November 27, 2008
All posts from “November 2008”
November 26, 2008
The former Emergent coordinator blogs about his views on faith and sexuality.
Tony Jones, the former national coordinator of Emergent Village and the author of The New Christians, has articulated his beliefs about homosexuality on his blog. Jones, along with other Emergent leaders, has been questioned for years about his views on the debated cultural and doctrinal issue. Until now, Jones had always responded by saying he hadn't made up his mind on the question. "Homosexuality," he would say, "is one issue that I don't want to get wrong."
Well, it seems Jones has now made up his mind. The blog post, which can be read here, explains his journey with the issue from childhood. But Jones discloses that:
...all the time I could feel myself drifting toward acceptance that gay persons are fully human persons and should be afforded all of the cultural and ecclesial benefits that I am.
I now believe that GLBTQ can live lives in accord with biblical Christianity (at least as much as any of us can!) and that their monogamy can and should be sanctioned and blessed by church and state.
(BTW, for those unfamiliar with the acronym GLBTQ it stands for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer or Questioning...depends on who you ask according to Wikipedia. And for those who are unfamiliar with the acronym BTW...are you kidding me?)
Clearly, Jones' statement is very carefully worded to convey his intent and nothing more. But for his critics and those suspicious of Emergent Village, this discloser will only add fuel to their fire. It should be noted that Jones no longer speaks on behalf of EV, and his remarks shouldn't be projected upon others within the Emergent conversation.
November 21, 2008
What actually brings new people to church?
Dan Kimball: The churches I know that are winning new believers and drawing people who did not grow up in the church are not using too many liturgical elements. I think we might be seeing people who were raised within the church and who are tired of the contemporary approach being drawn to the ancient practices. But, at least on the West coast, I'm not seeing young people from outside the church being drawn to liturgy. Every person I know - and obviously I don't know everybody - who has moved into a liturgical context has come out of a very large, contemporary church and they just got burned out on the machine. They now find refreshment in a smaller setting with liturgy.
At the same time, our church is using some liturgical elements like responsive readings and the Doxology, but we're not following a formal liturgy. Either way, I think it's great that some people are engaging liturgy again. It's good for young people to know that Christianity was not born in 1980, but it has ancient roots. Are new people coming to faith? Whether our church is liturgical or contemporary we need to ask that question.
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November 18, 2008
by Dave Gibbons
I imagine you may be paying more attention to the market news. Our 401Ks have turned into a 201Ks! The markets are in transition. Most likely this recession will not be quickly fixed with bailouts and the lowering of interest rates. The unraveling of our security seems to be happening at unprecedented speed, leaving many disoriented and stressed.
This is affecting churches too. Giving is down. Layoffs are happening not only among our members but also our church staffs. I spoke to one friend who said their giving is over thirty percent below what was expected. Many of us in church leadership are facing hard decisions. To avoid some of these hard choices by closing our eyes only delays the inevitable pain.
When chaos happens it's easy to just hunker down, think of quick strategies to get out of the mess, or make rash choices. But perhaps slowing down for a season of reflection would do us well. What might God be saying to me, to our country? While we gravitate quickly to happy endings and stories of inspiration, perhaps a period of confession and repentance is also in order. Could this be a disciplining from God?for America?for our churches? for me?
November 17, 2008
A cartoon by Thom Tapp in these hard economic times.
November 14, 2008
What the election says about our progress and decline.
by Skye Jethani
Amazing. How else can you describe what happened last week when Barack Obama became the first African American elected President of the United States? However you voted, whatever your politics, the election reveals something about the progress of our society. As George W. Bush said the morning after the election, it "showed a watching world the vitality of America's democracy and the strides we have made toward a more perfect union."
Amid the reflections there have been numerous references to Martin Luther King Jr.'s pioneering civil rights movement and his "dream." One Chicago news commentator on election night said the day King delivered his famous speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial he could not have known that a two year old boy in Hawaii would become the fulfillment of his dream. That got me wondering - is Barack Obama really the fulfillment of King's dream?
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November 13, 2008
Introducing the expanded Ur Newsletter with more exclusive content.
You can get out of Ur, or you can get really out of Ur. For those desiring the latter, the Ur Newsletter is the resource for you. For a few years I’ve been sending out a free email newsletter on Fridays with highlights from this blog and other articles from around the Leadership media group. I’m happy to tell you that the Ur Newsletter has been completely redesigned with much more exclusive content you won’t be able to read on the blog (or anywhere else). Here’s what you can expect:
Url’s World…a brief commentary from yours truly (quips and tangents included) and links to interesting content from my digital cosmos.
Currents…the latest news from the intersection of ministry and culture. Sometimes serious, sometimes humorous, always fresh.
Editorial…reflections on current issues and events from the editorial team at Leadership including Marshall Shelley, Skye Jethani, and Brandon O’Brien.
Featured Post…a full length article exclusively for Ur Newsletter subscribers. (Don’t worry, you’ll still be able to comment and discuss these posts.)
Poll…a weekly poll inviting Urbanites to offer their feedback about a current event, theological issue, or ministry conundrum.
You can subscribe for the free Ur Newsletter here. Giddy up.
November 12, 2008
Two years later, the evangelical leader says "I'm very, very sorry."
It has been two years since Ted Haggard resigned as the senior pastor of New Life Church in Colorado and the president of the National Association of Evangelicals. The scandal reverberated through the media just before the pivotal 2006 elections, and made Haggard a favorite target for many outside, and inside, the church.
After two years of silence Ted Haggard has stepped back into the pulpit. Last Sunday he spoke at a church in Illinois where a close friend is the senior pastor. Audio of the entire sermon was uploaded at TedHaggard.com, but has since been removed. ABC News reports that Haggard apologized for his sin without ever identifying the nature of his transgression. He also acknowledged the pain he'd caused his family and his church.
[When the story first broke in 2006, Gordon MacDonald wrote a blog post for Out of Ur that became one of the most read articles ever for this website. You can find the post here.]
While acknowledging that "I'm very, very sorry that I sinned," Haggard also says, "I'm a stronger Christian than I've ever been in my life. I have a stronger marriage than I've ever had in my life."
November 11, 2008
The seven deadly sins of evangelicals in politics.
by John Ortberg
My son has a bumper sticker on his car that reads: "I poke badgers with spoons." Its significance is not self-evident to everybody who reads it, so let me tell you the story.
It comes from a British stand-up named Eddie Izzard. Eddie grew up in the church, and heard early on about the doctrine of original sin, but was a little fuzzy on the concept. He assumed that it meant that priests get tired of hearing the same old boring confessions time after time - greed, lust, gluttony, and lying to the tax man. Eddie thought the priests wanted to hear some truly original sins.
So he came up with something he figured no one had ever confessed before: "I poke badgers with spoons." My wife thought it was so funny that she had it printed on a bumper sticker and placed it on my son's car. Oddly enough, he sometimes fails to appreciate that his parents are two of the funniest people in the world. But he wanted the car. So he gets the sticker that goes with it.
Debates have raged for centuries now over the phrase "original sin," which of course doesn't actually show up in the Bible. Augustine argued that there is a fundamental flaw, a bentness, that gets passed on to every human being before they are even born. (He believed it was intrinsic to the sex act, which may be part of why he never had a little Augustine, Jr.--at least not legitimately.) The classic counter-argument was raised by Pelagius, who claimed that each human being was a blank slate, a morally neutral free agent who had a clean shot at maintaining perfect innocence. Pelagius clearly never had children.
The church came down, with a few caveats, on the side of Augustine and not Pelagius. But Eddie Izzard gets a shout out now and then. The Vatican recently published a list of sins (such as environmental transgressions) which, if not completely original, at least give an updated twist to the old seven deadlies.
Which brings me to the election...
November 10, 2008
What is your caption for this cartoon by Rob Portlock?
Winning entries will be published in the Winter 2009 edition of Leadership. Please include your name, your church’s name, city, and state.
November 7, 2008
For many evangelicals, justice ministry is nothing new.
We evangelical folk love conferences. We'll attend one across the country or host one in our spiffy new sanctuary--er, auditorium. Shoot, we'll even blog about a conference for those who couldn't make it. I've attended my fair share of these get-togethers, from California to Michigan, and blogged about them along the way. Perhaps that early American phenomenon--the frontier camp meeting--lingers in our memory and has found new expression at mega-churches and sports arenas around the country.
During my suburban ministry years, many of the conferences I attended were of the how-to variety. Think "This Old House" with Bob Villa, but substitute house with "small group," "sermon," or "assimilation plan" and Villa with (mostly) white pastors and theologians who write books.
This conference-going tendency must run in our evangelical genes, because the folks at my urban church also make these events a priority. Here's the difference: instead of learning how to improve their church, these city-dwellers are interested in improving their neighborhoods and city. The half-dozen people from our congregation who just returned from the Christian Community Development Association conference in Miami attended workshops that focused on bridging racial divides, homelessness prevention, and immigration issues.
November 5, 2008
What happens when a movement becomes a monument?
In the Fall issue of Leadership journal, you'll find David Swanson's review of Consuming Jesus: Beyond Race and Class Divisions in a Consumer Church, by Paul Louis Metzger. Metzger, a professor of Christian theology and theology of culture at Multnomah Bibllical Seminary in Portland, Oregon, also agreed to speak with David about his book. Today you'll hear a brief portion of their conversation. There will be more to come in the future.
In this installment, Metzger talks about the temptation every movement and ministry effort faces--the urge to turn a vibrant move of the Spirit into a cumbersome institution. He suggests that it's not the institution that's the problem, but rather the priority we place on it. We'll look forward to your reflections at the end.
To download this episode of Audio Ur, click here.
November 4, 2008
Election day is here, but what will tomorrow bring?
The view of America from Manhattan was pretty bleak on the morning after November 2, 2004. New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, typically a levelheaded observer of world affairs, watched America become "two nations under God."
"We don't just disagree on what America should be doing; we disagree on what America is," Friedman wrote about the "Christian fundamentalists" who helped propel President Bush to reelection against Sen. John Kerry. "Is it a country that does not intrude into people's sexual preferences and the marriage unions they want to make? Is it a country that allows a woman to have control over her body? Is it a country where the line between church and state bequeathed to us by our Founding Fathers should be inviolate? Is it a country where religion doesn't trump science? And, most important, is it a country whose president mobilizes its deep moral energies to unite us - instead of dividing us from one another and from the world?"
The view north of Chicago in Evanston, Illinois, was even more ominous. Northwestern University adjunct history professor Garry Wills declared November 2, 2004, "the day the enlightenment went out." No longer did America take after France, Britain, Germany, Italy or Spain. No, Bush's America harbored "fundamentalist zeal, a rage at secularity, religious intolerance, fear of and hatred for modernity." In short, the new America shared more in common with Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein's Sunni loyalists. Christian fundamentalists, still fuming over the embarrassment of the Scopes trial in 1925, had finally enacted a jihad Wills dubbed "Bryan's revenge." Now these Christians would be able to impose their irrational, bigoted opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage. Thinkers like Wills could only ask: "Can a people that believes more fervently in the Virgin Birth than in evolution still be called an Enlightened nation?"