Monthly Archives: January 2012


Living a Whole Life


I have greatly profited from the writing and spiritual insights of Fr. Richard Rohr, the well-known Catholic mystic/teacher/writer from New Mexico. His books have helped me grow in areas where my evangelical background left me short in terms of grasping how action (which defines so much of my life) meets solitude and contemplation (which I’ve discovered only in the last few years). Rohr directs the Center for Action and Contemplation. Each day the center emails an excerpt from something that Rohr wrote that is intended for personal reflection. A recent entry from the Center for Action and Contemplation underscored once again just how valuable his insights can be, especially when you are my age and longing to love God with a Christ-centered love that is growing deeper by the day.


The first half of life is invariably about creating identity, finding some boundary markers (traditions, trustworthy authorities and structures), making some money, getting an education, marrying, and raising children—which we then must defend for the rest of our lives. Most of

By |January 31st, 2012|Categories: Love, Spirituality|

The Church: A Place Where Things Can Be Messy

I am a devoted churchman. I serve the church broadly through ACT 3. I also serve specific churches locally. I am the member of a local church and a minister in the Reformed Church in America. I am committed to the church as the visible expression of Christ's bride and as a sinful people who have found grace in Jesus Christ.

Perhaps the most frequent question that I am asked, from almost every church background that I know, is this: "Why does it seem that so many churches are in a state of personal crisis and conflict these days?" (It was not always this bad. I have lived long enough to see the level of church problems increase rather dramatically over my six decades.)

I could offer many observations and responses to this question based upon my experience as a pastor and a consultant. I can also offer some answers based on my understanding of the church in the New Testament. For starters, we all know that no church is "perfect." No system

Is It Necessary to Be Sexually Active to Order to Be a Healthy, Flourishing Person?

This is a rather amazing piece of popular television dialogue. You will clearly note that Tim Gunn does not take a moral position about sexual practice in his comments. So, at least for a moment, please leave the moral questions off the table. Watch this short clip for what it says and how the speaker actually says it, as well as the context in which he says it. His words clearly challenge the regnant modern Western idea that sexual experience is as necessary (almost) as food, clothing and shelter. If you are a sexual person, and all of us are created as sexual persons, then the argument generally made by our culture is that you should either be having sex or preparing and planning on having sex sooner than later. Why? Sexual expression is normal and human. It is argued that it is thus a part of who you are and without experiencing it you cannot express yourself in serious relationships. If you choose to remain celebrate then you are abnormal, or so much of the culture seems to say in our

By |January 27th, 2012|Categories: Homosexuality, Sexuality|

What Are Conservative Bona Fides?

OriginalIn the Monday evening political debate in Tampa interviewer Brian Williams asked Governor Mitt Romney what his conservative credentials were? It was a kind of open-ended question and Romney appeared stumped, at least according to many reports and what you can see on the video of the moment. His answer has been criticized by the pundits in the news coverage since last night. Here is Romney's answer "Well, number one, I've raised a family," he said. "And I've — I've — with my wife, we've raised five wonderful sons, and we have 16 wonderful grandkids." A real gaffe right?

Governor Romney went on to reference his private sector background and his gubernatorial experience, but the reference to his family will stick says another morning critic. The reporter adds, "Romney had a chance to brandish his conservative bona fides and instead gave Republicans a somewhat nonsensical response about his number of children. It's not clear how raising a family ties to contributing to

By |January 24th, 2012|Categories: Uncategorized|

"A Bible and a Radio, But No Church"

One of the leading evangelical and ecumenical theologians of our time is Thomas C. Oden. Tom turned 80 last fall and continues to write magnificent works that serve the wider catholic community. He has provided the church with a fresh treasure of magnificent written work that will survive him by decades. You can sample something of Tom's story, a story of of how he turned away from theological liberalism in particular, in an online article that is well worth reading. 

I have had the privilege of knowing Tom for the past ten years-plus, though we are not extremely close as friends. We have served together in one specific ministry context which allowed us to talk and share several times in private. I count Tom among my Top Ten modern Christian thinkers and writers. In an aticle in Christianity Today, published in 2011, Tom wrote:

Thomas_OdenChrist promised the early church the Spirit, who came on the first

By |January 23rd, 2012|Categories: Sacraments, Social Networking, The Church|

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

Fr_portrait_paul-bioThere is a long history behind the worldwide call to prayer for Christian unity but I became acutely aware of the history of this call at the Center for Unity in Rome last March. Then in June, about an hour north of New York City,  I visited the grave site of Fr. Paul Wattson, the man who launched this global week of prayer for Christian unity. As deeply interested as I am in this subject I am pleased to share news today from the Vatican Information Service of January 18. The Pope's comments provide a gracious reminder of our common duty to the whole of Christ's Church, not just our own communion or fellowship. 


VATICAN CITY, 18 JAN 2012 (VIS) – The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which begins today, was the theme of Benedict XVI's general audience celebrated this morning in

By |January 19th, 2012|Categories: ACT 3, Prayer, Unity of the Church|

When Jesus Met Mary: A Sacred Friendship Gathering

This unique event, hosted by my dear friend, author and speaker Dan Brennan, will feature several interesting and engaging speakers, including yours truly. It will present a great opportunity for a kind of dialogue not generally welcomed in the church at large and includes a special opportunity to meet new friends in genuine conversation and fellowship. Please consider attending. Here is more information:


When Jesus Met Mary: A Sacred Friendship Gathering

Chicago, Illinois

April 27th-28th, 2012

A Conference Exploring Friendship Between Men and Women

Contact: Dan at []

When men and women come together, are the only options romance or danger?  Is sex the subtext of every male-female friendship?  Is true male-female friendship ever possible without uncomfortable tension, cynicism or second-guessing?

When Jesus met Mary in the garden, it was in friendship.  In the Gospel

A Conversation with Cardinal George

As readers of this blog already know I had the privilege of spending ten days in Rome last March. (There are extensive blogs on this trip archived on this site in March 2011.) I was a part of a small group of Christian leaders who serve in various contexts where missional-ecumenism clearly defines what we do in our mission for Christ. I only knew one of the six other team members of my small group before I journeyed to Rome. Deacon John Green and I had met some years ago and developed a friendship that has been mutually enriching. I have supported Emmaus Ministries, the work John pioneered many years ago here in Chicago, for some time. John's mission is featured in my book, Your Church Is Too Small. I also endorsed John's wonderful book, Streetwalking with Jesus: Reacing Out with Justice and Mercy (2011). 

Just after I returned from Rome a member of our ACT 3 board, Marcus Payne, asked me to get the Sunday edition of the Chicago Tribune in order to read a

The ACT 3 Weekly: Churchless Christianity?

Several times each year I mention what I believe is the most important online writing that I do. I refer to the ACT 3 Weekly articles I write for our web site. (These are read by several thousand subscribers as well as by visitors to our home page.) These articles run between 1,000 and 1,400 words and address topics and themes that are directly related to our vision of missional-ecumenism, the vision that drives this ministry. I have been writing these longer articles for at least ten years. I have been blogging for about seven years. These weekly articles have often been delivered as public presentations (via lectures and dialogues) and some have even been used in multi-authored published works. Still others will likely become full-length books in the future. I do far more research, and do more extensive editing, on these articles than I can ever do with my blogging. My first priority in daily writing is this series. This material is actually the long-time staple of our serious effort to help the church, to serve church leaders and to think more

By |January 13th, 2012|Categories: ACT 3, Missional-Ecumenism, Personal|

Determine How You Will Lead in 2012

ACT 3 exists to “equip leaders for unity in Christ’s mission.” To be a leader, a real servant-leader, you have to think about what you intend to do and then have a clear purpose to do it. You also have to take some risks. Albert Einstein once said “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” 

Portrait-photo-2012-1My friend Bob Shank, a trainer of business leaders, says, “Most security addicts think that it’s crazy to try something new. Einstein would say that it’s crazy not to try something new, [especially] if the results you are realizing from what you’re already doing aren’t enough to be satisfying and fulfilling!” Amen!

The prophet Isaiah said: “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and

By |January 12th, 2012|Categories: ACT 3, Leadership|

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