Sunday, September 28, 2014

ccda day three: engaging CCDA in a LGBTQ conversation

I joined eighteen people for a two and a half hour conversation today about the intersection of Jesus's Church and homosexuality.  Guidelines and boundaries were set for the dialogue, and we had a tremendous facilitator who interjected gracefully, but also firmly, if anyone dominated the conversation or said something disrespectful.

As we introduced ourselves, we could see that people were bringing strong emotions and convictions, painful experiences, questions, and fragile relationships into the conversation.  There were people with conservative views and liberal views, others who were gay, some who had family members and good friends who were gay, one whose roommate had come out as gay and then killed herself not long after.   

Two takeaways for me from this experience:

- It was probably the most respectful listening community I had ever been a part of on such a divisive issue.  No matter one's beliefs and convictions, there were a lot of voices really being heard well around that table.  I thought about how these kind of dialogues are needed in our communities over the tough issues.  It's a sad day when social media wins out over people giving the gift and respect of listening well to one another in the company of one another.  Even when there is a lot of internal wrestling and angst going on, we need to turn toward the angst to pray, read, ask questions, learn, and listen.  This diverse community of believers around the table who offered a breadth of experiences and sharing with one another offered a picture of some hope to me.

-The group agreed that the differing views in the Church were not likely going to come under some unified voice in the future.  With that said, we did begin to ask one another, "How can we find common ground?"  "How can we move toward love and reconciliation in the midst of disagreement?"  "How can we hold Jesus as center, love one another, and show genuine care for the LGBTQ community despite other differences in regard to this issue?"  

I left the conversation both very pensive and very grateful for the opportunity to sit with this group of folks.  Often in situations of listening and reflecting in the hard places, God does a great deal of growing in me.  I welcome His Spirit's work in my life.  

Friday, September 26, 2014

ccda day two debrief

We were able to gather our whole group last night for a brief time of sharing about our experience at the conference so far.  Everyone has much to bring to the conversation, and everyone is taking much in from others as we listen well to such a great spectrum of voices here in Raleigh!  

ccda day two: on progress toward reconciliation

Curtiss De Young spoke at last night's plenary session.  De Young spoke about the first century church when the dominant Roman Christians entered the homes of the Jewish Christians.  They joined the faith community and became marginalized.  People lost family and friends.  They left power and privilege at the door.  The ethnic minority, the oppressed folks were the church leaders. The dominant culture gave up status and joined the community.

De Young shared his narrative of growing up "very white in a very white context" and talked about the turning point in his life when he began to attend and later to preach at an all black church in Harlem in the 80's.   He challenged those who were white in the room to learn from people in struggle.  To be trained.  To come under the submission and leadership of someone of color.  To go and stand with those who are not in privilege and power.

"If we are going to do the work of reconciliation, we need to experience mentorship from the marginalized."

Marshall Hatch also spoke last night.  He talked about why race still matters in America.

"At the heart of the Gospel is Christ the King and the interest of poor is central.  And you can't talk about poverty without talking about race in America."

He urged us to live these three principles..

1.  Put the Kingdom of God first.

2.  Repent from racism with fruit that demonstrates repentance.  "Repentance is never a word you say, it's a life to be demonstrated."

3.  We must pair evangelism and activism together.

ccda day two: action tank

I joined a three hour action tank today for the purpose of "developing processes and steps for implementing conversations on race in our local communities and in CCDA".

With eleven of us in the room, we spent time 1. setting up the space for dialogue  2.  describing the questions and tensions that caused us to enter this conversation  3.  considering what's needed to work toward forward movement in our communities.

I appreciated the comment of one gentleman in the room who responded to another participant's suggestion that one of our points of covenant for the conversation should be to create safety for dialogue.  This gentleman suggested that we can't assure safety with such a topic, and he suggested that instead of "safe space", could we have "courageous space"?   I liked this a lot.

We presented the following questions and tension spots that need addressing in the dialogue:

1.  Why do we use the term "race" rather than ethnic identity?

2.  The absence of the need for indigenous voice.

3.  Working with white organizations who are serving people of color.

4.  How do we break down the power dynamic?

5.  How can we challenge those in privilege to accept leadership from those without?

6.  Where is the space for the immigrant voice in this conversation?

7.  How do we present this conversation with two realities...the spiritual and the structural/societal?

8.  How do stand with those in struggle and confront the privilege/power?

9.  The glamorization of relocation and categorizing calling.

10.  People of color relocating/returning back to their communities.

11.  How can we talk about privilege without trying to gain power?

12.  What is the role of racism in our political/economic structure?

13.  How do we bring Micah 6:8 into all perspectives not just as a conversation.

14.  The Church identifying racialized sin.

15.  What are our theological frameworks for this conversation?

Three hours went quickly.  We didn't solve these fifteen tension points, but I did so recognize my continued need to sit at the feet of people whose life experiences are much different than mine, who continue to educate me about the sin of racism, the effects of racialized sin, and the work ahead toward racial equity, reconciliation, access, voice, power for those who have been pushed down and locked out in our society.

ccda day two: on prosperity gospel

Yesterday morning, a tremendous panel addressed the conference's theme "Flourish" in the context of how such a word/idea could be misunderstood as prosperity theology.

Dr. Kate Bowler, author of Blessed: A History of the American Prosperity Gospel gave us a brief look at the origination and nature of the prosperity gospel.

Dr. Luis Carlo, Vince Bantu, and Dr. Terry LeBlanc all weighed in on questions asked by the panel facilitator, Chanequa Walker-Barnes.  I didn't take many notes but am buying the DVD of this session...such an important dialogue to share with some of my friends back home.

A few quotes I did randomly commit to the notebook:

"When the church becomes the church of the empire, we lose our way.  The Church has lost her identity.  we identify with the wrong thing."

"If you want to be prosperous, someone else is going to pay the bill for it."

"We are part of the sin we're preaching against."

"Who are the exiles?  We are.  Who are the oppressors?  We are."

"Not 'we are' because 'I am', but 'I am' because 'we are'."

John Perkins Bible Study #1

John M. Perkins and Wayne "Coach" Gordon shared from the stage yesterday morning about the centrality of God's Word and about being born again into the family of God.

Perkins talked about how we cannot separate faith and works.  He talked about the dichotomy that came about when we preached only to save people's souls and left their bodies behind.  This lean on proclamation without demonstration accommodated racism, injustice, allowed people to live in poverty, addressed the soul of a person and not the "whole" of a person.

On the other end of spectrum, it's good to remember that good works will not save us.  It is not by works of righteousness...

"We got a lot of people doing CCD without redemptive work. You gotta be born again.  You must be born again.  Gotta be born into the family of God.  The families of the earth failed.  They couldn't do it.  Old Testament families failed to father justice, to reflect God's Kingdom, they killed the God of glory.  You're not going to save the world through your good works.  We have a Redeemer.  The just for the unjust."

I had the privilege of running into Dr. Perkins at Starbucks this morning.  We had a brief conversation about where I'm from, and then Dr. Perkins shared a few words with similar flavor to today's Bible Study.  He talked about his speaking schedule, the critical times we're living in, and though he thinks he should slow down his travel itinerary at 84 years old, he finds it too crucial to be out encouraging the multi-ethnic church plants happening and to instill in them a CCDA DNA so that they don't become so one-dimensional (that one dimension being the worship service). He then jumped to the other end and talked about how those churches can't just go be about works righteousness, either.  I asked Dr. Perkins, "Why do you suppose we tend to keep falling into the polarized places?"  His answer, "It's because we try to remove the struggle.  We try to remove the struggle."  

I love this man.  He embodies the Good News of Jesus and is a living, walking testament of his own words, "We are to be the outliving of the inliving Christ."

ccda day one: on jeremiah 29

I was challenged by Leroy Barber's message on Wednesday evening at CCDA's opening large group session.  He spoke on Jeremiah 29: 1-11, and took us away from "the precious moments" usage of Jeremiah 29:11..."For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

He reminded us that there were two stories at the beginning of Jeremiah 29. The first story is one of Babylon.  Babylon had just won, and it was full of itself.  They had just plundered Jerusalem.  This story is the one of prestige, power, empire, arrogance.  The second story is one of Jerusalem.  The people were beaten, tired, worn, and called to walk to Babylon as exiles, a journey of 800 miles. They had lost most everything; they had family and friends who had died and would not make the journey.

One of these stories would fall, one would last.  To which people did the Lord speak His community development plan, his missional call?  It was to the tired, worn, weary people of Israel along their journey to Babylon.

God tells these folks to go into Babylon- their captors, their oppressors- and to build and settle, plant and eat, marry, make a living, and to seek the peace and prosperity of the land, for as it prospers, so would they also prosper.  In the 70 years that God would require the Israelites to live in exile in Babylon, He tells them to commit to the flourishing of the city so that they too might flourish.  He doesn't tell them to commit to the ways of the Babylonians, but instead to commit to singing the song of peace that they represented in Jerusalem.

Barber went on to contrast power and struggle:

"Power is not friendly.  We can't handle power.  Power conceded nothing until it is confronted.  Power wants to operate from strength.  Power will re-group.  Power offers small gestures and trinkets, not system change.  Power masks itself in our churches and Christian ministries.  Power doesn't wake up in the morning and say, 'How do I share myself today?' We can't handle power without accountability and community.  

Power, however, exerted in sacrifice will lift people to life.  Your life as a follower of Jesus in this world is centered in struggle.  You won't get justice and not have it cost you something.  Salvation is free, not justice."