Posts Tagged ‘theology’

 

The Christmas season often brings home to me how much larger Truth is than what I can carry or contain….

 

1129

Emily Dickinson

Tell all the Truth but tell it slant -
Success in Circuit lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth’s superb surprise
As Lightning to the Children eased
With explanation kind
The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind -

 

 

The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood. We saw the glory with our own eyes, the one-of-a-kind glory, like Father, like Son, generous inside and out, true from start to finish. (John 1:14, The Message)

 

 

One of my favorite Christmas songs isn’t a hymn – or likely even a song that most people know. It’s Come Darkness, Come Light by Mary Chapin Carpenter.

 

John Wesley talked about assurance – that sense of peace that comes when we realize the depth of God’s love for us. That’s a concept that I sometimes struggle with. I know it in my head – I’m just not always able to consistently connect it to my heart. But this song – poetry really – enables me to connect head and heart. It helps me realize just how wide and how deep God’s love for me really is. It helps me realize that no matter what state I may find myself – broken or whole, doubting or sure – I can come to the door of the stable…

 

Come Darkness, Come Light

Mary Chapin Carpenter

 

Come darkness, come light
Come new star, shining bright
Come love to this world tonight
Alleluia

Come broken, come whole
Come wounded in your soul
Come anyway that you know
Alleluia

There’s a humble stable and a light within
There’s an angel hovering
and three wise men
Today a baby’s born in Bethlehem
Alleluia

Come doubting, come sure
Come fearful to this door
Come see what love is for
Alleluia

Come running, come walking slow
Come weary on your broken road
Come see Him and shed your heavy load
Alleluia

There’s a humble stable and a light within
There’s an angel hovering
and three wise men
Today a Baby’s born in Bethlehem
Alleluia

Come darkness, come light
Come new star shining bright
Come love to this world tonight
Alleluia

 

This Christmas I’m on my knees before the Father, this magnificent Father who parcels out all heaven and earth, asking him to strengthen you (and me) by his Spirit—not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength. It’s my desire that Christ will live in you (and in me) as we open the door and invite him in. And I’m asking him that with both feet planted firmly on love, we’ll be able to take in with all followers of Jesus the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God. (adapted from Ephesians 3:14-19, The Message)

 

Peace, love and joy to you this Christmas.

 

 

 

One of my responsibilities in the United Methodist Church is to serve on the General Conference Standing Committee for Central Conference Matters. Essentially, that group deals with issues facing the UM church outside of the United States.

In 2012 the General Conference referred the task of creating a “global Book of Discipline” to the StCCCM. As we began to tackle that project during our meeting in September, we realized just how massive it is – and probably more importantly, just how complex, convoluted, and in many ways unmanageable our current Discipline really is.

The whole project of a global Book of Discipline begs the question, what does it mean to be a global church? What binds us together across cultures and geography? And therein lies the rub. I’m not sure we know. I’m not even sure we know what binds us together across the various cultures and geography of the United States, let alone Europe, Africa or the Philippines.

Throughout the StCCCM meeting, my mind kept returning to another of my responsibilities in ministry – serving on the World Methodist Council. Now there’s a global body – over 80 different churches (denominations) representing over 80.5 million people, on every continent across the entire planet (well, maybe not Antarctica), all sharing a common Wesleyan heritage.

As I thought about these parallel and intertwined groups – the UMC and the WMC – I was reminded of the Imperatives of World Methodist Evangelism, which the WMC recently agreed was a good summation of what binds us together as a global body:

 

Imperatives of World Methodist Evangelism: “Reason for the Hope within Us” (1 Peter 3.15)

In the context of a global contemporary culture, it is imperative that “the people called Methodists” be bound by a recognition that we are a movement of missionary people called by God, who in Himself is missionary. We are called to join with Him in His global mission to the whole of creation. Therefore it is incumbent upon us, as World Methodists, to revisit and restate in clearly articulate terms that which binds us together:

1) The Centrality of Jesus Christ in Reconciling the World to God

  • We have confidence in and a passion for the Gospel and we affirm its urgency.
  • We hold Jesus Christ central in everything and emphasize that He is Lord and Savior.
  • We lift up the importance of “conversion to Jesus Christ” and of faithfully making disciples throughout the world. (2 Corinthians 5.18-19; 1 Corinthians 9.16)

2) Connectivity

  • As Methodists we are one people in all the world, connected through our Wesleyan heritage as well as through being part of one Church, holy and apostolic.
  • We believe that the Lord Jesus Christ’s Commission to His Church to preach the gospel and to make disciples of all nations is the supreme business of the church.
  • In this spirit we are sent to serve others and together to engage in world mission and evangelism. (Matthew 28.19)

3) Salvation for all

  • Today more than ever, identifying needs and addressing them are crucial if we are to faithfully proclaim the Gospel and spread Scriptural holiness throughout the world.
  • We affirm the “Four-alls of Methodism” as being distinctive: All need to be saved. All can be saved. All can know that they are saved. All can be saved to the uttermost. (Mark 16.15; Ephesians 2.8; 2 Corinthians 5.14-15; 1 Timothy 2.3-4; Hebrews 7.25)

4) Openness to the presence and power of the Holy Spirit

  • The Holy Spirit moves all over the world.
  • The Holy Spirit gave birth the Church.
  • The Holy Spirit continues to empower the Church to grow through witness and ministry in the world.
  • Wherever a church is open to the power and presence of the Holy Spirit, it is alive and vibrant in faith, hope and witness. (Acts 1.8; Romans 12.6-8; 1 Corinthians 12.8-11)

5) Every Christian is called to witness to the good news of Christ Jesus.

  • This witness is incarnational.
  • The Church as a community of faith is the witness of Christ in the world.
  • Each Christian is called to witness for Christ in the situation in which one lives.
  • Church leaders are to equip, empower and enable members to understand the context for witness.
  • This understanding helps believers to be confident and competent to share their faith through word, deed and sign. (Luke 4.18-19; Acts 1.8; Romans 15.18-19)

about-portrait6) Evangelism grounded in Scripture and Prayer.

  • Evangelism is grounded in the Holy Bible, the foundation for doctrine, teaching, preaching and practice.
  • Evangelism is also grounded in prayer, both personal and corporate. (Ephesians 6.18-19; Colossians 4.2-4)

 

If this can bind a global body of over 80 diverse denominations (and you only need to look at the difference between the Methodist Church of Nigeria and the Uniting Church of Australia to see how diverse it is), might it be a start in thinking about what binds our single denomination? Maybe we’ll surprise ourselves and find we actually agree.

 

 

An Unbroken Line

Wednesday, November 20th, 2013 | By Kimberly Reisman
Filed in: Kimberly Reisman, What's Your Next Step?

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The current conversations flying around the web in the United Methodist Church reminded me of a post I wrote last year. I pulled it out and gave it a bit of an update…

 

Last year I defended my thesis for my PhD at Durham University in England. It’s an event the British call a ‘viva’ and it’s a nerve-wracking several hours spent fielding what seem like endless questions from two examiners. As is required, neither of my examiners had ever seen my work before and my supervisor, David Wilkinson, was not allowed to be present. It was quite a solitary experience, but at the same time, in an intriguing kind of way, not.

Durham Cathedral

Durham Cathedral

Immediately before the time of reckoning, David and I shared a coffee and then headed over to the Cathedral for a short time of quiet and prayer. As we sat in that amazing environment, David began casually, but eloquently, to remind me of the history of Durham University. Durham has been a seat of learning for over 1000 years beginning with the Venerable Bede, whose shrine was right behind us as we sat. The tradition of scholarship has continued in an unbroken line ever since, with each new scholar meeting with more experienced scholars to discuss their work. Even though he knew I was nervous and just a bit intimidated by the process, David emphasized that I should enjoy the viva, recognizing that what I was going to experience was much bigger than my thesis. The viva, as stressful as it may feel, was the entrance into a long tradition of scholarship, the doorway into a community stretching back over 1000 years.

After a brief time of prayer, we parted ways and I walked to Abbey House to meet my examiners. During the hours that followed, though I knew it was up to me alone to defend my work, I was surprised to discover that it wasn’t such a solitary experience. Even more to my surprise was the realization, about midway through, that I was actually enjoying myself; it was invigorating.

The memory of that experience, and more specifically of my conversation with David beforehand, has returned to me frequently – especially in the days since the United Methodist Council of Bishops met in North Carolina. It’s been a struggle not become absorbed in the difficulties facing the United Methodist Church. I’ve had to remind myself over and over that as Methodist Christians, we draw upon the insights of John Wesley (and Charles too), which is a wonderful thing. But that’s not who we follow. We follow Jesus Christ. Our tradition didn’t begin in the 18th century; it began in the first. Our creed isn’t the misnamed ‘Wesleyan Quadrilateral,’ it’s the Nicene.

about-portraitJust as my viva experience was bigger than my own thesis, we Methodist Christians are part of something much larger than our own history, much more foundational than any structure we might devise for our denomination, and deeper, more steadfast and enduring than any passing cultural norm could ever be. We are part of a magnificent Christian tapestry, woven from the threads of Scripture and a tradition stretching back over 2000 years. Our Methodist strands augment that tapestry, but not in the sense of adding something new or different. Those threads augment the tapestry by adding complementary colors to the already existing pattern. Some people describe it as following Jesus in the spirit of the Wesleys. In my family we call it being a Christian with a Wesleyan accent.

I have no doubt that as people who follow Jesus in the spirit of the Wesleys, we will survive our current challenges. What that will actually look like – I don’t know. But however things unfold, if we are faithful, what results will not happen because we will have created something new, but because we will have rediscovered the grand tapestry of Christian faith that is richer and more vibrant than our few threads alone.

 

Paul Chilcote

Why have United Methodists been so passionate about mission? What is it that propels them to offer Christ in holistic ways? And yet, what are the tensions the United Methodist Church currently faces in becoming a global church and in facing new challenges in North America?

Join Paul Chilcote, Professor of Wesley Studies and Mission at Ashland Theological Seminary and a member of the Indiana Conference, as he leads this engaging seminar on Mission in the Wesleyan Tradition and the transitions the church will need to navigate in the years ahead.

 

Mission in the Wesleyan Tradition: Tensions & Transitions

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

9am ~ 3pm

$45.00 (lunch included)

North United Methodist Church ~ 3808 N. Meridian St. ~ Indianapolis, IN 46208

This seminar is organized by the Wesleyan Connexion Project of the Indiana Conference of the United Methodist Church. It’s a great opportunity for all clergy and laity interested in mission.
Click here to register

 

 

Wesley statueWhy have United Methodists been so passionate about mission? What is it that propels them to offer Christ in holistic ways? And yet, what are the tensions the United Methodist Church currently faces in becoming a global church and in facing new challenges in North America?

Join Paul Chilcote, Professor of Wesley Studies and Mission at Ashland Theological Seminary and a member of the Indiana Conference, as he leads this engaging seminar on Mission in the Wesleyan Tradition and the transitions the church will need to navigate in the years ahead.

Mission in the Wesleyan Tradition: Tensions & Transitions

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

9am ~ 3pm

$45.00 (lunch included)

North United Methodist Church ~ 3808 N. Meridian St. ~ Indianapolis, IN 46208

This seminar is organized by the Wesleyan Connexion Project of the Indiana Conference of the United Methodist Church. It’s a great opportunity for all clergy and laity interested in mission.
Click here to register

 

 

What’s Your Next Step?

vickersHaving read Jason Vickersbook Minding the Good Ground: A Theology of Church Renewal, I’m continuing to ponder next steps. Here is a second installment of those thoughts. You can read the first installment, A Death Embrace, here.

 

Selfishly, one of the things I appreciated about Jason’s book is that it confirmed my own thoughts. From my perspective, historically the church has not always held together the relationship between the personal and the corporate in a holistic fashion, which (again from my perspective) has in turn undermined evangelism in significant ways. Nicholas Perrin is on target when he say’s that many Christians are conditioned to read Scripture as God’s saving Word to them as individuals rather than God’s saving word to the church. He goes on to say that this kind of understanding has led to ‘a notion that views the church as little more than a loose association of the equivalents of Jesus’ Facebook friends.’*

Over the years, much evangelistic activity has focused on the person as an isolated entity, as though that was the entire focus of Jesus’ message. But that’s somewhat of a distortion. In Christian faith the personal and the communal don’t cancel each other out, they’re bound together, with each reinforcing the other.

That’s why Jason’s critique of the idea of the church as the ‘community of the already saved’ is so important. But it’s not so easy to swallow. Where I grew up, we’d say Jason’s gone to meddlin’.

But I can’t think of a more important word at this juncture. Salvation is not simply a private transaction between an individual and Jesus. Sin is not just about transgressing divine laws. Atonement is not merely the juridical event of pardon. And (thankfully) the church is not a ‘waiting room for heaven’ or ‘a good place to get something to eat and make a few new friends while we wait to be called home to glory,’ or even ‘a good place to come together for civic involvement or…political caucusing.’**

What is at stake, especially for evangelism, is the recognition that salvation is dramatically more far-reaching and comprehensive than a simple private transaction. Sin is deeper and more complex than the breaking of a few commandments. Atonement is far more sweeping and transformative than the receipt of pardon. And (thankfully) the church is instrumental in all of it – the very context of the Holy Spirit’s activity and the chosen vehicle through which God works for radical transformation.

But convincing folks of all that can seem like a really hard sell these days – especially in the United Methodist Church. And it’s not just because many of us think of the church as an afterthought when it comes to salvation.

Kim Reisman

Kim Reisman

One of my seminary professors, George Lindbeck talked about the importance of church doctrine to the formation of communal identity. He said that ‘Church doctrines are communally authoritative teachings regarding beliefs and practices that are considered essential to the identity or welfare of the group in question…they indicate what constitutes faithful adherence to a community.’ Think about the Quakers, for instance. If I’m a Quaker, but I oppose pacifism, I’m not going to be viewed as a good Quaker, because that’s not what a member of the Society of Friends should be. Lindbeck says that if you don’t draw that conclusion, then it’s most likely because ‘the belief has ceased to be communally formative.’*** The belief may still be a formal or official one, but it’s no longer operational.

That’s the heart of our current crisis in the UMC. Not only have we forgotten that the church is instrumental to salvation, it may also very well be that the doctrinal heritage of the UMC is no longer communally formative (at least in the US). If that’s the case, then (sadly) we really aren’t much more than a loose association of Jesus’ Facebook friends.

 

 

*Nicholas Perrin, ‘Jesus Eschatology and Kingdom Ethics: Ever the Twain Shall Meet’, in N. Perrin and R. Hays (eds.), Jesus, Paul and the People of God: A Theological Dialogue with N. T. Wright (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2011), 100, 102

**Jason Vickers, Minding the Good Ground: A Theology of Church Renewal (Waco: Baylor University Press, 2011), 83

***George Lindbeck, The Nature of Doctrine: Religion and Theology in a Postliberal Age [1984], (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2009), 60

 

Paul Chilcote

Paul Chilcote

Why have United Methodists been so passionate about mission? What is it that propels them to offer Christ in holistic ways? And yet, what are the tensions the United Methodist Church currently faces in becoming a global church and in facing new challenges in North America?

Join Paul Chilcote, Professor of Wesley Studies and Mission at Ashland Theological Seminary and a member of the Indiana Conference, as he leads this engaging seminar on Mission in the Wesleyan Tradition and the transitions the church will need to navigate in the years ahead.

 

Mission in the Wesleyan Tradition: Tensions & Transitions

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

9am ~ 3pm

$45.00 (lunch included)

North United Methodist Church ~ 3808 N. Meridian St. ~ Indianapolis, IN 46208

This seminar is organized by the Wesleyan Connexion Project of the Indiana Conference of the United Methodist Church. It’s a great opportunity for all clergy and laity interested in mission.
Click here to register

 

 

Occasionally things happen in life that call us to pause. If we heed that call and pay attention, we often realize that we’ve been privy to something really special. That kind of thing has happened to me over the last several weeks.

Owl

Murdock the owl

We live in an ordinary suburban setting in West Lafayette, Indiana – nice front yard with neighbors a little over a driveway width away on either side. When we arrived in 1993 our back yard was lovely but our neighbors were in plain sight – no privacy whatsoever. In the years since, we’ve planted wisteria vines and built a pergola and our back yard turned into what our children have come to call the secret garden.

During good weather, we eat many of our meals under the pergola surrounded by wisteria and trumpet vines. A few weeks ago, as we were eating with friends we noticed a bird nestled in the wisteria – not the kind of bird we were used to seeing. It was a young screech-owl, about 12 inches tall, who had apparently been watching us for some time. We watched each other that night, and the next, soon naming him Murdock (after my grandfather who would also watch quietly, occasionally dropping some gem of wisdom or wit) and regularly checking for his whereabouts in the branches of the wisteria. Until one day he was gone.

That was a sad day.

owlet

Oscar the Owlet

But then another evening rolled around and John and I were out enjoying dinner in the shade of the pergola. John looked up and thought he saw Murdock! But no, it wasn’t him. It was a small owlet, so new he (she?) still had his fuzzy just-hatched feathers – and he had been watching us. So we named him Oscar (I’m not sure why) and began watching, checking every day to see where he might be nestled. Oscar lost his fuzzy feathers and fresh new, grown-up feathers took their place. He watched us and we watched him. And then Oscar was gone too. Another sad day.

But that’s when I realized that I had been privy to something special – nothing miraculous mind you, but definitely special.

Kim Reisman

Kim Reisman

An ordinary part of nature – owls – opened my eyes once again to the amazing glory of God’s creation. And it reminded me not to take things for granted, but to pay attention. So I am. Deliberately. Because I don’t want to miss meeting those who share my garden.

 

Then God said, “Let the waters swarm with fish and other life. Let the skies be filled with birds of every kind.” So God created great sea creatures and every living thing that scurries and swarms in the water, and every sort of bird—each producing offspring of the same kind. And God saw that it was good. Then God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply. Let the fish fill the seas, and let the birds multiply on the earth.”

…Then God looked over all he had made, and he saw that it was very good! 

Genesis 1.20-22, 31

 

MLM-splash-3

Making Life Matter

 

Making Life Matter is a weekly 30 minute Christian inspirational and teaching program hosted by Maxie Dunnam and Shane Stanford. Next Step partners with Kingdom Catalysts to bring you MLM, which tackles issues of faith and life to deepen discipleship and encourage strong connections between following Jesus and living in today’s world. Mark your calendars to visit Next Step and listen regularly. Click below to hear today’s program.