A Relational Covenant

I spent some time at Glen Eyrie this last week, the lovely location of the Navigators, a well-known international discipleship ministry. Glen Eyrie is a gorgeous place in the mountains just outside Colorado Springs. There I shared time with ten authors discussing a new line of books published by NavPress, Deliberate. Caleb Seeling, the editor of Deliberate, is one of the sharpest and most creative young editors that I’ve met. Caleb is way outside the box but he is equally concerned for real orthodoxy and the ancient faith at one and the same time. I love what he is dreaming about and pray that what he undertakes will succeed beyond his wildest dreams. I was honored beyond words to be there and to share in this really fun discussion. Thanks Caleb and thanks NavPress! I’m not ready to sign a contract but I am very seriously open to working with you guys. I love your vision and believe in you as my friends.

Caleb convened this group to be a kind of informal "editorial advisory board." He wanted a community of thinkers and writers to both talk and listen. By God’s Spirit a kind of partnership was created that, I think, has a lot of promise for the future. We considered issues related to publishing in the 21st century. Deliberate will address global Christianity, culture (including art and beauty), theology, active faith and justice. All of the sessions were designed to identify areas that need attention as well as on finding future authors to write into these areas.

Such occasions allow me a great deal of personal time to think, pray and reflect. I also get to interact, without any real personal agenda, with cool people. I had never met Leonard Sweet, for example. I  much enjoyed his company and shared a dinner with him. He is one of the most insightful students of history and culture in the church today. He regularly exasperates some people but he is never, ever dull or boring. In the group this week he was an especially thoughtful person, speaking very little actually, but when he spoke he had a lot to say that stirred me. This reminded me a lot of my late father whose words were always few but measured and insightful. Len strikes me as a voice that should always be factored into the missional conversation by all who are seriously open to learning and thinking beyond the older paradigms.

Other authors that I did not know engaged me in many different and fresh ways. Some of these folks are new authors that I look forward to hearing more from in the years ahead. Margaret Feinberg is already a popular author who writes theological non-fiction that is not designed for women alone. She was named one of the "Thirty Emerging Voices" of Christian leaders under age forty by Charisma magazine. I can see why after meeting her and hearing her talk and think out loud. Her new Zondervan book has a great title: The Organic God. (I look forward to getting into it this week.) One of the participants was even an artist from New York City, Makoto Fujimura.  You would profit from his Web site even if you are not an artist.

Another contributor to this gathering was Scott Cairns, a professor of English at the University of Missouri. Scott is a serious Orthodox Christian writer and poet. Scott led some of our prayers and followed a very ancient Orthodox pattern that worked well in our setting. I have appreciated Scott’s work for years and already had a signed copy of one of his early books of poetry. Though we met some years ago, through our mutual friend Travis Tamerius in Columbia, Missouri, we had never had the opportunity to truly get to know one another in this way. I look forward to Scott contributing even more to my life and journey of faith through his writing and friendship.

Last Friday, at the Midwest Emergent Gathering here in Chicago, I met Spencer Burke for the first time. Little did I know at the time that we would see one another a few days later and have hours to visit and talk. The contrast between Spencer Burke, who is really a "way out of the box" postmodern guy if there ever was one, and Scott Cairns, an Orthodox Christian convert who is an English  professor who writes poetry, was so helpful to me. My problem is that I liked them both very much and profited from their collective wisdom and insights a great deal. I guess I am closer to Scott in temperament and liturgical thought but Spencer pulls my chain, is an engaging and really fun guy, and truly loves God and God’s people. My own theology welcomes all the gifts in the whole Church and thus I see both these brothers as having a role in the larger body of Christ that is needed. I suppose some would say this is further evidence that I just get along too easily with very different people, some of whom would be called heretics on several blog sites. I plead guilty to that charge. I like people a lot and I love real diversity among the people I like. I also highly value Christian relationships that rise above the kind of dogmatism that shuts off everyone else who disagrees with me.

The last morning I walked into the kitchen of the big house where I lodged, which is called The Pink House. I went to get some coffee or tea for breakfast. I had been staying in a huge gorgeous room which had once been the room where Dawson Trotman and Lorne Sanny lived while they served as president of the Navigators. (The whole experience felt a little surreal actually.) There, in the kitchen of The Pink House, on the wall, was a Navigators statement that I read and copied down. I have altered only one word for grammatical reasons but it read:

A Relational Covenant

Stand should to shoulder
Believe the best about one another
Talk to, not about one another

I like that a great deal. I wrote it down and prayed that I would learn to live this relational covenant more and more as I seek to become a faithful follower of the Christ who calls me to love his Church and to honor all his people. It is much easier to admire this covenant than to follow it.   

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