Chicago’s Archbishop Cupich’s Response to the Supreme Court’s Ruling

bioIn my post yesterday I referenced the response of some conservative Christian ministers and leaders to the Supreme Court ruling on marriage announced last week. A Chicago news report noted that Archbishop Blasé J. Cupich, on Sunday, July 5, urged Chicago’s Catholics to adopt “mature and serene reflections as we move forward together.” Cupich noted that the Court’s decision had “redefined civil marriage.” He also said that the Catholic Church has “an abiding concern for the dignity of gay persons.” But, he added, “It is also important to stress that the Supreme Court’s redefinition of civil marriage has no bearing on the Catholic Sacrament of Matrimony in which the marriage of man and woman is a sign of the union of Christ and the Church. In upholding our traditional concept of marriage, we are called to support those who have entered into this sacred and loving bond with God and each other.”

Can you not see the striking difference in both wording and tone in the archbishop’s response and that of stridently conservative evangelicals and Catholics in other parts of America? I believe that every word he spoke must be weighed with great care. I feel sure that he crafted them with this intent. He is saying:

1. The church has not redefined marriage thus this recent action is a civil one, not an ecclesial one. (The Catholic Church is not going to be swayed in its understanding of marriage by culture!)

2. The Catholic Church is not going to launch an all-out war against those who enter into such a civil marriage but these marriages are not sacramental and thus not defined as Christian marriages.

3. We should love gay people and civilly married couples and we must protect their dignity as fellow citizens and neighbors.

4. Finally, we need to engage in “mature and serene reflections as we move forward together.” This, to me, is his way of saying we the Catholic Church does not plan on using the tactics of cultural warfare. The church is here to minister to people, not to drive them away. At the same time he is saying that our view of marriage is unchanging as a church.

To draw out this fourth point I will quote from Archbishop Cupich.

This will be especially important for the members of our own Church as we walk together, respectful not only of the political demands of equality, but above all else, guided by the higher claims of divine revelation. Our aim in all of this will be to hold fast to an authentic understanding of marriage which has been written in the human heart, consolidated in history, and confirmed by the Word of God.

 I believe that Archbishop Cupich has spoken well. He has maintained the church’s understanding of marriage as God’s sacrament, not as a civil arrangement decided by the courts. At the same time he has clearly affirmed human dignity and Christian love for all our neighbors. He has also urged his fellow Christians who disagree with the church to love one another. And, finally, he has plainly taught his flock how to do all of this in a most gentle and Christ-like way. I cannot do better. Thank you archbishop.

Posted in ACT 3, American Evangelicalism, Church Tradition, Culture, Current Affairs, Homosexuality, Marriage & Family, Politics, Roman Catholicism, Sacraments, The Church, The Future | 35 Comments/Likes

The Week That Dramatically Altered the Culture Conflict and the Future of the Church

th-1Response to the recent Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage has been all over the map, to say the least. We have seen some amazing celebrations and all the expected denunciations from many Christians. At First Baptist Church in Dallas the pulpit was adorned with red, white and blue last weekend. The pastor called the ruling “an affront in the face of Almighty God.” Robert Jeffress, pastor at First Baptist Dallas, said the court had acted in a way that represented “depravity, degradation and what the Bible calls sexual perversion.” The White House, in contrast, was bathed in the rainbow colors of the LGBT movement. Many other churches, mostly Protestant mainline congregations, called attention to the decision with prayer and joy.

The pastor at First Baptist in Dallas said he was not discouraged at all. He added, “We are not going to be silenced. This is a great opportunity for our church to share the truth and love of Jesus Christ and we are going to do it.” Now, if ever there was a line I personally agreed with this has to be it. My question though is simple: “Does condemnation of the court’s decision, and opposition to same-sex marriage, equal the love of Christ?” Ah, but this is the really, really hard question. On both sides people argue, with little evidence of the love Jesus taught us about in John 13:34-35, that they (alone) are speaking with love. I have friends who argue from both sides. They all insist they are acting with love. Most of them see the other side as intolerant and bigoted. My problem is that I deeply wonder how this can all be true?

Judge Roy Moore (yes, the same judge who wanted the Ten Commandments in his courtroom in Alabama) preached from his home church in Kimberly, Alabama, last Sunday. The judge said, “Welcome to the new world. It’s just changed for you Christians. You are going to be persecuted.” Hmmm, again I profoundly wonder if I live in the same world.

thI later spoke to a Christian leader in Canada. I asked him, “How long has same-sex marriage been the law across Canada?” He answered, “About ten years I think.” I then asked him, “How do LGBT people, and the government in general, treat Christians who do not agree with them and will not support them openly?” He said there was little or no legal problem at all. The church, being much smaller and not so engaged in cultural war rhetoric, simply continued to do its mission and the state left it alone. That is an idea that crosses few minds in America, left or right. We are a nation defined by battles and litigation. It is rooted in our DNA. Think: Civil War, two parties since Jefferson and Hamilton, etc. We are badly divided and have been for my entire lifetime. The Vietnam War tore us apart more than anything in my lifetime and we have never enjoyed a deeply appreciated unity since.

For whatever it is worth here are some thoughts that I have formed over the years and now apply to this recent ruling:

  1. 1976 was proclaimed by TIME to be “The Year of the Evangelicals.” Our influence and importance has declined every year since! Could we have become impressed with our churches and leaders? Are we filled with ourselves? Is the problem really us?
  2. Culture wars have not won and will not win in the public arena. They are rear-guard battles that only make our work of “making disciple” and “loving our neighbors” far more difficult.
  3. Morality is not our task in the culture. Our task is to be “salt and light.” We do not have to condemn everything that we disagree with to effectively bear witness to Christ in public. Do you not think the world already knows what we believe?
  4. Our message should be “good news” to all if we preach and live it well. We will suffer persecution but that is happening, at least broadly speaking. We are being attacked for the way we are pressing our moral views on the broader culture, a culture that does not know Christ and could care less what we believe morally. (Our numbers show we do not live what we preach, which makes things even worse.)
  5. If we are serious about the moral law maybe we should apply it within the church to our own members first? You talk about a hard job, if done well pastorally. Yet few will even try. It is so much easier to preach to those outside, whoever they are. (In this case the Gays!!!)
  6. Ministers should opt out of civil marriage and let the state do what the state is determined to do in this area. Marriage should be treated in a more sacramental fashion by Protestants, thus preserving it for truly Christian consecration and celebration.
  7. We should get to know our neighbors, including our LGBT neighbors. Once we know and love our neighbors we can then know how to more effectively share the love of Christ with them. But until we know our neighbors as real people we are not sharing Christ’s love at all, only our public views about them.

I could say much more but this is where I am after a week-plus that was truly transforming in our present culture. The question Christians should now face is this: “What have we done to make this shift take shape so dramatically?” Could the problem be us more than those who are outside the church?

Posted in American Evangelicalism, Church History, Civil Rights, Culture, Current Affairs, Ethics, Evangelism, Gospel/Good News, Homosexuality, Missional Church, Personal, Sexuality, The Church | 31 Comments/Likes

Celebrating the Martyrdom of John Hus 600 Years Later

Monday, July 6, marked the 600th anniversary of the martyrdom of John Hus. Hus, the great Bohemian reformer, prophesied in his death that God would raise up another reformer who would carry on what he began, a reference that fits Martin Luther to the letter. (We celebrate the 500th anniversary of Luther’s “Ninety-five Theses” in 2017!)

thJohn Hus, known as “The Morning Star of the Reformation,” desired that the Czech nation and people know redeeming grace through Jesus Christ more than anything else. He preached a clear and popular message in the language of his people, not in the Latin of the church. He taught the Bible very carefully and encouraged people to pursue the truth in Christ in every area of life. He was willing to die for his faith and this is exactly what happened.

On Monday a most remarkable event took place in the city of Opava in memory of John Hus’ martyrdom. The Catholic Church hosted an ecumenical memorial service to honor John Hus, the biblical reformer, in the main city cathedral. The service was a powerful one in which evangelicals stood shoulder-to-shoulder with their Catholic brothers and sisters. The crowd that gathered was encouraged to pursue the truth as John Hus did by laying down his life at the hands of Catholic hierarchy 600 years ago.3ebb0e5d-a98e-4f67-970e-93d6c53b9465

When I first read this story I was stunned. Then I rejoiced and realized again that the Spirit is moving in Christian love and unity as we have not seen for centuries, certainly since before the sixteenth century schism in the Western Church. Those who spoke at the cathedral said: “Therefore, faithful Christian, seek the truth, hear the truth, learn the truth, love the truth, speak the truth, adhere to the truth, defend the truth to death; for the truth will make you free from sin, the devil, the death of the soul, and finally from eternal death.”

Amen. Come blessed Holy Spirit and heal your church with an outpouring of your holy love!

Posted in Church History, Current Affairs, Missional-Ecumenism, Protestantism, Roman Catholicism, The Church, The Future | 11 Comments/Likes

A Global Charismatic Gathering @ the Vatican with Concerted Prayer for Christian Unity

UnknownPope Francis greeted tens of thousands of members of the charismatic movement last Friday, July 3, who were in Rome for their 38th annual Convocation. They gathered in St Peter’s Square for an evening of prayer, spirituality, and evangelization. Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli and Israeli singer Noa were among the singers who performed. The most amazing and moving part of the evening may have been the singing of the world’s best known hymn: “Amazing Grace.”

This global gathering event had a distinctly ecumenical character. The theme was: “Ways of Unity and Peace – Voices of Prayer for the Martyrs of Today and for a Spiritual Ecumenism.” No theme is closer to my own heart so I took notice of this event and rejoiced. When I watched the singing of the great hymn I was melted to tears of joy. I watched Pope Francis and prayed for him with renewed determination to do all I can to support him as my brother in Christ.

Representatives from the churches of many denominations and ecclesial communities were present for this great meeting with Pope Francis, all openly testifying to “the power of ecumenical prayer and the need for a new fraternity among Christians.” In his prayer at the beginning of the Audience, Pope Francis prayed that God the Father might send the Holy Spirit, Who will guide us to unity. It is the Holy Spirit, said Francis, who gives the various charisms’ within the Church, who works through the variety of gifts in the Church, and who grants us real unity. Pope Francis asked that Jesus, who prayed for unity in His Church, might help us to walk along the path of “unity, or of reconciled diversity.” I cannot pray and express my passion more clearly then this.

The pope’s address included what have been called “off-the-cuff” remarks that reminded the members of the Renewal of the Holy Spirit of the words of Cardinal Leo Joseph Suenens, who called the charismatic renewal a “stream of grace.” Suenens, who is featured in my book, Your Church Is Too Small, was one of the great leaders at Vatican II. The current of grace, said Pope Francis, must always flow into the ocean of God, the love of God, and must not be turned in on itself. This is really the theme of the book I am writing at this very time in my life.

andreea1436130418Pope Francis also spoke about “unity in diversity,” another favorite theme God has given to me. He noted that unity is not uniformity but reflects the confluence of all the different parts that go to make it up.

He warned of the temptation of leaders – or rather, servants – to imagine that they are indispensable, a temptation that can lead to authoritarianism or personalism, which “does not allow the renewed communities to live in the Spirit.” The Holy Spirit, Pope Francis exclaimed, is the only indispensable actor in the renewal, just as Jesus is the one Lord. At the same time he spoke of good founders who lead the communities they found, caring for them and leading them to spiritual maturity.

The pope also gave thanks for the “current of grace” which has borne much fruit. He encouraged those who have had the experience of the renewal “to go forward, [and] share it with the [whole] Church,” a service he called very important. He encouraged those who gathered to especially “form bonds of trust and cooperation with the Bishops, who have the pastoral responsibility of guiding the Body of Christ, including the charismatic renewal.”

Finally, Pope Francis emphasized the ecumenical dimension of the charismatic movement, rooting it in our common baptism. Unity among Christians, he said, must begin with prayer. This is the key to my mind. When we pray together we will learn to love one another and when we love one (cf. John 13:34-35) we will see the love and power of the Holy Trinity released in our lives and churches. As in the past Pope Francis spoke of modern-day martyrs: “The blood of the martyrs of today makes us one!”

Pope Francis gave the gathered crowd the example of a Catholic priest and a Lutheran minister who were both executed by the Nazis as followers of Jesus. He also spoke of the 23 Coptic Christians who, just a few months ago, were murdered in Libya. And he rightly noted that Pope Paul VI, in canonizing the Ugandan martyrs, made reference to the Anglican catechists who shed their blood with their Catholic brothers. “Excuse me, don’t be scandalized, they are our martyrs,” he said.

Pope Francis concluded his remarks by reminding those in the square of the upcoming 50th anniversary of the charismatic movement, which will be marked in St Peters on Pentecost in 2017. This jubilee, he said, quoting Pope Paul VI, will be an opportunity for the church “to give thanks to the Holy Spirit for this current of grace which is for the church and for the [whole] world; and to celebrate the marvelous works the Holy Spirit has done in the course of these 50 years, changing the lives of millions of Christians.”

Watch the video and pray. I promise that if you love grace and unity you will join me in my tears of joy!!!

Posted in ACT 3, Current Affairs, Missional Church, Missional-Ecumenism, Personal, Renewal, Roman Catholicism, Spirituality, The Church, The Future | 9 Comments/Likes

How Should Christians Respond to the Supreme Court’s Ruling on Marriage?

Readers of this blog range across a wide-spectrum of Christian believers. Some readers favor same-sex marriage and (very likely) most do not. While I do not advocate for same-sex marriage, based upon my understanding of marriage primarily (not sexuality), I believe the church has lost its way in regard to mission and purpose. This is why the Christian response to this court decision reveals the deep divisions within our ranks. My friend Dr. David Lescalleet offers us a balanced perspective from the position held by the vast majority of Christian churches around the world. I offer it as a helpful reflection for all of us to ponder prayerfully.

Lescalleet (Dave)What Now?  A Response to the SCOTUS Ruling on Same-Sex Marriage

The decision by the United States Supreme Court to rule in favor of same-sex marriage is now about a few days old. During that time I have read through different articles, commentaries, op-eds, along with a whole host of Facebook posts and twitter feeds. In response, I initially thought it best to refrain from adding to the noise that is, at times, overwhelming from both sides. But in the end, I weighed that hesitation against a responsibility that I carry as a Christian minister to come along side my own congregation and network of friends and offer what I hope to be both a biblically resolute understanding to the questions that are being raised as well as a gracious response to those who will disagree. Here are a few of my thoughts (Feel free to stop reading at any time.).

There has been a lot of talk about all that has changed as a result of the SCOTUS ruling. There is truth to much of the talk. Change has occurred and depending upon your presuppositions, that change can be seen as either as good or bad. But in the midst of the obvious cultural change, much still remains the same for those of us calling ourselves Christians. In other words, for Christianity, much is exactly the same today as it was a few days ago prior to the ruling of SCOTUS. I want to highlight just three. Here they are in no particular order…

1.  Christianity’s Theology remains the same: Same-sex marriage cannot be justified

If you are reading this and not a Christian, your response to my first point probably makes you no-never-mind. But this needs to be stated clearly to anyone who confesses Christ as Lord and Savior and also supports the decision handed down on Friday. It is this: one cannot turn to the Scriptures to justify or endorse in any way same-sex marriage. That is as true today as it was prior to the judicial ruling. But please do not take my word for it. Do your own research. I would encourage you to begin with Dr. William Loader. Dr. Loader is not only the most prominent expert on ancient and biblical views of sexuality but is a strong proponent of same-sex marriage himself.  You read that right. Loader applauds the same-sex marriage SCOTUS ruling. But he would be the first to tell you that the Bible offers no support for same-sex marriage. That’s worth repeating. A liberal biblical scholar who affirms same-sex marriage will tell you what orthodox biblical scholars have been saying all along: Scripture does not teach or endorse in any way same-sex marriage.

Following Dr. Loader I would then direct you to Dr. Dan Via. Dr. Via is also a pro-homosexual advocate and current professor emeritus of New Testament at Duke Divinity School. He is the co-author of the book, Homosexuality and the Bible: Two Views, a point-counterpoint volume where he agrees that the Bible’s rule against homosexual practice is “an absolute prohibition,” and that Scripture condemns homosexual behavior “unconditionally” and “absolutely.” Loader and Via aren’t the only two liberal biblical scholars who agree that scripture does not allow for homosexuality and same-sex marriage, but their scholarly work is a good place to begin.

As for myself, I remain today a conscientious dissenter to the SCOTUS ruling. But the basis of my dissent is foundationed solely on Scripture and not on any personal feelings of my own. The Scripture simply does not allow for the practice or endorsement for same-sex marriage, and my conscious is bound to the Bible. But this should be true for anyone who says that Jesus is Lord and Savior. We cannot play fast and loose with the Scripture when it comes to our sexual ethic, and if our views towards sexuality and marriage are narrow or arcane and happen to be out of step with 5 federal judges–so be it.

We need to remember that our whole faith is foundationed on the arcane and narrow. Think about what makes us Christians in the first place. We believe that God came to earth via a virgin birth, grew up and died for us, was brought back from the dead and that our salvation is based not on our merit but rather on His imputed righteousness alone. And our culture thinks that our views on marriage and sexuality are out of step?  Our views on marriage and sexuality don’t even crack the top ten in what makes us out of step with our culture.

2.  Christianity’s Role remains the same: Keep Calm and Carry On

The response of the Christian church to the culture-at-large is the same today as it was Thursday of last week prior to the SCOTUS ruling. We are not to wilt under the pressure of being accepted, relevant or liked by the culture around us. This is nothing new and has been going on now for 2,000 years. You need to remember Christianity began as an outsider to Rome. If this ruling makes us outsiders to America, exiles in our country, we should be ok with that. Honestly, when we are on the outside looking in, history demonstrates that we have been most effective in our mission and ministry. So do not panic. But on the flip side, we should not simply shake a fist, rage against the culture and articulate an ‘us vs. them’ narrative either.

With this ruling (and others rulings will surely come) there will be the temptation to err on one of those two extremes. The first will be to capitulate to the culture and go along to get along. We’ve already seen that happening within the church and make no mistake; it will continue. The other extreme will be to look at this ruling and blame the homosexual agenda as the downfall of our society. Pardon me, but if we are going to point fingers to identify the ‘downfall of society’ perhaps we should begin by looking in the mirror. When the divorce rate drops significantly inside the church, perhaps then we will have a more credible witness to speak about marriage to those who remain outside the church. But as long as Christians continue to shake off the yoke of biblical sexual morality, we should not be surprised when the culture around us shrugs and does the same thing.

3. Christianity’s Response remains the same: Gracious Conviction

Christianity has always been a home for refugees. Whether those refugees have come to us out of religious, political, societal or cultural revolution, the response of the church has always been to provide grace, mercy, aid and comfort and be a home to those who come regardless of the reasons. The American Church must now prepare for the refugees of this sexual revolution. Russell Moore, President of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, in an editorial for the Washington Post put it this way:

There are two sorts of churches that will not be able to reach the sexual revolution’s refugees. A church that has given up on the truth of the Scriptures, including on marriage and sexuality, and has nothing to say to a fallen world. And a church that screams with outrage at those who disagree will have nothing to say to those who are looking for a new birth. We must stand with conviction and with kindness, with truth and with grace. We must hold to our views and love those who hate us for them. We must not only speak Christian truths; we must speak with a Christian accent. We must say what Jesus has revealed, and we must say those things the way Jesus does — with mercy and with an invitation to new life. Moore is correct.

So while there is much to grieve in the prevailing cultural winds, we as Christians are not to grieve as those without hope. This latest ruling provides an incredible opportunity for the church to be the church and provide ‘gracious conviction’ to refugees looking for new birth. Let us not miss this opportunity that has been presented on a silver platter (or in this case a judicial ruling) that now carries the weight of law.

One other thought comes to mind, and it involves the mantra that has been uttered by those who applauded Friday’s ruling. Many have said that with the codification of same-sex marriage ‘Love Wins.’ Yes, it is true that love won, but that victory happened only once in history, and it wasn’t this past Friday.  Rather the day ‘Love Won’ was on a dusky Friday night over 2,000 years ago when Jesus Christ went to the Cross and gave up His life for me, you, and sinners of all stripes. The victory was secured when three days later he rose from the grave. That was the day that love truly won.  The Supreme Court ruling can do many things, but it cannot reverse that decision and put Jesus back in that tomb. He is still alive, and He is still calling the universe towards His kingdom. That’s something else that hasn’t changed. To quote the scripture: Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8).

Guest Writer:

Since 2006, Dr. Dave Lescalleet has served as the lead pastor of City Church in Corpus Christi, Texas.  He is a graduate of Southern Illinois University, Whitefield Theological Seminary (M.Div), and Knox Theological Seminary (D.Min).  In addition to his pastoral work, Dr. Lescalleet also serves as a chaplain for Christus Spohn Hospital and is actively involved in helping churches prepare for transition in pastoral leadership.  You can follow Dave on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter or learn more about his vocation through his website at pastortransition.com and his personal blog: Corpus Christian.

City Church – https://www.citychurchcc.com

Pastor Transition website – http://pastortransition.com

Corpus Christian – https://dlescalleet.wordpress.com

LinkdIn:  https://www.linkedin.com/in/lescalleet

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/Lescalleet

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/dave.lescalleet

Posted in ACT 3, Current Affairs, Marriage & Family, Missional-Ecumenism, Sexuality, The Church, The Future | 31 Comments/Likes

A Unique Dialogue on the Eucharist and a Prayer Service for Unity

R6LkmS_ntYwCOn Saturday, July 11, the Focolare Movement hosts a special day (within their larger annual event called Midwest Mariapolis) on Christian unity and the role of the eucharist. I am leading a workshop, along with my good friend, Fr. Thomas Baima. There is also a prayer service for unity that evening. You are welcome to register, or just come and sign up on site, as a one-day guest. If you live in Chicago, Indianapolis or West Michigan this is an easy drive. I hope to see some of you share in this event and please say “hello” to me if you come. You are welcome to attend more of this wonderful event but the Saturday activities are the ones I am actively sharing in as a leader.

Mariapolis 2015, “The Eucharist in a Communitarian Spirituality”

The Focolare Movement’s annual meeting, the “Mariapolis,” will include an exploration of the Eucharist and its connection to ecumenical dialogue.  The public are invited to two events that will take place at Valparaiso University’s Harre Union on Saturday, July 11, 2015

Workshop: Harre Union University Ballroom, 4:15 – 5:45–“Understanding the Lord’s Supper”

At his Last Supper, Christ told his apostles, “Do this in remembrance of me” (Lk 22:19).  Each time they celebrate the Lord’s Supper, Christians fulfill Jesus’ request.  But that very supper by which we remember him also is a sign of our brokenness.  How can we better understand both our brokenness and our hope for unity through the meal that Christ has given us?

That is the question that will be addressed by two noted ecumenical figures: Rev. John Armstrong, Minister of Word and Sacrament in the Reformed Church and author of Understanding Four Views on the Lord’s Supper (Zondervan, 2007), and Rev. Thomas Baima, Provost of the University of St. Mary of the Lake, the major seminary of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago.

There will be a picnic dinner with musical entertainment on the veranda in front of the Harre Union at 6:00.  There is a modest cost for dinner and registration.

Ecumenical Prayer Service: Harre Union University Ballroom, 8:00 – 9:00

Rev. Armstrong will lead a service of song, witness, and prayer focused upon 1 Corinthians 10: 16-17: “The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a sharing in the blood of Christ?  The bread that we break, is it not a sharing in the body of Christ?  Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.”   All are welcome.

Posted in ACT 3, Eucharist, Missional-Ecumenism, Roman Catholicism, The Church, The Future, Unity of the Church | Tagged | 8 Comments/Likes

Blogs and My Public Life

For almost a decade I have blogged on a regular basis. Initially, I found this medium an exciting and developing way to share my thoughts and reflect on biblical theology, culture and current events. Over time I found that writing blogs seven days a week was so demanding that I had to reduce my blogs to five times per week. Then it became four. Finally, some weeks ago, I quit writing for a long season. I have not quit altogether. In fact, I posted two new blogs over the last two days. During this “blog vacation” I have concluded several things about my blogs:

1. Blogs can be of various kinds and styles. My writing personally ranged over a wide field of interests because I enjoy many different aspects of culture and theology. I read widely and thus I wrote very widely. I am first a Bible-reader but I am a man of many books and interests. This impacted what I wrote and how I did it.

2. Blogs can be heavily documented academic articles that serve a great long-term purpose. I did very few of these types of blogs, preferring to publish any of my material of this kind in a more permanent forms; e.g. journals, magazines, books, etc. I have chosen to do this more in the years ahead, if I am granted years. I do not presume on tomorrow at all.

3. Blogs, at least for me, became a great burden. The demand to say something useful almost every day often led me to say more than I truly needed to say. The blog space created tends to create it own set of demands which then plead with a blogger to write or perish. Stopping these blogs was emotionally painful at first. I now realize that few people really care all that much about what I have to say because it is not that important. This is fine with me. I rather enjoy researching and writing for more permanent forms of  publishing so I do not miss these blogs.

I actually looked around that most of the living authors I admire the most do not blog, or at least do so very little. Bloggers do include some scholars, don’t misunderstand me. Bloggers are clearly of all types. But much of what I read from popular writers is just not that important. I think most of what I wrote was not lasting or important. It will be gone within hours of publication.

4. Even the very best bloggers amaze me at how much they have to say. If the truth is admitted most of what is posted could go unwritten and very few of us would care. I sit at my computer and sometimes wonder, “Does this person have a ‘real’ life beyond their screen?”

5. You surely can gain followers via blog posts but on the whole you cannot seize the attention of your readers in a lasting way. A longer, more sustained, kind of published writing can change lives. (This includes printed books and ebooks, both of which clearly have a place going forward.)

So I do not plan to quit blogging, at least not quite yet. I plan to use this site in the following ways:

1. To share personal updates for prayer and encouragement, thus to keep friends aware of my vision for empowering churches and leaders for unity in Christ’s mission.

2. To interact with topics in which I have the most interest; e.g. mission, ecumenism and the renewal of the church.

3. To advance a reformation of love rooted in my mission (and other missions). I believe I can do this by helping people find and interact with Your Church Is Too Small (Zondervan, 2010) and my forthcoming book, Our Love Is Too Small (which is not finished and has no publisher yet).

4. To share the work of others in creative ways. I post ideas and blogs from others but after a season of attempting to do this even this effort has slowed down to a modest trickle.

I wonder if the day of blogs being so important is slowly changing. Is the next great thing going to be “tweets?” If this is so I fear for thinking in general and Christian faith in particular. If anything of importance can be reduced to 144 characters one has to seriously wonder what the whole point of the Bible, and the Christian faith, really is all about.

I do use Twitter but I find reading tweets highly unproductive. I rarely pay attention to Twitter and see this medium as a “personality” platform in general. (There are clearly some exceptions to this comment.)

5. I like to do occasional comments and short reviews of books, as well as some films). I will likely still write these reviews as blogs.

6. I think I will post videos and interviews here as well. I believe that such short clips are far more useful in this medium. Time will tell.

Meanwhile, I ask for your prayer and support as I do the ministry of ACT3 Network with people and continue to devote my research and writing to books and articles, not to blogs.

Posted in ACT 3, Books, Current Affairs, Film, Missional Church, Missional-Ecumenism, Personal, Renewal, The Church, The Future | 25 Comments/Likes

James Martin Shows the Importance of the Pope’s Encyclical in Ten Ways

Some readers know that I am a big fan of James Martin, the best-selling Jesuit author who is one of our most powerful Christian communicators today. Fr. Martin summarizes, in this short video, why the new papal encyclical is so important for all Christians.

Posted in American Evangelicalism, Biblical Theology, Culture, Current Affairs, Environmentalism, Ethics, Ideology, Personal, Roman Catholicism, The Future | 4 Comments/Likes

The Pope’s Controversial Encyclical

Laudato Si’, on Care for Our Common Home, the much-discussed encyclical of Pope Francis on human care for the creation, embraces what the pope calls a “very solid scientific consensus” that humans are causing cataclysmic climate change that has been endangering the planet for decades. This conclusion has caused some conservatives, especially talk-show hosts and their followers, to trash the pope’s thought and motives.

One evangelical talk-show host/author called Pope Francis a socialist liberal. He told his audience that the pope has no idea what he is talking about when it comes to the real science of environmentalism. But he has bought an agenda and misled the church and the public. Another suggested that the pope needed to study science more closely, an odd criticism since this pope has seriously studied science and is surrounded by an entire body of serious scientists who served his writing of this encyclical.

AP989948985495-1024x682Let’s be honest – the devil is always in the details. Most people admit that the environment is changing, mostly for the worse. What is debated is the cause. The overwhelming majority of scientists who study the environment are not interested in politics. The exception, I suppose, is that some scientists want political leaders to act responsibly with the facts that they have studied and observed. Some conservatives want to appeal to conspiracies, or to politically liberal ideas about economics being the true force behind climate science. I even had one person tell me this week that the whole issue is being driven by Al Gore who is making big money on creating wide-scale fear. (Maybe he is making big money but this has nothing to do with the pope’s encyclical or the majority of what climate science is telling us about the cause of global warming.)

In this encyclical the pope lambastes global political leaders for their “weak responses” and their general lack of will to address this issue forcefully.

One thing is sure. This is the most debated papal encyclical letter in recent memory. The most debated in my lifetime was Pope Paul VI’s famous Humane Vitae.) Francis urgently calls on the entire world’s population to act, lest we leave to coming generations a planet of “debris, desolation and filth.” He writes: “An outsider looking at our world would be amazed at [our] behavior, which at times appears self-destructive,” the pope writes at one point in the letter.

Addressing world leaders directly, Francis asks: “What would induce anyone, at this stage, to hold on to power only to be remembered for their inability to take action when it was urgent and necessary to do so?”

Francis writes, “As often occurs in periods of deep crisis which require bold decisions, we are tempted to think that what is happening is not entirely clear. … Such evasiveness serves as a license to carrying on with our present lifestyles and models of production and consumption. This is the way human beings contrive to feed their self-destructive vices: trying not to see them, trying not to acknowledge them, delaying the important decisions and pretending that nothing will happen.”

I am not really amazed at how some Christians respond to issues like climate change. Their response is consistent with how they view a lot of issues. It seems to me that the following are (generally speaking) simple truisms:

  1. We have embraced a “confirmation bias” that causes us to lean into views that fit with our larger view of life. When anything challenges this view we quickly reject it as dangerous or foolish.
  2. We do “thought association” freely. In this case the pope writes about an issue that divides us politically so we attack his research and public conclusions based upon the notion that a pope has no business speaking to political concerns in this manner. If he does speak in such a manner it must be because he is a liberal who is not truly interest in freedom, jobs or the production of needed energy.
  3. We defend macro-business by giving it a virtual “free pass” to pollute the environment because we do not see creative ways to save money and improve life and (also) protect the environment. Let me ask some simple questions: “Let’s assume that climate science has gotten this issue wrong. We then work to clean up the planet for the next five decades only to see that very little changes. Isn’t it better that we tried to improve our response to the earth than to have done little or nothing at all? Isn’t a greener and safer planet a responsible goal even if it creates some financial hardship temporarily? Or is the only thing that really matters how much gas and oil we can produce so that we can live the good life that we are accustomed to living in the industrialized West?”

It is particularly interesting that this document shows a notable reorientation of the church’s understanding of the human person, from a being that dominates over God’s gifts to one that responsibly serves creation as a human steward of God’s earth. The first view has been defended by some Christians because of Genesis 1:27, a text which remarkably supports creation care.

The title Laudato Si’ comes from St. Francis of Assisi’s famous 13th-century prayer “The Canticle of the Creatures.” Translated into English it means either “Be praised” or “Praised be.” It is an Umbrian-Italian phrase that was used throughout the prayer of St. Francis to give thanks to God for creation.

Two Catholic U.S. presidential candidates have already attacked the document. Now Mitt Romney has shown a willingness to embrace the pope’s ideas. I am watching closely to see how this gigantic field of GOP candidates responds since their 2012 standard-bearer has embraced the basic ideas of the pope.

I have not read the document in entirety but plan to do so this week. Based upon reports from those who have read it the main issues and themes touched upon in the letter include:

•Environmental degradation causing lack of access to drinking water, loss of biodiversity, and decline in quality of human life;

•Pervasive global inequity that leaves billions experiencing “ecological debt”;

•The search for long-term solutions to replace fossil fuels and other unsustainable energies;

•Tying together the ecological crisis with a global social crisis that leaves the poorest in the world behind and does not make them part of international decision-making;

•Changes in global lifestyle that could “bring healthy pressure to bear on those who wield political, economic and social power.”

Posted in American Evangelicalism, Culture, Current Affairs, Environmentalism, Ethics, Ideology, Roman Catholicism, The Future | 8 Comments/Likes

Pope Francis Speaks to the John 17 Movement at Pentecost Celebration

I have mentioned in the past few months that I am deeply supportive of what is called the John 17 Movement. This movement held a wonderful Pentecost event in  Phoenix, Arizona, last Saturday, May 23. The event was at the Phoenix Convention Center. I could not attend but spoke by video to this gathering. The same friends who invited me to address this magnificent crowd also invited Pope Francis to speak. Here is his address given from his office at the Vatican. Watch it and then pray for the unity of the church of Jesus Christ globally. His words about the role of theologians are so moving and faithful. Pray for Pope Francis and then pray for the unity of the church.

Posted in ACT 3, Current Affairs, Missional-Ecumenism, Personal, Roman Catholicism, The Church, The Future, Unity of the Church | 11 Comments/Likes