“The church is an ecclesia, which means an assembly that has been called out in a public way as a sign, witness, and foretaste of where God is inviting all creation in Jesus Christ. The church, in its life together and witness in the world, proclaims the destiny and future of all creation. Local congregations are embodiments of where God is calling all creation to be through the power of the Spirit. The God we meet in Jesus calls the church to be a community of people who no longer live for themselves and their own needs but as a contrast society whose life together manifests God’s future for the whole of creation.

As a contrast society, the church is formed around beliefs and practices, which continually school and form it in a way of life, which cannot be derived from the particular culture in which it is found. The culture in which we find ourselves, and within which we are called to be that people, is now designated as late-modern or postmodern. It is a context where the explicit story is that everyone lives within his or her own expressive rights. We live in a context where it is simply assumed that the operative and appropriate means of living in a tolerant and open society is to create environments, which do not step on or over any specific set of personal rights, feelings or wants. This is part of the madness of the needs-centered, seeker-driven mentality of the church. These approaches actually believe they are faithful to the tradition when, in fact, they undermine the elements essential for missional faithfulness. We want to affirm everyone’s need for personal autonomy to such a degree that we have lost the resources provided by Scripture and great tradition to shape, form and create a people as a contrast society.”

HT: Allelon

Recently, (while speaking of what it means to belong to a faith community) I have heard it said, our culture is swept up in elevating the rights of the one at the expense of the whole (we have become narcissists in search for personal autonomy) however, in the community of faith it is often the opposite, we elevate the whole at the expense of the one, folks lose themselves and don’t know how to differentiate in a way to belong inter-dependently.

Years ago a very wise person suggested that the “one” and the “whole” always are held in tension. There are times when a person is in intensive care and is dependent on the whole. But most of the time, part of our ability to heal is in our ability to give, to serve, to follow the example of Jesus self-sacrificing love. Elizabeth O’Connor, scribe for the Church of the Savior has much to say about the tension of belonging to community and healing our true selves in many of her books.

Writing, Writing and More Writing

I am now buried in heading into what I hope is my final year as a doctoral student. I have an enormous amount of writing due as of now. I am way past deadlines and need to take three more courses and write my dissertation between now and June 2009. I may begin using this space to post some of the thoughts I wrestle with…maybe. Part of my time management to get through the next year means very limited blog reading or blog posting (unless it has to do with my project)…
Today Pam Hogeweide tagged me as a subversive blogger.


“subversive bloggers are unsatisfied with the status quo, whether in church, politics, economics or any other power-laden institution, and they are searching for (and blogging about) what is new (or a “return to”) – even though it may be labeled as sacrilege, dangerous, or subversive.”

Thanks Pam…I will never forget the first time I met you:)

Okay, because I cannot spend much time on this I am going to quickly tag 5 bloggers I would consider subversive:

Rachelle Mee-Chapman
Julie Clawson
Kingdom Grace
Jason Evans
Helen Mildenhall

Now back to work!

Chrisitan Research Network

Yesterday I had a noticeable spike in hits on my blog. When I looked to see where they were coming from…

The second website had some pretty interesting information such as:

    Information For Those Left Behind
    The Left Behind Letters Letters to the tribulation saints
    Oops, I Guess I Wasn’t Ready! If you missed the rapture
    The Post Rapture Survival Guide A plan for the left behind
    Second Chance for Salvation There is still hope
    Memorandum A note from those who were raptured

Rob Bell at a Kingdom Party

Rob Bell (though he was a huge part of it) was not the only reason last Tuesday evening was such a great time. Person after person that I have talked with have commented that this is the way church ought to be. Walking in the door there were smiling faces, tables of food, wine flowing, great live music. Right away you knew you were entering a party and you were welcome. People were hanging out, lots of laughter, lots of conversations around the room. Over the next half an hour the space filled.

Jim Henderson master creator of all things OTM is brilliantly skilled at creating great spiritual conversations. He knows how to network people (from very different backgrounds and ideologies) and bring them together. He asked Rob Bell to talk about his new book, Jesus Wants to Save Christians (Zondervan) coming out in Fall 2008 Everyone there loved his talk, so much to think about.

Rob and I had talked about the conversation we would have about women in leadership. I was excited for this conversation because I knew how Rob had courageously led his own church through the change of an all male leadership structure to include women on every level of leadership.

Another surprise hit of the evening was Andy Himes’ monologue about his growing up in the South in the 60’s and the injustice that surrounded him, even in the church. It caused him to lose his faith as he saw blacks repeatedly mistreated. It was powerful.

It was all so good, I wish we would have had more time to hear more from Doug Pagitt, Todd Hunter and Sunil Sardar. Sunil Sardar is the founder of Truth Seekers, an organization dedicated to end caste in India. Did that register? Ending caste…please pray for Sunil and Truth Seekers.

We, Vineyard Community Church say thank you to all who came and participated. Everyone made it a great happening.

An Evening with Rob Bell, Doug Pagitt and Todd Hunter

Last night to finish out the inter-spiritual day of the Seeds of Compassion gathering, Jim Henderson asked us to host a reception at the Vineyard. We had a bit of a party. The band led by Kelly Carpenter was awesome. My experience with Jim is he is like Oprah, he loves to give people a voice…he had a couple of hours and a bunch of people he wanted to give “stage” time. He planned several short, 20 minute segments. He asked me to lead a conversation with Rob Bell about women in ministry.
The night began with Rob sharing thoughts from his new book. I think Eugene has a good synopsis here.

Next up was our conversation. Let me begin by saying I had a conversation with Rob in the afternoon about where I wanted to go with the conversation. I told him I was going to introduce the idea through the lens that for those that have changed their theological position we had to now look at how to do the structural changes to give women access. I asked him if he would agree that when you are dealing with structural change you are dealing with “who” holds the power in the systems you are trying to gain equilibrium …he agreed. I then asked him if he would agree that in our church tradition (Evangelical) or post Evangelical that power lies with white males…to which he totally agreed. I asked him if he would be comfortable with me “naming” the power structure and more specifically pointing out that he was a person within the system with power and influence to which he said he was cool with.

When the conversation happened, I found Rob to be nothing but kind. He told his story. When he stepped into a pastoring Mars Hill Bible Church (not Mars Hill Seattle) and how at the time they had an all male eldership. The church held the theological position that women could not hold positions of authority. Rob studied the issue and came to the conclusion that their view was theologically wrong. He changed it, lost elders and folks that did not agree left the church. Today there are women in all areas of leadership in the church. Rob did a great job communicating his heart and what he had done in his own church to empower women in every level of leadership. He said that he used to hear the old argument that there are two sides to this theological position but now he says there are not two sides, if you hold to the position that oppresses (probably my word) women you are just wrong.

When I asked him how he could use his influence beyond his local church to give women space he seemed to not fully connect. I gave him the example of how Jim Henderson tries to include women in every event that Off the Map hosts. Sharing the stage or the mic is a way to change the systemic issue of the male echo chamber in most corners of the Christian church. I asked him if he could use his influence to give women a voice in the same way as he has access to a very large stage.

He told another story of a young girl in his church and then he told me that we (women) should not go where we are not welcome. That last statement sounds different then what he said. He was saying, you are too sacred, don’t waste your time where the door is not open, which I totally get.

My point wasn’t so much that (I think this is where the disconnect happened, I probably was not clear enough) I wanted to go places women were not welcome as it was that women seeing other women in visible areas of leadership is vital to change the system. At the point I knew we were not going the same direction (not because we were adversarial) I changed gears and introduced a young woman from Canada. Jen is in her 20’s, single and the lead pastor of a Four Square Church ( a denomination stared by a woman) in Powell River B.C. She intentionally moved into low-income housing and works part-time at Starbucks. She is a smart, thoughtful leader that is truly serving Jesus in the way He has called and gifted her. Jen’s story was a great illustration of the point I was trying to make. Almost all of her mentors were and are male. She doesn’t have a problem with that, but she would like a few females as well…she just didn’t know where to find them.

I believe we need men and women working together to bring leadership in the body of Christ. I told Rob I wasn’t interested in women’s initiatives that did not include men. For me this is about a theology of the Kingdom. Men and women working together in every level of leadership in the church. IMHO women’s initiatives made up of only women tend to ghettoize women.

After our segment I had a conversation with Rob and his friend in the hall. We talked about several issues related to women. He thought our time went well. As we were talking a man approached us and thanked us for the conversation. He said his wife was called to be a church planter but they were in a denomination that would not allow it. He was encouraged by our talk that she needed to be able to pursue her calling. Now this is what I am talking about. If men that hold power would include women, women like Jen who can say what they are doing, women who are writers, church planters, scholars, etc. I know that something will be set in motion when men and women hear the stories.

I appreciate Rob having the conversation and being part of the solution. I think he is brilliant. I applaud Jim Henderson for always thinking about how to make space for women.

It was fun to meet Doug Pagitt, I’ve heard a lot about him. He was kind enough to let me use his rental car for the day. I met so many interesting people yesterday. It was a great party and now…I need to get some sleep and come tomorrow catch up on course work.

Rob Bell, Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu

What an incredible 24 hours. Several people came to Seattle for the last day of the Seeds of Compassion gathering followed by an Off the Map event hosted at the Vineyard. Monday evening we hosted a spaghetti dinner at the Vineyard for several friends that came in from out of town. It is always a blast to hang out with Todd, David, Helen, Randy, Pam, Nancy and so many others. Just a shout out that Todd Hunter and David Ruis are two of the most respectable, smart guys I know. They encourage, inspire and are devoted to figuring out what this Kingdom life is about. Really, really good guys.

Yesterday was the final day of the five day event and was focused on spirituality. A group of us attended the prayer breakfast with the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu. We were one table away from two Nobel Peace Prize recipients. What an incredible experience. And so fun to watch the two of them interact in moments almost like children, giggling, joking, poking fun. At one point The Dalai Lama looked at Desmond Tutu for a few moments, you were getting the idea he was going to say something profound and then with a serious tone, he said something like, “I’ve noticed you have put on a few pounds” the room erupted in laughter. Just a side note here. I met so many young people yesterday that had never heard of or knew about Desmond Tutu. This is a sad commentary. We are not even twenty years out from the apartheid of South Africa and our young people don’t know the name Desmond Tutu?

The conversation between the two of them and for us sitting in the room was powerful. I appreciated the Dalai Lama’s comments, I found him humble, personable, wise…but when Desmond Tutu spoke, there was an incredible spiritual authority that you know comes from a very deep place…from his life’s journey. When it was over I wanted to go sit in silence somewhere for a few hours. Instead, we got in our cars and jetted over to the University District for the morning panel discussion. There was two interspiritual panel sessions on Spirituality and Youth Dialogue. Rob Bell and Doug Pagitt were on the panels. I only attended the first, with Rob Bell and I think about 15 others including the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu, and representatives from the Jewish, Islam, Catholic, and several other traditions. It was really good, just such a large group that panelists did not get much time to develop their thought. I enjoyed listening to so many voices and have to say it was a bit disorienting to hear from so many people of different faiths organizing their lives around what we as followers of Christ would say is the Kingdom. I have a lot to process.

We then went to the Seattle Center where Jim Henderson hosted a smaller panel titled, Evangelicals and InterSpiritual Friends: Recovering the Compassionate Tradition of Jesus. Rob Bell, Doug Pagitt, Todd Hunter, Nancy Murphy, Andrew Himes, Sunil Sardar, Rabbi Anson Laytner abd Dr. Ingrid Mattson,the Director of Islamic Chaplaincy and Professor at the Macdonald Center for Islamic Studies and Christian-Muslim Relations at Hartford Seminary in Hartford, Connecticut. This was another eye opening experience. To listen to intelligent people who are living out devoted lives from different faith traditions view Christians within the framework of a mutual, respectful dialogue was amazing. Jim was on his game in this session, he asked probing questions that I would imagine caused everyone to do some thinking.

After a long day we ended up back at the Vineyard where Off the Map hosted An Evening with Rob Bell, Todd Hunter, Doug Pagitt and others…
It was more like a reception with Hor’duerves, wine, and live music. VCC knows how to throw a party! We will have the podcasts up soon.

More about that in my next post.

Speaking of Oppression

Over at Kingdom Grace there is a conversation about Mark Driscoll’s Doctrine versus the Shack. I have not read the Shack. Nor do I need to in order to comment on the absurdity of Mark Driscoll’s rant. What kind of an environment are you cultivating when (you have the “largest church in the most unchurched city in the United States”) and you are telling people what they can and cannot read? Here are a few of the comments from Kingdom Grace’s blog:

    Speaking for myself, I see him as a christian brother, but I am also aware that we view faith and doctrine very differently. My criticism for Mark isn’t based on the difference in doctrine. It is based on the fact that he repeatedly calls those he disagrees with heretics.

    I do believe Mark is wrong about the trinity. The Reformed camp has latched on to a hierarchical view of the trinity as a foundation for hierarchy in marriage and church authority. In my opinion the mutuality of the trinity is to be our model for relationship.

    This is an area where dialog and discussion isn’t likely to produce agreement. Ideally there would be tolerance for differences of beliefs on secondary issues. Many people have not experienced this kind of tolerance or respect from those in the more fundamental side of the Reformed church world.

I agree with Grace. I consider him a chrisitan brother, I disagree with his theology. It is not a theology of the Kingdom. He continually presents his positions as “the” christian world view. His view of God and doctrines is what fuels the church being on the wrong side of justice issues throughout history (see my last post). Bad theology is an evil taskmaster. The sexism that continually pervades his presentation of Scripture is an injustice to women.

    I’ve observed Mark’s tactics often enough to recognize the pattern.

    1. Describe the problem in technical theological terms to give intellectual weight to your position. (pride)

    2. Declare the opposing view sin in order to scare people from considering its validity. (fear)

    3. Label those who follow the other belief heretics. (shame)

    4. Thus appointing yourself as the authority and guardian of truth. (control)

Grace nails it. This is a pattern of abuse. When you have oppression you have an abuse of power. When will those that listen to this week after week either get up and walk out or overthrow the oppressive regime? When will they wake up to the story of the Kingdom? When will we by the power of the Spirit live into our Story….”In Christ’s family there can be no division into Jew or non-Jew, slave and free, male and female.”