Friday, June 30, 2006

Good Discussion on the Prophetic Voice of the Church

I have been having a good discussion with Michael the Leveller in the comments section of the post on Buddy Shurden's address at the BJC Luncheon. So, take a look at the comments section for that post, or click here. Feel free to chime in on the discussion. Anyone who has read the Old Testament knows how difficult it is to be a prophet (Don't believe me? Go read Ezekiel!) , but let's pray that the next generation of leaders has the courage and conviction to say what needs to be said and do what needs to be done.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Shurden's Address at the Baptist Joint Committee Luncheon

The Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty has published a transcript of the address that Buddy Shurden gave at their luncheon during the CBF General Assembly in Atlanta. Shurden is the Callaway Professor of Christianity in the College of Liberal Arts at Mercer University. He is also the executive director of The Center for Baptist Studies at Mercer University and the author or editor of 15 books.

The theme of Shurden's response is this: if Christians are not careful, something like the rise of the Nazi party in Germany could happen here. You can read Shurden's adress by visiting the BJC's website or clicking here.

All Gore Interviewed by Ethics Daily.com


Ethics Daily has a great interview with Al Gore. For those of you who do not believe it is possible to be a Christian and a Democrat, you need to read this interview. You can read it by clicking here.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Baptist Center for Ethics Luncheon

The following is a report on the Baptist Center for Ethics luncheon we attended at CBF. Thanks to CBF Florida for the tickets to the luncheon. The article is from the Worldwide Faith News Archive.

From "Daniel Webster" <dwebster@ncccusa.org>
Date Fri, 23 Jun 2006 15:51:44 -0400

'We are the leaders we have been waiting for,' NCC?s Bob Edgar tells Baptists in Atlanta

Atlanta, June 23, 2006 ? "We are the leaders we have been waiting for," Bob Edgar, general secretary of the National Council of Churches, told more than 400 moderate Baptists from across the South Thursday at a luncheon during the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship's general assembly at the Georgia World Congress Center here.

The luncheon honored the 15th anniversary of the Baptist Center for Ethics, a pioneering agency which sponsors the popular EthicsDaily.com website and publishes church-centered curriculum materials on ethical and moral issues.

Edgar told the pastor leaders, God is calling all Christians to learn how to walk together "in the footsteps of Jesus," actively leading today's world to affirm values that Jesus taught and practiced, while addressing the challenges of "fear, fundamentalism, and Fox News". Edgar, an ordained Methodist minister, is a former seminary president and served six terms in Congress from Pennsylvania prior to becoming the NCC general secretary.

Acknowledging that Baptists sometimes have had trouble with the National Council of Churches, Edgar said, "You might be interested to know we've got lots of Baptists" in the NCC. He pointed to the Council's membership that includes more than 15 million Baptists in six different Baptist conventions.

"What we all have in common, whether inside the Council or not, is the spiritual leadership of Jesus Christ," Edgar said.

"Studying the Scripture," he said, "I find there are five directions God is calling us to walk together with Jesus":

--Peace. "We must engage in a relentless pursuit of peace, seeking reconciliation within families, communities, nations and the world of nations, reaching across boundaries that divide, building bridges instead of walls," he said. "Whether in Sudan or in Iraq or in a neighborhood gripped by crime or violence, Jesus would have us be peace-makers, not just peace-lovers."

--Poverty. "We are challenged by the life of Jesus, who gave himself for the poor and outcast, the despised and rejected," Edgar said. "We must take concrete actions that reduce poverty in our own time and place, anchored in Jesus' passionate concern for 'the least of these.' This challenge must not be confined to personal generosity, but community action, and national policy--going to the root of the problem, finding solutions that work and that last."

--Planet Earth. "The biblical Christian is also called by the Scriptures to exercise reverential stewardship of this God-given planet, rooted in mankind's earliest encounters with the Creator, beginning in Eden," he said. "We must fight the efforts of many to pillage and pollute, to waste and destroy the natural environment on which life itself depends. The wise management of the finite resources of the earth is a God-given mandate that the church is accountable to fulfill."

--People's rights. "The person who would be Jesus' disciple will be found standing in strong defense of people's rights, believing that such dehumanizing acts as racial or gender discrimination, torture, and invasion of privacy are an affront to the will of God for his creation," Edgar said. "The church should be the first line of protection for the disadvantaged, the powerless, the overlooked. They have no other advocate but Christ and his followers."

--Pluralism. "We who would claim the name of Christ must express his hospitality in the face of the whirlwind of cultures, languages and races that our world presents us in the form of accelerating pluralism in every community where we serve," Edgar said. "Jesus remarkably found kinship with those his own religious hierarchy condemned, those his culture rejected, and those his own heritage devalued. Jesus saw only God's priceless creative will and boundless love when he looked into the faces of the Samaritan, the stranger, the Other. A God who finds joy in populating the world with such extravagant diversity certainly must find grief in our rejection of this banquet feast."

Edgar shared with the Baptist leaders his experiences in pre-war Baghdad, where he worshipped with Iraqi Christians as part of a religious delegation seeking a peaceful settlement without war. He also told of a youthful life-changing exposure to Martin Luther King, Jr., and of later serving on the Select Committee on Assassinations as a Congressman, probing the deaths of Dr. King and President John F. Kennedy.

Since its founding in 1950, the National Council of Churches has been the leading force for ecumenical cooperation among Christians in the United States. The NCC's 35 member faith groups come from a wide spectrum of Protestant, Anglican, Orthodox, Evangelical, African American and Living Peace traditions and include more than 100,000 local congregations with 45 million members.

The Council sponsors the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, the FaithfulAmerica.org advocacy website, and the "Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches." Its member communions underwrite humanitarian work through Church World Service, a sister agency.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Bill Leonard on PBS

Bill Leonard, the Dean and Professor of Christian History here at Wake Forest University Divinity School, appeared on NewsHour with Jim Lehrer on PBS yesterday. He was one of two religious experts asked to talk about the changing landscape of American religion in light of the recent meetings of the Southern Baptists and American Episcopalians. You can view a streaming video version of this report by clicking here.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Off to CBF


Gay and I are leaving tomorrow to head to the annual CBF Assembly in Atlanta. For us, this is a time of spiritual renewal and formation that we look forward to all year. When you work in a church, there are very few times when you get to worship and study without having to work. We have that opportunity at CBF. It is also an opportunity to meet with friends and do a little bit of networking. In addition, there is a resource fair with the latest books and resources that are of interest to moderate Baptists.

CBF is not just for professional clergy. There are workshops and worship services that would be interesting to any Christian. I heartily recommend the General Assembly to anyone who identifies themselves as a moderate Baptist.

I will be posting from Atlanta starting on Wednesday, so if CBF is of interest to you, watch for it. If you have any questions about CBF, you can send an e-mail to the address on the right, or just post a comment to this entry.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Gay's New Blog


My wife, Gay, has just started a blog where she will display her photography and artwork. I added a link to the links section, or you can visit it by clicking here.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Daniel Vestal Article

The following is an article written by CBF's Coordinator, Daniel Vestal. I thought it was a great article, so I decided to post it here. For those of you unfamiliar with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, it is a group of moderate Baptists that split off of the Southern Baptist Convention in the early 1990's. It is not, however, a denomination in the same way the SBC is. There is no mechanism in CBF to do things like issue a position statement on a particular issue or suggest an action on such an issue (such as a Disney Boycott or withdrawl from public schools.) CBF does not own its own publishing house, news service or run its own seminaries. Rather, it partners with other organizations to preform these functions. For more information, visit their website by clicking here. You will see the phrase "It's Time" throughout this article. Vestal uses this phrase often, and it is also the title of a book he wrote.

Iraq, Immigration, Incompetence...It’s Time
By Daniel Vestal, CBF Coordinator 6/9/06

Iraq

In April 2003, I wrote an article which said, "The war in Iraq has been a sobering and disturbing experience for me. I have found it difficult to concentrate on the work at hand and stay focused on regular routine and daily responsibilities. Although Atlanta is far removed from the places where bombs have been dropped and soldiers have been engaged in conflict, I have felt close to this war. It has caused me to renew my own commitments to Christ and pray for peace with greater fervency."

That lament is more poignant today than three years ago, knowing now what we didn’t know then. There were no weapons of mass destruction; there were no connections between the attacks of 9/11 and Saddam Hussein’s regime. There was little planning for the potential of insurgency and possible civil war. There has been deception with the American people.

My wife and I talk almost daily about this war with a heaviness of heart. We grieve with the American families who have lost loved ones. We also grieve for Iraqi families who have lost loved ones. We pray for leaders who make decisions that there might be divine intervention, for peace. But most of all we lament.

Immigration

One of the reasons I am proud to be an American is because we are a nation of immigrants. We are a rich mixture of racial, ethnic, cultural and religious diversity. The freedoms guaranteed in our Constitution assure equality before the law and protect the rights of all. To be sure, we have very dark segments in our national history (genocide of Native Americans and the institution of slavery), but we also have remarkable segments. One of the most remarkable is the way we as a nation have incorporated people groups from all over the world.

The U.S. is a mosaic of humanity, and for that we should be proud. I personally believe we need a new commitment to secure our borders against illegal immigration, the creation of a guest worker program for those who want to work in the U.S., and a way for undocumented immigrants to gain citizenship. But most important, I believe we need a new respect for the dignity of every human being within our borders. This respect will result in less divisive rhetoric and kindness for "the other," regardless of the language they speak or their legal, social, or economic status.

Incompetence

As I see it, there is a major leadership crisis in this country. The Bush Administration has shown ineptness in response to disasters and indifference to the growing disparity between rich and poor. Congress seems incapable of accomplishing anything. Neither Democrats nor Republicans cast a compelling vision for the broad middle of the American population. They cater to their core constituents and create greater division among us. Business and corporate leaders seem to care only for their profits and offer little hope for the social fabric that holds us together. There are, of course, exceptions to this analysis. But the exceptions only make the leadership vacuum more obvious.

I yearn for competent political leaders who seek justice, love mercy and walk humbly with God. I yearn for competent business leaders who lead by serving and sacrificing. I yearn for competent leaders in all areas of our society that believe in the common good more than they believe in their own agendas.

It's Time...

Early in my life I heard someone say that "man’s extremity becomes God’s opportunity." When circumstances are the most dire and when life is most difficult, we can and should have hope for God to work. And it has been my experience that God works through people.

"It’s Time" for urgency.

Christian discipleship means that we live out of faith not fear, out of love not anger, out of generosity not greed. Christian discipleship means we become activists and advocates on behalf of those in need.

"It’s Time" for us to find our voice and use it.

Words may seem inadequate but silence in the face of injustice is sin. When you hear a statement of bigotry, greed or anger, speak up. Perhaps you can say, "With all due respect, I beg to differ." If each of us would use our own voice and speak truth in love, changes would take place.

"It’s Time" for us to be unafraid.

I confess that even in writing this article, I feared what people might think or how they might respond. I had to face my fear and name it, and I had to let it not paralyze me or keep me from doing what I felt was important. Some of us are afraid of involvement. Others of us are afraid of rejection or conflict or the unknown or pain. Jesus said, "Be not afraid."

"It’s Time" for us to pray.

Christian spirituality and formation do not isolate us from the real world. If they do, they are a false spirituality and formation. The more we listen to the Spirit, the more we will hear groanings which cannot be uttered. The more we offer ourselves to God, the more we will see the needs around us.

"It’s Time..."

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Blogs have an effect on the Church

Think blogs don't have any effect on the church? Check out this article from Associated Baptist Press about the upcoming SBC's annual meeting in Greensboro, NC. (This is just down the road from us.) Blogging has caused a huge uproar in the SBC over the past year, and for the first time in a long time, the outcome of the presidential election in the SBC is uncertain. Here are two links that may be of interest, the first is the ABP article, the second is a link to the blog that has caused so much controversy:

Controversies born from blogs promise stormiest SBC since 1991
Wade Burleson's Blog

I am not posting this message to SBC bash. Rather, I am posting it because it concerns the impact that technology is having on the church. I wrote a paper on this topic for Christian History II which I will post on the blog shortly.

Jon Stewart on New York Cuts

The Daily Show did a great piece on the New York anti-terrorism cuts that I wrote about in my last entry. You can view the segment on the web by clicking here.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

New York Terrorism Funding

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff is cutting the anti-terrorism funding for New York City by 40%. According to an AP story, Chertoff defended the decision by saying, "the city has zero national monuments or icons and only four major financial institutions." I am beginning to wonder if there is anyone in the Bush administration who is actually connected in any way to reality. Here's a reminder of an "icon" in New York City:

That is a picture of the Statue of Liberty on 9/11. Which is also a National Monument, by the way. According to the National Park Service, there are 8 other National Monuments in New York City. He also said the city only has 4 major financial institutions. That may be correct, but many would argue that the single most important financial institution in the country, if not the world, The New York Stock Exchange is in New York City. NASDAQ, the high tech stock market, is also located in the Big Apple.

New York is also the home of other landmarks such as Times Square, Radio City Music Hall, Carnegie Hall, The Empire State Building, etc.

I haven't posted anything political on here for a while, but this absolutely floored me. I simply cannot believe that the man who is responsible for protecting our homeland security said:

"the city has zero national monuments or icons and only four major financial institutions."

You can read the article by clicking here. This is yet another example of the need for change in the 2008 election.

Friday, June 02, 2006

A little Hebrew Lesson

Here's a little lesson from what I have learned so far in Hebrew. The above 3 characters are my first name in Hebrew. Remember, Hebrew is read from right to left, the first character is Gimmel (G), and the dot under it represents the vowel "I". The second character is a Yod, and is actually the Y character, but it is not pronounced. It is only there as a vowel marker for the "I". The last character is a Lamed (L).

Here's a little lesson we learned today. The Hebrew words will be written as you would prounounce them in English:

Hebrew Word - English Word
Who - He
He - She
Me - Who
Dog - Fish

The above is actually just a device to help remember Hebrew pronouns, but its also really funny (at least really funny as divinity school humor goes).