Sunday, December 28, 2008

Catholic-Emergent Conference

We have spoken about this before at our get together, but it is time to spread the word out more widely. There is a group rate available if we can get a group of ten put together. Those interested in possibly going to this conference post a comment below and let us know.


The Center for Action and Contemplation (CAC) in Albuquerque, New Mexico, will be hosting the first-ever Catholic-Emergent conference, March 20-22, 2009.

According to the CAC, “The conversation about the emerging church has been attracting a broad array of Christians — progressive Evangelicals and mainline Protestants along with some Roman Catholics — but this will be the first gathering to be planned and hosted by a team of Catholic and Protestant leaders working together for the good of the church at large. There will also be a post-conference for those who want to develop vehicles for deepening and sustaining the emerging energy for Gospel-centered justice, contemplation, and community.”

The conference will feature:
  • Richard Rohr, OFM (founding director of CAC)
  • Brian McLaren
  • Alexie Torres-Fleming
  • Shane Claiborne
  • Phyllis Tickle
The conference is being called “The Emerging Church: Conversations, Convergence and Action,” and the post-conference will take place March 22-23.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Crash-Helmet Christianity

Here's a thought I'd share with you all. A pithy little quote from Annie Dillard's book, Teaching a Stone to Talk:
"Does anyone have the foggiest idea of what sort of power we so blithely invoke? Or, as I suspect, does no one believe a word of it? The churches are children playing on the floor with their chemistry sets, mixing up a batch of TNT to kill a Sunday morning. It is madness to wear ladies' straw hats and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets. Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should lash us to our pews."

Thursday, December 25, 2008

I just love this picture...

I should do this, it's a classic idea.


Shawn Johnston of Kansas City, Kan. browses a newspaper while having a cappuccino at Homer's Coffee House in Overland Park, Kan. on Tuesday, Dec. 23, 2008. The member of Praise Chapel Christian Fellowship starting dressing as Jesus about two weeks ago to 'show people what Christmas is all about.' Many members of the congregation have been doing the same now since Thursday, Dec. 18. (Photo: AP Images / Reed Hoffmann)

Here's a related article: 400 dress as Jesus to put Christ back in Christmas

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Just wishing you all a Merry Christmas!!!

Since Santa Claus will be swinging through town tonight, with all his reindeer and a sleigh full of products from China (or maybe you're right now looking at the mess left over from all that he brought). I though you might enjoy a little report on who old Saint Nick really was. Check out this short video over on Religion & Ethics Newsweekly, and this cool site dedicated to St. Nicholas.

Here's to hoping you have a safe and merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Tis the season, baby, yaa…

Here are a few things to put on your calendar. But first, we had talked about actually having a get together this December. Post a comment if you have an alternative idea to my proposal below, so we can discuss what we would like to do.

It has been revealed to me that a shopocalypse of a film, What Would Jesus Buy, will be showing on Wednesday, December 10th, 7pm, down at the Sorenson Unity Center, 1383 S 900 West. It’s free, and I propose that we make this event our get together for December. More information will be made available over at the SLC Film Center soon. (You can see the preview over on Andrew’s blog Hackman’s Musings)

Also, for those like me who want to celebrate Advent, but grew up in a church tradition that doesn’t pay any attention to it. The Catholic Diocesan Office of Liturgy has been kind enough to offer a series that “focuses on the theology, spirituality and symbolism of the advent season.” There will be three presentations, all held from 7 to 8 pm:
"Advent: A Season of Expectation", Thursday, December 4th, at St. Ann Parish, 450 E 2100 South.

"Our Lady of Guadalupe: Symbol of Hope", Tuesday, December 9th, at Our Lady of Guadalupe Chapel at Juan Diego Catholic High School, 300 E 11800 South, Draper.

"What Child Is This: The Antiphons and the Coming Messiah", Wednesday, December 17th, at St. Ann Parish, 450 E 2100 South.
And last but not least, that nutty state senator of ours, Sen. Chris Butters, R-West Jordan, wants you to have a Merry Christmas, not a Happy Holiday’s, and is willing to waste your tax dollars to make sure you know that (In the papers here and here). So send him some of your love and wish him a Happy Holiday’s at: dbuttars@utahsenate.org

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Some thoughts on Prop 8 in California

It was an interesting discussion on California’s passage of Prop 8 we had last night. It was the first time I think in which nobody agreed with anyone else completely on an issue. ‘Yes’ votes, ‘No’ votes, and empty boxes all round. (Andrew posts more on our discussion as well over on his blog.)

After the discussion I continued to think over things and decided I’d write down and post here some of my thoughts I've collected on the issue (and I'd like to say these are not the the thoughts of the cohort as a whole, but only my own):

  • The amount of money spent in this campaign by the conservative church community shows a severe sense of misplaced priorities. Those millions of dollars could have gone a long ways to helping out people in need or something, but all it was used for was to stop gay people from getting “married”. It didn’t stop them from “sinning”, it didn’t make homosexuals into heterosexuals, it didn’t end gay sex from happening, it didn’t stop people from talking about it, (nor does it stop them from protesting in the streets, yelling it from the rooftops, and all-round making a ruckus over the whole matter) all that is still there. All it did was stop gay people from getting “married”. That’s it. In short, the conservative church community spent millions of dollars just to prevent the gay community from using the word ‘marriage’ to describe the same basic thing they are apparently already doing in a ‘civil union’. (Now I’ve not studied it out in detail, but it appears to be that the only real practical difference between the two, ‘civil union’ and ‘marriage’, are the words – merely a difference in semantics, and maybe some rituals.) In other words, this doesn’t sound anything like ‘protecting marriage’ to me. It seems all rather anticlimactic and wasteful, at best it appears to be only protecting a word, for it solves nothing of what the churches really find so objectionable.

  • I agree with the reported comments that Tony Campolo made recently at the meeting of the Baptist General Association of Virginia, from an article in the Baptist Press:

    Campolo's remarks were notable for his criticism of the recently passed Proposition 8 in California which would amend the state constitution to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

    Interpreting the meeting's theme "Who Is My Neighbor?" Campolo said, "The Samaritans were those who were considered spiritually unclean, abominations in the eyes of God." Some of today's "Samaritans," he said, are the poor, Muslims, illegal immigrants and gays.

    Campolo called himself "a conservative on the issue" of homosexuality, but said he opposed Proposition 8. Describing homosexual behavior "contrary to the teaching of God," he nonetheless questioned what was gained in passing the ballot initiative.

    "What did we win? ... I'll tell you what we won," he said. "We won tens of thousands of gays and lesbians parading up and down the streets of San Francisco and New York and L.A. screaming against the church, seeing the church as enemy.

    "I don't know how we're going to reach these brothers and sisters," he said, "but I'm an evangelical and I'm going to win them to Christ.... And we're not going to win them to Christ if we keep sending them bad messages, and we've sent them a bad message. I think the decision in California was in agreement with how I believe, but sometimes you've got to consider the person before you bang them over the head with your principles."
    To expand out on my own thoughts here, I think the churches made a really bad move with their push to pass Prop 8. In the Bible, Jesus says, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35). Well we like to tell ourselves we love them, but that’s not what the churched community is known for in the gay community. Words like ‘hate’, ‘bigot’, and ‘homophobia’ are what they use to describe the disciples of Jesus. Instead of just saying, “well they’re just wrong, we love them, and they just aren’t recognizing our love for them”, I think the church needs to seriously reexamine what it sees as ‘loving one another’, and ‘love your enemies’, and recognize the fact that we really just aren’t all that loving toward the gay community, and that we need to repent in this.

  • In a statement released just after Proposition 8 passed, Ron Prentice, from the ProtectMarriage.com Yes on 8 Campaign, said,

    This is a great day for marriage. The people of California stood up for traditional marriage and reclaimed this great institution. We are gratified that voters chose to protect traditional marriage and to enshrine its importance in the state constitution. We trust that this decision will be respected by all Californians.
    I can’t help but see this as incredibly na├»ve. It’s as if conservative churches think they can pass some legislation and then expect people to submit to their will without changing the hearts and minds of people. Somewhere around 18,000 gay couples got married over the past six months or so, and they are not just going to kowtow and “respect” the annulment of their marriages just because some other people’s religious sensibilities are hurt.

  • This isn’t Christendom, this is not a Christian nation we live in, and passing “biblically wholesome” legislation doesn’t make us more righteous as a nation. If hearts and minds are not transformed nothing has actually been accomplished.

  • The ultimate end of this issue I think is obvious. Just because Prop 8 passed, nothing is written in stone. California voters will pass a new amendment in a few years changing their own state constitution back to what it was before, or some Supreme Court, state or federal, will eventually overturn this ban on gay marriage. Either way, all the money, time, and effort the churches have put into “protecting marriage” will be for nothing, and the churches will eventually have to stand up and be the church in a nation that accepts gay marriage.
  • Friday, November 7, 2008

    Meeting: November 19th

    Alright! This month’s meeting is happening on November 19th. We had to move it up a week because of Thanksgiving. Everyone is welcome. Meeting is at the usual place and time.

    The time: 7pm, November 19th
    The location: High Point Coffee, at 1735 West 7800 South, in West Jordan

    We didn’t pick a specific topic so come prepared to discuss some of your favorite blog posts, and/or articles, that you've read this past month, or just to discuss whatever comes up.

    Thinking about interesting blog posts – here’s one on Obama, our new president-elect, that seemed out of the ordinary and interesting (at least to me), posted earlier today on The Immanent Frame, A public theologian. “Americans have elected the most theologically astute president since Jimmy Carter.”

    And finally, I thought I’d mention something about The Voice: New Testament, yet another new translation of the New Testament, has just been released (website & excerpt). I picked up a copy last week to test drive and so far it makes for a good flowing read. Brian McLaren worked on some parts of it and discusses the project here in this video:

    Tuesday, November 4, 2008

    What now for Christians in America?

    Well, Obama has won and is now on his way to being our 44th president. In California, Proposition 8, is still very much up in the air as I post this, but appears to be leaning towards passage, ending gay marriage in that state. Christians in America, of all stripes, have played a significant role in these contests, having poured so much time and money into them. So, with the elections now over, what’s done is done, the votes have been cast, and the contests are now over. I was wondering: What now for Christians in America?

    Friday, October 31, 2008

    Salt Lake Theological Seminary is closing

    I just heard the disappointing news, and thought I’d forward it all onto you. The Salt Lake Theological Seminary is closing, a victim of the current economic recession. Here are a couple of articles from the Salt Lake Tribune concerning its closure: Salt Lake Theological Seminary set to close, Money runs out for S.L. seminary.

    Thursday, October 30, 2008

    Mixing the Episcopal Church and the Assemblies of God

    A few months ago my wife and I stopped going to Southeast Christian Church. Now don’t get me wrong, it’s a good church, we have friends there (and William, who is a part of our cohort, serves as an elder there), we’d been going consistently there for a year or so before we left, and we have a history with that church going back at least to early 2004. But we live out on the edge of society here in Eagle Mountain, a 45-minute drive away; this distance, with our work schedules, and our two-year old, Maya, made things a bit inhibitive, especially for my wife. We couldn’t connect up with people and events to really spend time and build relationships. We had tried a local church once before, a little independent fundamentalist Bible church plant for a couple of years, but that didn’t really work out. Since then another church plant has come into the area, so we thought we’d have a go with it, Coram Deo, officially with the Assemblies of God. This would allow us to work in and build relationships with people in our community.

    For my wife it’s a good place to go. The pastor and the people are great, and there are a bunch of kids for Maya to have friends growing up. And it is unique I think in that we have a meal with every service; we all sit down and eat lunch together and enjoy each other’s company (this meal together may change a bit for its new evening service, but we’ll see). Eating together isn’t something rare, and people don’t run out the door just after service is over (as they so often unfortunately did at Southeast Christian).

    But for me… I guess I have an itch that needs scratching. All these churches I’ve been going to are conservative, and ahistorical (as in they recognize the church in Acts, and then came some later-day movement, whether it be the Reformation, the Stone-Campbell Restoration, or Azusa Street, everything in between is ya-know… kind of a mystery mixed with apostasy). The focus and heart of the Sunday service, and most else, is the sermon. So anyway, over the past few years, I’ve been reading up stuff on or by the early church and not seeing much of it in our modern church, and reading up on postmodern philosophy and finding that I agree with much of the picture it is painting of the world I live in. It occurred to me that I needed to step out of my mental box, take a look around, and do church differently, to think differently, to stretch, and maybe do a little liturgy. And since I’ve read a handful of Anglican theologians and resonate with what they say, I’ve decided to go to an Episcopal church.

    So for the past what… couple of months now, I’ve been going to St. James Episcopal Church. It’s just been me. My wife and daughter have been going to our local Coram Deo. Once the sacrament of coffee closes out at the Episcopal Church on Sunday morning, I drive off to lunch at Coram Deo with the family. And now with their new additional evening service, I will be active and finding ways to serve at both churches; the Episcopal one in the morning, and our local Pentecostal church plant in the evening.

    I think it’s interesting this mix of things. I feel like I’m a conservative at the Episcopal Church. The diocese is theologically liberal, and it openly accepts members who are gay, but since it’s not centered on “doctrinal correctness” it has a flexibility that allows room for those who disagree with some of the liberalness. At Coram Deo I feel like I’m a liberal. The church tends toward a more-or-less literal view of the Bible, i.e. creationism, Jonah really was swallowed by a fish, etc., where I lend to a more metaphorical view in many areas of the Bible. In each there are people with problems, issues, and points of view (among whom I am most certainly included), as well as big hearts, in each we are struggling to love each other and love God; one church is no better than the other. Between the tradition of liturgy and ritual in the one, and something much more freeform in the other, the different ways of approaching the Bible, the church’s history, and how to understand this mysterious God we worship, this diversity and contrast, gives me much to think about, wrestle with, and learn.

    I think I’d recommend doing something like this for everyone. We need to step outside of our mental maps. To look at things from a different angle, to try new things, or should I say some old things that we have neglected to do. And not just to visit, but to spend some time, and get to know people. Not to just accept any one particular way of seeing, doing, or experiencing, but to test things by really seeking to understand the other.

    Wednesday, October 22, 2008

    National Student Dialogue Conference II

    Friday & Saturday
    October 24-25th, 2008
    Utah Valley University


    Student Price: $29 before Oct. 17th, $39 After
    Non-Student Price: $39 before Oct. 17th, $49 After


    This two-day conference on dialogue will involve key religious leaders and thinkers who will speak from both LDS and evangelical perspectives.

    Speakers Include:

    Dr. Robert Millet, Brigham Young University
    Dr. Jerry Root, Wheaton College
    Dr. Spencer Fluhman, Brigham Young University
    Dr. Dennis Okholm, Azusa Pacific University
    Dr. Brian Birch, Utah Valley University
    Dr. John-Mark Reynolds, Biola University
    Dr. Robert Wood, Quorum of the Seventy-LDS Church
    Dr. Del Tacket, Truth Project-Focus on the Family


    A block of rooms has been put on hold at the La Quinta Inn – Orem University Parkway (521 W. University Pkwy, Orem UT 84058). Please call 801-226-0440 or 800-531-5900, to make your reservations by October 3, 2008. Let them know you are reserving a room blocked off for Standing Together and the National Student Dialogue Conference. The rate per room is $79 per night.


    The maximum capacity for this event is 300 seats. Register now to ensure your spot!

    *There is a special scholarship for the first 100 Latter-day Saint students to have their registration fee waived. When filling out the online registration form, please select the option "LDS Student Scholarship".

    The National Student Dialogue Conference II is sponsored by Standing Together & the Religious Studies Department of Utah Valley University.

    More info at Standing Together.

    Sunday, October 19, 2008

    National Student Dialogue Conference II

    Also, I wanted to mention that this week is the National Student Dialogue Conference II. I know I should have mentioned it here earlier, but I confess, I can sometimes be a little lazy. BTW, I myself won't be able to make it, but if anyone reading this is going let us know in the comments below and let us know how it goes.

    Some basic information:

    Friday & Saturday, October 24-25th, 2008, Utah Valley University

    Student Price: $39, Non-Student Price: $49

    This two-day conference on dialogue will involve key religious leaders and thinkers who will speak from both LDS and evangelical perspectives.

    Go to their website for more information, to register, and pay online.

    Meeting, October 22nd

    The usual time: 7pm, October 22nd
    The usual location: High Point Coffee, at 1735 West 7800 South, in West Jordan

    We decided not to read the book we had originally planned to read since everyone was so busy this month with other projects. Instead come share and discuss some of your favorite blog posts, and/or articles, you've read this past month.

    Tuesday, October 7, 2008

    Bishop to address immigration and faith


    From the Deseret News:

    Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church welcomes the Most Rev. John Wester, bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City, as guest speaker on Sunday, Oct. 12, 6 p.m. Bishop Wester will speak on "Immigration from a Faith Perspective" within the setting for evening prayer. A dessert reception follows. The public is invited. Call 582-2321 for more details.

    The address for Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church is 1070 S Foothill Dr, Salt Lake City, UT 84108

    I plan to go. Anyone want to join me?

    Update made 10/13/2008:

    The reporters were there. On Fox 13's broadcast clip you can see the back of my head, and the Deseret News had an article.

    Saturday, October 4, 2008

    A few things

    Our next get together will be Wednesday, October 22nd, again at High Point Coffee, at 1735 West 7800 South, in West Jordan. I’ll send out another reminder notice a little closer to the meeting date. We decided not to read the book we had planned to read since everyone is so busy this month with other projects. Instead we plan to share and discuss some of our favorite blog posts, or articles, we’ve read this past month.

    And thinking about articles, here are a couple of articles worth reading by Scot McKnight, in Christianity Today: McLaren Emerging, and The Ironic Faith of Emergents. Also, in the Salt Lake Tribune today there was a brief article on my favorite local Christian bookstore: The Open Book Store.

    For anyone out there who might want to read and discuss a book this month, I’ve just picked up Phyllis Tickle’s new book, The Great Emergence, so if anyone would like to join me just let me know and we can set something up.

    Lastly, Bill Maher’s new film Religulous is now out in theaters, and is showing down at the Broadway Centre Cinemas. I hope to catch it sometime this week, so if anyone would like to join me let me know.

    Monday, September 15, 2008

    Brennan Manning In Ogden, UT Sept. 26 and 27


    Brennan Manning, a well-known author and speaker, will present a seminar at Washington Heights Baptist Church, 1770 E. 6200 South, Ogden, on Sept. 26 and 27.

    Click Here for an article in the local paper and more details.

    Saturday, September 6, 2008

    Theological Seminary free public lecture

    Notice from the Deseret News:

    A free public lecture, Israel's Extermination of Canaanites, Globalization and Religious Pluralism in a Post 9/11 World, will be at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Salt Lake Theological Seminary, 699 E. South Temple.

    The guest speaker will be Dr. Glen Taylor, Old Testament professor of the Theological College of Tajikistan, who studied at Jerusalem University College and completed his Ph.D. at the University of Gloucestershire in the United Kingdom.

    For more information, call 581-1900.

    From the Salt Lake Theological Seminary:

    After the events of 9/11, Christians struggle more than ever with the harshness of herem: the treatment of Canaanites by Israel prescribed by God in the Old Testament. It raises issues of relationship between religious conviction and tolerance, unity and diversity, politics and morals. How does this holy ban speak to us theologically and ethically in the modern context? A close reading of herem texts reveals an interplay that gives coherence to the development of the biblical vision of the ideal community, the Kingdom of God.

    Tuesday, September 2, 2008

    Phyllis Tickle: "It won’t be 10 percent right now, but I would be floored if its not 20 percent next year."

    Phyllis Tickle, editor of the religion department at Publishers Weekly, and author of several books on fixed hour prayer, has a new book coming out later this month, The Great Emergence: How Christianity Is Changing and Why. To get a whiff of what the book is about I recommend you read a couple articles out in a recent addition of Sojourners (available here and here, after you fill out their free registration).

    The Atlanta Journal-Constitution had an interesting article out the other day related to the book’s upcoming release, and quoted Tickle several times. I thought I’d post a few extended excerpts here that I thought were interesting, and prophetic, from the article to see what any of you might think about what she’s saying.

    The revolution has begun.

    Quietly, maybe, but symptoms are bubbling up.

    They include Bible studies in bars, friends starting their own churches in houses, or congregations trying a smattering of everything —- music of the Middle Ages and the latest rock anthems, Saturday morning and Thursday night meetings. Pentecostals are adopting liturgy and Episcopalians are speaking in tongues.

    “[The changes are] led by all those who wish to remain faithful, but feel something is not quite right in the church,” said Tickle,

    This new movement, which she refers to as emerging or emergent Christianity, will have as big an impact as the Reformation, Tickle predicts.

    How many churchgoers know about what she is talking about?

    “It won’t be 10 percent right now,” she said. “But I would be floored if its not 20 percent next year. The restlessness now is almost palpable.”

    The movement is loosely organized, and often quiet. It is made up of people who have gotten to know each other through word-of-mouth, on Internet sites or at conferences where writer-pastors such as Brian McLaren and Tony Jones speak.

    The movement’s members are passionate and experimental, socially conscious and ecumenical, deeply devoted to early church disciplines, such a prayer, but they feel free to question and reinterpret long-held beliefs, [Steve Hayner, a professor of church growth at Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur] said.

    Troy Bronsink, a former Presbyterian pastor who leads a strand of the Atlanta movement, describes some involved as “refugees from ecclesiological abuse.”

    Discussion groups and the participants’ relationships create a safe space for those willing to question the religion they grew up with and think and talk about new ways to live out their faith, he said.

    Tickle said, “When somebody says they are relativists, I want to smack them upside their heads.”

    One has to take belief seriously to question and reposition a faith so that it is meaningful in current culture, she said. And the critics should get used to these faithful who look back to the roots of the faith as well as lean into the future with it.

    “Before it’s over, it’s going to be 60 percent of Christianity,” she predicted.

    Next emergent cohort meeting is September 24th

    The usual time: 7pm, September 24th
    The usual location: High Point Coffee, at 1735 West 7800 South, in West Jordan

    We’ll be reviewing the book The Lost Letters of Pergamum, by Bruce W. Longenecker

    Tuesday, August 12, 2008

    Our next meeting on August 20

    We’re changing things up a little and meeting a week earlier than we normally have the last few months. It will be Wednesday, August 20th, at 7pm, over at High Point Coffee, at 1735 West 7800 South, in West Jordan.

    We’ll be discussing the article “Crucified Lord or Conquering Saviour: Whose Story of Salvation” by Sylvia C. Keesmaat, as well as both the epistles of Philippians and Romans. So you’ll want to spend sometime reading (the article is short) and preparing. (But if for whatever reason you can’t read the above, come anyway. I’m sure you will still be able to participate.)

    Interesting event coming up

    I saw this in the weekly bulletin of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, which I visited a couple of Sundays ago. This sounds like it would be interesting to go see:
    Have you ever been confused or frustrated with the way Christians use the Bible to fight with each other? Tired of Christians using portions of the Bible to prove other Christians wrong? Then join us at the Open Book Store (ECCU) September 20, 10:00 am -1:30 pm. Author, Dean, & President of the Church Divinity School of the Pacific, Dr. Donn Morgan, Ph.D will address these issues, and more. Participants will have an opportunity to test out constructive ways to use the Bible and its very different teachings in parish and other contexts. Copies of his book Fighting with the Bible will be on sale. Register now by e-mail with name(s) and phone number to mnestler@episcopal-ut.org. Cost $15.00 per person, including lunch, payable at the door.
    And that does appear to be a new Christian bookstore located in downtown, at the new the Episcopal Church Center of Utah, 75 South 200 East, Salt Lake City, UT. I haven’t checked that bookstore out yet to see what it’s made of, but I hope to soon.

    Some additional information from their weekly bulletin:
    The new diocesan bookstore, The Open Book, is now open! We carry a wide assortment of books and gifts for progressive Christians, including Bibles, the Book of Common Prayer, works in classical and contemporary spirituality, history and theology, and children’s books. We are happy to recommend books for special occasions or gifts. And, we are happy to place special orders and mail your purchase to you if you live outside the Salt Lake metro area. Come visit us. Our hours are 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 9 a.m. until noon on Fridays. We are located on the Commons at the Episcopal Church Center of Utah, 75 S. 200 E., in Salt Lake City. Contact either Jessica Hatch or Barbara Losse for information, questions or to place an order: 801-595-5362, or send an email to bookstore@episcopal-ut.org

    Thursday, August 7, 2008

    Christian Unity

    I had an interesting thing happen to me a few weeks ago that I thought I might share:
    On Friday nights I play in the Christian softball league here in town. I have been playing in this league for as long as I have lived here (13 years). There are 16 teams in this league representing 14 different Christian churches in the valley. It has always been the custom for the two teams to form a circle and pray together after the post-game handshakes. For 13 years I have seen every team adhere to this custom - until this season. We have a church in the league this year with 2 teams entered and they refuse to pray with their opponents after the games. Recently, after playing 3 games this season against these guys I confronted them about not praying with us or any other teams in the league. I was told that they are not sure we are TRULY Christians and, since they take worship very seriously, they don’t want to pray with us, just in case.
    Exclusiveness… superiority… arrogance…? I don’t know; these ARE attitudes that some Christians somehow extract from the gospel. They are all too eager to judge each other by their positions on controversial issues like evolution, stem cell research, abortion, gay rights, capital punishment, political party affiliation, etc., as well as theological stances. Like the guys from those softball teams, too many Christians jump to reckless assumptions about other Christians until they can run them through their “Christian standards” checklist to approve of them or not. And, almost always, the standards are based on arguable interpretations of Bible text or some distortion in its practical application. There is a disturbing pride that many Christians seem to derive when upholding their viewpoints, becoming vocal, even angry, with those who disagree. They forget that their salvation is a gift that they should not boast. Many of them have erroneously drawn the conclusion, from somewhere other than their Bibles, that anything less than THEIR church’s/denomination’s interpretation of certain sections of the Bible (particularly Genesis and Revelation) puts one in only a “maybe” relationship w/ God. There are many people with an education in science, philosophy, or social/behavioral sciences who are Believers but will not set foot in a church because they want to avoid legalist Christians like the plague. One’s relationship with God is its own reality and whatever anyone else thinks about it is, at its most basic level (between God and the individual), irrelevant. But there are larger implications for the universal church body.
    To be sure, there ARE essential doctrines inherent to Christianity, without which it would cease to be Christianity. The duties of elders and ministers are to shepherd the flock and uphold the doctrine of the church. We DO have to be on guard against counterfeit christian organizations in the world. Meanwhile, it must be recognized that there are non-essential doctrines to our faith, also. For example, even though the majority of people in my congregation may adhere to a literalist view of creation, we agree that specifics on origins and specifics on eschatology are non-essentials for salvation or fellowship.
    If it’s not hard enough for Christians to agree on what the essentials are, so many Christians are deeply embedded in an “either/or” rationale. In other words, they put issues into a dichotomy: either x is true, OR y is true, and then assume they are mutually exclusive. They don’t consider the possibility that x and y may BOTH be true... or false. Moreover, there may even be a z that is true! For example:
    1) The Bible is God’s word, or The Bible is not God’s word.
    2) Literal Bible interpretation is true, or Metaphorical Bible interpretation is true.
    3) The Bible gives an account of origins, or Science gives an account of origins.
    In philosophical lingo these are examples of a false dichotomy. In other words, you are trying to force your opponent into an extreme position because you offer only two possible choices. Does this sound familiar? Either “You believe the Bible literally,” or “You are calling God a liar.” Metaphysical materialists also use false dichotomy when arguing with theistic evolutionists. They are notorious for this. Examples:
    1) “You believe your science textbook,” or “You believe your Bible.”
    2) “You are an accomplished scientist,” or “You believe in God.”

    The great thinkers of the church and early shapers of Christian doctrine - Paul, Augustine and Thomas Aquinas – probably roll over in their graves at the lack of critical thinking sometimes demonstrated in the church. For instance, I am sure Paul believed the literal 6 days of creation, Adam and Eve story, sin causing corporal death, etc. It is evident in Romans that he did and there is a rationale for it (receiving inspiration while living in a Jewish culture in a pre-scientific age). But if he were somehow to show up on the scene today and be exposed to the scientific data with which we now have access, I am confident his divinely inspired message would be more in a context of what we believe about the world today. He would be true to his strategy of being all things to all people to the glory of Christ. But here’s the point: Paul would deliver exactly the same SPIRITUAL message. Many Christians appear to be unable to make the distinction between content and method – the deeper message is the same whether it is written in a pre-scientific context or 21st century context. In addition, such legalistic Christians seem to be completely unaware that the doctrine they adhere to today (the Trinity, the divinity and humanity of Christ, baptism, etc.) was not all processed into systematic theology in the days of the writing of the NT. It took decades, even centuries, to address different points of theology AS THE NEED AROSE (heresies, persecution, reformation, counter-reformation). Today there IS a need for the church to address certain theological and political issues as they affect the life of the church as well as individual Christians. But this must be carried out by looking for the deeper message of the Scriptures as seen through a context of what we know about the world today. And it must be done without erroneously transforming political issues into theological ones.
    Now, I have no idea exactly what kinds of heresies the “softball guys” are on the lookout for. But what struck me the most is that the strongest emotion I detected from them was: FEAR. Thankfully, I cannot comprehend what that is like – Fear in a God so harsh that an attempt at genuine fellowship with other brothers and sisters in Christ should be forsaken “just in case” their theological standards are not perfectly aligned. And, of course, they are CERTAIN their standards are God’s standards. Christians should be the most secure people on the planet! Yet these guys seem to be almost paralyzed with fear of … something!
    What the Emergent Cohort in Salt Lake City has been for me is for Christians from different backgrounds to enjoy each others’ company and discuss topics without being judged or ridiculed – just sharing ideas, knowing and accepting from the start that it’s unavoidable to have differences in opinion, but still able to embrace a friendship that is rooted in Christ.

    Thursday, July 17, 2008

    Our next meeting July 23rd

    Since we don’t have any specific topic picked out for this meeting, how about we spend some time discussing just what we each think Emergent is.

    Also, we had talked about following along with the upcoming Reclaiming Paul conference, discussing the reading material, and follow-up stuff generated after the conference. That begins in August, so you will want to start preparing now. Make sure you can get access to the books we’ll be discussing (here is the previous post with links).

    A blog has been set up associated with the conference that you may want to check out, and here are a couple of YouTube videos discussing it:



    Friday, June 20, 2008

    Jesus in China

    There has been a lot of reporting on the church in China the past couple of months. The cover page article in Christianity Today, May 2008, and as well the main theme of Christian History & Biography, Spring 2008, currently available on news stands in most local B&N and Borders. And I just found out that FRONTLINE/World, on PBS, this Tuesday at 8pm, will have a feature Jesus in China. With the Olympics coming up, and with all the focus on China, as well as China’s rapid economic growth, and the surprising growing affluence and influence of the church there, it will be interesting to watch developments there.

    Wednesday, June 18, 2008

    Our next meeting June 25th

    We don’t have any specific topic set up, but I thought we might discuss theology, spiritual, and philosophical books… what we’re reading now, what we’ve read, our favorites, recommended, and what we want to read and why. So of course we will probably whined up talking about all sorts of things.

    Also, I’ve decided to go back to school. I plan to audit a course at our local Salt Lake Theological Seminary, the class The Message of the Psalms: God’s Rule in a World of Trouble, I’ve already anteed up the class fees and ordered the books. [Unfortunately, my class was just cancelled] (Check out there summer course schedule for classes if you’re interested.)

    Be prepared to go on a book buying apocalypse after this get together. :^)

    Monday, June 16, 2008

    The Hope That You Have

    I had some more thoughts on hope and why I feel it may be more useful than beliefs.

    Peter said:
    But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,

    I believe Peter was very specific with his choice of words. Notice he did not ask us to be prepared to give reasons for our beliefs.

    One reason hope tends to be more useful is because it is not a matter of right or wrong. I could believe with my whole heart that something is true... then find out it isn't. How often has this happened to us?

    Hope speaks to our desires and where our heart is going. I think scripture shows that God tends to focus on our hearts.

    Hope allows me to fellowship. I just had a great walk and conversation with a good friend of mine. He is LDS and I am not. Many people find it difficult to fellowship with someone of a different faith. My friend and I do not have this problem and I think it is due to Hope. We have beliefs that are very different and we often candidly discuss them. However, above our beliefs we find that we share a common Hope - That God is a loving God who wants us to grow in Him. That Goodness will triumph. That this will all end in a way better than either of us can imagine.

    Sunday, June 1, 2008

    Some upcoming plans

    Emergent Village will be having their theological conversation event, Reclaiming Paul: The Apostle in the Emerging World, in late October. If any of us can go, great. But I know I can’t go, and I would still like to participate in some way. So we had discussed reading the books the conversation will be going over and doing some of our own conversing over them, and then participate in some of the blogging and the podcasts that will probably be periodically made available on Emergent Village after the conversation.

    Here’s a possible itinerary we could do, following along with the reading material that goes with this theological conversation:

    For our August meeting we can read and discuss the article “Crucified Lord or Conquering Saviour: Whose Story of Salvation” by Sylvia C. Keesmaat, and Philippians & Romans in the Net Bible Translation.

    For September, we can discuss The Lost Letters of Pergamum, by Bruce W. Longenecker.

    The conversation is set to start on the same day our get together is scheduled (fourth Wednesday), so we can discuss the book by one of the events main speakers, Reading Paul, by Michael Gorman.

    What do you guys think? If this is a go then you’ll want to order the books now and have the book read before the meeting for that book so we can discuss.

    Saturday, May 24, 2008

    Reminder

    Our discussion get together is this Wednesday, 7pm, over at High Point Coffee, at 1735 West 7800 South, in West Jordan.

    Also, I thought I’d mention that the emerging church and Brian McLaren (not the Salt Lake Emergent Cohort) were in today’s Religion/Ethics section of the Deseret News. It’s a reprint of an earlier AP interview with Brian McLaren that’s been circulating for a few weeks now. It’s good to see our local paper pick it up.

    In the same section of the paper they also mention a film/presentation that will be showing down at the main library this Tuesday. The documentary film Conviction, at 7pm, Tuesday, free; one of the nuns in the film, Sister Jackie Hudson, who went to prison for her protest, will be speaking there and taking questions as well. I plan to go, so if anyone wants to join me.

    Wednesday, May 14, 2008

    Great Brueggemann Quote

    "When serious people of good faith disagree, they've got to go back into the narratives and come at it again. One of the problems in the church is that people are not willing to do that. People have arrived at a place where they think they have got the answer." ~ Walter Brueggemann

    From a talk on Leviticus, given at First Presbyterian Church of Knoxville. Click here to listen.

    Thursday, May 8, 2008

    Believe or Hope?

    My beliefs, due to various circumstances, have been under the microscope lately. This causes me to turn them in the light and try to view them from different angles.

    I notice I have few solid beliefs. I see many things with a kind of dual vision. I hear opposing persons speak, and I see validity in both opinions. I read apparently contradicting scripture and am comfortable maintaining both views. This does not always go over well in Christian circles. I end up making one side or the other uncomfortable.

    I came across a response I had given to a friend who had recently de-converted. He posted this question on his blog, "
    How do you, as a christian, maintain faith in a belief where there is no concrete proof?" My response to him is below and I think it articulates why, though I love theology, I don't put much stock in having "the right beliefs".
    _____________________________________________________

    I can only speak for me, but I don't feel a need to get around a lack of proof. Maybe because, technically, I don't really have beliefs. Probably what I have could be more accurately described as a conglomeration of hopes.

    • The thought that death would simply bring on my non-existence depresses me. A hundred years or so from now, no one would really even know I ever existed. It would be as if I were never here.
    • When I look at my son or daughter sleeping at night, the thought that they too will go into the void is even worse. My heart sinks at the thought.
    • When I see art, music, technology, stories and life... my heart overflows. It brings me to despair to think that could ALL be snuffed out by one poorly timed comet.
    I HOPE the God I knew as a child does not exist. This god seems to see most of humanity in torture for eternity an acceptable response to their not believing He was standing behind the curtain.

    I HOPE the God of 1 Cor 13 exists, one who always trusts, always perseveres, never keeps records of wrongs, and never fails.

    I HOPE God is a cross between Aslan and Willy Wonka (the Gene Wilder version). One who has all the bases covered, even if we aren't aware of it yet. Who really wants you to do what is right, but will let you chew the gum if you are bound, set, and determined.

    I HOPE when this story comes to a close, everyone lives happily ever after (even if the start of their story was fairly shitty).


    I HOPE there is a God out there who feels about us the way I do about my son and daughter.

    I HOPE the source of my love is a God who shares that love.


    I am aware that this may be an empty hope in the end, but it is the one I cling to.
    ________________________________________________________

    I am finding hope to be a much more satisfying thing to cling to than belief.

    For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. ~ Romans 8:24-25

    Sunday, May 4, 2008

    A couple of movies to make you thirsty

    The SLC Film Center will be showing a couple of interesting films this week on the commoditization of water. The price is right (they’re free), so I plan to go to both. If you’re interested in joining me, let me know, email me or comment below.

    Sed (Thirst) - Monday, May 05 2008 - 7:00PM
    Salt Lake City Main Public Library - in the Auditorium

    Flow: For Love Of Water - Thursday, May 08 2008 - 7:00PM
    The Post Theatre, 110 S. Fort Douglas Blvd, University of Utah Campus

    Saturday, April 26, 2008

    We had our first get together, and here’s a little on what we’re going to do next

    Well, it was a great start, the three of us who came had a great conversation, learned more about one another, and became friends. I had brought a camera to get some pictures, but I forgot to take it out.

    We have adjusted our meeting times so as to try to accommodate more who want to come, we plan to meet on the fourth Wednesday of every month over at High Point Coffee, at 1735 West 7800 South, in West Jordan. That will make our next meeting on May 28th, at 7pm.

    Of course not everyone still can make that time, so we plan to use this blog and the facebook group to coordinate some of the other things we’ll do.

    First, we plan to use this blog to announce events we learn of that might be of interest for the rest of the group, and coordinate rides, meet-ups, whatever for those of us who might like to make it. Events like the “An Evangelical and a Mormon in Conversation” event that Standing Together occasionally puts on, going and seeing the head of the Episcopal Church, Bishop Jefferts Schori, who was out here last week, or going to our local Beer Festival.

    Brent and I are planning on using the facebook group’s discussion forum for some of the early church writings we hope to read and discuss here soon.

    Also, I plan to start blogging through a few books on my personal blog, I figure it will help me retain the stuff I’m reading better, and, who knows, it may generate a good conversation or two. So I’ll post a link to them here when I start them up. First up will be Post-Modernism 101, by Heath White.

    Friday, April 11, 2008

    What is an Emergent Cohort?

    Emergent Village has just posted a YouTube video that captures a little bit of what we are trying to do.

    Wednesday, April 9, 2008

    Our First Meeting

    Our first meeting will be Thursday evening, April 24th, 7:00 pm, at High Point Coffee, located at 1735 West 7800 South, West Jordan, UT 84088

    You don’t have to bring anything except maybe a little money to buy a coffee, and an appetite for theological conversation. Since it’s our first meeting I’m sure we will spend some of the time figuring out what we will want to do in future meetings and where we’ll want to take things.

    Sunday, April 6, 2008

    Starting up an Emergent Cohort in Utah

    I’d like to announce that a few friends and I have decided to start up one of these here Emergent Cohort thingies. We figured it’s about time Salt Lake had one so we’re putting one together. So far it looks like we might have five, there is Andrew and a couple of his friends from over at K2, and then there is Michael and I from over at Southeast Christian Church.

    We are also interested in knowing what other emergent things are going on up and down the Wasatch Front. So if you know what the heck we are talking about when we use the word “emergent”, and you’re doing something related to it (or would like to), well, let us know, because we’d like to know.

    BTW, we are still working out a date for our first meeting, so if you’re interested do let us know now and we maybe able to work out a time to help meet your schedule.

    Now what was the name of that movie… Field of Dreams? …build it and they will come. Hmm… let’s see what happens.