The Ministry of Virgins, Revisioned: Intentional Communities and the Parish

Tony SigWe see develop rather quickly in the Church within the New Testament people, often ‘virgins and widows,’ who are ‘set apart’ for what we might call ‘full time ministry.’  (The terms are anachronistic to be sure, but just roll with me)  So we see from a very early point a ‘mixed economy’ of forms of life in the Church.  Some work and produce and give, and some ‘mend tents’ while still doing such ‘full time ministry,’ but is has always been deemed necessary to have a group of people dedicated to the life of the Church who are fully dependent on her life, but who alone can give a fuller expression to her life.  We would be incomplete without the virgins and widows.  The development of monasticism and the incredible importance of the religous throughout our history only testify all the more to this.

Though not quite as prominent as it once was (or so it seems to me anyway), it is not at all uncommon to see a Roman Catholic parish system, including schools and ministry to the poor, supported by small groups of monks and/or nuns (heck we could even include the celibate priesthood here).

Yet, despite this decline, there has been developing since at least the Jesus People Movement, communities of Protestants who in rough ways approximate this mixed economy of life.  Anglicanism too has a small but not unimportant religious life – though we might pray for this to grow all the more.  Among the developments has been the flowering of “new monasticism” and “intentional communities.”

If, as I have said, the fullness of the Church’s life requires a group of people set apart from “working life,” then I wonder if we ought to be trying to test whether new monastic and intentional communities could serve an analogous function as the religous within our parish structures.  Maybe there would be only a few single parishes that could support such a group, but would it not be possible to imagine a relatively close group of parishes contribute together to support such a community for the sake of their own life?  I don’t see why not.  In fact I think this could be quite life-giving.

There are more than a few logistical questions that arise, but I have some ideas, and I imagine many others have some too.  This is a topic I’d love to explore more here.  So let’s tentatively consider this an ‘introductory’ post that could flower into more.  These also could see some strong overlap with my continuing reflections on seminaries.

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Ecumenism and the Problem of Theological Language

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There is a language barrier in Christianity, and it has always existed.  An anthropologist, I am not, so I will not attempt to explicate all of the legitimate reasons cultural and language barriers exist.  However, all of those innnocuous reasons seem to reveal the insidious nature of division in the Church.  In my estimation, the theological language barrier exists in the Church, because exclusion exists in the Church.  Call it what you want, but when a Protestant refuses to allow a Catholic to explain their position in their own terms (…or a Catholic an Orthodox, or and Orthodox a Protestant, etc., et al), because the Protestant some how already knows the answer, then such interaction is no longer about mutual understanding, constructive criticism, or even healthy disagreement – it is about exclusion.  What place has exclusion in the body of Christ?  If there is no male or female, no Jew or Gentile, no master or slave in the body of Christ, how can there be actual division? 

Which is an important point, I think.  If the Church is Christ’s, and he transforms us into a unified body, then there can be no actual division in the actual Church – it is a spiritual law.  So, our problem becomes even more exclusive in nature.  If there is division, it is either only perceived division or those groups that are divided are not the actual Church.  I suppose the larger issue then becomes clear, if Christ is Lord of the Church (read here, “if Christ is your Lord”), then it will conform to his image and his purpose; she is (gasp) predestined to it.  So, by allowing exclusion to take place through the vagueness that occurs in interdisciplinary theological discourse, we are flaunting our unwillingness to conform – we are resisting his Lordship.  Consequently, the Spiritual reality is that Christ’s Church is unified, but we seem to be slow on the uptake.

How, precisely, does this reduce to an issue with language?  Perhaps, an example will be useful.  In a sacramental sense, the Eucharist, Baptism, Marriage, et al are seen as conduits of grace in the lives of Christians.  Ask a Catholic to explain this, and she will most likely give you a rendition of the RC’s teaching that Christ’s work on the cross requires a response in faith from human beings, so that the efficacy of grace can be experienced.  Ask a Protestant to explain this, and he will most likely give you a rendition of the Protestant assertion that an attempt to participate in God’s work of grace actually removes its efficacy; and an attempt to do so constitutes a theological system by which humanity saves itself through empty rituals of righteousness.  If you ever want to be “that guy” at a party just bring this issue up, then sit back and enjoy the show.  Wherein lies the real issue?  Is it really a difference between soteriological systems?  Has one side so grossly misunderstood the clear message of the Gospel?  Has anyone on either side bothered to ask what the other means when they use the term “Grace”?  This is just one example, and it may be a poor one at that.

Are there other issues hindering the work of ecumenism?  Absolutely.  However, I have been left puzzling for the last several years whether any of those would be as prominent, if we would lay down our weapons and work toward a common vocabulary.  Let’s be honest, here – the Orthodox are not going to accept openly homosexual priests any time soon, the Catholics are not going to ordain women any time soon, the Protestants are not going to participate in the Sacraments any time soon.  However, how much closer would we be, if each acknowledged the legitimacy of the others’ Christian walk?  Are the various Christian sects even able to recognize the doctrinal orthodoxy inherent in the others, or has the vocabulary become too much of a barrier?  I recognize that this may only be loosley associated with exclusion as a concept, but language is the origin of behavior.  If I reject certain theological language as being heretical, I cannot disassociate that language from the person sitting in the pew.  If I do not prefer the language that they use to express their faith, then how will I be able to live out unity with their Christian witness?  If I think you teach heresy, by proxy, you are a heretic.  The logic is simple, but few are willing to openly acknowledge it.

Strange Encounters of the Pentecostal Kind

Tony SigSo long as one is drudging themselves through the process of acquiring basic linguistic skills, fantasizing about future research projects can provide the necessary motivation to continue to drudge.  I already have a running list of books and articles that I’m “going” to write and the other day I posted one of my ideas on Twitter and Facebook,

“Of Pilgrimage and Handkerchiefs: The Implicit Sacramental Ontology of Classical Pentecostalism”

Reactions hovered around amazement at my astute imagination.  But our long time reader George P Wood asked the perennial question:  “How does this move the missional ball down the Kingdom field?”

The funny thing is that I feel this has huge implications for missions and ecumenism.  I realized that it maybe was time for me to clarify a bit more why I wish to continue to engage Pentecostalism and perhaps even hint at some of my own hopes future academic work.  So here are a few of my persistent thoughts on Pentecostalism and what I hope to do about them..  I am more than aware that I might ‘accomplish’ little of this but I figure it’s more fun at least to plan big and trim as the situations require than stew in perpetual uncertainty like a fourth year sophmore who has changed majors six times.

For the sake of clarity I always attempt to differentiate between “Pentecostals” and “Charismatics” even if the difference is blurred.  Consider it heuristic.  Charismatics are those in Mainline, Catholic and other historic churches who experience(d) and promote(d) the “charismatic gifts and experiences” (thought of more narrowly as the type normally associated with “Pentecostals”) and Pentecostals are those Protestants who look to various ‘revivals’ which happened roughly a century ago for their roots.  They are also generally differentiated by idiosynchratic eschtologies.

  • It seems clear based on the unique rise and spread of Pentecostals that it is a work of the Spirit.  If it is, then it is incumbent on the whole Church to ‘get on board’ with it, though with discernment.  This is really just another way of saying that the charismatic gifts of the Spirit are for the whole Church.
  • So I hope to work ecumenically with Pentecostals and encourage the use of the charismatic gifts in the wider Church.
  • This engagement is hindered by several things:
  • Pentecostals have historically been skeptical of ecumenism.  They have been especially hostile to Catholics and Mainline Christians and have tended to feed this with an etiological narrative that sees in intellectualism and liberalism (among other things) a “fall” from the Spirit.  So the “start” of Pentecostalism is seen as Gods judgment that the rest of the Church has failed and so is better ignored and left behind than looked to as partners and teachers.  This has also borne fruit as anti-intellectualism, anti-institutionalism and anti-tradition.
  • So part of what I want to do is demonstrate how under the surface of Pentecostal experience and practice there is a substantive overlap with Catholic Christian theology, experience and practice.  By doing this I can help prepare the ground for fruitful dialogue between pentecostal and other churches as well as for cooperation in mission.
  • On the other hand, despite initial flowering in various charismatic renewals, other churches still often remain skeptical of pentecostalism on the grounds that it is anti-intellectual, anti-institutional and anti-traditional and just plain ‘weird.’  So by speaking the historic theological language of the Church, I hope to show how the whole Church needs to be renewed by the Charismatic work of the Spirit.
  • Additionally I’d like to explore the future of anglo-catholicism and argue that only a charismatic anglo-catholicism can de-clericalize the movement and renew a focus on missions and the sacraments.
  • I’d also be interested in exploring the historic three-fold ministerial order, and ‘laws of ecclesiastical polity’ in general, with reference to the charismatic gifts.
  • Similarly I’d like to look into the charismatic theology of the Eastern Orthodox because I’ve often found that their theology of the Spirit connects brilliantly with Pentecostal experience.
  • I’ve got a million more of these.
  • Another minor premise of mine that is rather disconnected to the points I’ve already made is that Pentecostals have done us all a disservice by selling their soul to buy street cred with Evangelicals.  So even now Pentecostals need a Charismatic renewal!  Especially with respect to how they read Scripture.

A basic underlying premise of all this is that Pentecostals are right in certain things and can enhance and be part of a larger renewing work of the Spirit who is reconciling all things to Christ, but in many things she is young and wrong and needs the whole Church to teach her.

Seminary V Pt.II – An Aside on Education and a Divided Church

Tony Sig

A recent internet acquaintance of mine has some opinions of his own as to how “theologically open” a seminary or Christian university ought to be.  Everything sounds good on the surface of his post but I must admit that I disagree with almost all of it.

There seems to be undergirding the entire post a vision of the Church or “Christianity” as a unified body.  Now on a dogmatic, especially a pneumatological level, this is true in some sense (this would of course be contested by the Eastern and Roman Catholic Churches) but in our lived lives it is quite simply false:  We are divided by a myriad of issues from confessions to political bodies – (I am here endorsing wholeheartedly Ephraim Radner’s understanding of Christian division).

Thus it is difficult to conceive in any meaningful sense what a “merely” “Christian” seminary or university would look like.  The Nicene Creed can function as a solid enough base to flesh out a basic confessional unity in most Christian contexts but when considering seminary especially, it becomes far more complicated as to whether or not such a base is truly sufficient to serve the needs of our unique churches.  What hath Geneva to do with Canterbury?

The complex Christian cocktail that has resulted from the “Ecumenical Movement” as well as the utter failure of western protestantism to sustain anything like a distinct Christian confessional unity becomes clear in conversations like this.  This confusion has several strains currently expressing themselves in our churches, I’ll mention four:  1) Most evangelical don’t have much in the way of any theological identity.  They don’t know or recite the creeds, they don’t catechize and they don’t like homosexuals.  So long as they sing modern worship choruses and preach 45 minute sermons they feel that they get along fine. 2) Many older churches such as the Mainline still maintain a sense of their historic identity but there is a significant toleration of theological diversity such that there is a widely acknowledged reality of the dissolution of a coherent evangel. 3) Also within the Mainline but also in many Emergent and certain evangelical churches there is a repudiation of confessional unity and a glorification of diversity. 4)  There are the hold-the-line or buckle-down-and-fight groups.

I admit this is reductive but on a generic level I think it holds.  Within churches we are bound to find any of several of these so I don’t pretend that they are watertight between groups.

I am of the opinion that theological identity is essential to evangelism, discipleship and unity.  It follows, as I’ve mentioned before, that I think you should teach what you believe.  This of course sounds ridiculous coming from an Episcopalian 🙂

Now…  All this and yet I agree that closing off creative and inquisitive theology can be utterly destructive.  Honestly, at this point, I’m absolutely clueless as to how to hold these two things together in a balance, historic theological identity and faithful theological response.  Or rather I have an idea of how it can work in churches structured according to historic catholic order but no idea how it can work between churches.  Whatever the case, Methodists should pump out Methodist pastors and Lutherans Lutherans, anything else just creates a muddle.

Glenn Beck, Jim Wallis, and Social Justice

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I was listening to the radio this morning.  I was happy, I was sipping my coffee, and I was looking forward to a leisurely day.  Then Jim Wallis came on the radio to discuss the latest antics of our national “village idiot,” Glenn Beck.  apparently, Glenn Beck has taken it upon himself to out all of those heretical Christians that are perverting the Gospel with messages of social justice.  In what has apparently become a personal vendetta against Jim Wallis and ministries like Sojourners,

“Glenn Beck recently told his listeners to leave any church that teaches social justice, and to report its pastor to church authorities.”

Clearly what the church needs is more of Beck’s feel good, watered down, Christmas sweater wearing, capitalism in a “Christian wrapper” spirituality.  My morning is shot.  I spat my coffee at the radio in disgust, leisure as been replaced with indignation at Beck’s blatant and rampant misuse of the Evangelical right, and I am now irritated at how obnoxiously misdirected Beck really is (for the record, he may have overshot his religious base on this one – I know quite a few conservative Evangelicals that hold Wallis in high esteem).

Here is how Wallis suggests we respond to Beck.  He wants you to go to his site and mail a personal message to Beck outing yourself.  It reads:

Dear Mr. Beck,

I’m a Christian who believes in the biblical call to social justice.

I stand in the tradition of the Hebrew prophets and the teachings of Jesus that demonstrate God’s will for justice in every aspect of our individual, social, and economic lives.

I hereby “report” myself to you, and promise to report myself to the appropriate church authorities. I hope you’ll be hearing from them as well.

I usually don’t get fired up about pundits, especially not provocateurs like Beck.  Nonetheless, the man is a disease infiltrating the Christian “right.”  I have signed the petition, and so should you.  Sign It, Sign It Now! (please)  :0)

Take action against Glenn  Beck

Review of “Who’s Afraid of Postmodernism?” Pt II

Tony Sig

See the first part here along with links to where to purchase the book.

Picking up where we left off, in the third chapter Smith examines Foucault. Because of the subtleties involved in Smith’s utilization of Foucault this ends up being longer than previous chapters and his critique of Foucault is more subtle than for the last two thinkers (Derrida and Lyotard). This likely has to do with the fact that elucidating Foucault’s “one liner” – “Power is Knowledge” – takes one into the larger Foucault corpus whereas Smith was able to examine smaller bits of work from Derrida and Lyotard.

There is some initial difficulty examining Foucault’s work as many believe there are several Foucault’s.

There is a Nietszchian Foucault who seems to be interested only in examining the interplay of power. This Foucault has no agenda but genealogical description and cynical nihilism. He has no desire to “prescribe” solutions to the seemingly ill reality of power exchange and he is not attempting to assert that “power” is “bad.”

There is also a “Liberal/Modernist/Enlightenment” Foucault. Later in his career Foucault admitted that he saw himself as in an Enlightenment line stemming from Kant. We see this even in the way he describes his conclusions which seems to have a moral connotation built in, so to speak: “There is only a single drama [that] is ever staged. . .the endlessly repeated play of dominations”

Smith examines Foucault’s early work mostly, especially his work Discipline and Punishment. By means of a genealogy of sorts, Foucault concludes that power is necessary and constituitive of society. He also shows how the subtle relations of power exchange shapes people into who they think they are. Foucault would not much buy into all this discussion of “who I am” as an isolated thing/person who has intrinsic qualities. More appropriate to say that a person is a construct of discipline and culture.

This critique seems ripe for the creation of narratives of “salvation” and “liberation.” “Freeing” people from the subjegation of power seems like something that Christians should jump right on.

But the question becomes, Smith rightly says, what types of power and discipline might be appropriate for Christians?

And does an iconoclastic liberative narrative truly create the types of people we are meant to be?

Smith looks to the Christian ascetical tradition and discipleship practices as means of forming an alternative discipline. Being shaped into the people we are meant to be involves becoming subject to the disciplines of our respective Churches as well as historical means of being shaped. Especially a Daily Office, a Lectionary, and the Liturgy. These can give us the horizon for discernment and the imagination to take Christian truths deep within us so that “being” Christian becomes an intuitive matter of habit. This falls in the Christian tradition that appropriated Aristotle’s Virtue Ethics.

Here Smith begins to sound very much like Hauerwas and much less like his Reformed and Charismatic bretheren who tend towards, respectively, the iconoclastic rupture of “The Word” and the “free” movement of the Spirit.  I am in near total agreement with Smith on this. We will be formed by something(s). It is absolute and inevitable. And so allowing ourselves to be shaped by the greater Christian ascetical Tradition is one of the only ways of beginning to overcome the subtle and systematic ways that our culture shape us towards other Teloi than that of conformity to the Mind of Christ.

In his closing chapter Smith briefly, very briefly, lays out what he feels is the/a way to integrate “postmodernity” and Christian faith. That is by Radical Orthodoxy and redeeming dogma. Not only does he feel that this puts postmodernity in service to the Church and not the other way around but ironically it is a more persistant postmodernism than even Derrida can muster up.

I hesitate to elaborate too detailed a sketch of Radical Orthodoxy for a few reasons. Even in his concluding chapter Smith does no more than point in the general direction of the theological sensibility that is Radical Orthodoxy, but also because I plan on doing further posts on this very topic. I will venture this, quoting from George Weigel’s “Letters to a Young Catholic,” Smith essentially believes that any “protestant” theology worth a buck in the future will be decidedly “post-protestant” in that it cannot be afraid to be “catholic;” by which he means apparently that Protestantism itself take up a “Resourcement” project, it should have it’s very own nouvelle theologie movement. I am to a large extent content to agree with him. Where I would press back is that he seems to think that becoming “catholic” is simply a matter of using Augustine or St. Gregory of Nyssa. As wonderful as that is I think that being “catholic” has a little bit more to do with a theological vision of what the Church is and embodying that practice in our church structure and life, than with merely a resourcement.

On another mildly critical note I would have liked it if Smith had spent more time elucidating Radical Orthodoxy and less running the analogy of RO to the movie “The Whale Rider” into the ground. Way way too much time spent on that movie in my opinion. Still, overall, I think it is a very helpful book for getting the totally uninitiated into the pluralistic entity that is “postmodern theology” and what’s more, showing how it speaks well to the heart of the church.

Too see a complete and academic (though not so academic I couldn’t “get” most of it) introduction to Radical Orthodoxy from James K A Smith see this intro.  I look forward to comparing it to Simon Oliver’s and John Mibank’s intro when it comes out.

Personal Musings: Allow Myself To Introduce Myself…

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I have lurked in the shadows of “commenter” obscurity here at theophiliacs for a while.  As a contributor, I hope to create more of a baseline for those who wish to interact with me.  Consequently, I offer the following as an introduction to my general worldview for the benefit of those who really feel better about a person when they know where they are “coming from.”  Read it, love it, love me – or not, not’s good too.

I think living as a human being entails a few non-negotiable experiences like those deaths and taxes we keep hearing about.  There has to be at least one other as well, labels.  Human beings, Christians included, are looking for labels in order to categorize other people.  I’d love to wax academic here and give you some wonderful commentary on the work of folks like Miroslav Volf.  Alas, I think it will suffice to say that we all attach labels to people.  Sometimes it is in order to identify friends, and sometimes it is in order to know which direction to throw the Molotov cocktail.  I say this, not with accusation, but with disappointment because I certainly do it as much as the next person.  I simply deplore the act of people trying to pigeonhole someone into a label that way conclusions can be drawn about them with minimal effort.  I hate it even worse when I do it.  However, these labels also function as important signposts for folks.  So, even though I wish the only label that mattered to anyone was “Christian,” healthy doses of reality have taught me otherwise.  However, before you rub your hands together in delight, I am not going into that night so quietly.  I am still going to do my best, in true Episcopal fashion, to ferry across the River Styx of polarized Christian culture without splashing any viscera on my vestments.

Playing devil’s advocate is such a regular pastime of mine that it has become part of my internal composition.  I find myself toying with people I don’t know, without any apparent reason.  Even if I am convinced something is truth, I will explore and argue opposing viewpoints with fervor.  So, I think a baseline reading on my worldview is a gesture of good will toward my friends, family, and the readers of my posts.   I want this first post to function like a “safe word,” as I take the whips and chains of theological rhetoric to you.  If you’re ever uncertain of where I stand, come back here – this stuff isn’t likely to change (though, I suppose anything is possible).

“When I tell the truth, it is not for the sake of convincing those who do not know it, but for the sake of defending those that do.”

– William Blake

First, I offer a word about Truth.  The untrained eye may miss that I not only capitalized the word, but also abandoned the indicative article with which those so fond of pontificating often reinforce Truth – obviously, because it is so much more ominous.  Just say it to yourself, “the truth.”  It sends shutters down the spine of small children the likes of which we haven’t seen since “MUFASA!”  It is merely a symbolic trick to say that I think Truth only exists in the reality of God.  I find that within my own regular parlance I never say that something is “the truth” when referring to statements of fact.  I prefer that my facts be accurate or inaccurate; a fact could never reflect the beauty of what it means to be Truth.  Those trained philosophers out there are going to immediately wish I had just enumerated the difference between something being true and something being truth.  However, the whole point is to demonstrate that truth as a philosophical axiom is still not the same to me as Truth.  To whatever extent something we claim as truth directly correlates to the reality of God, then it is Truth.  I firmly believe that there is Truth, though as someone who flirts with the post-modern (I know, I know, whatever that means) I do not know to what degree or extent our understanding of truth can ever be encapsulated in a single meta-narrative.  Obviously, since I think our best chance of knowing Truth comes from knowing God, I believe that theological endeavors offer us the greatest hope of knowing Truth.  Here’s the caveat, I also think that Scripture itself acknowledges there is something of God to be known through creation (scientific observation?) that is independent of Scripture.  Truth, consequently, as it is revealed in the nature of God, transcends any framework that seeks to explain it; be it theology or science.

Nicene Creed

A word on Creeds: I am a creedal Christian and not a confessional Christian.  I like to imagine that means I do not define myself by what I oppose, rather I define myself by what I affirm.  After reading most of the confessions of Evangelical Protestantism, studying the first 800 years of Ecumenical Councils, and attending both “free” and “liturgical” churches, this is genuinely the only difference I can discern between what it means to live as a confessional Christian or a creedal Christian.  I understand the Protestant ideal behind confessions at the Reformation.  Many have asserted that Confessions are descriptive and Creeds are prescriptive.  I also understand, however, that this distinctive is a moot point 500 years after the fact.  Perhaps the most theological difference I can come up with is the use of the creeds or confessions as the basis for doctrinal identity.  In which case, I see creedal churches as puritans of a sort.  They originate their understanding of theology historically through how the the early church creeds established biblical interpretation in the Ecumenical Councils.  Confessional churches, then, open their theology to broader historical and cultural influences.   As such creedal churches are more interested in how tradition influences the understanding of doctrine/theology, and confessional churches are more ad hoc in their approach.  Consequently, the “real” difference between confessional and creedal churches seems to be experiential.  My experience is that confessional churches tend to worry more about proving the people who disagree with them wrong, and creedal churches tend, instead, to look for common ground as a basis for maintaining fellowship.  For those of you who are twitching, and already writing to let me in on the carefully guarded secret that there are people of all varieties in all churches if I look hard enough, allow me to reassure you that I am basing this statement purely on the basis of my own experiences thus far in life.  This is not a point with which I am seeking to win arguments.  It is merely part of how my thinking works.  My theology comes from Scripture first, but the creeds are my framework for understanding Scripture.

“Theology stands and falls with the Word of God, for the Word of God preceeds all theological words by creating, arousing, and challenging them.”

– Karl Barth

Next, a word about being part of the Evangelical movement is needed.  I spent ten years in the Assemblies of God after I figured out I did not belong any more.  Why?  I am not a quitter.  I invested a lot into getting to college, and knew I was called into the ministry.  The Assemblies of God happened to be where my life as a Christian really blossomed.  Frankly, I am in debt to the Assemblies of God for the better part of my spirituality, my education, and my Christian formation.  A lot of who I am now, for better or worse, belongs to the Assemblies of God pastors, professors, and constituents that came across my path – I would never change that.  It would be wrong to just walk away.  I was not going to be driven off.  So, I spent a decade praying, preaching, studying, and searching for a way to find my place as one who could make change.  I know, I know, you were wondering about how I began talking about Evangelicalism, but it has to start here, trust me.  Then it happened, with no intention of leaving, God called me out.  I left a wake of confused, frustrated, and hurt people, but all I could (all I can) say is that God is moving me.  I was mediocre to good in a Pentecostal setting to which I felt I did not belong.  To my surprise, I found out that I am good to very good in ecumenical/interdenominational settings.  That is how I discovered that God had something different for me.  I am not going to change the A/G, and it isn’t going to change me.  I think this is an important plot dump in understanding why you are reading my contribution on a “post-evangelical” blog.  I have no intent of leaving evangelicalism, but I seem to be very good at relating to people who call themselves emergent or post-evangelical.  There is definitely a place in my heart that understands the disenchantment post-evangelicals feel after the fundamentalist fall out, which is outlined by folks like Elwell.  However, I am still firmly in the evangelical camp with most of its accoutrements and trappings moderately in place.  Though I may have some frustrations with evangelicalism, I identify myself as some who is tyring to make it better not as someone who is trying to dismantle it.  I think understanding those who feel disenfranchised by evangelicalism is an important first step.

 “To affirm ‘the authority of scripture’ is precisely not to say, ‘We know what scripture means and don’t need to raise any more questions’” (N.T. Wright, The Last Word [New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 2005], 91).

 “I take it as a method in my biblical studies that if I turn a corner and find myself saying, ‘Well, in that case, that verse is wrong’ that I must have turned a wrong corner somewhere. But this does not mean that I impose what I think is right on to that bit of the Bible. It means, instead, that I am forced to live with that text uncomfortably . . . until suddenly I come round a different corner and that verse makes a lot of sense” (N.T. Wright, “How Can the Bible Be Authoritative?” Vox Evangelica 21 [1991]: 30).

“When you get to be my age, you only have so many hormones left, and if you want to use yours to grow hair on the top of your head, that’s fine.” (N.T. Wright, on going bald).

Finally, I’ll give a word on becoming Episcopal.  First, I am a fledgling Episcopalian.  The liturgical, high church experience that I get to be part of at my church is one of the most gratifying experiences I am blessed to receive.  I fit in at my parish, my children are well received and taken care of, my wife and I belong; what else does one need to say?  Second, I do not yet feel ready to make academic level defenses of Episcopal practices, doctrine, or polity.  I am definitely in tune with the notion of balancing Scripture, tradition, and reason, though I’ll admit that my stool is a little wobbly because the Scripture “leg” is a bit longer than the others.  Since I am starting the journey here, this is also the shortest section.  I close with the collect for the eighth Sunday after Pentecost.  Blessings to you all, and happy blogging.

 O Lord, make us have perpetual love and reverence for your holy Name, for you never fail to help and govern those whomyou have set upon the sure foundation of your loving-kindness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with youand the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.