Archive for the 'christianity' Category

Excellence in Ministry

28 November 2008

PeaceBang has closed the comments for her post about the Excellence in Ministry summit, and probably with good reason. These things always seem to get out of hand.

But I’ve had one thought about our terminology here that seems relevant, without presuming to fully answer any of the questions she’s posed. The usual term, in a Christian church, for the person UUs usually call the minister, is “pastor.” This grates against UUs for all sort of reasons, some of them legit: it smacks of hierarchy and patriarchy, among other things.

But doesn’t it undermine our stated commitment to “ministry of all believers” to confine that name to the ordained? One of the churches I work with as an organizer lists in its order of service, “Ministers: All Members of ___________ Church. Pastor: Rev. John Jones.” Doesn’t something like that better reflect our ideal of ministry?

I think that this is a place where the UU compulsion to purge all things Christian has really damaged (what I would like to be?) our understanding of ministry.

Update: Christine Robinson is live-blogging the summit here.


On the “Charter for Compassion”

16 November 2008

I guess I have three closely related reasons (plus a new, stand-alone bonus reason — for a limited time only!) for being uncomfortable with this effort, and for being so immediately dismissive, as much as I generally like Karen Armstrong’s books.

1. There seems to be a reductionism at work here which I find annoying and dangerous. For me, for example, I don’t think that the Golden Rule is “fundamental.” as they say, to the Christian faith; I think it proceeds from certain theological commitments which are fundamental. It’s important to get these words right, since words seem to be all it’s about.

2. I think it’s a mistake to reduce the idea of good or redemptive works to the idea of “compassion,” a word which smacks far more of mercy than of justice. Again, important to get the words right.

3. “Jim”, in the comments to PeaceBang’s post on this, wondered about such derision of an “almost cloyingly benign” effort, AS THOUGH THAT WERE A GOOD THING!

What used to be called main-line churches (a term which is more usefully culturally than theologically, and which for me includes most Catholics and UUs) have made a fetish out of ineffectiveness. In terms of our prophetic ministry, we have taken impotence as evidence of virtue. So yes, anything that digs the Church deeper into fecklessness is rightly the object of derision.

4. This is supposed to a worldwide effort but on this site and in a search in several different languages, all of this material seems to only be available in English. I could be wrong, though.

(crossposted as a comment over at PeaceBang)

More Intimate for the Distance

30 December 2007

Sermon delivered at the UNMC on April 10, 2005.

I have always depended on the possibility of meaning in all experience. Nothing is so trivial that I don’t want to discern its significance and put it in a universal context. Every bite of an apple, every bus ride, every conversation, offers transcendent grace, if only we will choose to perceive it. The deeply-lived life is painted stroke by stroke.

In October I began my travels through Mexico and Central America. I was excited that my route through southern Mexico took me through the city of Oaxaca on last year’s Day of the Dead, November second. El Día de los Muertos is a very big deal in that part of Mexico — Memorial Day, Halloween, and a bit of Mardi Gras all in one — and is a vital event in the spiritual lives of many of Mexico’s indigenous peoples. For a person determined to draw meaning from the world, it offered an marvelous opportunity.

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El Dios que nos queda pequeño

30 December 2007

“Ustedes universalistas”, dijo J.M. Pullam acerca del año 1900, “están ilegalmente ocupando la palabra más grande del idioma. El mundo ya empieza a querer esa gran palabra, y ustedes universalistas deberían mejorar la propiedad, o marcharse”.

En aquel entonces, la gran tensión dentro del movimiento universalista era si el universalismo sería una fe cristiana, y hasta que punto. Al respeto Brainard Gibbons en 1949 se preguntó:

“¿Es el universalismo una confesión cristiana, o es algo más, una religión verdaderamente universal? Este asunto es el más vital que hemos enfrentado nunca, porque el cristianismo y este universalismo más grande son irreconciliables. Un decisión grave debe ser tomado, ¡y pronto! Si el universalismo no significa algo distinto y afirmativo, caerá hasta ser naderìa. Ni amado ni odiado, sólo ignorado”.

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The God Who Outgrew Itself

30 December 2007

Sermon delivered at the UNMC on August 15, 2004. See also the associated pastoral prayer.

“You Universalists,” said J. M. Pullman around 1900, “have squatted on the biggest word in the English language. Now the world is beginning to want that big word, and you Universalists must improve the property, or move off the premises.”

At the time, the great tension within the Universalist movement was whether, and to what extent, Universalism would be a Christian faith. Brainard Gibbons asked this very question in 1949:

“Is Universalism a Christian denomination, or is it something more, a truly universal religion? This issue [he continued] is the most vital Universalism has ever faced, for Christianity and this larger Universalism are irreconcilable. A momentous decision must be made, and soon! Unless Universalism stands for something distinctive and affirmative, it falls in[to] indistinguishable, negative nothingness—neither loved nor hated, just ignored!”

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