Showing posts from June, 2005

Off to Synod

And that probably means no posting from me over the next week or so. But I thought I'd hook you up with a few links.

First, there's a startup UCC blog that will provide some reporting on the event. There will also be a live webcast for certain parts of the event. Click on the LIVE! link on the righthand side of this page.

Brueggemann's The Prophetic Imagination and Borg's The Heart of Christianity will be keeping me company during those parts that I don't find tremendously interesting. I'll find a nice cool spot in Olympic Park and lose myself for a while.

And that's about it.

'Mainlines' in Trouble, Part 4

I've shared my thoughts on the specific things we'll be discussing at the UCC's General Synodhere, here, here, here, here, and here. So what's left to say?

Yesterday I received a letter that had apparently been sent to all Synod delegates from Ohio. It was sent on behalf of one UCC church (many members' signatures were on the back) expressing 'concern' over one of the resolutions on equal marriage rights. Another UCC congregation had sent one out a few weeks prior in support of this resolution. I've heard rumblings of another letter floating around where one man threatens to pull his church out of the UCC if this resolution passes. Three different opinions sent along to delegates, and the minority side afterwards says its view wasn't considered. This is the stance taken by the first letter I mention. There is this dichotomy at work where, because the minority viewholders don't see things work out the way they wanted it to work out, their view was…

'Mainlines' in Trouble, Part 3

We continue in our little series with my sharing a few thoughts on what makes a church vibrant and relevant. Some of these might seem to most of my readership as somewhat obvious. That's okay. I'm not going to reinvent the wheel here. A lot of this comes from a list I made in my journal the other day just to see what I thought. This is what I came up with:

~Worship is at least 'blended.' Hymns and theologically responsible praise songs set TASTEFULLY to a stripped down music group (nothing too big or outlandish). Theologically responsible = songs that are more than what God does for me, me, me, bathing me in blood, and God going off to kick someone's ass on my behalf. TASEFULLY = you just don't try to rock out Amazing Grace. It doesn't work in most cases. Less is more. We still follow the liturgical year because it provides us with a framework for reflection. Worship in a semi-traditional space (stained glass, crosses). We are CHRISTIAN, after all, and not t…

'Mainlines' in Trouble, Part 2

This entry is to be a more extensive discussion of the book Why Men Hate Going to Church. Actual quotes from the book will be scarce, as I'm typing this at home and it's over in my office. But I'm going to try to get out a few main points.

First, the book's main focus group is the so-called 'manly man.' The author acknowledges that men are in church, but they tend to be more of the sensitive variety. The rugged outdoors types are more scarce. In part, it's because they see the sensitive ones and don't feel comfortable. This group of men would be much harder to reach with many current programs, even the ones geared toward men: anything involving 'sharing feelings,' hand-holding during prayers, and worship or studies that have focus themes of security, falling in love with Jesus, God as primarily comforter or nurturer.

So what does Murrow suggest instead? A focus on discipleship. A focus on risk. A focus on learning side by side rather than in a ci…

'Mainlines' in Trouble, Part 1

It used to be that 'mainline' was an accurate term for those within the category. This term is for more established and historical Protestant denominations: Methodist, Presbyterian, United Church of Christ, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Lutheran, and so on. I find myself beginning to use 'oldline' a little more, and if someone can conjur a more endearing term I'd love to start using it instead. As 'non-denominational' churches are on the rise, 'mainline' is not as fitting a term any more.

The explanations for this decline are numerous and in some sense reflect one's own biases (some good, some bad). Let's just get a few theories out in the open.

~Why Men Hate Going to Church has its own explanation: the men aren't there and culturally speaking they're still the ones that other men will follow. One man sees another man going to church, they might be more inclined to come. There's an element of sexism and insecurity t…

Pop Culture Roundup

This week I've been glued to a book entitled Why Men Hate Going to Church. If you can handle a certain amount of generalizations about what a 'real man' is, this book is for every oldline Protestant church to read. NOW. One attempt at the book's thesis statement might look like this: The church is currently a haven of old people, women, and children who hear a message of safety and non-change and about falling in love with a guy named Jesus. For these reasons (among others) this is not a place where the typical man wants to hang out. The author also goes to some length to argue that despite feminist claims to the contrary, the church is largely a women's institution. To illustrate this point, list off programs in your church and ask 1) who they might best be suited for and 2) who participates in them. The counterargument could be made that men need to learn to be more sensitive or something along those lines. The book's answer: the sensitive men are alr…

Barna's State of the Church 2005

For those of you who aren't familiar with his work, George Barna regularly surveys the church to see how it's doing, frequently offering an eye-opening take on the state of the American church. So his latest offering has recently come to fruition. Here's one author's take on it. Please try to stick with the article despite the irritating analogy.

Book Meme

I wasn't tagged for this, but I picked it up at Chris' site and figured why not.

Number of Books
I will venture at least 500-600 and growing.

Last Book I Read
Well, the last book I finished was Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller

Last Book I Bought
I just picked one up this weekend called Journalkeeping: Exploring a Great Spiritual Practice by Carl J. Koch

Five Books That Mean The Most To Me

The Quest for the Historical Jesus by E.P. Sanders

The God of Jesus by Stephen J. Patterson

A New Kind of Christian by Brian McLaren

High Fidelity by Nick Hornby

The Complete Works of William Shakespeare

Magazines I Read Regularly

Christian Century
Entertainment Weekly
US News and World Report

Who Do I Tag?
Whoever feels like carrying it on.

'Channeling the Kingdom' - A Sermon for June 19, Father's Day

Jeremiah 20:7-13

It was about 3:30 on Monday afternoon. I had completed my other tasks for the day and decided to sit down with the lectionary texts for the week to see if God was speaking through any particular scripture passage in a way that might get the gears working for today’s sermon. So I sat on the floor in the living room, books strewn around me, and my Bible in my lap. I flipped from Jeremiah to Romans to Matthew, back to Jeremiah. A few ideas were beginning to form, but nothing that really stood out; that really held my attention.

So, being in the living room and not yet having a concrete idea about what I might run with, I absent-mindedly flipped on the television. This action had no real purpose behind it. It was just there. So maybe the background noise would provide good company or I’d connect something I’d see while flipping channels to one of the scripture passages. I decided to begin with the news, so I flipped over to CNN.

Now in case you don’t remember what w…

Pop Culture Roundup

I've been a busy reader this week. I finished Night, which is only about a hundred pages anyway. It's one of the most personal accounts of the Holocaust that I've come across. I've seen the terror portrayed in movies, in other books, and in museums, but this was an amazing read from someone who lived it. From there I took a 180 degree turn and gobbled up Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller, which is a series of essays on Christian spirituality. His humorous and candid take on Christian belief and practice make the read both enjoyable and thought-provoking. Now I'm on to The Boy Who Couldn't Stop Washing, a half-memoir, half-analysis of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. I'm not too far into it, but so far the personal accounts have been very educational.

Once again, this is a week where I wish I could say I've seen a certain movie *coughBatmancough* but I haven't yet. Maybe by next Friday. Come to think of it, I haven't really sat down to watch …

Finally, Some Resolution, Except Not at All

You know that saying where opinions are compared to a certain less-than-reputable body part on account of their smell and ownership by all? Well, the results of Terry Schiavo's autopsy were revealed this week and suddenly a familiar stench is in the air as everyone weighs in with their opinions.

Depending upon what blogs you read you'll get a statement about conclusive evidence from critics of keeping her alive or something about The Liberal Conspiracy from supporters. All will most likely present such opinions with some degree of solemnity and the hatred for Michael Schiavo will be proclaimed once again. Personal anecdotes of one's own tough decision for a loved one will be shared, and outrage will be expressed at the method used to 'let her die with dignity.' Everyone from Michael to the parents to the judge to the coroner to anyone named Bush will be blamed for this situation. Everyone will be accused of pushing their own agenda and everyone will be accused of n…


As a point of curiosity after my theological worldview quiz tied me at both Modern Liberal and Emergent/Postmodern, I decided that now was as good a time as any to visit Emergent's website to see what I could see there. My only brush with Emergent previous to this was when I picked up Brian McLaren's A New Kind of Christian a few years ago, and found it quite enjoyable. I didn't even know McLaren was involved with whatever this is until maybe 6 months ago. Here's part of their 'story:'

Emergent invites you to explore this story. To come into this conversation with us. Many thoughtful Christians agree: the modern, colonial world is coming undone and a new postmodern, postcolonial world is emerging.

The world is changing politically, from Cold War era to a post-communist era, from a world of conventional and nuclear war to a world of terrorism and genocide, from a colonial world to a post-colonial one (or perhaps to a neo-colonial one).

It is changing philosophi…

And here's another...

You scored as Modern Liberal. You are a Modern Liberal. Science and historical study have shown so much of the Bible to be unreliable and that conservative faith has made Jesus out to be a much bigger deal than he actually was. Discipleship involves continuing to preach and practice Jesus' measure of love and acceptance, and dogma is not important in today's world. You are influenced by thinkers like Bultmann and Bishop Spong.

Modern Liberal64%Emergent/Postmodern64%Neo orthodox61%Classical Liberal61%Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan50%Charismatic/Pentecostal50%Roman Catholic46%Reformed Evangelical29%Fundamentalist11%
What's your theological worldview?
created with QuizFarm.comThis was slightly more surprising, given the particular description of 'modern liberal' that they give. And Spong? Ugh.But check out what came in second: the Emergent movement. The top two actually tied. How about that.Here are a few related posts for some background and answers to these quiz results…

Which Theologian are You?

Thanks to Greg for this quiz. I'm not a bit surprised at my result.

You scored as Friedrich Schleiermacher. You seek to make inner feeling and awareness of God the centre of your theology, which is the foundation of liberalism. Unfortunately, atheists are quick to accuse you of simply projecting humanity onto 'God' and liberalism never really recovers.

Friedrich Schleiermacher60%Paul Tillich53%Anselm53%J├╝rgen Moltmann53%John Calvin53%Augustine40%Karl Barth40%Charles Finney33%Martin Luther27%Jonathan Edwards20%
Which theologian are you?
created with

Ted Haggard on the True Meaning of Christianity

Ted Haggard, pastor of New Life megachurch in Colorado Springs and president of the National Association of Evangelicals, has an interview with Harper's Magazine. In it, he has some things to say about the Ukraine:

Kiev is, in fact, home to Europe’s largest evangelical church, and over the last dozen years the Ukrainian evangelical population has grown more than tenfold, from 250,000 to 3 million. According to Ted, it was this army of Christian capitalists that took to the streets. “They’re pro-free markets, they’re pro-private property,” he said. “That’s what evangelical stands for.”(italics mine)Well silly me, I thought evangelical stood for sharing the good news of Christ. But I guess what it really means is being a proponent of capitalism. More reading:

In Pastor Ted’s book Dog Training, Fly Fishing, & Sharing Christ in the 21st Century, he describes the church he thinks good Christians want. “I want my finances in order, my kids trained, and my wife to love life. I want goo…

Pop Culture Roundup

I'm still working on God Is Not..., the most recent chapter being, 'a capitalist.' The author talks about various parables that Jesus told such as the Vineyard Workers and the Lost Sheep, which illustrate some bad business decisions. He never offers a definition of capitalism, and if he does I missed it. But all in all the chapter seems to say that God is simply not a money-grubbing businessman who leaves the poor to their own devices. The two have their parallels, but it would have been more helpful to read where he was coming from in terms of the system that God does not endorse. And incidentally, he is also quick to add a disclaimer that by saying God is not a capitalist he is not saying that God IS a socialist.

We watched Chicago again this week. I want to play Richard Gere's part. That'd be so cool.

I caught part of VH1's Storytellers featuring Coldplay the other night, and it reminded me how much I like 'A Rush of Blood to the Head.' So I ga…

Life in General

After what turned out to be one of my stronger weeks (IMO) of posting, I've been feeling a lull this week. There's plenty to talk about, but I've either been away or preoccupied with other matters.

I disclosed to my music committee chair this morning that I don't like a lot of the praise songs in our praise book. She actually said that she doesn't either. The songs come from a time when praise music was really hitting its stride for the Boomer generation, and a lot of them talk either about blood or God going to war on our behalf. And when the lyrics aren't atrocious, the tune is. At the same time, it boasts a few really wonderful gems that I'm going to hang onto. I'm looking forward to acquiring a CCLI license, which as far as I'm concerned will be my own license to get more modern music for worship. That and I'm beginning to write my own. Hoo-ah!

I'm finding this week's lectionary generally uninspiring. I've settled on Genes…

FIERCE Communion

While preparing to deliver home communion to shut-ins this week, I had to make a trip to buy some grape juice. I have a little kit that I take with me that includes a small container for those little styrofoam wafers, and a small bottle in which I pour the juice. Usually I take whatever juice is left over from the previous Sunday's communion, but none was left. Hence this trip.

The town in which I live is severely limited in terms of shopping options. We don't have a grocery store. We have a drug store and two gas stations. But as I was in a time crunch, I was not able to drive the 10 minutes to where we buy our food. So the drug store would have to do, as I had bought from them before. But alas, on this particular day they were out of grape juice. They had Cran-Grape juice (blech), but no straight up grape. Now, I must share that as far as I'm concerned you can do communion with Doritos and Mountain Dew, but I decided to stick to the traditional formula of bread …


This site is riveting. I had to pry my hand off the mouse so I could go to work.

Pop Culture Roundup

I gave up on Are We Hardwired? I just couldn't bring myself to get through it. What I read was informative and I'll use it for reference, but silly me for trying to pass it off as recreational reading. So I've gone to another book on my nightstand entitled God is Not...It's a collection of essays by different authors that finish that sentence in various ways: 'one of us,' religious, nice, an American, a capitalist.The premise that seems to tie each chapter together is that we ascribe to God our own projects, passions, and loyalties such that God becomes Cosmic Approver of what we do or who we are. Furthermore, the argument goes, it is easier to speak of who God is not rather than who God is, hence the approach taken in this book. I've made it through the first chapter (God is Not 'One of Us') which provides an excellent critique of pop culture but is short on a theological counter (the standard fare of 'If we just pay attention to Christ as reve…

Synod Resolutions: The Non-Issues

'No, not the church! Jesus lives there!' - Rev. Lovejoy

Two Synod resolutions fall under this category, which perhaps carry with them more baggage than any other resolutions to be presented. I'll show you what I mean.

The first is a resolution entitled 'The United Church of Christ is a Christian Denomination Where Jesus is Lord.' Who said it isn't? The first line of the text asserts that 'The greatest issue facing our denomination is whether or not to acknowledge the Lordship and divinity of Jesus, which is the most basic of all Christian teachings.' How did the drafters discern that this is the greatest issue facing our denomination?

This is the first line of the second paragraph of the UCC Constitution: 'The United Church of Christ acknowledges as its sole Head, Jesus Christ, Son of God and Savior.' The resolution mentions this, but apparently it's not enough. Article IV, paragraph 8 of the Constitution says, 'A Local Church is composed o…

Synod Resolutions: The Practical

Marge: Sermons about constancy and provicitude are all very well and good, but the church could be doing so much more to reach out to people.
Lovejoy: Oh, I don't see you volunteering to make things better.
Marge: Well, okay, I will volunteer.
Lovejoy: I wasn't prepared for that.

The last one was so short, I figured I'd double up on my review of General Synod resolutions today. This post focuses on the category that I have deemed the 'Practical,' which includes resolutions declaring support for campus ministries, calling on churches to work toward becoming more handicapped accessible, a proposal to change the layout of General Synod, and the advocating of adequate compensation for UCC lay employees. I deem them as such because they specifically relate to UCC practice in a variety of ways.

The UCC's financial status is definitely not great. At the national level, many positions have had to be cut over the past several years, and one such position was the staff pos…

Synod Resolutions: The Mildly Divisive

Can ya name the truck with four wheel drive.
Smells like a steak and seats thirty five

This category was originally 'The Mildly Politically Divisive,' but I scratched 'Politically' because they could be divisive in other ways. And I say 'Mildly' because there are typically a group of resolutions like this that come before Synod that play to some people's particular social justice interests yet may just be ignored by everyone else. Most may feel that they can't be bothered by some or all of these issues.

So this year we have concerns for Native Hawaiian Prisoners' religious freedom, support for the International Criminal Court, and advocating stewardship of God's creation in an age of declining fossil fuels (this one might also be filed under 'Fluffy'). After realizing how long-winded the last post got, I'm just mentioning these and moving on.

A resolution advocating 'fair trade' coffee will come to the flo…

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