“Open Evangelicalism”

Anglican Evangelicalism is different than “American Evangelicalism.” Losts can be said concerning the differences. One of the primary differences is that Anglican Evangelicalism still finds itself resting squarely in a sacramental and liturgical “catholicism.” Some refer to it as “Reformed Catholicism.”
Within the current theological/cultural wars between the “orthodox” and the “heterodox,” much of Evangelicalism, whether Anglican or American, is seen as a movement always against something. The image presented, I assume unintended, is negative, angry, bitter, and oppressive.
Stephen Kuhrt, Curate of Christ Church, New Malden and Administrative Secretary of Fulcrum, writes about what Evangelicalism has been doing and what it needs to do. Basically, he says that liberal theologians find problems and holes in “orthodox” theology and deal with them. Their conclusions or reformulations may be completely incorrect, but they do legitimately find problems. Evangelicals have been responding defensively and simply retorting that liberals are heretics who have capitulated to the culture at large and who wish to diminish the faith. Kuhrt says that Evangelicals need to respond differently, and an example of the good response can be found in the theology and writings of N.T. Wright. At one point towards the end, Kuhrt calls this process “Open Evangelicalism.” I like it!
Here is the link to Kuhrt’s essay. It is short and interesting.

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How… can it be?

How frightening it can be! What do I do? How can I handle this? There are times when I feel as it I am pressed against a skim, a thin thing that molds to the shape of my body. I can’t help but press against it – I am compelled to do so. I feel as if I am about to break through… brake through to something, something new. It’s a bit frightening, the unknown, the mysterious.
There are times when I feel as if I am in the thin-space where the dividing line between me and the presence of God is so less significant. It is a good time; it is a terrifying time, and I fail so.
Something is coming, I think. Something. Anticipation. Restlessness.

Middle East Question – Is it Islam or Arab/Persian Culture?

There comes a point when we begin to ask, despite the contrary pronouncements and assurances from so many, whether Islam has become an angry, violent, intolerant, and fanatical religion – not that it has always been so or must be, but right now it seems to be. Of course not all Muslims are burning down Danish embassies, or blowing themselves up to kill Jews (or any other ‘infidel’). I believe most Muslims prefer to simply live out their lives in peace and have their children realize a better future. But, what are we to think?
The published images of Mohammad, and I’ve seen them, are very mild and aside from one or two, not offensive according to what I consider to be offensive. (Of course, this is the rub. We all have different definitions of what is offensive.) We have seen pictures published of the Virgin Mary covered in dung and urine, but I know of no Christians who are burning down embassies or shooting their opponents. Many complain strenuously, yes, but no one engages in mass destruction.
As troubling as this will sound, the very complex issues contributing to what is going on in the Middle East and why might be summed up by the word “insecurity.” (Am I being condescending, in a very Western or American way?) Mary is defamed, but few Christians riot or even give much attention to it other than admitting that the “artist” may have some issues he needs to work through. Lord help him! It seems we simply are not very insecure about our religion – most of us, that is. (Perhaps we are just complacent? Like I say, doubt is not the enemy of faith, complacency is.)
How many of the problems faced and experienced by Muslims (and by association, us all) result not from Islam per se, but from a century of humiliation (percieved or actual) suffered by Arabs and Persians? Is Islam just the excuse or a means through which Arab and Persian humiliation and rage towards the colonizers and the multi-nationals and the hegemonists are expressed? Religion can obviously inflame the passions, as can cultural and political issues. Combine them, and we have a very, very volatile mix. During the World Wars and afterwards, Westerners have not done much to ingratiate themselves to Arabs and Persians or dispel the anger!
Are the problems cultural or religious? Yes, a mixture for sure, but is the primary factor religion or culture? If religion was removed from the equation concerning The Troubles in Northern Ireland, there would still be troubles! If Northern Ireland was re-incorporated into the rest of Ireland, I really doubt the religious animosities and problems would continue much longer. Who knows???

Palestinian Elections – Hamas

Here is a statement issued by Sabeel: Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center concerning the Hamas victory in the recent Palestinian elections. I know next to nothing about this organization, but I think the statement seems fair, and frankly good.
“We know that all things work together for good for those who love God.” (Romans 8:28)
Before we engage in both analysis and prognosis of the Palestinian election, it is important to humble oneself before God and to the way history moves and turns always surprising us with changes that on the surface may seem dangerous and threatening but eventually could be for our good. We believe in the sovereignty of God over the affairs of this world. God’s thoughts are not our thoughts and God’s ways are not our ways. We need to put our full confidence and trust in God. With the Psalmist we say,
“Trust in the Lord, and do good; so you will live in the land, and enjoy security. take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37:3-4)
The so-called peace process between Israel and the Palestinians has often had to be resuscitated by shock treatment. The first and second Intifadas were such examples, and now this – Hamas is in power. All these earth-shaking tremors were sudden and completely unexpected. There has been no peace process going on for many years now, and Israel has been clamping down on the Palestinian people more and more oppressively to stop an explosion. Well, the explosion has nevertheless taken place but this time in a democratic and peaceful way.
Up to the last minute before the Palestinian election, the polls showed that Fatah, the main Palestinian party, and the party in government, would win by a small margin. On Wednesday, January 25, 2006, 77.69% of the Palestinian voters cast their ballots. To the shock of the Palestinian community, Hamas won a sweeping victory with 74 seats out of 132 in the Legislative Council, while Fatah obtained 45 seats. Four of the other competing parties by comparison, hardly won 2 or 3 seats each. It must be remembered that Fatah, under the leadership of Yasser Arafat, led the Palestinian struggle since the mid 1960’s as the largest and most influential party. Hamas on the
other hand is less than 20 years old.

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Who’s there?

When I started writing a blog, I wanted a place to dumb thoughts and ideas. I tend to ‘process out loud’ and this provided a means of doing just that, although through the written word rather than the spoken word. I also have a written journal, which is more personal but less convenient.
Anyway, from time-to-time I get an e-mail from someone (or perhaps a comment to one of my posts), and that person tells me that he or she reads this blog often and gets a lot out of it. Frankly, that surprises me – really! I’m not very eloquent… I’m a terrible proof-reader, etc. I do this for myself and don’t think any of it would really be of much interest to other people.
Okay, so now I am kind of interested in whether there are in fact people who read this stuff on a regular or semi-regular basis. I’m not out for an ego boost or anything like that, but I am interested. If you read this blog from time-to-time, let me know. Just send me an e-mail that says something like, “Yup, I do.”
Thanks. If there are in fact a good number of people who read this, well, that kind of makes me nervous. Kind of like chanting the Gospel during the liturgy makes me nervous.

“Anatomy of Reconciliation”

I attended the Trinity Institute Conference on Theological Reflection, “The Anatomy of Reconciliation,” a week or so ago. I was impressed (which isn’t difficult for someone of my limited theological knowledge. Actually, that isn’t really true – I was impressed by the way these four keynote speakers handled the topic and how the two theologians reframed many of the questions and assumptions about reconciliation, how God works within us and through us for His purposes in the world, and our response to God’s call.) James Alison, British Roman Catholic theologian, who happens to be gay and Miroslov Volf – systematic theologian from Yale Divinity School (formerly of Fuller Theological Seminary) – were the two theologians. There is a lot I still have to process. Perhaps I will write more…
In one of the final panel discussions, Alison commented on part of Volf’s presentation – Volf spoke for a long time on the process he went through in forgiving his military superior and severe interrogator when Volf was in the Yugoslav army. (As soon as he entered the military, he was immediately suspect because he had an American wife and studied in the West.) Alison said that as he listened to Volf’s presentation he found himself feeling envious because Volf’s enemy was so easily identified. I have to say, when Alison admitted that he sometimes wonders whether in fact HE is the enemy – in reference to Volf’s enemy being easily identified as his interrogator – I was greatly impressed, and saddened. Anyone who is honestly seeking Truth must be able to admit s/he can be wrong. In Alison’s admitting that, as most of the Church demands, as a gay man he could well be wrong and truly be ‘the enemy’ – I can relate! Look at all the terrible troubles ‘people like me’ have caused for our Church and the Communion. If I seek Truth, then I could well be wrong concerning any particular thing I may believe at this particular time, and what the anti-gay people say could well be true (at least theologically speaking… their demeaning stereotypes certainly don’t apply!). Alison was painfully honest, and if true reconciliation can ever be realized there must be vulnerability, humility, honesty, and integrity on both sides. Perhaps this is too much to ask of most people, but in Alison’s comments I see an example that is hopeful and helpful. Will the other side be willing to enter into conversation, or are they intent on… what?
In addition, Emergent conducted a theological conversation with Miroslav Volf this past week at Yale. One of the people who attended the conversation, Adam Cleaveland, commenting on his blog posted this template of Volf’s:
Miroslav’s Theological Template

who is god.
what is god doing in the world.
how is god achieving this.
who are we.
where are we going.
how are we supposed to get there.
connecting the two.
what should we ultimately trust.
how should we order our trusts, provisional and ultimate.

Where does this lead? – to more pondering. Oh, if only I had time to truly ponder!! I do appreciate Volf.
There is and has been developing a number of people who can engage in current theological controversies in ways that belie the normal and polarized conflicts between liberal and conservative theologies. I want to be part of this process, which goes back to my long-time construct that “the way of Jesus is always a third way.” I want to be part of the reconciliation that must, for the sake of the cause of Christ in this world, move forward in charity.
“Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
“He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:7-9 (New International Version)

Fear of ruin. Fear of death.

I attended the Trinity Institute “The Anatomy of Reconciliation” conference this past Monday – Wednesday. James Alison and Miroslav Volf were incredible – as was St. Helen Prejean, the practical one, who wrote “Dead Man Walking.”
Some of the things I’ve been thinking over for the past couple of years or so were brought back into stark relief as a result of the stuff presented.
I think that so much of the conflict we see, both individually and corporately, comes from a place of fear – fear of ruin and fear of death.
We fear that our reputation, our nation, our way of life, all of our possessions will be ruined if….
We fear death.
As a result, we work to protect all our stuff and ourselves, which is normal as things go. Yet, for Christians we are not to be bound by concern and worry about all this because…
– Where is our security? In the systems of ‘this world,’ or in Christ? I just read this morning in Matthew 6,7 to be worried about what we will eat, what we will wear. We are not to be consumed with worry and concern about these things – where is our treasure? Are we free of materialism and consumerism and ???, or do they have us bound?
– Where is our end? If I believe what I profess to believe, I have to say with Paul that to be absent from the body is to be present with Christ. Why do I fear death? It makes sense to be concerned with the means of death. Do I believe that life ends at the expiration of the physical body? Do I believe in the beyond – beyond our concepts of space and time? Do I believe that I will be with Christ upon death? Why then should I fear death? If we can get past that fear of death, think of what is opened to us. Think…
Truly, the freedom Christ won for us is freedom from the constraints of this world and freedom from death! If my treasure – those things I value most – are not bound to temporality, why do I feel compelled to hoard or protect against the interests of the other? If my end is with Christ, why do I feel compelled to do violence to defend myself or my way of life?
We all have our preferences, but my hope is that I can be content in all things – whether rich or poor, with little or a lot. My hope is that I am freed from the need or compulsion to see this world as a competition between us against them, me against you, so that I will be freed from the fear of ruin or death!
Post-script: Jon commented about our fear of not being loved. I think that is a very important consideration to be added! Thanks, Jon.