Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Okay, I'm torqued.

Did anyone else read this CNN story?


In it, Dick Cheney says that he thinks it was irresponsible of Amnesty to speak about Human rights violations in the detention facilities at Gitmo in their annual report on Human Rights:


Cheney said, "The US has liberated and given freedom to more people than any other nation in the modern world."
Is this supposed to be an excuse/permission to abuse prisoners and hold no one accountable?
I'm sorry, Mr. Vice President. You don't speak for me! Amnesty International is an authoritative voice on human rights. If they were agreeing with us, we would certainly hail the results. Now is the time for this administration to repent!

The ALL-embracing church

I've been thinking some lately. I do that once in a while. In our emerging circles there is, of course, the stock participant (affluent, educated, white males). My question relates to the whole rest of the world.
In our churches how are we at including the 'least of these' if the least of these include the (functionally) illiterate masses? It seems to me like in some way this conversation is inclusive of those who can grasp grand ideas of philosophy and theology.
What of those who cannot grasp these abstracts?
Part of this came to me in an extreme circumstance:
In my previously blogged Broadway experience with two KJV-only Baptist preachers at the emergent convention they kept mentioning the "academics". By this term they meant Brian McLaren and the like. Which is funny, considering that I've hear others say, "why should we get our theology from someone who isn't a theologian?"
Now, obviously, I don't share all those two pastors' mistrust for education and the educated. However, I also don't share the kind of awe-inspiring unquestioning respect for academia that's common in other evangelical circles.
Another example: In the church where I serve there are lots of elders and deacons (especially considering the size of the church). One of the deacons is not terribly well read, but a totally committed servant of God. I have heard people question his right to be a deacon, since he can hardly read the Bible. I'm reminded that many great questions not only couldn't read the Bible- they didn't even own one! What kind of superiority complex do we have when we have to use complicated theological words in our sermons, for the benefit of our own egos and perhaps a few highly-educated others? In my ministry my wife looks at me funny when I start to use big words. It usually means I'm showing out or I didn't prepare. Preparing means we communicate complex ideas with simple words and images.
In our world of polarizing classes how will we embrace the increasingly illiterate classes with the love of Christ if we cannot bring ourselves to communicate it to them in plain english?
Now, let me say for the record that I don't think I recommend 'dumbing down' the text or speaking entirely in colloquialisms. It is unnerving sometimes to listen to a speaker speak in a regional dialect without any reference or concern for standard english. However, we would not, of course, speak all day in English to natives in some foreign jungle, expecting them to smarten up.
My pastor taught me this: "studying Greek should mean you wrestle with the meaning of the Greek text- determine the meaning, preach from the Greek- then don't mention it."
My English professor in English Comp 1 said, "Learning English should mean that you can't speak to the Queen without sounding like a dolt, and you should be comfortable speaking to a lower class person, and not make them feel inferior."
So, I'm repenting of my love for philosophical, theological big word-bandying, unless I'm in big word-accepting crowds. I WILL become all things to all people.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Senior Sunday

Yesterday was senior sunday. I think I started this tradition a few years ago, whenever I was a bit newer. It is a great opportunity to honor our seniors and their families.
The two seniors in our church who graduated this year are great. They were in the eighth grade when I became the youth minister at the church, so I've watch them grow quite a bit.

In particular, I was struck again by the importance of intergenerational relationships in the church. One boy, the pastor's son, said, "I was nine months old when we moved here. You guys are all that I know. You're like family to me." After the kids had a chance to share their future plans with the body, and thank whoever, we presented them with a gift and had the elders up to pray over them. It was moving. Not a lot of dry eyes through the whole service.

Well, what kind of traditions/rites of passage do you have in your faith communities? Comment.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Amy and I last summer at Young Life's Windy Gap in North Carolina Posted by Hello

Up too late. Up too early.

Admittedly I stayed up a bit late for me last night. I couldn't make myself get off the phone. For one thing, how often do people ask about emergent/the emerging church and not start attacking shortly thereafter? So, my conversation with my friends was a breath of fresh air. For another thing, Matt and Robin have always been some of my favorite friends to talk with. It strikes me that in conversations with them you have a conversation with both. Neither one sits and listens. They're both engaged in the conversation. This makes it more balanced (not so much male thinking) and interesting- because, who knows who's going to grab the phone?

A Blessing from the past...

This evening I emailed a horde of people directing them to the one campaign website. In response I got a strange call from across the continent. A voice with an abnormal accent said to me, "Levi Hadley, do you know who this is?" Ummmm... Soon I recognized what I already knew intuitively-- the southeastern wyoming accent of my friend Matt Boyd. After a few minutes of pleasantries, I mentioned the Emergent Convention and he asked me to tell him about it. I wasn't selling anything, so I just got off the phone after roughly two hours of explaining the cultural shift in the US and the emerging church conversation.
It seemed to resonate with their experience/observations.

Anyways, I know they read my blog earlier, so I want to say hello to my good friends, Matt and Robin Boyd and their five children. Love you guys.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Books I'm reading currently

All right, so all this contemplative prayer I've been trying to practice hasn't necessarily slowed me down or made me more focused. I'm currently reading or re-reading four books:
  1. The Sacred Way by Tony Jones
  2. Reclaiming God Original Intent For the Church by Wes Roberts
  3. Streams of Living Water by Richard Foster
  4. God's Politics by Jim Wallis
  5. Blink by Malcolm Gladwell

I picked up the last one today from the library. It's already pretty good. Interesting stuff. I guess my current reading list reveals that I'm a bit scatter-brained as of late.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

On primary sources...

I had my usual weekly Generous Orthodoxy study meeting today with my pastor. We read the books months ago and meet weekly to discuss a chapter or two, especially the parts either of us highlighted. Out of this study has come references to what I would consider emerging issues in his sermons in our traditional church.
In some ways I could say that my pastor taught me about the emerging church before there was such a term.
"All truth is God's truth" is one thing he's been fond of saying. As if to say, embrace and affirm what is of value in world religions.
In the same way, he has taught me that the proper posture towards other christian traditions is that of humble cooperation, not superiority. So it was he who first encouraged me to read the Catholic and Anglican who were taboo in my upbringing.
Today he mentioned that the ideas of the emerging church are not new. I was like, "now you're getting it..."
"Look," he says, "this anglican guy was saying similar things fifteen years ago."
So, this got me thinking... what are some books that were formative for the emerging church before the idea was hip? I'm especially thinking of people who would not identify themselves as emergent or be identified as such.
Some ideas of emerging thought in germ-form:
  1. Messy Spirituality - Mike Yaconelli (one of my personal heroes)
  2. Dangerous Wonder - Yac
  3. Ragamuffin Gospel - Brennan Manning
  4. Mere Christianity - C.S. Lewis
  5. Celebration of Discipline - Richard Foster
  6. Streams of Living Water - Richard Foster
  7. Anything by Henri Nouwen

These are some of my thoughts. Any others?

Monday, May 23, 2005

Reflections on Emergent

Yesterday while discussing the convention with my pastor (who doesn't consider himself emergent) before church he challenged my use of the term emerging church and references to emerging/emergent christians.
There is only one church on the earth- that is Christ's bride, the church.
And there are no different varieties of Christians in the Kingdom. For there is no distinction, neither Jew, nor Greek, nor evangelical, nor mainlin, nor emerging. Christ is all and in all.
So, abstractions may be helpful. We use categories to save time in conversation and time in our thinking, but this is ultimately a lazy habit.

The world doesn't need an Emerging Church, or the McLarenites. Wouldn't it be a shame if in twenty years there's a collection of middle-aged Mac-using hippies who identify themselves as McLarenites?
What the world needs is for the church of God on the earth to emerge.

This is a lot harder work than planting a few churches and abandoning institutionalized religion.

Phyllis Tickle referred to the emergent movement (conversation) as a new reformation. Oh, that we would consider ourselves as doing something that important in the whole church, without thinking of ourselves as too important.

Humility. Grace. Compassion. Anger. Peace.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Home at last

We returned home this evening. Our house has the funny smell a house gets when you leave the air conditioning off for a few days. I guess it's the smell of the heated wood floors and what not.

A few things I've concluded:
  • The emergent conversation is generally headed in a generally good direction. With the diversity of voices I feel comfortable with the fact that in some way God is guiding this conversation in a direction that will bless the church, and more importantly, the world.
  • Because of our understanding and practice of what someone this week termed "epistemological humility", it is unnecessary and even contradictory to spend time "converting", "setting free" or otherwise arguing with absolutists of any stripe. We have nothing to prove.
  • I need to find or start and emergent cohort in this area with whom I can share ideas, visit, and travel. Maybe that will be a goal of my fall semester.

All in all, I feel blessed to be headed on this journey with such a beautiful group of people.

For my investigating- emergent-friends, check out the order/practices for emergent friends.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Another Thought

A thought I forgot to mention, which I thought should influence the church in the rocky decades to come: we should approach truth and truth claims with an epistemological humility. This is the greatest contribution to the church from post-modern thought. Perhaps the problem is this isn't something post-modern, it's something the church lost in the enlightenment. Too much certainty can lead to arrogance. Now, it's also true that not enough certainty can lead to laziness.

On Margaritas and Burritos

Now I'm going to give a reverse chronological-order description of my day thus far.

Tonight Amy and I found a great place for margaritas and Mexican about three blocks from the convention center. We got after that. I love margaritas with Mexican food. There's no better taste combination.

Prior to that, we went to a viewing of possibly the most bizarre movie I've ever seen: What The Bleep Do We Know. As I already said, this was a dang crazy movie. This movie explores some discoveries in quantum phsyics and ends with the spiritual implications of quantum physics. It was mind-opening, and I'll probably reflect more on it later.

For lunch, I met with a group of fellow-emergents in a discussion/forum on intergenerational issues. This is close to my heart, as I feel like intergenerational relationships are largely missing from both the emerging church and many late-modern forms of church. I met several bloggers I have read or heard of: Adam, Susie, Wes, and Will. This was a great conversation about the need for intergenerational conversation in this emerging story.

In our Learning Community we had a conversation on truth and the nature of truth. This was one of the best thinking opportunities so far in the convention.
In our preliminary discussion these thoughts were put forth by people:
truth is: the assumptions underlying our conversation which either exclude or include others.
to native peoples truth is imperialism/colonialism, because that's what truth has been used for in their context.

The presenters were Todd Hunter (practitioner) of the Vineyard association and John Franke (theologian) of Biblical Seminary in PA. John co-wrote Beyond Foundationalism. Todd started the commentary with an explanation of epistemology. Presumably, there are things, then theories and ideas about things. Epistemology is the collection of theories/ideas about the theories/idea about the things.

To post-moderns, -colonialists, -industrialists truth isn't the important issue. The important issue has become: is the church a force for good on the earth or a force for evil?
This is an important issue to face in our times.

My question was: in order to reach post-moderns, do we have to change the way we think about truth or do we simply have to change the way we teach about truth? What is apparent, given the fallen nature of modern philosophy, is that we should not consider part of our mission to first convert the lost to a modern/cartesian worldview prior to introducing them to Christ. This is maybe the reason for the disconnect between post-modern young people and the current form of Christianity. It isn't that they don't believe in truth, the Bible or Christ. It's that they (and I) don't accept the modern evangelical views of truth, the Bible and Christ.
In our current time we are all a blend of modern and post-modern thought and assumptions, because we're between the times. As in modernism and pre-modern thought, there are opportunities and threats for the church in postmodernity.

From Franke-
the problems postmoderns have with truth:
Hermeneutics of finitude- "absolute" truth is humanly unattainable because of our finitude
Hermeneutics of power/suspicion- If "absolute" truth is attainable for humans, it would be harmful, because absolute truth would be absolutely powerful and absolutely dangerous in the hands of corrupt humans.
The scary thing is: People who defend absolute truth not only believe in absolute truth, they believe they have it and others don't.

So: ultimately, truth is contextual, participatory and experiential.

"The truth is, there is no Truth."
As in, we should accept some forms of truth as a means of maintaining a coherent world and thought system. However, there is no overarching truth.

So, what does this mean in christian thought?
The hermeneutics of finitude relates to the doctrine of creation. Man is a creature, and therefore will not be able to attain full knowledge of anything, especially God and His Word.
The hermeneutics of suspicion relates to the doctrine of sin. Because man is corrupt at his core, there will always be a misuse of truth-claims and power.

A christian translation of the credo of post-modernism:
"The truth is, there is Truth, but not for us, only for God."
Or: our knowledge never equates with God's knowledge, and probably never will.
All truth statements are contextual.

one participant restated this in this way:
"The truth leads me to trust that their is a Truth."

This whole day challenged me intellectually a lot. It's almost time to go back down to the convention center for the general session, followed by worship.


Yesterday was a good, long day. It ended with Amy and I sitting in our hotel room watching CSI: Las Vegas. That was good.
But, lest I miss a lot of details and great thoughts, let me start from the beginning.

I got up and went to a Book Club on Brian McLaren's Generous Orthodoxy.The room seemed to be half full with guys from the NPC. That has been the pattern whenever he's speaking. A lot of pastors maybe came to this convention to see what the emerging church is about without having to align themselves with the teachings of radicals like McLaren.
The Book Club was good. Bob and I have been discussing this book for a couple of months and talking out the consequences and implications for it in our context at the church, so it was good, though, to see what other pastors are resisting/struggling with in his books.
"The gospel of the Kingdom is 'God's will be done on earth, not getting it over with quickly.'"

Our Learning Community was on Humanity and it was hosted by LeRon Shults, from Bethel Seminary in Minnesota, and Kara Powell, from Fuller. This was a great discussion on what it means to be human. In a new, non-individualized paradigm, individual theories of salvation and blessing maybe aren't as helpful. This Learning Community time emphasized two things: our need for self-revelating relationships and the relational nature of God and humanity. It is clearly illustrated in the Trinity that God has eternally existed in perfect relationship. There was a lot of talk about faces and knowing a person. I was moved by the reference to the Aaronic blessing: "May the Lord bless and keep, may He make his shine upon you, may He lift up His countenance upon You..." Numbers 6:24-26.

Next, I went to a seminar led by Richard Foster on Using the Scripture in Spiritual Formation. At the outset we were led in prayer/meditation on Psalm 57:1. This was a powerful centering exercise. Foster said a couple of things that I will quote without comment.
"The fires of heaven are hotter than the fires of hell."
"Spiritual disciplines are the indirect route to the character of God."

Next was a learning community about Scripture led by Brian Walsh and Brian McLaren.
(I did get McLaren to sign my copy of Generous Orthodoxy just for fun.)
McLaren biggest beef with the modern evangelical church is the fact that the Bible suffers greatest at the hands of its friends. Sometimes, in his experience, Bible knowledge seems to be directly related to the meanness of said Christian. I liked what short discussion there was on the nature of the canon and why it is closed. I've wondered about that and still do.
Brian Walsh spent some time in Colossians showing us that the plausibility of the Scripture in the world is the plausibility of the fellowship of the community who came to live by the Scripture.

Well, after that learning Community Amy and I went out for dinner, drank some beer and walked back up Broadway. We ran into a couple of pastors who had questioned some of the things Brian said in a seminar. I stopped and told them that I thought intertraditional/intergenerational dialogue was helpful. We spent the next 45 mins hearing why the emerging church is wrong from a conservative Baptist perspective.

Finally we made it to our hotel and watched CSI. And that was our long and tiring day.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Other Blogs

All right, check out this post of other blogs which are being blogged at this Emergent Convention:
I have been reading some of these for a while.
I haven't managed to get my blog on the list yet.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

After a verrrrrryyyy long day.

This morning we slept in until 8:30 or so. That was a favor to Amy. She loves to sleep. Then we made our way to the convention center to check in.
At 10 AM we were in our first seminar and we were in for a long ride.
Below I will give an overview of the schedule we went through today.
  1. Conversation Seminar with Dave Fleming- This seminar emphasized the need for a more conversational form of leadership and community as opposed to a corporate/top-down model. Very valuable insights. Dialogue was a key word. Bob and I practice this type of thing a lot when we discuss theology/emerging stuff on Wednesdays and it's in his sermons on Sundays.
  2. Next was an intro to the convention format which includes small, medium, large and extra large activities: forums, seminars, learning communities, general sessions.
  3. Next we met with our Learning Community for the first time. The LC is a group of about 200 people linked by a common-colored nametag (ours are sage, I was informed- who knows what sage looks like). During our LC we were presented and led in a conversation by Doug Pagitt of Solomon's Porch and Alan Roxburgh of the Gospel and Our Culture Network. The topic of conversation was Church. (the subsequent topics will be Truth, Scripture, and Humanity). Anyways, this was a helpful dialogue about the meaning of being and doing church in this new postmodern paradigm. It was designed to be a conversation rather than a presentation. This made the whole thing a lot more helpful.
  4. The seminar that came next was probably the most important seminar I've ever attended. Pluralism Revisited. The title reveals a lot. The fact that the presenters was Brian McLaren will make some more conservative folks foam at the mouth. (hehehe) Well, Brian did an awesome job of bringing the whole room through a history of ethics/epistemology and leading us to a place beyond absolutism, pluralism or relativism. The problem is, no one knows what lies beyond these. Brian brought us to N.T. Wright's idea of an "epistemology of love." Following Brian's great presentation was an opportunity for questions and answers. The first question was from a black woman. Her question was something to the effect of "What are we emerging to if we build something just like what we're emerging from?" The room (mostly full of affluent white males) was shocked. The next fifteen of conversation of what it means to be an inclusive community was invaluable. No one could have better brought this topic up in a crowd of white emergents. There were also a couple of pastors who wanted to challenge some of Brian's conclusions (or perhaps defend theirs). Brian responded well, with large doses of humility. It was encouraging to see the not-self-declared prophet of the emerging church respond directly to some of his harshest criticisms about the nature of moral absolutes and the exclusiveness of Christ as Savior. Both of which Brian affirmed while challenging the use of such extreme language.
  5. Instead of speakers in general sessions, we have a blesser named Phyllis Tickle. Ms. Tickle is an eloquent speaker with a sharp wit. She told a story and reminded us of some 'old treasures'.
  6. From there we went to a Taize service at the Christ Church Cathedral Episcopal Church a few blocks from the convention center. Instead of corporate times of over-the-top worship in the convention center we were given three worship options at three different downtown churches. The church where we worshipped was gorgeous. And the music of Taize is wonderful for ending a really long and tiring day.

Thinking through this whole day, I'm really glad to have been here. The seminar with Brian McLaren was better than I can explain. And I have been blessed a lot today.

A blessing on any readers.

Already this has been the best convention I've ever attended. I'll write more about it. Unfortunately for my fellow emergent-bloggers, they don't have internet/wifi access. We, however, have free high speed in our room. Heheheh.
That's right. free high-speed in our room at the Best Western 4 blocks from the convention.
Anyways.. I'll write more later about the Learning Community session on Church and the Brian McLaren seminar entitled: Pluralism Revisited. Both were great. Now we're headed to general session and, most likely to a Taize service.

Blogging into ether

I just spent a little while checking the blogs that are supposed to be blogging from the convention this week. It's interesting that a lot of people mention that this is the last convention of its kind. Youthspecialties will no longer plan or be involved in the emergent convention or the national pastors' convention (which is happening simultaneously in the same convention center). Now, this is particularly funny because it has taken me this long to come to an emergent convention. I have been following the emergent/pomo conversation since the last time I came to a YS youth workers' convention here in Nashville. That's when I met with a Spiritual Director and started on a whole new direction.

I'm really excited just to have this time away with Amy and to get reacquainted, but I'm also very excited about experiencing this convention with her.
In a half hour or so we'll go register and get our convention giveaways and cute nametags. Yes!

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Brewery Restaurants

Amy and I are settled in our hotel in Nashville. We walked down to Broadway and saw all the Music City downtown has to offer. Not much. Or, at least, not much for my taste.
We had dinner at a brewery restaurant. I love brewery restaurants. Anyways, after dinner and beer tasting (the food was fantastic), we walked back by the convention center and to our hotel. The last time I was at the Nashville Convention Center was about 3 years ago. I met Mike Yaconelli at that convo. The picture is still on display in my office.
I am looking forward to a lot of quality time with Amy and good conversations at this convention.
It seems like that will be the case.
We'll check in tomorrow about 10 and the first general session is at 11.


I'm really excited for our trip in a bit.
Once Amy gets done with MOPS we'll be headed home to take off for Nashvegas. (Well, actually, we have some packing to do first.)
Now, I'm at my office taking care of stuff.
I know my posts have been short and boring, but I will be posting more stuff soon from my convention experience.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Emergent Convention

So, tomorrow Amy and I are leaving for the Emergent Convention in Nashville. The good thing is Nashville is only 3 hours away. That's awesome! Besides, the convention, this will also be our 5th anniversary trip. Can you believe she's put up with me this long? Dang. She's a saint.
Anyways, there's going to be free high speed at our hotel, so I'll be blogging from the convention.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Conference Time of the Year!!

Well, we returned last night from our conference in Branson. It was great/horrible. Great because the kids had the time of their lives at Silver Dollar City, we got to spend time together, and it was a little restful. Horrible because all of the above meant the kids had to be there with us the entire time. Now we're tired and recuperating.
Tonight we'll have club at our house. Yeah.
I'm getting even more excited about the Emergent Convention now that this convention is over. It will be here in no time.
I'll try to blog more tomorrow.