When he's not making espressos, complaining about dearth of bad pop music, or theologizing, one of my favorite baristas, Jason Anderson, knows how to find sweet videos about great TV, including the one below.
Here's a mashup of opening credits for two binge-worthy TV shows: Parks and Recreation & Twin Peaks. Love the undercurrent of Badalamenti's theme. Brille.
Makes me think about doing a few posts on Twin Peaks, the only series I've had the patience to binge watch so far this summer. Can't believe I missed it the first time around, but I was a college freshman when it premiered and didn't watch much TV in those days.
To tide me (us) over, here's Angelo Badalamenti's Twin Peaks soundtrack, which also turns out to be great blogging music.
Megaregions focus the efforts of church multiplication throughout north America. It is necessary to think and act beyond the current boundaries of church polity, organizational capacity, and political borders.
Seeing My Place Through God's Eyes
In January 2014, I was in the middle of prepping for two Spring term courses in urban ministry at Mount Vernon Nazarene University where I teach. At the same time, I was leading twenty students on an trip to Kansas City, Indianapolis, and Chicago so we could explore hidden diversities in Midwestern American cities.
In my research and travels, I found the work of mid-twentieth century sociologist who sought a method for categorizing metropolitan areas throughout history. The largest category is megalopolis. It is really a city of cities. Nothing yet exists like this on earth. The closest image would be from science fiction: Luc Beeson's vision of New York City in 2263 CE from the film entitled The Fifth Element (1997).
During Spring Break, I attended a church multiplication conference in Joplin, Missouri, of all places. I should be used to God working in unexpected places. It was organized by Mark Bane, district superintendent, and Bill Wiesman of the US/Canada region and Dynamic Church Planting International. I have some experience with rapid church multiplication from past work in Benin in 2004 to 2008, so I was familiar with the subject.
I was in Joplin to observe the workshop trainers to help with preparing training materials for the Nazarene Organic Church Network. What I didn't expect was to receive a vision for what God could do in my own area of assignment centered in Ohio.
What happened was the perfect storm of conducting missiological research, honing ideas with students and colleagues, and being open to the spark of the Holy Spirit.
What is the vision? Be a part of raising up 1,000 leaders in 100 networks of organic and established churches to multiply rapidly throughout the Great Lakes Megaregion of the United States.
Scary, I know, but that's the definition of a "God goal": it has to be impossible otherwise we could take the credit. But, it can only be for God's glory:
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (Ephesians 3:20-21 NIV)
What is a Megaregion?
Another term for a large populated area is a megaregion. In my research I came across the demographic information collected by America 2050. The purpose of the research is to identify contiguous areas of human population to facilitate movement including commerce, transportation, and communication.
Think of a megaregion as one gigantic city and the metro areas as neighborhoods, and towns as streets. In north America there are eleven megaregions of human population, each with a unique angle on ways of being American, linguistic twists, economic possibilities, social struggles, and mix of subcultures.
Questions we considered (and are still wrestling with): What are the demographics of this area? What populations are moving here? What are these people like? Where are the nodal points connecting these populations? What industries are being created for bi-vocational ministry? What are the relational pathways into these areas? What gatekeepers (persons of peace, Luke 10:1-12) do we need to look for in these places? What will the church and its leaders look like in these places?
Relational Pathways into North America's Megaregions
Churches as expressions of the Body of Christ have access to unlimited human relationships and connections, though tangible resources might seem limited, so it is important to see these local churches and their sometimes hidden or obscured interconnectedness as relational pathways for movement.
America 2050's identification of megaregions creates a map of relational pathways for church leaders to enter this part of the world lit up with missional imagination.
The gateway into God's movement in my area, centered in Ohio, is to understand the Great Lakes megaregion--one of the largest in north America. More on this later.
James Fowler once studied the way people find a lifetime of vision and meaning. He brought together the insights of numerous interviews into a volume entitled The Stages of Faith. It was popular (and required) reading during my seminary days in the mid-1990s. Every Christian educator at the time had to be versed in what constituted human faith development over a lifetime.
One of the later stages is Conjunctive Faith--the capacity to hold contrasting views simultaneously, or at least function with them unresolved through a spirit of irony, authenticity and cooperation, especially helpful in a pluralistic context. This inability to resolve paradox drives rational, logistically minded people all sorts of crazy, and we wonder why theologians like John Milbank gave social scientists such a hard time.
Kenneth Botten takes a lengthy but scholarly look at conjunctive faith in evangelical experience, fitting for a Navy chaplain that knows the reality of life lived among the "wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind" (James 1:6).
As we enter a new phase of figuring things out in light of a highly pluralistic world that does not opt for a Christian or even Western view of the world, theologians and social scientists--both armchair and professional--attempt to grapple with controversial issues, such as same-sex relationships and Christian faith.
I want to introduce two new pieces into the discussion on same-sex marriage--one from last summer and one from last week.
The first is David Kyle Foster's article Former Homosexual Reveals 'Unmitigated Disaster of Gay Marriage' in Charisma News, July 18, 2014.
Their views also reflect persistent though opposing views on the same subject matter. I wonder if Foster and Irwin might not also represent conjunctive faith as it is lived today.
As Christians wrestle intelligently and faithfully with questions seemingly constructed out of impenetrable granite, they might just throw their hands in the air and dive into the ocean to swim obliviously as the fishes.
Or, they might duke it out with believers and non-believers alike on Facebook and at family reunions and in prayer meetings. This is just treading water, thrashing about until the inevitable wave to crashes over them and takes them under for good.
At some point, they may realize that the "figuring out" might take the rest of their lives. The tension will twist and turn but the struggle is not one easily avoided or absconded. Faith and its questions are invited, scooped up into a pile, and waded into as a toddler at the swimming pool.
It's a cheerful moment, splashing into the water for the first time, though the waters could be dangerous, even to the point of stifling the very breath of life. But, it's also a playground, a respite from the noonday heat, even a cleansing act that renews and reinvigorates. Step into the waters, and let's think this through.
Christian humility in light of gay pride, or The desire to Converse gracefully about same-sex relationships
I didn't really want to be pulled into this fray. After an invigorating and thoughtful discussion on Facebook, -- no, seriously, this does happen sometimes -- I've decided to record here some of the better elements of this larger discussion, and maybe enter some thoughts of my own.
Honestly, I'm ambivalent about sharing personal thoughts about a controversial issue in a public forum. If I've learned anything from observing Nazarene higher education in the last few months, it's just better, or simply prudent, to stay quiet and lurk in the shadows. My responsibility as a Christian educator, the primary focus of my ordained ministry in the Church, provokes me to say more to keep the conversation going. But, I'm just not ready. So, for now, here are some thoughts from other voices in Christianity that will season our conversations with grace and humility.
Grider in the paper argues for the gradual scientific acceptance of the biological roots for same-sex proclivity, even citing Copernicus being rejected by Luther and his fellow Reformers and the then-popular intelligent design explanation of human origins over Darwin's theory of evolution as examples of changing scientific positions sparking new perspectives among theologians.
Moving to Scriptural texts, Grider makes a convincing biblical case for not identifying Sodom (Genesis 19) with its namesake behavior (sodomy), but rather with the absence of hospitality (pp26-29). He also critiques the Western church for taking a hard line against homosexuality while giving usury--the practice of charging interest on loans--a sympathetic pass (pp32-35). He mentions other areas of willful "non-compliance with Bible teaching" in the holiness code of Leviticus in the contemporary church, including wearing blended fabric clothing and eating shellfish. More on this from the links below to Keller's review of Vines' book and Vines' response to Keller.
The section on "What the Orientation Is Life" is nothing short of haunting (pp20-23). I dare you to read this listing without entering into intercessory prayer for someone you know.
Grider ends on this note: "Are we still medieval, or Victorian, because of three Old Testament passages [Genesis 19; Leviticus 18:22, Leviticus 20:12] and three New Testament references [Romans 1:26-27, 1 Corinthians 6:9, 1 Timothy 1:10] to the same-gender matter -- interpreted, still, as negative to gayness, long after we came to disregard the clear teachings opposed to such matters as to receiving money on interest loans, the abolition of slavery, and the ordination of women?" (p42) Sounds like a question a retired professor might ask and be brave enough to answer.
The strength of the paper is found at the beginning with what I think is the real reason for his research: "We Wesleyans, with warmed hearts made about three sizes too big, have enjoyed a long history of running to help when almost any group has not been getting a fair shake . . . [and] whether we might be the ones whom God wants to come running to help . . . gay and lesbian persons . . . who are our last large oppressed minority" (pp1, 2). This was written by a 79 year old theologian over 15 years ago.
A Pastor's Apology to the #LBGTQ Community
On June 29, 2015, Michael Palmer posted this written confession seeking forgiveness on several counts of Christian misbehavior toward the LBGTQ community. Palmer wrote, "Because you've been treated as an agenda instead of a face, a name and a story, we have been unwilling to hear the journey that's brought you to this point. Because we've not listened to your story, we're unaware of the ways in which the pulpit has been used as a club and our Bible as a knife to wound instead of heal." Words for Christians to take seriously in all areas of contention with unbelievers and other believers, I think.
One Thing Social Media Got Right about the Decision . . .
Tim Young from the blog Heartstone Journey takes another perspective in this June 30, 2015 post "One thing social media got right about the decision on gay marriage, #LoveWins!" The core of this piece is centered on Carle Zimmerman's Family and Civilization published in 1947 and abridged in 2008 for a series called Essential Texts for the Conservative Mind. Also, a free Kindle e-book. Young basically notes seven actions that usually take place as an epoch of civilization begins to deteriorate. The breakdown in the stability of marriage is one of these actions; sexual perversion including homosexuality is another.
40 Questions for Christians Now Waving Rainbow Flags
Kevin DeYoung is a banner contributor to The Gospel Coalition blogs. On July 1, 2015, DeYoung posted a series of questions directed toward open supporters of the LBGT community and same-sex marriage. He concluded the lede with this statement: "Making legal and theological decisions based on what makes people feel better is part of what got us into this mess in the first place." In many ways, DeYoung could have been speaking for supporters and opponents of gay marriage, (even though I do not think he was). Questions from DeYoung ignited one of the more thoughtful and helpful discussion threads on this subject in the group Sacramental Nazarenes dated July 5, 2015.
A theology of sexuality in the beginning: Genesis 1-2 by Richard M. Davidson, St Andrews University Seminary Studies, Spring 1988, faculty.gordon.edu
Homosexuality Calmly Considered by Dennis Kinlaw, FrancisAsburySociety.com, 2014.
Love Wins: LGBT, a Facebook group for a "ministry educating and equipping the Church of the Nazarene to make Christlike disciples in the LGBT community" since 2009.
Loving Homosexuals: When Gay Pride Meets Christian Humility by Chad Thompson, 2011.
The Bible and same-sex relationships: a review article by Tim Keller, redeemer.com, June 2015
Matthew Vine's Response to Tim Keller's Review of God and the Gay Christian, MatthewVines.com, June 5, 2015
The Church of the Nazarene -- The Board of General Superintendents releases statement on same-sex marriage on June 26, 2015.
The Wesleyan Church -- Response to the 2015 Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage on June 26, 2015. See also A Wesleyan View of Homosexuality & A Wesleyan View of Gender Identity and Expression
How I got here: Why a conservative Christian changed his stance on gay marriage at TheFletchSays blog June 28, 2015.
"I was born gay, it was my choice to be Baptist" by Bryan Kessler, al.com, July 6, 2015
If you know of any helpful articles, contact me by email or connect on Facebook and Twitter (@jamaprice)
Coming out of the Cassock: Reflections on the Church's Missional Response to the SCOTUS Decision 576 U.S. ____ (2015)
In the meantime, the reaction was visceral whether on the streets or in social media. The supporters of marriage within the LGBT community were elated sporting the rainbow flag connoting gay pride. Detractors of the decision, including many in religious communities, were not so elated. I'm trying to be nice, here. Okay, in fact, those not in support were abusively horrid in their reactions against the government ruling. And, I have to admit, supporters of the decision may not have understood entirely what they were rooting for.
I actually think, unlike the dissenters, that the argument from the Equal Protection clause makes sense, or at least more sense, than the Due Process clause. I am not a constitutional scholar so I cannot speak to the relationship of these clauses to the other, but it seems that a fundamental right to life, liberty, and property has to be at stake only if marriage is a right. I do not think that it is, at least right now, though constitutionally speaking it is. Let's say it is, respecting the will of the citizens involved in seeking marrage, then the ruling makes sense if the government withholds from people the benefits granted by marriage. If a man chooses to marry a man or a woman (or vice versa) should not be the basis for government/State regulations or benefits related to marriage. Government cannot and should not discriminate by sex or gender. This is the trajectory where Kennedy should have gone instead of creating the notion of a right to marry.
As for the response from the Church to this ruling and its supporters, I am sorry. In my view, the Church is not the hierarchy of official leadership, celebrity figures of faith, or well-known pastors. The Church is the people of God. The people, the laity (Greek, laos), failed miserably this week in communicating grace in its context. This is where the title of this piece comes from. A cassock is an ankle length robe worn by church officials. At some point, Christians cannot hide behind official positions proffered by pulpiteers or ignore the people living in their neighborhoods or castigate loved ones in their families. The apostle's teaching to believers is clear: "[A]s God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience." (Colossians 3:12, vv. 1-17 for context). I believe the cassock, the robes of the Church, now symbolize hatred, frustration, vile words, abusive language, and people more willing to react (REACT!!!) rather than respond graciously as those described by Paul as "God's chosen people." Christians have created their own negative stereotypes of themselves.
I think Christians, including myself, are at a crossroads: Am I a citizen of my government, first, or a citizen of heaven? Many faithful believers think that to choose heaven means to reject the authority of government, a clear rejection of Paul's teachings in the letter to the Christians living in the shadow of the empire in Rome (chapter 13:1-10). As a political libertarian, I find this passage difficult to obey, but it is not my life but His that I emulate. We remain participants in this realm, faithfully believing and working toward righteousness inwardly and outwardly, but because of our heavenly citizenship, we have the responsibility to bring Christlike behavior into this realm (described in Colossians 3 and Romans 12). Lashing out at those that disagree with positions held by the Church does not accomplish this task.
The apostle Paul in his letter to the Christians in Philippi makes it clear that mature Christians should "live up to what we have already attained" as those for whom our "citizenship is in heaven" (Philippians 3:15-21). As citizens of the heavenly Kingdom, our role as the faithful is to be Christ-like among those who are not yet or never to be like the Jesus we claim to follow. From what I have seen in social media this week, mostly on Facebook, we have failed. I ask you, and you know who you are, to publicly forgive those who you think have wronged you and repent of your malicious words by asking them to forgive you. For my part, please forgive me for any ill-bespoken word and accept my apologies.
So what now?
1) As Christians, we need to begin working through distinctions between civil marriage and marriage in the church. Are they different? If so, how so? What can Americans learn from churches in places with similar governmental laws such as Canada, France or the Netherlands? What changes might be needed to church polity?
I remember thinking how the discussion about civil unions during the late 1990s could have been a good middle way in navigating the increasingly pluralistic ideologies present in the United States. It was confirmed during our time in France in 2002-2003 when we attended a church wedding ceremony after the couple had been civilly united in the Mairie's (mayor's) office. Well, that opportunity is long gone. We need new thoughtful response for a new time. I am thinking of the suggestion by friend and pastor Kevin Angel that wondered how churches will need to not only think about how to recognize civil marriages but also how to recognize the dissolution of a marriage if it is a civil action. Kevin Dennis, a district superintendent in West Virginia, wrote this response to the Supreme Court ruling, anticipating challenges to church polity.
2) As Christians, we need to assess how we participate in social media. My rule of thumb: I only post or tweet what I'm willing to say loudly on a public street. If not, I keep my trap shut.
3) In a related vein, as Christians, we need to listen to ourselves in terms of the way we come across in public. Some of us are just plain mean, man. Chill. Out. If I as a Christian hold an opinion about same-sex marriage, I will state my opinion as if I am surrounded by those that disagree with me. And do so while maintaining a biblically sound and missionally sensitive Christian witness. This is why I liked Andy McGee's Facebook post in response to the SCOTUS decision on the group Love Wins.:LGBT. It's not dissimilar from the public statement issued by the Nazarene Board of General Superintendents. Some might say they are not taking a very strong stance or at least not a very clear stance. Exactly. A stance or position can quickly become defensive. An understanding of the situation and seeking a gracious response is fully missional. The way ahead might be uncertain, so let's take time to walk together into this future.
4) As Christians, we need to learn to respond rather than react to our social context. This is one reason that I was encouraged by Thomas Fletcher's thoughtful Facebook statement and the blog post at The Fletch Says on his support of same-sex marriage. You may not agree with it in part or at all but at least he has thought through the issues. There's not a reactive element here but a long process of struggling and wrestling with difficult questions. And, like anyone 25 year old, his thoughts are still in process, so be kind to him. It is what the Board of General Superintendents asked of Nazarenes in stating: "We further call our people to a generosity and graciousness of spirit that extends kindness to those who do not share our belief." That's what the apostle Paul meant by "speaking the truth in love" (Ephesians 4:15).
5) As Christians, I hope we are better than our collective rhetoric of the past week. The world needs us to be light (cf. Matthew 5:14). We do so by not slamming the door shut in people's faces. Let's come out from behind the cassock, and keep the conversations going.
UPDATE: I just was pointed to this paper, "Wesleyans and Homosexuality" by the influential (and relatively conservative) Nazarene theologian J. Kenneth Grider published in 1999. I share it here without having read all 45 pages.