Archive for the ‘church’ Category

Feedback from the 219th General Assembly (2010)

February 5, 2011

After participating as a Theological Student Advisory Delegate (TSAD) at the 219th General Assembly of the PC(USA), an e-mail was sent out asking for feedback.  This was probably more feedback than was necessary, but I guess I had a lot to say.  Not sure why this took me so long to post.  Time has just gotten away from me!


Do you think the social media policy at General Assembly was appropriate?

  • Yes, completely appropriate
  • Yes, mostly appropriate
  • Yes, somewhat appropriate
  • No
  • Not sure

I chose “Yes, mostly appropriate.”

Comments about the social media policy:

It seems that some read the social media policy as a restriction of social media. When I read it, I understood it to delineate a judicious and appropriate use of social media (i.e., not to find out how other people want me to vote). It seemed that the policy acknowledged the presence of social media as a part of life (i.e., not a “fad”) but somehow that seemed to get a little bit lost.  As a connectional church, I found it appropriate and AWEsome that 1) so many people were interested in the business of the church and 2) that we now have way for people to easily *participate* in this part of the life of the church in meaningful ways.  I have heard it said quite a few times that there is a disconnect between what happens at GA and what is going on at local churches and social media combined with audio/visual coverage of GA has unbelievable potential to bridge that gap.  With this in mind, it seems a bit short sighted to communicate anything less than full acceptance and even encouragement of social media at GA.  It was neat to be able to answer general questions people had about the business at hand for those on Twitter who were following along via the live feed.

Most important three issues covered at GA: (more…)


A Book Review: nuChristian by Russell E. D. Rathbun

October 13, 2009
Image by: Judson Press

Image by: Judson Press

Recently, I was asked to do a book review of a book called nuChristian (no that’s not a typo…its actually ‘nu’ as in ‘new’) that is a response of sorts, but more so a contribution to the ongoing conversation that resulted from the book unChristian written by Dave Kinnamon (President of The Barna Group) and Gabe Lyon (founder of Fermi Group, now Q) and published in 2007.   Written by Rev. Russell Rathbun, one of the founding pastors of House of Mercy in St. Paul, Minnesota, the book is practical, pastoral, and conversational and based largely on Russel’s experience in the post-modern world.  As such Russell is upfront about the fact that he is writing from a “highly subjective, extremely relational perspective” (p. viii).  While some may discount his book since it is “subjective” and “relational,” I think it has a great deal of insight to offer and I am thankful Russell chose to write from this standpoint.

In the Forward of the book, Shane Claiborne writes, “I am convinced that if we lose a generation in the church, that loss won’t be because we failed to entertain them, but because we failed to dare them–to take the words of Jesus seriously and to do something about the things that are wrong in the world” (p. vi).  According to Shane, “Russell Rahtburn offers us that dare–to renew a Christianity that reminds the world of Jesus again” (

There is a lot that I could say about this book.  I think Russell does a great job of responding to the data presented in The Barna Group’s study.  And I very much appreciate his straightforward but gracious approach in his response.  I think the two things that jumped out at me the most while reading Russell’s book were his discussion of ‘scapegoating’ and his understanding of the way postmodern people read the Bible.

Russell goes into some depth to draw his reader into his understanding of ‘scapgoating.’  While I was familiar with the term, I very much appreciated his efforts to place the concept within our current culture and context.  Early on in the book Russell writes, “The kingdom of God is made up of every kind of person there is” (p. 3).  Though this may result in a response of “well, duh” from many people but let’s be honest…this is not the reality of many churches.  I personally have attended or visited many churches and found them to be demographically and ideologically anemic.  Many write this off as a result of people seeking to be with others who are like them (what Russell refers to as the “homogenous unit principle” as introduced by Dr. Donald A. McGraven [p. 1]).  I personally think this it’s a cop out.  Russell presents the idea that it is ‘scapegoating’ (p. 6).  The bottom line in this seems to be that “scapegoating is when we find someone else like us, and we bond of the shared object of our envy, anxiety, and fear” (p. 6) since “one of us most be wrong” (p. 7) if there is a difference in desires or opinions.  It is harder for me to walk the line between scapegoating and judgement, but undoubtedly blaming any one certain group for the ills of society is unfounded at best.  I appreciate Russell’s efforts to drive the point home that “nuChristians listen to and consider the opinions of others” (p.88).  That coupled with the reality that “human perfections is an illusion” (p.88) makes a great case in and of itself for leaving the judgement of others to God.

As for Russell’s understanding of the way postmodern people read the Bible, he first explains that previous generations typically view scripture “as an instruction book, a guidebook, [or] a book of answers” (p.16).  In this line of thing, “there is only one right interpretation of every text in the Bible”  (p.16).  In the eyes of a postmodern person, if this is trued, they “see the Scriptures as something dead” (p. 17).  Instead of thinking of the Bible as an answer book, Russell proposes that we view it “as a book of really good questions” (p.18).  I really like that.  It took quite some time in my own life to see that if Christianity is just about following rules, you don’t need the Holy Spirit.  Or discernment.  Or a brain even.  Machines can follow rules.  Russell compares this to the use of a “checklist” saying, “you don’t need God when you have a checklist” (p.19).  I also found it very intriguing that Russell has found that “in [his] own ministry…highlighting the questions we find in Scriptures gives people permission to voice the questions they have always wondered about” (p. 18).  It’s rather boring, after all, when someone just provides you with all the answers.  Our brains can only take so much of that.  It’s boring, frankly, and it assumes that the person giving the who is on the receiving end of the answers doesn’t have the mental capacity to think through things on their own.  Our curiosity is primed, so to speak, when there is mystery.  And if there is one place there is enough ministry to last us until Christ returns, it’s God and the Bible.  Allowing people to wade through the deep waters that are the Scriptures will surely bear more fruit and cramming answers in their brains.

While I am sure I disagree with Russell on at least a few things, the more I think about it the more I understand agreeing isn’t really important.  It seems to me that Russell is daring us to hold our beliefs loosely and others tightly.  Love of God and Love of neighbor are linked inseparably.  And if loving my neighbor means challenging myself to be more accepting of ambiguity and more realistic about the limits of my own humanity I am all for it.  No one has it all figured out.  We can all learn from each other.  The question is, will we humble ourselves enough to allow that to happen?

He has showed you, O mortal, 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 6.8

*for more reviews on this book, visit for a list of blogs included on this blog tour*

Finding a Local Church

July 11, 2009

My move to Princeton is complete…mostly.  : )  I won’t be in my dorm room until Sunday night, but other than that, I’m here!  There are many, MANY things I am thinking about…the newness of everything…starting Greek in a day…meeting new people…and finding a local church.  With respect to the last item I would love suggestions, advice, things to look for, etc.  How do I discern the personality of a church?  What are good questions to ask?  What specific questions should I ask the pastor?


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

    TOO political
OUT OF TOUCH with reality
                  INSENSITIVE to others
               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?

Modern Mary

January 17, 2009

Photo by: Hibachirama

I stumbled upon this phenomenal photo today.  This statue was sculpted by Robert Graham and it sits above the huge bronze doors (which he also designed) at the entrance to the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles.  Apparently it is a bit controversial due to the fact that Mary is not pictured in the normal veil.  In addition, the man who sculpted her usually sculpted nudes. 

I however, think his statue is absolutely beautiful.  This is what the cathedral website has to say about it:

The ornamental space above the pair of bronze doors contains the 8 foot image of Our Lady of the Angels. The modern figure is presented as a woman “clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet” (Revelations 12:1). The halo shaft above her head shines God’s light on her as the sun travels from east to west.

Mary does not wear the traditional veil. Her arms are bare, outstretched to welcome all. Her carriage is confident, and her hands are strong, the hands of a working woman. From the side can be seen a thick braid of hair down her back that summons thoughts of Native American or Latina women. Other characteristics, such as her eyes, lips and nose convey Asian, African and Caucasian features. Without the conventional regal trappings of jewels, crown or layers of clothing, she has a dignity that shines from within.

Originally, two bronzed angels were to be placed one on each side of Our Lady of the Angels. However, the first Spanish name for Los Angeles was El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora, Reina de los Angeles. Mary is Queen of Los Angeles, so the people in her city are her angels.

I love, love, love it how the sculptor incorporated all the various ethnicities into one statue.  Absolutely brilliant.  And “her hands are strong, the hands of a working woman” captures something wonderful to me…even sacred I think. 

While I can understand why some people might find this statue offensive, I am astounded by it’s beauty.