Returning from Luther, July 2012

I am back from a great week on campus at Luther Seminary in St Paul, Minnesota. I really enjoyed this week, getting to know the other folks in my cohort with whom I will be working over the course of this program. We are five men and five women; from the State of Washington to Washington, DC, from San Diego, California to Hamilton, Ontario; from urban and rural; from multi-point parishes of 30 souls to larger parishes of 1,200. We are Lutheran, United Church of Christ, Baptist and Anglican. We are graduates from seminaries across North America. We are American and Canadian. We are a pretty interesting group of people.

Our instructors for this first course are Richard Bliese, the President of Luther Seminary, and Dan Anderson, who recently received a Ph.D. in Congregational Mission and Leadership and who specializes in missional worship. I was very impressed to hear from the President how much Luther has put behind its CML programs, not only DMin, but PhD and MDiv.

This first course is about “Integration of Theology and Mission”. While the overall program is about “Congregational Mission andLeadership”, this course focuses more on the “congregational” side (our context); our next course will take a focus on me more personally as a leader.

After getting to know one another this past week, we spent some time writing and sharing “thick descriptions” of our ministry contexts and preparing a case to work through. We shared our descriptions with one another and helped each other to develop our cases.

We had some good discussion of our reading and went deeper in developing our understanding of a theology of mission and context. Finally, we were also introduced to some resources that we will be using along the way and which will be invaluable as we work towards the thesis that will be a culmination of the program.

In case you are interested, here is what we have beenreading …

Bliese, Richard. “The Mission Matrix: Mapping out the Complexities of a Missional Ecclesiology.” Word & World 26, no. 3 (2006): 237-48.

Bevans, Stephen B. Models of Contextual Theology. Faith and Cultures Series.Rev. and expanded ed. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2002.

Bosch, David. “The Vulnerability of Mission.” In New Directions in Mission and Evangelization 2, Theological Foundations, edited by James Scherer and Stephen Bevans, 237-48. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1994.

Fredrickson, David. “What Difference Does Jesus Make for God.” dialogue 37  (Spring 1998): 104-10.

Moltmann, Juergen. “Perichoresis: An Old Magic Word for a New Trinitarian Theology.” In Trinity,Community, and Power, edited by M. D. Meeks, 111-25. Nashville, TN:Kingswood Books, 2000.

Nissen, Johannes. New Testament and Mission: Historical and Hermeneutical Perspectives. Frankfurt am Main: P. Lang, 1999.

Simpson, Gary M. “A Reformation Is a Terrible Thing to Waste: Promising Theology for an Emerging Missional Church.” In The Missional Church in Context: Helping Congregations Develop Contextual Ministry, edited by Craig Van Gelder, 65-93. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2007.

VanGelder, Craig, and Dwight J. Zscheile. The Missional Church in Perspective: Mapping Trends and Shaping the Conversation. The Missional Network. GrandRapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2011.

Volf, Miroslav, and Dorothy C. Bass. Practicing Theology: Beliefs and Practices in Christian Life. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2002.

And still to read before the summer is finished …

Bosch, David Jacobus. Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission. American Society of Missiology Series; No. 16. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books,1991.

Hunsberger, George R., and Craig Van Gelder. The Church between Gospel and Culture: TheEmerging Mission in North America. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1996.

Newbigin, Lesslie. The Gospel in a Pluralist Society. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans,1989.

Zscheile, Dwight J. People of the Way: Renewing Episcopal Identity. New York:Morehouse Pub., 2012.

(Book list courtesy of the cool new software they gave usfor bibliographic purposes.) Let me know if you are interested in any of this.

I am very much looking forward to reading the Zscheile book, People of the Way. Dwight is an Episcopalian and a brand new professor at Luther. I had a chance to talk with him and apparently he deals with some of the issues that we are dealing with in our region and diocese in the book. I had to order the book as it was sold out in the book store. We’ll see; it may make for fruitful discussion for us.

Thanks for your partnership in all of this.

 

2 comments (Add your own)

1. Andy Kalbfleisch wrote:
I just ordered 'People of the way' as I am interested to see how it compares to the conversations that I have had this year with a number of clergy and church leaders who say that historical denominational identity no long matters and in fact may be detrimental as we try to build new Christian communities.

July 17, 2012 @ 1:25 PM

2. David Anderson wrote:
I haven't read Phylis Tickle on what she is saying about denominations. Van Gelder does address this in _The Church between Gospel and Culture_.

Denominationalism thrived in the 200 years before the end of Christendom because churches felt the need to identify themselves from each other. During the past 40 years, however, people are increasingly identifying themselves with congregations more than denominations.

The problems with denominationalism is ecclesial fragmentation and institutional obsolescense. However, there is no simply solution to this. Non-denominational tends to be just one more denomination that defines itself in relation to the others.

How we do denominationalism is really the issue. There is nothing wrong with our distinctive history and practice, but we need to move past asserting our identity over an against each other, rather than over and against the world.

We also need to find ways to practice unity in a way that celebrates the things we have in common over those that divide us. The mission of God calls us to a united front in relationship to a fragmented world in order that the "wider rationality" (Newbiggin) of the gospel have its maximum impact.

To say, "well we just won't do denominations any more," is a more than a little simplistic.

August 2, 2012 @ 3:56 PM

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