Five general secretaries of international ecumenical organizations engaged in lively conversation with leaders of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) on Friday, April 8, at the Ecumenical Center in Geneva. The general secretaries who engaged in this interesting and important dialog are the heads of the ACT Alliance, the Conference of European Churches (CEC), the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), the World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC) and the World Council of Churches (WCC).
“One of the most pressing challenges we face is religious intolerance,” said John Nduna of ACT Alliance, a coalition of churches and church-related agencies working in the areas of human development and emergency assistance. As a second concern, Nduna noted that “the shrinking humanitarian space around the world, [hinders] how we can reach people in need of aid.” Each of the five leaders acknowledges that partnership among Christian churches and missions is of key importance, both in promoting dialog with various governments and in advocating before various international organizations who are tasked with improving conditions
The first teachers of Christianity are called the Church Fathers. The reason is that these teachers were seen, over time, as the great teachers of spiritual truth for the whole church. The term “Fathers of the church” refers to those theologians and teachers who were the earliest post-apostolic thinkers and writers who left us a rich legacy of faith and doctrine in their written works.
There is no clear cut-off date by which someone may be called a “Father” or not but I lean toward the fifth century for several reasons. The Council of Chalcedon (A.D. 451) was critical to the entire future of the church. Up to and through this time period the major theologians were the greatest Fathers of the faith. But St. Gregory the Great (d. 604) is included on some lists, as well as Venerable the Bede (d. 735) and St. John Damascene (d. 749). No arbitrary time period works perfectly but tradition generally treats the patristic period up to and through
I was not always a hockey fan. I grew up in the South when there were only six NHL teams thus I had no understanding of this great sport. My dad took me to my first game at age 8 or 9. It was in Chicago when we visited the city in February of one year. I thought, as only a little boy, “This is a rough and fast game.” I was right. It is the fastest thing on ice.
Since I’ve never had a huge love affair with Chicago teams I saw a few Blackhawks games over my 41-plus years in Chicago. But I never got into the team or the sport that much. Then I met a Christian brother in the mid-1990s in Vancouver while doing a weekend conference in a church. Later that brother (Paolo, at the far right in the photo with me, my daughter Stacy, and my son Matthew,
Many evangelicals know little or nothing about the Church Fathers (and in a few cases Mothers). These ancient writers were the early Christians who taught and wrote about Christ and the sacred truths of the faith in the first centuries after the death of the apostles. I was asked once, in a public dialog with Catholic peers, why this was so. I answered, “Because we think that citing the Fathers is a Catholic practice and, furthermore, we think that trusting in the authority of the Scripture means we don’t need to read these Fathers.”
I still think that response is warranted, at least in general. But more recent developments, which are now beginning to spill over into the wider church among non-professional readers, is to place increasing value on reading and understanding the patristic writers. We can thank scholars like Thomas Oden, Christopher Hall and Daniel Williams, among others, for these developments. I believe reading and using the Fathers is important for personal reasons. It is also extremely
Of Gods and Men is one of the most moving and tender Christian films that I’ve seen in several years. It is understated, in terms of its Christian witness, and profoundly human. There is no great display of heroism here, just a group of devoted Christian men living courageously for Christ and peace in a violent place and time. The soundtrack is in French, with English subtitles. Please do not let this keep you from seeing this moving depiction of the very real world in which Christ has called some of his people to both live and die.
Based loosely upon real events that happened in 1996, seven French monks in Algeria are kidnapped by Islamic terrorists and disappear. (The reason that we know the story as well as we do is because two men escaped capture and told the story!) The circumstances
This day (Easter) more clearly demarcates the dividing line between the world view of fallen human power from the world view of Jesus of Nazareth than any other. (This truth is asserted each Lord’s Day since it is Easter that makes the whole of the calendar change once and for all!)
While Jesus was alone in the garden, on Thursday evening of Holy Week, the army of the powerful came to take over. They represent a world which cannot tolerate the existence of another world than the world of the “big deals.” It was necessary for them to destroy the threat of uncontrolled goodness which was revealed fully in the man Christ Jesus.
- Big deals control the little people, the poor, etc.
- Big deals want mercy for some, the good people.
- Big deals want blessing for those who deserve it.
- Big deals want to reserve privilege for the righteous, people like them.
- Thus big deals believe the good news is for the rich and powerful.
- Big deals trust human power
My wife asked me, late last week when she saw our church sign, “What is the Triduum?” I thought some of you might wonder the same unless you grew up in a tradition that celebrates all the major portions of Holy Week.
Triduum is Latin for “three-day period.” The Triduum is a solemn celebration of the mysteries of Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection. It begins with the Eucharist on Thursday evening and concludes with what is called “the Evening Prayer” on Saturday. On Friday our own church will strip the altar of all symbols, cups, trays, candles, etc.
Holy Thursday commemorates Jesus’ last meal with his disciples. Here the ritual of washing the feet is often included. This ritual had a profound impact on me when I first began to take part in it several years ago. This day is often called Maundy Thursday because Jesus gave his new commandment on this day. Maundy comes from the word mandatum, which means mandate or commandment. The celebration of the Lord’s
Today, the world over, Christians remember the death of their Savior, Jesus Christ. We take part in various remembrances, some elaborate and some simple, even Puritan. Regardless, many of us will participate in some service of remembrance and express our thanks to God for the gift of his Son.
I have participated in many different death rituals in various countries and cultures. The most unusual was in India. I will never get over what transpired on my second extended trip there in the 1980s. One of the leaders of the mission we worked with had come to meet us at the airport, a drive of about four hours or more. His van had run into the back of a large truck, stopped in the middle of the road in typical Indian fashion. He had been thrown forward off the back seat (where he was sleeping) and was internally injured and died after some hours of suffering by the side of the highway with no medical help. Our team
One of my favorite modern Protestant writers is Eugene H. Peterson. I’ve never met Eugene, though I’ve spoken to him on the telephone. I invited him to participate in a writing project and he phoned me to decline. He was the only person, in a long list of invited contributors, who did that. (Some didn't bother to even respond in writing.) I am still impressed. He owed me nothing but a polite “turn down” but he wanted to encourage me by telling me my goals were worthy but he could not help me. He was apologetic and gracious. It made an impression.
A number of friends know Eugene and some had him as a teacher at Regent College in Vancouver. They have shared numerous stories with me about this senior statesman of the faith. Peterson is one of those guys who makes me listen when he speaks, even though I do not always agree with him. (But then who do I always agree with anyway and who really cares?)