Q & R: Progressive Pentecostalism?

Here's the Q:

I am a United Methodist minister serving 2 small churches in the great plains. In 2011 I read “A New Kind of Christianity” and found new hope and purpose for my ministry! I heard you speak to the United Methodist clergy of the Great Plains Conference in Topeka in 2013.
Recently I was reading “The Age of the Spirit” by Phyllis Tickle. I found the material fascinating and exciting. In particular, I found it fascinating that Phyllis Tickle sees Pentecostalism as one branch of Emergence Christianity. I was also struck by her reflection on the problem of authority in E. C. Once we move beyond sola scripture, I believe that authority for E. C. could be found in collective discernment of the Holy Spirit instructions and guidance. This would mean that we would need to be open to charismatic renewal and to cultivate the gifts of the Spirit including prophesy and discernment of tongues. However, in general, my impression is that Pentecostal Christians tend to be biblical literalists and conservative on social issues (not exactly E. C.)
Do you see any examples of “progressive” Pentecostalism?

Here's the R:

Great question. Two quick thoughts in reply.

  1. Yes! There is an exciting "progressive Pentecostalism" taking shape. Pay attention to young leaders like Carlos Rodriguez and Jonathan Martin. Also pay attention to Latin American leaders affiliated with the Micah Challenge. I've met what I would call progressive Pentecostals in Africa, Asia, Latin America, Europe, and North America.
  2. Remember that just because traditional Pentecostals define "discernment of spirits" or "prophecy" in a certain way doesn't mean they got the definition right. I think part of what progressive Pentecostalism will include will be a fresh understanding of many of those gifts.

If you haven't read Harvey Cox's book on this subject, I think you'd find it helpful: The Future of Faith. Harvey's work, Phyllis's, and mine all have a lot in common.

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0 Comments2 Minutes

Q &R: School of Love?

Here's the Q:
Hello, Brian (or whomever is handling this message)!
Eight years ago Question #6 in your book A New Kind of Christianity: Ten Questions that Are Transforming the Faith thoroughly hooked my interest.  Ever since, I’ve worked on and read materials related to a church functioning as a ‘school of love’.  Then, recently, your newest book, The Great Spiritual Migration, was referenced in a Richard Rohr daily meditation; I promptly got a copy from our local library, finished reading it yesterday, and expect my copy from Amazon to arrive tomorrow.  In this book you provide a very comprehensive response to the question about ‘a church functioning as a school of love’.  I regret that it’s taken me more than a year to cross paths with the book.
With that as background, please respond to these two questions:
Question #1: Are you aware of and in touch with congregations in the USofA who (either inspired by your book, or on their own initiative) have such a ‘spiritual migration’ underway?  And if so, how many such congregations are there?
Question #2: Has any type of ‘information exchange’ among such congregations been established for sharing stories of success and/or failure, best- practices, etc.
BTW – I am a long-time member of a 40-year-old congregation in northwest Austin, Texas, which bears the name Triumphant Love.  My hope is that we’re a natural for participating in the type of migration you have so beautifully described.
Here's the R:
What great questions!
1. There are many, but not enough. More on this below. I keep finding more - across denominations, movements, etc. The problem is they are siloed in denominations and don't know each other yet. Which leads to #2 -
2. Convergence/Center for Progressive Renewal is an amazing pair of organizations seeking to fill this gap. I'm on their board and am working with them to develop the Convergence Leadership Project, the Convergence Music Project, and other initiatives.
Progress is slower than we'd like because so many congregations are "stuck" in denominational silos. My belief is that we need to build a multi-denominational movement of these forward-leaning congregations. Stay tuned!

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Q & R: Etermal Torment?

Here's the Q:

Leaders like you, Peter Enns, Richard Rohr, and Rob Bell have given voice to my soul which has known for years that there was something wrong with the ‘Greco Roman Narrative’ of fall, original sin, substitutional atonement, heaven, hell, etc. So thank you. I am all in with this ‘new kind of Christianity’.

So in that light, can you tell me what you do with Matthew 25? Jesus’ reference to eternal torment in these parables are troubling. Is there a book that might point me in the right direction?

Thank you for what you are doing-

Here's the R:

The book that I wrote on the subject of hell is called The Last Word and the Word After That.

A short thought that I explore in more detail in the book. So much of what Jesus does in his teaching, I believe, is not simply teaching. It is unteaching. It is deconstruction, disruption, and the overthrow of established assumptions. So if people assume that "good people" are those who eat the right foods, sleep with the right person, observe the right taboos and holidays and rituals, etc., Jesus comes along and flips the script. It's not the ritually pure ... but the compassionate. The point of the parable is not about the afterlife, but the good life. I hope that helps!

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Q & R: The Discipline of Inconvenience

Here's the Q:

Years ago, when you spoke at a clergy gathering at the last ever such gathering at the National Cathedral in Washington, you made a very helpful reference about the power of liturgy and worship, and the inherent inconvenience of it...(and I'm going from memory here) to remind us that this whole enterprise is not about us.

I think you observed things like: a worship hour that is not chosen with us in mind, a liturgy that pushes us to say things we might, to sing hymns we might not know, in a sanctuary with a community of people we might not have chosen for ourselves, etc....

Does this sound vaguely familiar? And have you put it down in writing anywhere?

Blessings on your ministry!

Here's the R:

What good memories I have of that week at the College of Preachers! And you have an amazing memory to remember - almost verbatim - what I said about "inconvenience" as a spiritual practice.

The closest I came to writing about this in a book, I think, is Finding Our Way Again. That specific point about inconvenience was in a talk I gave called "Public Worship as Spiritual Formation." That's material I'm resurrecting in an intensive called "Worship Matters," part of the Convergence Leadership Project. You might be interested!

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0 Comments1 Minutes

Q & R: Revelation, Science, and Religions

Here's the Q:

I have started viewing some of the videos of your talks and began reading some of your books. It is a good thing that you have started understanding the other traditions to help better appreciate the Christian path. We have always put the filter of our Christian constructs on how we view the other traditions and sciences. I would like to start from the following premises or presuppositions below:

The Four Presuppositions about God’s Revelation
God is revealing in all religious traditions and all scientific disciplines like a tapestry or jigsaw puzzle. Knowing the entire truth involves converging and blending together all the truths from religious traditions and scientific disciplines.
God’s revelation is continuous to the same degree as humanity’s evolution of consciousness. God reveals to the extent of what humanity’s current consciousness can handle.
God is revealing to the collective consciousness in which the individual consciousness can know depending on the individual level of receptivity. Receptive individuals can know God’s revelation simultaneously.
God reveals knowledge and wisdom to transform and evolve the entire creation. Humanity needs to collectively discern the truth of God’s revelation through their impact and contribution to creation’s positive transformation and evolution.
Following these premises, my central question would be “What is God revealing to humanity in each spiritual tradition and sciences? All knowledge and wisdom comes from God. If God has chosen to reveal the knowledge and wisdom in the spiritual traditions and sciences at a specific moment and location in history, what is the purpose and meaning of this revelation of specific knowledge and wisdom in the given context?” I would be interested to read your thoughts on this.

Here's the R:

Thanks for this really interesting question.

 

I think I would frame our situation a little differently. Instead of starting with the idea that God is revealing specific things to specific people right now, I would explore the idea that what is knowable is available for us to know, that God has already blessed us, through creation, with an almost infinite library waiting for us to explore, that the Spirit is ubiquitous and is always beckoning us to learn, discover, understand ... The issue is less whether God is revealing this or that, but whether we are, as you said, receptive.

To the degree that this or that person in this or that religion or scientific discipline is receptively attentive, open, curious, humble, and diligent ... wisdom abounds around us and is waiting to be discovered.

The beautiful passage from Edna St. Vincent Millay comes to mind ...

Upon this age, that never speaks its mind,
This furtive age, this age endowed with power
To wake the moon with footsteps, fit an oar
Into the rowlocks of the wind, and find
What swims before his prow, what swirls behind ---
Upon this gifted age, in its dark hour,
Rains from the sky a meteoric shower
Of facts . . . they lie unquestioned, uncombined.
Wisdom enough to leech us of our ill
Is daily spun; but there exists no loom
To weave it into fabric; undefiled
Proceeds pure Science, and has her say; but still
Upon this world from the collective womb
Is spewed all day the red triumphant child.

What did she mean by the "loom" and the "red triumphant child?" Is the child a Christ figure, or a symbol of new, special revelation breaking through? Is the loom a way of life or practice or way of learning that positions us to combine facts into wisdom?

Just thinking about these things can help us, I think, become more receptive. So thanks again for your question!

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0 Comments5 Minutes