Thursday, September 30, 2010

"Here we go.....again!" The 96th Thesis

This is not our attempt to re-create the Reformation.

"There are those who seem to wish to do so. They long for a Restoration. They would recover the old Confessions; constitute a catechism; rewrite the Tablets, even revert to sixteenth-century architecture.

Idolatry is not essentially the worship of a statue (in Iona or anywhere else!) Idolatry is essentially the worship of a static God....Our God is a God that moves. The paradox of his changelessness is that He is in constant motion. The sixteenth-century Reformers knew this. One of their mottos was 'A Reformed Church is forever to be reformed'. Thus to be true to them is to be imbued with the same Spirit that informed them. It is, like them, to be concerned only with how to make God living and relevant to one's own age." George MacLeod Founder of the IONA Community

MacLeod argued that most reforms had come, not because the Church had initiated them, but because of inexorable pressure from outside, and that it was more fruitful to look at the contemporary environment to see what it is saying to the Church than to look at the Reformers' insights and to try and recover them.

It is in this same Celtic spirit of Iona, that I post Brian D. McLaren's 96th Thesis (actually composed of 10 questions.)

Ten Questions to stimulate response: Preparations for the journey ahead.

1. Narrative question: What is the overarching story line of the Bible?

2. Authority question: How should the Bible be understood?

3. God question: Is God violent?

4. Jesus question: Who is Jesus and why is he important?

5. Gospel question: What is the gospel?

6. Church question: What do we do about the church?

7. Sex Question: Can we find a way to address human sexuality without fighting?

8. Future question: Can we find a better way of viewing the future?

9. Pluralism question: How should followers of Jesus relate to people of other religions?

10. What-do-we-do-now question: How can we translate our quest into action?

Remember that responses are not answers, which tend to end conversations even before they begin. Responses seek to stimulate more conversation and get the ball rolling.

To actually begin the journey, we need to address the short comings of where we actually find ourselves today and join him in confessing them to the watching world. Once again McLaren leads the way:

We acknowledge that we have made a mess of what Jesus started.

We choose not to defend what we have done and what we have become.

We understand that many good Christians will not want to participate in our quest, and we welcome their charitable critique.

We acknowledge that we have created many Christianities up to this point, and they call for reassessment, and, in many cases, repentance.

We choose to seek a better path into the future than the one we have been on.

We desire to be born again as disciples of Jesus Christ.

We pray that God will create something new and beautiful in and among us for the good of all creation and to the glory of the living God.

We need to evoke new ways of being, and being with one another. A new inner ecology, a spirituality of inner transformation via community, a growing and expanding network of connectivity. A people of "orthopathy" with distinct orientations of the blossoming fruit of the Spirit - love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Orthodoxy: good thinking

Orthopathy: good being

Ortho-affinity: good relating

All three must interact and express themselves through Orthopraxy: good work and practice in the world, the creation God made, loves and will never abandon or betray.

We express our dependence on the gracious Holy Spirit, from whom we receive life and every good thing, in whom we live, move and have our being, and toward whom we move in our journey through this life.

We embark on our quest, launched by prayer.......

Adapted from A New Kind of Christianity by Brian D. McLaren

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Postmodern Transition...Between Something Real and Something Wrong!

Here we go again! Brian D. McLaren has posted the 96th Thesis and rejoined Martin Luther's invitation for a new discussion. As you recall Luther nailed a document to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany back in 1517 and his 95 provocative statements rocked the Middle Ages.

"Out of love for the truth and the desire to bring it to light, the following propositions will be discussed at Wittenberg, under the presidency of the Reverend Father Martin Luther, Master of Arts and of Sacred Theology.... Wherefore he requests that those who are unable to be present and debate orally with us, may do so by letter."

McLaren begins his book A New Kind of Christianity describing his motivation..."Morning after morning I woke up in the brutal tension between something real and something wrong in Christian faith. The sense of something real kept me in ministry and in Christian faith; the sense of something wrong kept me looking for a way out. Somehow, by the grace of God, I held on to the something real long enough to begin to figure out what that something wrong might be. And eventually I began to get some sense of what to do to disentangle the one from the other, to hold on to the something real and let the other go."

With his spirituality intact he began to see that faith can transcend mere beliefs and what emerged was more a new way of believing rather than a rebuilt systems of beliefs.

He goes on to explain what he calls the "postmodern transition" from modernity where nearly all our Protestant denominations derived their institutional ethos in the first place: the mechanical universe of Sir Isaac Newton, the conquistadors, colonialism, the Enlightenment, nationalism and capitalism. In other words, our ancient Christian faith had been hijacked by a paradigm, framework or worldview shaped overwhelmingly by absolute scientific laws, consumerist individualism and rational certainty.

On the future side of the equation we have transitioned into a new postmodern realm of pluralism, relativism, globalism and ambiguity. Both modern Protestant branches of liberalism and conservatism were lost in the transition and in translation. McLaren states that both forms of modernist Christian faith were clueless in knowing and understanding the nonmodern and postmodern people outside their sanctuaries.

Roman Catholics were no better off and equally unable to evolve from their own medieval paradigms. They joined their Protestant brethren and made a similar bipolar adjustment, splintering into left/liberal and right/conservative parties that reacted to one another, while losing sight of the changing world outside their gated communities.

Harvey Cox, a Harvard Divinity School theologian speaks of the first era of Christianity (from Jesus through 300 CE) as the Age of Faith characterized by rapid growth, diversity, vitality, persecution, and courage. And that era ended under Roman emperor Constantine and the state alliance of Christianity with his Roman Empire. The unity of the church (and state) were promoted with creeds helping enforce submission to the emperor's regime.

This Greco-Romanization of faith codified belief as a tool of social control and the original catalytic faith of orthodox Judeo-Christianity and its three centuries of social transformation were effectively muted and diluted.

"Paradigms and dogma can be defended and enforced with guns and prisons, bullets and bonfires, threats and humiliations, fatwas and excommunications. But paradigms and dogma remain profoundly vulnerable when anomalies are present. They can be undone by something as simple as a question - a question about the divine right of kings, the origin of species, the relations between matter and energy, how races can and should relate to one another, the motion of planets, and the standard operating procedures used by the church."

Exactly my point! Perhaps it's time for another tipping point, another radical transformation, from"Here I stand!" to "Here we go again!" Not towards a new set of beliefs, but entirely fresh new ways of believing. In honor of Martin Luther, McLaren's 96th thesis is intended to generate new questions that inspire new conversations and ultimately launch believer's on a new quest.

"It is time for a new quest, launched by new questions, a quest across denominations around the world, a quest for new ways to believe and new ways to live and serve faithfully in the way of Jesus, a quest for a new kind of Christian faith." A New Kind Of Christianity by Brian D. McLaren

Stay tuned for the next blog highlighting his Ten Questions to stimulate responses: Preparations for the journey ahead.

Cheers, and enjoy the challenge! O'

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

"Sperm in the air!" - What's in your imagination?

When Freud was heading to London in 1938 he asked another Viennese intellectual what it was like, "London? How can you even mention London and Vienna in the same breath?", Zweig thundered, "In Vienna there is sperm in the air!"

I am beginning to sense another season of growth, innovation and the challenge of change and spirit of adventure for our Open Hand community from our small corner of the known world - 32nd and Delaware Street in Indianapolis.

It never ceases to amaze me. Somehow passionate folks (from all over the globe) hookup with one another, on our front porch, over a pint and simple meal.

What begins with a gesture of hospitality, sprinkled with opportune timing, commingles with laid-back open inquiry. The next thing we know, our collective imaginations are impregnated with the seeds of potentially innovative collaborations.

C.S. Lewis identifies this expansive condition as a freshly 'baptized imagination'. Apparently we can have multiple conversions. I know I have.

If I have learned anything from this fruitful process over the past thirteen years of intentional community its this: you bettered have a valid passport in your pocket, faith the size of a mustard seed and the ability to say yes rather than no, to very unreasonable opportunities about to come your way.

Strands of our original DNA were first articulated by Ann at the conception of our Open Hand community of faith. She, with Janet's confirmation, spoke out a promise from God that the nations would come and go from these properties on 32nd Street.

Part of our calling to live intentionally with a focus on global hospitality, has been to pry open a fertile space for emerging cross-cultural connections, and to keep it open. As Parker Palmer reminds us, we can't guarantee anything will happen. Fruit of the imagination (or the womb) is primarily a gift to be received.

As I told a friend recently, Open Hand is in the middle of a 25 year process of discovery. When I occasionally get a birds eye view and peer over the horizon I see nothing but wonderful challenges and opportunities ahead.

At last weeks Curb Your Anxiety Friday, I witnessed once again the global miracle of life finding a way, announcing another pregnancy from among passionate people. Amen.

What's in your imagination?

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Timing: Finding Mr. Right at the wrong time.

A young acquaintance of mine stated that she had met the 'right person' at the 'wrong time'. She went on to talk about the complexities of romantic relationships, and her pattern of meeting Mr. Right at the most inopportune times.

Mr. Right just happened to be married this time, and so it was extremely complicated she said. Without asking, I pondered how she happened to fall for a married man. She already knew what I was thinking and blurted out that they worked closely together in a stressful environment and quite naturally began to lean on one another emotionally which eventually erupted into a full blown sexual affair.

She reminded me that he was already unhappy in his marriage and that it was only a matter of time before he left his wife anyway. So I asked her why she was questioning the timing just now. Wasn't she going to get what she wanted? Mr. Right would soon be divorced and they could marry in time.

There's one big problem she said. "His wife is three months pregnant with their first child. This complicates everything! He will have to pay child support, work out visitations and of course remain in constant communication with her....... which will drive me crazy."

I asked if she had ever met his wife. "Yes, we know each other, she was a grade ahead of me in school. It will be very difficult for us both."

I sat on my hands and she continued to talk. She carried on for a bit and then began to cry. I let her.

Finding Mr. Right at the wrong time can be very stressful and I had no comforting words of wisdom. That was over six months ago and I have not heard from her since.

I have subsequently been in two more conversations recently with acquaintances (both married and single) who also found the right person at the wrong time. Getting the timing down seems to be a common problem among our species.

As my wise friend and colleague Rod would say, "We always want what we can't have." My wife Ann might put it this way, "She found Mr. Wrong at the wrong time. She could find Mr. Right at the right time, anytime."

I would say trust your gut, not your head or your heart and you will know if the timing is right. If not, well, you can always avoid personal responsibility and blame the other person.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Curb Your Anxiety Friday - with special guest from DR Congo

Sawubona - Hello, I see your face!

Get ready to kick back and unwind Friday as we Curb our Anxiety with Karl, our special guest originally from DR Congo.

The Reynolds front porch, from 5:30 - 7:00pm, with pints, pizza, and popcorn.....Hear about what's happening in Africa from a man in the know, who speaks about a dozen languages and has been to just about every country in Africa.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

"The only way around is through." Robert Frost

"It's one thing to sit tight and see what happens out there. Quite another to be the one making things happen." Wharton, University of Pennsylvania, Aresty Institute of Executive Education

That someone who steps up is often the steward of a vision, a leader able to manage their own anxiety enough to point people in the right direction, even when those around them are falling apart.

The late Rabbi Ed Friedman reminds us that a leaders primary challenge is to fire the groups imaginative capacities while stimulating their resources.

In stepping up, true leaders:
  • function with integrity
  • promoting responsibility in others
  • when clearly defining themselves to others while regulating their own anxiety
  • and staying connected in the process
  • which stimulates the groups strengths and resources
  • while staying the course
Effective leaders live life to the max, acting on what they believe to be in the best interest of themselves and the group to which they are responsible. They are focused on their own functioning, their own integrity and their own responsibility.

Effective leaders help people grow by discerning between content and process, giving time to situations, and staying goal oriented.

Effective leaders focus on strength and empower people, stirring the groups resources, enlarging everyone's options.

Effective leaders focus on challenge and not comfort, without shaming or scolding, instead they ask questions, pointing everyone to the imaginative capacities of the thinking brain, inviting more light.

Effective leaders focus on integrity and not unity, looking through the window of their soul, not on pleasing or being nice - not on mechanical maneuvering of people, or a need for others love and approval.

Comforters and appeasers, along with know it all advisors are not helpful in anxious relationship systems. Love is only possible when we speak through the window of our own soul and speak the truth as we experience it.

There can be no true unity if integrity is compromised and being committed to the truth is far more powerful than any technique.

Effective leaders focus on the system and not the symptoms, noticing what is happening, but more importantly recognizing the structures, patterns and processes behind the symptoms.

Effective leaders function with open integrity - soundness, completeness, unity, purity, honesty - because secrecy promotes anxious reactivity generating triangles and secrecy itself is more harmful than the actual secret.

Secret meetings (a closed process) neglects the counsel to speak the truth in love.

Cheers, to those of you in leadership who are staying the course and stepping up to the challenge on being an effective leader. Remember that the only way around is through and you probably have what it takes to get where you are going.

Adapted from Generation to Generation and A Failure of Nerve by Rabbi Ed Friedman