones, it seems) but she seems very thoughtful and careful and committed both to mission (!) and to reconciliation. I don't know to what extent she'll be able to accomplish that reconciliation within the Episcopal Church and the larger Anglican Communion, but she and the Church she will lead are certainly in my prayers.

27 June 2006

On spiritual formation

Check out this incredible quote from F. LeRon Shults via Richard J. Vincent via Sivin Kit:

God calls me to find my identity in God. My life is hid with Christ in God. My identity is not ultimately found in how others react to me. Others may crush/crucify or abandon me. But God will never crush or abandon me. We desperately attempt to secure the true, good, and beautiful in finite relationships and by our own control. A spirituality that does not live in fear of being crushed or abandoned by a finite other because it is rooted in the absolute infinite life of God will not only transform us, but will be transforming to others. In this way, transforming spirituality is not only about personal transformation, but the transformed person as an agent of transformation in his or her environment.

Go to Richard's article for the full context.

24 June 2006

Article: The Missional Church

There's an excellent article on Missional Church up on the web site of the Urbana convention, the mission conference of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship that's been going on for something like sixty years. I'm not sure to what extent that means Missional Church thinking will be part of this year's Urbana in December in St. Louis. I asked my friend Israel (hat tip to him, by the way, for pointing me at the article) what else he knows about it.

Bartimaeus, this article might be worth a link from the "Friend of Missional" page. I think it's quite good. Go InterVarsity!

The Ditty Bops

Hey, are any of y'all familiar with the Ditty Bops?

Tina and I think they're pretty cool. Right now, they're bicycling across America, doing shows, with proceeds going to a bicycle advocacy group that builds bikes for people in need in developing nations.

If you haven't heard their music, you can get a sample from the video for their song "Wishful Thinking" on this page. Ooh, and I just realized that you can listen to all the songs from both of their albums here.

Of course, it may not be to your taste, but we like it.

Anyway, local readers might be interested to know that they're biking to Jammin' Java right here in Vienna on Thursday, 24 August (doors open at 7 PM). Tickets are only $12. I just bought two for Tina and me. Thought it was possible some of y'all might be interested.

22 June 2006

I'm proud of my church

This time I'm not talking about either of the local disciple-communities I'm a part of (though I'm proud of both of them too!), but the larger denominational body that my big church is a part of: the Episcopal Church in the USA (ECUSA). And I'm sorry to say that I didn't expect to feel this way as we entered our 75th General Convention, in Columbus, Ohio, which just completed. I expected a lot of partisan infighting on topics like sexuality and perceived heresy. In that respect, I wasn't entirely proven wrong. There was fighting about other topics, too. Still, I'm very proud of this convention, overall, for at least three reasons:
  • The enthusiastic embrace of the Millennium Development Goals.
  • The election of our new Presiding Bishop-elect, the Rt. Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, with whom I'm quickly becoming quite impressed. I'm pretty sure she's the first female Archbishop in any major communion of the Church, which is certainly notable. But I'm more impressed by her apparent courage and commitment to bridge-building.
  • The last-ditch, heroic, and successful effort to produce a serious response to the Windsor Report - one that was painful and sacrificial for both the left and the right. (The Windsor Report was the worldwide Anglican Communion's response to the divisions that occurred in the Communion following the consent given by 2003's ECUSA General Convention to the election of an openly gay bishop in New Hampshire.) We have a church that's courageous enough to live the example of the Cross and committed to maintaining the loving communion of the Body of Christ, and I'm proud to be a part of her. More info here on The Center Aisle.

14 June 2006

Center Aisle

If you're interested in the goings-on at the 2006 General Convention of the Episcopal Church in the USA (which is going on right now in Columbus), I recommend that you check out the perspective offered by The Center Aisle, a moderate webzine (yes, we have moderates in the Episcopal Church, despite what you may have read) that's published by my own diocese, the Diocese of Virginia. Several folks whom I've met and regard highly (including Bishop Peter Lee, Fr. John Ohmer of St. James' in Leesburg, and Susan Daughtry Fawcett, who will soon join the clergy at Holy Comforter, my big church) are involved in writing, editing, and publishing the mag. It's full of good stuff.

I've only read one thing so far that I take issue with: the second "growth" goal in this article: "growth in numbers". I honestly don't think the Episcopal Church (or any church) should be concerning itself with numerical growth in membership. Membership, schmembership. I would hate to see our Anglican tradition wither and die (I don't think we'll let it), and I do (passionately) want to see us grow in discipleship, but if the institution called "The Episcopal Church in the USA" keeps on shrinking until the there's no point in keeping it up any more in anything like its current form, then I truly feel that the kingdom of God will keep breaking into this world in other forms, including ones that are both authentically Anglican and American. I hope and pray it doesn't happen - I don't want to see my denomination die! - but I think working of behalf of God's kingdom is far, far more important than working for the survival of an institution.

The other goals in the article ("growth in mission" and "growth in understanding and love with those with whom we disagree"), as well as the rest of the piece and the other stuff I've read, are spot-on, in my opinion.

Anyway, check it out!

Good stuff on the atonement from my friend Caryn

Well, the interesting discussion between my college friends is still ongoing, and it's wandered into territory like original sin and the atonement (i.e., Jesus' sacrificial death on the cross and how to interpret it). My friend Caryn posted some thoughts that I thought were really brilliant, so I asked her permission to post them here. Here's (an excerpt from) Caryn:

The whole "why did Jesus have to die on the cross?" thing is what we
call a mystery. I don't subscribe to the idea that a mystery is
something we accept and don't ever think about again. I believe
we're supposed to think about it - figure out what God is trying to
tell us here. This is where literalism breaks down and we fail to
get the moral of the story - and there are many morals to the
story - it reaches people in different ways. When we slam down the
window and stop analysing then we're in trouble. I fail to
understand the people who say: I accept it, no need to think about
it, let's go picket a gay marriage or something so we can spend
eternity with a God who hates people and kills his own son. Then
they turn around and blame gays as the reason why people are
Christianity and causing civilization to crumble.

So why DID Jesus need to die on the cross? Well the issue of free
will is still to an extent an open question, but let's assume that
we do in fact have free will. It wasn't God, but humans who decided
to kill Christ. What God didn't do was intervene. Another Christian
mystery states that Jesus IS God even though he is separate
from "The Father" aspect. So God allows himself to suffer in human
form. It was actually from the writings of a Jewish rabbi that I
realized why this could be a great thing. We turn to God precisely
because we are suffering here on earth. Sometimes our prayers get
answered, but a lot of times we're not sure if our prayers are even
heard. It is hard to appeal to a God for comfort in our darkest hour
when we think of God as separate from us, living in paradise, not
having to suffer a day in his eternal life. Except that he did. He
allowed himself to - not because he wanted to, but because for
whatever reason he felt it was the right thing to do. Now we have a
God that can personally relate to our suffering; we don't
necessarily have to feel abandoned when the prayers don't go our
way. God didn't answer his own petitions when he was hanging there.

In my opinion, the most profound words Jesus ever spoke were "My
God, why have you forsaken me?" If Jesus is who we say he is - he
doesn't really believe that God has abandoned him, but in all his
real human anguish he probably felt that way with every nerve of
body. This is comfort too for those who have railed against God
when things went wrong and then later felt that their anger divided
them from God. Jesus himself yelled at God and Jesus IS God.

As for punishing Jesus - again its humans, not God who accomplished
this. Did God know this ahead of time? It would appear so - and if
we take that literally the whole free will thing goes out the
window. But what if seeing the future doesn't work quite the way we
think it does - what if it's the best educated guess that can be
offered based on the evidence at hand? If God sees us running
around torturing each other and not being especially nice to people
who have radical ideas, it's not rocket science to say - I'll send
them myself as a human to lead them away from their current way
doing things, which they're not going to like, and to which they
usually respond in a hideous fashion - they're going to crucify me.
Maybe God shouldn't have taken the risk - but apparently he thought
it was worth it. He thought WE were worth it regardless of what he
knew we would do to him as a result. Far from being unforgiving,
that's probably beyond the scope of any forgiveness that we will
ever aspire to - forgiveness before the fact knowing full well
what's coming. And after the suffering on the cross, he doesn't
change his mind - he's still forgiving.

And what if we hadn't crucified Christ? If we were that spiritually
advanced to accept his stories and be ok with him, maybe we didn't
need him to die. But we weren't and he did.

12 June 2006

The heart of Anglicanism

Great post from Thunder Jones, on the eve of the General Convention of the Episcopal Church in the USA. I agree wholeheartedly with the formulation he quotes from Bishop William Sanders:

We share unity in the essentials of faith
We embrace diversity in the non-essentials of faith
We have charity in all

For you "emerging" folk who love the idea of "generous orthodoxy" (as do I) - sound familiar?

This more than anything else is why I love my Anglican tradition. May we be true to our heart as we enter into General Convention. Check out Thunder's post; it's brief and worth reading.

09 June 2006

Good stuff

I have a couple of external links for y'all tonight. First and foremost, if you're at all interested in the "Emerging Church" conversation, you simply must read Brian McLaren's article Emerging Reactions, Spring 2006. It's chock full of wisdom born of lots and lots of interaction with folks all over the Church. It's not too long, and it says things that all of us in the Emerging Church need to hear, IMHO. So read it. Read it, I say!

Secondly, you also might like this article on trans- and post-denominationalism from this dude named Keelan Downton. I've run into Keelan at both the Baltimore and Washington, DC Emergent Cohorts, and his article is brief, readable, interesting, and scholarly (four great tastes not often found together). So if you're interested in reflections on what the future may hold vis-a-vis denominationalism (and what that might have to do with the future of political nationalism), check it out.

06 June 2006

Why is there an ad for winches on my blog?

An ad for winches seems like an odd thing to find at the top of a personal theology journal. What is that thing doing there? Have I sold out?

Glad you asked! I'm running that ad free of charge because it's actually raising money for a very good cause. My friend Israel's mom and dad are trying to start a non-profit business to raise money to provide social and economic help for single-mother families. The winch store, in their words, "illustrates our enterprising approach to nonprofit self-support". They're hoping to make enough money to put food on their table (a goal they aren't currently meeting, though they live very simply) and to put everything else they make into support for single moms.

Israel also supplied the following info on his mom and dad:
"Also, you might mention that mom has M.S. and Dad is an intestinal cancer survivor with complications that prevent him from working full time right now (until he can afford surgery)."

So, I think it's a worthy cause. I don't need any winches or winch accessories, but maybe you do, or maybe you know somebody who does. Anybody into forestry? Landscaping? Uh, getting your jeep back on the road to the dock when you drove into the jungle during a rainstorm and you're about to get eaten by dilophosaurs? OK, that last one didn't work out so well for the guy in Jurassic Park, but perhaps you or a loved one have a better use for a winch. If so, then I'm told (by a forestry guy) that the prices can't be beat, and I know the worthiness of the cause is genuine. So that's why I've got an ad for winches on my theology blog. Please go to http://www.toothbone.net/ for more information. Thanks!

02 June 2006

Another one - on origins

OK, here's another one from the same conversation. I'm replying to the following post from my friend Brock, which in turn was responding to part of my previous post:

"That's the whole question here I think: Is evolutionary change God's mechanism for creation. If so, wow. But how does that relate to Genesis? Does that mean we equate about a billion years to each day of creation? Or, do we hold what the Bible says as the complete Truth of God's Word? I wrestle with this all of the time, in many areas of Scripture."

There was some intervening discussion (very good stuff; too bad you're not a Looney - unless of course you are) ;-) from both Brock and my friend Peri in which they mused on the necessary inexactness of divine communication and Biblical interpretation. Then I contributed the following:


I don't know that I have a lot to add to the good thinking Brock and Peri have done on this issue. Brock, this sort of question is something I think all Christians (probably people of any faith) struggle with, except maybe for those way on either extreme. ("Every single word of the Bible is absolutely literally true in the most literal, simplistic, easy-for-me-to-understand interpretation possible, and that's all there is to it." -or- "Well, it's all a bunch of myths made up by dudes who didn't know the world was round, so there's no reason for me to bother trying to take seriously anything in the Bible that seems difficult.") Those are caricatures, of course, but either one is, in my opinion, a major cop-out for a thinking Christian. I struggle with this stuff all the time too. I think one key is to have the courage to doubt our own infallibility. We aren't God, and deep down, I think we all know that there are some things that we don't know, won't know, *can't* know in this life. And you know what? We'll probably get by just fine not knowing them.

So we might as well admit that some things (the origins of the universe and mankind, for example) are bound to remain somewhat mysterious. But we should let the scientists do their bit to shed light on them, and oppose them at our peril - at one time, the Church was completely convinced that a plain reading of Scripture indicated that the sun orbits the earth. We treated Galileo and a bunch of other guys really poorly over that colossal mistake. Oops. Definitely not the Church's finest hour. Let's not do it again.

But that doesn't mean that we have to concede the sphere of all "real" knowledge to the scientists, and say that everything worth knowing can only be known through the scientific method. Christians also need to let Scripture (including, for example, the first two chapters of Genesis) speak its truths to us, and we need to live and practice them. Among those truths:

- The universe and everything in it - including us - was created (is still being created) by a loving God, who saw that it was good.
- In resting on the seventh day, that God made holy something that our culture tends to regard as highly suspect: leisure. What a gift, if we only accepted it!
- God created us, male and female, in God's image; this is our most fundamental identity; as beings who are meant to image our loving God.
- Despite our being made in the image of God, we have become flawed. We have rebelled, we continue to rebel, and we separate ourselves from God through what is called "sin".
- Despite our sin, God still loves us and is committed to our welfare and to inviting and welcoming us home.
- Women, ever since Eve, are the root of all evil.

Put down the guns, Tam, Dani, everybody - I was *just kidding* on that last one!!!!!!

But anyway, those are some more thoughts on origins.