Archive for May, 2009

UnChristian

May 16, 2009

For the past two weeks I have attended a discussion on the book UnChristian by Dave Kinnamon and Gabe Lyon on Sunday mornings before worship service.  It has been interesting to say the least.  The class is lead by a friend of mine who is a couple of years younger than me and a bit more a part of the culture UnChristian focuses on.  I am on the very edge of the group and well, I have never been a typical member of my generation anyway.  The first week there were about 10 or 12 people in attendance.  Last week there were about 25 or so.  The discussion has gotten a LOT of people talking.  One of our pastors has referred to the data in UnChristian a few times in sermons, but now we are really digging into it.  So far we have just talked about the first two chapters which are basically an introduction to the book that discusses the findings in their general trends as well as the things that stuck out most.

Basically the basis of the book is that Christianity has an image problem.  Those who are aged 16 – 29 years old (in 2007) said loud and clear that their perception of Christians held them as

          hypoCRITCAL
                                          ANTIhomosexual
                             SHELTERED
    TOO political
                                              JUDGMENTAL
OUT OF TOUCH with reality
                                                    OLD-fashioned
                  INSENSITIVE to others
       BORING
                                                CONFUSING
and
               too focused on GETTING converts

Quite a few good points were brought up in the first meeting about factors that might contribute to these perceptions.  Namely the age group itself, poor representation in media, broad base of knowledge that is wide but not deep, and the price of tea in China (insert sarcasm here).  As I have subtly hinted, I started to get annoyed with where the discussion was going because I felt the group was looking everywhere but the mirror for the cause of the negative perceptions held by many of the body of Christ.  So I very respectfully said so.  What started to get under my skin was not the validity of the things others were bringing up, but rather the fact that for the most part as members of the body of Christ, we can’t do anything about those other things.  What we can do, is start with ourselves.  We can start with our very own life and do an honest reflection of whether these perceptions are true as we stand and face ourselves in the mirror of self-evaluation. 

At first glance we might say to ourselves, “Self, you could use a haircut, but over all you’re lookin’ pretty good!  High five!!”  But if I lean in a bit closer to the looking glass, I might have to ask myself questions like ‘If a lesbian couple walked into my church showing outward affection for each other, would I turn them away, ignore them, or welcome them?’ and ‘When someone else tells me about their beliefs and understanding of God and all things holy am I concerned with learning about, and loving, the person to whom I am talking or am I more concerned with asserting my pride and making sure they understand I am right, and they are wrong?’  How about, ‘Do I focus more on what I stand against than what I stand for?’

Most of us can remember at least once in our lives when our parents or another adult in our lives said something along the lines of ‘If you would only listen I could help you.’  It seems to me that the tables have turned and the younger generations of America are saying the same thing to those who call themselves Christians. 

Will we humble ourselves and listen?

The Ordination Process

May 10, 2009
Photo by: Beth & Christian

Photo by: Beth & Christian

When I made the choice to answer God’s call into ministry I did so with the understanding that there are some who do not think women should be pastors/priests/preachers.  As this was something I had to wrestle with myself I was prepared to engage with people about it.  When I became an Inquirer for Minister of Word and Sacrament with PC(USA), never did I think that the actual ordination process would be a cause for contention.  So I was suprised when Tony Jones, a well known figure in the emergent church movement, had some not so nice things to say about the whole thing.  A recent seminary grad named Adam was weeks away from ordination before his fitness for ministry was called into question.  This resulted in a tranfer to a different prebytery which in PC(USA) is the governing body responsible for ordination.  You can read his full story at his blog post at pomomusings.  Tony left the first comment on Adam’s blog post and said,

What will it take for you to get the message that denominationalism and ordination are bruising, sinful institutions? What will it take for you to hear the message that God is sending you?

I am familiar with the idea that some folks find denominationalism “sinful” but the ordination process?  After a few folks left encouraging comments on Adam’s post, Tony then went on to say

Um, let me repeat myself: this process is a sin against you. And those of you who leave comments trying to help Adam negotiate the sinful, dehumanizing system are complicit in the sin.

Wow.  Really?  So it’s the system that’s evil and sinful?  I thought it was us humans.  Let me say that I do believe that each and every denomination, or community/movement/whatever,  has it’s flaws.  But it is not the denomination, community, or movement that is flawwed except for the fact that each of these entities are made up of people.  And let’s face it: people suck.  And yes that’s rather irreverent considering each and every living and breathing person on this planet is an image bearer of God.  It is strange to me that there are some that think a lack of systems will fix our problems.  If it does fix some of our problems it will surely create more. 

I find Tony’s comments to be completely disrespectful of other’s understanding of the nature of preaching as well as the nature of their faith.  I believe there is truth in what Tony says but I am saddened by the harshness that folks on both sides of this issue (in it’s specific and general terms) are exhibiting. Are the things we have to say so important that we are willing to disparage those who do not agree with us? It is impossible to attack only an issue, structure, belief, or thought…there are people attached to all of those things. The body of Christ is poking itself in the eye and biting off it’s own fingers so to speak. Could we all stop for a minute to remember we are addressing fellow image bearers of God and that whether or not we agree with each other is irrelavant when determining the respect we are to show each other in that light?

Maybe Tony is frustrated because his thoughts have fallen on deaf ears in the past.  I cannot speak to that.  Some things that are suprising to me about Adam’s situation in particular are related to the reason his fitness for ministry was called into question: he asked a gay man to preach at his ordination.  Though some might find it disturbing, what is suprising to me is not that he asked a gay man to preach.  What is suprising to me is that it seems as though this was suprising to those in Adam’s prebytery.  If it is the Presbytery’s purpose to get to know those who are Inquirer and then Candidates in ministry it seems to me that his stance on homosexuality should not have been a suprise to folks.  I am sure there are a lot of things that I don’t know here, but for me it is food for thought.

It seems to me that something that could be taken from Tony’s criticism is that more effort needs to be spent actually getting to know the Inquirers and Candidates for ministry.  Perhaps that’s what he means by dehumanizing.  While I find Tony’s comments harsh and didsrespectful, it seems as though he is trying to get those who are a part of the denominational structures to reform.  And that is something PC(USA) should be able to do since we are called to be “reformed and always reforming.”

Above the Mason-Dixon Line

May 9, 2009

Time is flying.  I found out in February that I was accepted to Princeton Theological Seminary and I am amazed that it is already MAY.  Wow.  Where did March and April go?  I am excited for sure, but there are a lot of things left for me to figure out.  I will have to down-size but, yeah…that’s putting it lightly.  I will be moving from a 2-bedroom apartment that I live in by myself to a dorm room the size of my dining room.  Yikes.  I have to figure out how I am going to get stuff up to NJ and see about findind a place to store some boxes that I don’t want to bring up there with me. 

It has been 15 years since I have lived above the Mason-Dixon Line.  I went to visit campus at the end of march and I loved it.  It is smaller than I thought it would be.  But I like that.  Being that I got my undergraduate degree at a state school with 46,000 students everything you did there was more of a business transaction than an interaction between two human beings.  I am sure there are things I will have to adjust to about living in a “fish bowl” so to speak, but I am looking forward to the small community atmosphere.  The campus was very quiet too.  I couldn’t hear the interstate!!!  I love that.  Where I live now I feel like you can never get away from the noise. 

So yeah…I’m looking forward to it.  Just a few weeks of work left and then to figure stuff out.  Should be interesting.  : )

Miller Chapel

Over a Month

May 9, 2009

Wow.  I just looked at the date of my last post and it’s been over a month since I have blogged.  Things are moving so quickly.  It’s nuts really.  Well…I don’t have anything else to say about this so this will be a mini-post in order to get the juices flowing again.  Hopefully.