Anabaptism

A Platform for MCUSA

I have been involved in some pretty strange things—a church planter of an all-homeless/mentally ill congregation; encouraging leaders of a mosque in Bangladesh to re-think Jesus; dumpster diving for Jesus, and so recently becoming the poster child for dumpster diving in Portland (Check out http://www.portlandmonthlymag.com/issues/archives/articles/0409-holy-diver/ and read a recent article about me—heck, just look at the pics!). Stuff like that. But when I got a call from MCUSA a week ago, that took the cake.

Someone nominated me to be the Executive Director of MCUSA.

At first I figured it must be a joke. Who would, in their right mind, think that I—radical pastor who has to bite his tongue every time he speaks to a middle class person—would make a good Executive Director? Someone just did it for a lark, I thought. Or perhaps I was recommended by someone who just wanted to shake things up. Well, that would do it. Me as taking Jim Schrag’s place? Just unthinkable. (more…)

Military Counseling Network seeks Young Anabaptist Radical

In a time when peace churches are having a hard time finding ways to be proactive in response to our country’s wars, this work gives us just that opportunity. More than protest, more than letter-writing, more than being “against stuff.” We can do better by providing alternatives. In the same way that the Pentagon technically has the right to extend a soldier’s active-duty service indefinitely during a time of war, so too do these soldiers have a right to get out early in certain situations. And war has the power to transform people. That’s where a military counselor comes in.

In this position, you’ll learn to understand military law, military culture, and what’s really going on in Iraq and Afghanistan. There will also be opportunities to travel in the US and Europe to speak about issues of war and peace, explain what servicemembers who have been in the war actually say about it, and bring the Christian peace witness into the international debate.

For more information, e-mail mcn@dmfk.de. Feel free to pass this info on to other people who might be interested. For more information about the organization, check out www.mc-network.de.

Search for next Executive Director of Mennonite Church USA

Given all that we’ve talked about here, maybe there are some opinions on what the next Executive Director should do? Who it should be? How they should act? What salary (if any) they should be paid?

This is a chance to weigh in to the process. The search committee is consulting far and wide across the Mennonite church. Feel free to add your voice in the comment section below. (more…)

Anabaptist Humor: FAIL

Reliable truck fail

This evening I decided to lazy-research (aka googling) Anabaptist humor. It turn’s out we don’t have any. According to the first result for Anabaptist humor on Google:

[Anabaptist] interpretation of the New Testament, especially Ephesians 5:4, did not allow for jesting or joking. The Christian was expected to prune the heart and mouth of all unbecoming thoughts, words, and actions. Unseemly light-hearted behavior was often summed up in the word “levity.” In addition, the Mennonites were concerned that houses of prayer and worship not be turned into houses of entertainment and mirth through humorous allusions and stories.

This serious mien was reinforced by the long period of intense persecution in the early development of Anabaptism.

So how bad is our serious mien? (more…)

Amish for Homeland Security

I haven’t read Shane Claiborne’s book Jesus for President yet, but I borrowed the title of this post from one of the chapters.  This post actually has little to do with the Amish or homeland security, but I wanted to point out two interesting items shared with me by a friend from church.

The first is a blog entry by Greg Boyd (who is mentioned in a previous YAR post) entitled, A Word to My Mennonite Friends: “Cherish Your Treasure!”. Just let’s not let it go to our heads.

The second is a segment from American Public Media’s Speaking of Faith (R) called Evangelical Politics: 3 Generations which features Charles Colson, Greg Boyd and Shane Claiborne.  I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this segment and would be interested in hearing your thoughts.

The morning after: politics beyond an election

Now what? I woke up the morning after Election Day politically disoriented. The empty feeling in my stomach didn’t go away after eating my usual yogurt and granola. What would I do in a world without politics? Do I have to wait another four years to fill that gnawing political void?

Not according to Romand Coles and Stanley Hauerwas in their new book: Christianity, Democracy, and the Radical Ordinary (Cascade, 2008). Politics is not restricted to something that happens when we vote, they argue. Instead, politics involves all the ways we tend to “common goods” which exceed “settled institutional forms” (3). In other words, politics happens outside the voting booth as well. Politics happens in our neighborhoods, not just in Washington, D.C. Democracy involves “a multitude of peoples enacting myriad forms of the politics of the radical ordinary in ways,” they write (8). For Coles and Hauerwas, democracy is everyday politics that turns us to the importance of “concrete practices of tending to one another” (8).

Coles describes the Civil Rights movement as a story of everyday democracy. He does not focus on the familiar story of Martin Luther King, Jr. Instead Coles turns our gaze from powerful pulpits to the ordinary African-American churchwomen who gave Dr. King something to talk about. (more…)

Baltimore’s Progressive Catholic Church

It would be unfair to label Saint Sebastian’s Independant Catholic Church a “gay church”. But it’d be unfair not to mention that, perhaps, they are very into the gay happenings in Baltimore and minister to the gay community. While I am sure that Pastor Flaherty would be disheartened to think that Saint Sebastians is only a church for the queer community, the community at large would probably reference it as “The gay church”. I find this sort of thing unfortunate.

I wound up here by means of an Emergent Village book group that meets in Baltimore. I met Assisting Priest Joan Stiles, a bleached blonde short-haired middle aged woman, while discussing Claiborne’s book Jesus for President. The group discussed much and varied in theological belief tremendously. Disagreement’s abounded. Surprisingly, no one argued. I learned about Joan, her Catholic past, her current priesthood and thought, surely, if there was anyone I would disagree with it was female priest at a pro-gay church. But Joan, like much of the world, was full of surprises. I found myself captivated with her outlook on our faith, her impression of God, her passion for Biblical authority.

A few months later the Reverend Flaherty, the Priest at Joan’s church, even came to the emergent church meetup group. A tall man, who dwarfs me, with long fingers, he strikes me as the sort of person who is easy to get along with. Perhaps that same young idealism that runs in all young people’s blood still runs in his. I found him quiet, questioning, firm in his convictions yet willing to hear others out. It’s hard to not like him. (more…)

When will they update the 12 marks?

In class we’ve been studying a lot about New Monastics. Lots of good stuff that you can read about it in many places, some even on this blog. Since it’s a fluid movement, I was wondering when they are going to update, change, or adjust their 12 marks. I have some comments on a few, and I’m sure others do as well, so when is the next conference? Or do we just email somebody like Johnathan W-H?

I agree (in thought and action) with a lot of what is said in the 12 points and what I see in the daily lives of the community around me and my interaction with some of these folks. But my particular question is spurred with regards to mark 1, which says that they relocate to abandoned places of Empire.” Some think that I am doing the “new monastic thing…” I’m not sure about that, but I do know that I am in my home area…and it fits many of the descriptions, but it’s not abandoned by Empire. Or do they mean that it’s abandoned by Empire because no (or hardly any) white people live in the area? There is a beautiful organic culture here and I don’t want to discount that by saying it’s abandoned. I think it is important to affirm the initiative of persons rather than possibly falling into “white savior” complexes again. I see that many New Monastics are very aware of race and class dynamics, so I’m hoping that mark 1 can be articulated in a more antiracist way. (more…)

In with the New; out with the Old

I’m not even 30 and I feel like a curmudgeon. I’m not interested in books and movements that herald the promises of our changing world. We are interested in the emergent, the yet to come; we want to be the New Christians occupying the frontiers of change. When I hear this way of talking about our faith, part of me wants to run the other direction. But I recognize that I am also permeated with this generational sensibility. The “new” for me was choosing an old tradition as a way to navigate into the future: I became Mennonite.

We are dying for the new and exotic, something to set us free from a troubling past and open us to the yet to come. New horizons. New frontiers. Our gaze fixed on the emerging future; our backs to the past. We are now suckers for anything “postmodern,” whatever that means. The old ways of our parents are passé. All that stuff didn’t seem to work and we’re tired of it. I wonder if we feel what Sebastian Moore discerned in his tradition as a catholic neurosis:

The effect of being continually exposed to the truth which is doing one no good is distressing to the soul. There can even result a kind of unbelief, an exhaustion of the spirit, which is all the worse for being parly unconscious. (God is a New Language, p.21)

(more…)

Leviticus 3:16b “All fat is the Lord’s.”

Hi Friends!
It is time for the 2nd preach-off between Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary and Goshen College. The first one was in 2006 (organized by some YARs) and it was very successful.

For the preach-off, folks will give three-minute sermons on scriptures they’ve received 24 hours prior. People can vote with their donations, and a panel judges will give humorous feedback.

The donations benefit up and coming young adult leaders from the Global South by giving them a full scholarship to attend the Global Youth Summit (July 10-12 in Asunción, Paraguay).

In addition to the fun of preach-off, we realize that the lives of many people in Northern Indiana have been enriched by connections with the global church. So this event will be interspersed with short testimonies from people in the area, celebrating these ties as we raise funds to support the next generation of Anabaptist leaders from around the globe.

So, YARs…we’re collecting crazy passages. If you know of one, please write the reference as a comment. Your help is appreciated…and if you’re in Northern Indiana at 6pm on Dec. 6 you are warmly invited to materialize and participate!

Newark, DE & Elkton, MD

For the past 4 weeks I was rotating at Christiana Care Hospital in Newark, DE.  During that time I was able to reconnect with a high school friend of mine who lives in the area.  He & his wife introduced me to a group of people with Anabaptist roots/connections/interests who have been meeting together informally and hope to start a church of sorts given the lack of a Mennonite church in their area (that’s not in Wilmington and/or in a “conservative” conference).

Anyway, last Monday I joined them for dinner & fellowship and learned of their interest in finding more participants and connecting with other congregations in the area (and in the Lancaster and Atlantic Coast Conferences) as they pursue organizing more formally as a church.  The person who has been the catalyst of the group is Scott Calkins – a former U.S. Marine turned Anabaptist who lives with his wife in Elkton, MD.  For anyone interested, they have a website & blog at the following links:

http://www.paxmin.com
http://www.paxmin.com/blog/blog.htm

MCC Restructure: When does the hard part begin?

Hello. I attended the MCC New Wineskins Summit in Winnipeg, Ca last week. Read more about me below if you want to know why I attended. Read on for my brief opinions and McCain maverick-like move at the end.

I am not an alarmist and believe in moderation but I am afraid of the future of MCC. That’s strong, but I’m serious. I don’t think in 40 years MCC will be as we recognize it today. That is a good thing. I am not afraid of that. Its programs and missions need tweaking because of globalization, but they are generally executed with the right attitude and necessary risk-taking (and all in the name of Christ, of course).

I am afraid of the decision-making process it will take to get us there. It could be ugly but turn out OK, much like the Democratic primary season. Already those established in power are being shown up by uppity, young community organizers who don’t look like the faces on a U.S. 20 dollar bill. I was hoping for a little less politics in the MCC change and decision-making system, but we all know that’s not going to happen! (more…)

Envision 08: Toward Christian Unity in the Public Square

Is Christian unity in the public square an important goal to work toward? Here at seminary there are many people thinking about denominationalism as a theological issue/concern. I went to a conference to think about some of these issues. It was called Envision 08 (www.ev08.org) I helped out with a workshop on Sexuality and Faith. There were many young evangelical Christians who are freeing themselves from the grip of right wing politics there. The conversation was familiar to an Anabaptist like me, but it was like watching people hear the Good News for the first time. Everyone was so excited that faith meant more than rigid rules, hierarchy, and supporting the U.S.A.

The Declaration below, coming from “Envision: the Gospel, Politics, and the Future” at Princeton University June 8-10, 2008, began with an online dialogue of approximately 100 participants on June 2 about religion, social change, and politics. On June 8, a diverse panel of scholars discussed the results of the dialogue.

After attending the conference and hearing reports about the conversations that occurred throughout many aspects of the conference, the panel met and created the declaration. You can sign it if you want. (more…)

Maybe you’re asking the wrong question

In follow up to my earlier post, the following is what I presented this past weekend at the Believers Church Conference (Believers Church includes Baptists, Penticostals, Mennonites, Brethren, etc…adult baptizers). I was the the young adult representative on a panel discussing mission and evangelism in light of denominationalism and congregationalism in the Believers church in our time. My answer is based on a personal theology of mission and recent reading as well as conversations I have had with young adults in the Mennonite church.
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Question: “How do young adults desire to engage in the church’s ministry of mission and evangelism? Where do you see possibilities and problems in the church’s approach to mission in our day? Provide illustrations.

The question asked assumes that mission and evangelism exist as departments or branches owned by the church. We know that ultimately mission and evangelism belong to God and so every Christian should naturally engage the world with mission and evangelism through the way they live. The church then is a group of Christians who gather together for mutual encouragement and building up and worship of God. Therefore mission is at the heart of this group of Christians called the church. The church does not design, select, and control mission and evangelism unless the church is purely viewed as a structural organization. If the church is viewed as a body of believers living in the way of Christ, then Christians of all ages, young adult, middle-aged adult, baby adult and old adult, are part of this body and together they engage the world with mission and evangelism because it is integral to who they are as individuals and as a larger body that God has called, is calling and will continue to call. (more…)

Global Discussion on Shaping our Spiritual Life – Una Discusión Global sobre la Formación de una Vida Espiritual

In order to learn from one another’s experiences, AMIGOS periodically sends out discussion questions to be shared among young people connected with Mennonite World Conference. The current questions are:

– What do you do to shape up your spiritual life?
– How do you pray? (for example: times in silence, etc.)

Para aprender de las experiencias de los demás, AMIGOS periódicamente manda preguntas para discusión para ser compartidas entre jóvenes conectados con el Congreso Mundial Menonita. Las preguntas actuales son:

– ¿Qué haces para mantener tu vida espiritual en forma?
– ¿Cómo oras? (Por ejemplo: tiempos en el silencio, etc.)
(more…)