Archive for January, 2014

The Issue of Women in the Ministry: What two sides think

Thursday, January 30th, 2014

We live in a period great change both within Christianity at large and within this one specific Christian denomination, The New Church.  One of the areas up for a great deal of conversation is the role of women in the ministry.

The New Church, specifically this branch of it, has historically held a position similar to many other Christian churches … that ministry is reserved to males.  This position anchors itself in the belief that males and females are both wonderful and distinct creations of God.  The male mind in turn is better suited for the study and communication of doctrine and the female mind is more attuned to the reception of love.   As each, male and female, lives into their divinely ordained roles a life-giving partnership is created that is blessed by God.

And many are advocating for change away from this historical position.  Put simply, many now advocate for the ordination of women.  The majority of the laity … over 70% in a recent survey … support the ordination of women.  Others worry that such a change runs directly counter to God’s Word.

And what of NewChurch LIVE?

We strongly believe in partnership in all its forms.  We share leadership, volunteer roles, and ministry with a wide cross section of people.  We hold partnering as sacred and supported throughout the Word.   Males and females are distinct creations, while sharing a given humanity  … and that that shared humanity and distinctiveness allows for each gender to add a unique and necessary voice to great conversations.  And where do we wind up?  A life-giving partnership is created, blessed by God.

There are strong, heart felt positions on both sides of the divide.  The hope is that we can move the conversation forward within the broader New Church  over the next 6 months.  This will include a webinar you are warmly invited to attend on February 22nd.  The issue will be revisited by the collected clergy when they gather for a summer conference in June.

Holding A Cup of Water vs. Waterboarding

Friday, January 24th, 2014

Bob Goff in a recent speech noted how the job of a Christian is the same as the role of someone offering a cup of water to a marathoner running past.  We hold it lightly.  We offer it freely.  We don’t force, cajole or chase.  It is problematic if we keep telling people they are thirsty when they aren’t.  Offer the cup freely.  And when they are thirsty they will take it.  And the point of it all is not the cup.  Or us.  The point is that blessed offering of other-oriented help along this journey.

He noted, with a smile, we have a name for giving people water they don’t want … water-boarding.

There is no such thing as “Risk Free”

Thursday, January 9th, 2014

There is no such thing as “Risk Free.”  It is not what God promises despite the fact it is what the world clamors for.

Risk and growth are inseparable.  Christianity at its best testifies to the core of a counter-cultural “risk”, a risk that asks us to forgo our cherished views of the world and its working in order stake out a new place of grace.

Imagine the monastic vows many have taken over centuries, vows of chastity, poverty, obedience, vows that run directly counter to promiscuity, gluttony, and freedom.   Hmm.  Where does risk lie here?

I love these words of Seth Godin….

How much does it cost you to avoid risk? Not actual risk, but the feeling that you’re at risk?

How many experiences are you missing out on because the (very unlikely) downsides are too frightening to contemplate?

Are you avoiding leading, connecting or creating because to do so feels risky?

Feeling risk is very different than actually putting yourself at risk. Over time, we’ve created a cultural taboo about feeling certain kinds of risk, and all that insulation from what the real world requires is getting quite expensive.

It’s easy to pretend that indulging in the avoidance of the feeling of risk is free and unavoidable. It’s neither.

So the question is not am I doing enough to avoid risk?  The question, am I welcoming enough risk?


Always an opportunity to ….

Tuesday, January 7th, 2014

There are always opportunities to complain or blame.  The two actually create fine bed fellows.

And there is always an opportunity to choose otherwise.  To compliment or commend.

It is not that in choosing the later we willfully ignore behavior that is toxic or hurtful.   It means however that we make a willful choice not to live there.

God is taking care of everything

Friday, January 3rd, 2014

One of the hardest roles of a pastor is finding a center in a moving space.  On one side lies a need to call people to greatness.  To call them to strive for lives of excellence, meaning and purpose.  On another side, lies a need to call people to the hard edge of sacrifice, suffering, and true giving.  To far one way, religion becomes little more than shallow cheer leading.  Too far the other, and religion becomes the darkness it hopes to extinguish.

Christ constantly spoke to us of a third way between polarities…  a unified field as it were.  In  that place, in that third way, there is simple trust.  Trust that the words will come when they need to come.  Trust that somehow God stirs us both to striving and stirs us to sacrifice.  That for me, is why the touchstone of suffering is so critical.

Drawing alongside of suffering quickly becomes an exercise in both/ and thinking.  Yes, he is an addict and yes, he is a man deeply connected to God.  Yes, she has cancer, and yes, she is a woman fully alive.   Yes, we can strive to grow a church beyond 1,000, and yes, the meaning of it all remains joyously hidden in the smallest of personal human interactions.

Because the fact remains God is taking care of it all.

Roger Ebert’s wife shared this thought on her husband’s recent passing. “The one thing people might be surprised about—Roger said that he didn’t know if he could believe in God. He had his doubts. But toward the end, something really interesting happened. That week before Roger passed away, I would see him and he would talk about having visited this other place. I thought he was hallucinating. I thought they were giving him too much medication. But the day before he passed away, he wrote me a note: “This is all an elaborate hoax.” I asked him, “What’s a hoax?” And he was talking about this world, this place. He said it was all an illusion. I thought he was just confused. But he was not confused. He wasn’t visiting heaven, not the way we think of heaven. He described it as a vastness that you can’t even imagine. It was a place where the past, present, and future were happening all at once.”

There is in the end an innate sense of something more, something greater.  God opens that for us as we regain our willingness to strive and to sacrifice, to find connection and stillness.   “He opens the skylights and then the windows … and enables us to see that heaven is real, that there is a life after death, and that there is eternal happiness.  By the spiritual light and spiritual love that then flow in together, he enables us to recognize that through Divine Providence God is taking care of everything.” (Divine Providence, 207)