ACT3 Network Video: An Introduction to Our Mission

Last fall (2014) a friend, who is a professional videographer with solid credentials, partnered with me to make a new video. Another friend gave ACT3 a generous gift to make this new “ACT3 Introduction” video. This has been on our home page for several months but not on the blog site.

Today I am pleased to tell you that I believe this to be the best presentation of our vision and work that we’ve ever made. It gets to the point by telling a narrative that works well in relating the work of our mission. Please pass this along to your friends and please do pray for me and the growing work of ACT3.


Westminster Theological Seminary – Can Institutions Respond to Controversy in Radical Love? (Seven)

Unknown-2In this, my final post about the culture and conflict at Westminster Theological Seminary (if you do not know what this is about then see my posts from last week) I offer some more thoughts about how a “spirituality of love” could transform the institution inside and out. I offer these points very sincerely and in hopes that some will hear me and act in faith to seek a better WTS.

  1. Amy Uelmen, in her aforementioned book, Positive Political Dialogue, says that the fourth step to a “spirituality of love” in political contexts is to “recognize suffering as a springboard to love.” The suffering that has transpired at Westminster Seminary is immense. I do not know the future of the school but I have to guess that this new controversy is not the end. Some may celebrate that they have “cleaned house.” I hope this is not the case. Will more bodies fall and more faculty leave, some for very different reasons than the Christotelic debates about hermeneutics? Amy Uelmen asks, working out of a “spirituality of love,” the following:

Westminster Theological Seminary – Can Institutions Respond to Controversy in Radical Love? (Part Six)

Unknown-3I began, in yesterday’s post, to offer my ideas about how a “spirituality of love” could transform the landscape of an institution such as Westminster Theological Seminary (WTS). Westminster is a school that has been known for internal controversy as much as almost any such conservative seminary that I know in the United States. WTS has had a major impact on many graduates and has clearly done a great deal of good, especially in terms of its high level of academic accomplishment. Yet the seminary has always struggled, so it seems to me as a long time friend, to become a community of love. It has been embroiled in controversy after controversy among members of the faculty, administration and (even) students for several decades or more.

What I propose could be applied to many seminaries as well as other kinds of institutions. This is why I have given this series the title that I have above. Today I add four new points to what I began proposing yesterday on how radical love could transform the seminary.

  1. Westminster could make it a priority

Westminster Theological Seminary – Can Institutions Respond to Controversy in Radical Love? (Part Five)

UnknownA common view, at least within many evangelical circles, is that a “culture” cannot be changed. Before I proceed to argue against this view let me define my terms just a bit.

I am using the word “culture” as it has evolved in English usage through the social sciences. It came to refer, in the 20th century, to a central concept within anthropology that encompassed the range of human phenomena that cannot be directly attributed to genetic inheritance. Specifically, the term “culture” has two meanings:

  1. The evolved human capacity to classify and represent experiences with symbols and to act imaginatively and creatively.
  2. The distinct ways that people, who live differently, classified and represented their experiences, and acted creatively.

It is this second use that I have in mind in my title for this series of blogs. Can a seminary, such as Westminster in Philadelphia, experience a significant cultural change that would make it look, feel and function like a different institution?

How could the institutional culture at Westminster Theological Seminary be truly changed? How could the present members

Westminster Theological Seminary – Can Institutions Respond to Controversy in Radical Love? (Part Four)

UnknownA friend has asked me, “John, can you market a seminary today without suggesting that we are the really faithful heirs of our particular tradition?” He added, “Could a school market itself as a loving, caring, and biblical community and still succeed?” My answer is that this is the only way in which I think a school will survive, and thrive, in the next two decades.  I am persuaded that the next generation of young students will not buy the old way of selling a school’s uniquely distinctive views as over against other similar institutions that are not that remarkably different from each other. In the conservative Reformed world there has been a vast expansion of total seminaries since 1970, including at least eight new schools opening in the last forty years or so. But of the thirteen schools that come to mind in this part of the church ten of these seminaries are non-aligned in terms of church affiliation; the three aligned schools are Calvin (CRC), Erskine (ARPC) and Covenant (PCA). Does this independence lead toward another evidence of the function of

Westminster Theological Seminary – Can Institutions Respond to Controversy in Radical Love (Part Three)

There have been a number of previous controversies at Westminster Theological Seminary (PA). In the middle of the last decade there was one that many believe is linked (in some way) to the “retirement” issue of Doug Green. The Enns debate surrounded the teaching of Dr. Peter Enns, an Old Testament professor who left the faculty six years ago. It is widely believed that some of the issues regarding the teaching of Pete Enns, according to people on both sides of the current 2014 Douglas Green controversy, should be understood in the broader context of the seminary’s debate over hermeneutics. Dr. Enns resigned, under considerable duress, in 2008. The issue surrounding Enns’ teaching grew out of the publication of his book, Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament (Baker, 2005). Unknown This book was unfavorably reviewed in the magazine of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. A battle about what Enns wrote followed. Articles appeared in academic journals and many people beyond the school were hard pressed to understand the central issue. I recall reviewing the book myself and then reading the review published in

Bible Reading or Bible Engaging?

UnknownMy own tradition puts a lot of emphasis upon reading the Bible, even reading it each day as a part of morning devotional practice. I heard about Bible reading from as far back as I can remember. I also read the Bible at the breakfast and dinner table with my family. As soon as I was old enough to read the Bible for myself I delighted in reading the text. I was given my first Bible, which I still possess, at age six. My mother’s inscription reminds me of the supreme value that we placed upon Scriptures in our family and church.

It is often shocking to people with my background to realize that for centuries, before movable type and the printing press, almost no Christians “read” the Bible. Christians in the early church did not “read” the Bible either. Most of them only “heard” it read and most of the time they only heard the Old Testament until centuries after Pentecost. This is why 1 Timothy 4:13 says: “Until I arrive, give attention to the public reading

In Search of Deep Faith

3774I had the joy of meeting Dr. Jim Belcher some years ago when he pastored Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Newport Beach, California. I cultivated a growing relationship with Jim, and his family, and spoke several times to his congregation. I was loved and honored and thus retain great memories of those days where Jim and I shared ministry together. Jim eventually wrote a great book that many of you have read – Deep Church: A Third Way Beyond Emerging and Traditional (InterVarsity, 2009). If you have not read this book it is a must for a balanced and deeply thoughtful treatment about our present moment and how to think and live missionally and intentionally. I was able to contribute a very small part of my life to serving Jim in the making of this fine book, a book which received two awards in 2010: The Christianity Today Book Award winner and the Golden Canon Leadership Book Award. Again, if you haven’t read it then I profoundly commend Deep Church to you.

Now Jim has written a second

Pray for Sister Madge and the Mission of Christ in South Africa

Sister Madge Karecki is a dear friend to me and many others. Madge knows how to make and enjoy deep friendships like few people that I have met in the last several years. Sadly, at least for her scores of friends here in Chicago, Madge was called to be the president of the only Catholic college in the nation of South Africa. At the end of November she left Chicago for her new appointment. (The photo below was taken at a Midwest Missions Fellowship meeting where I spoke the day before Madge left for South Africa!)

KODAK Digital Still CameraMadge Karecki, OSC, is a Franciscan Sister (Sisters of St. Joseph of the Third Order of St. Francis) who was born in Chicago, Illinois. She has degrees in both spirituality and missiology from St. Bonaventure University in New York and The University of South Africa. She was a missionary in South Africa for 21 years. Before returning to the USA in her response to the continued call to Christian mission, she was an Associate Professor of Missiology and Christian

Do You Want to Understand Others?

UnknownResearch released last week suggests that if you want to better equip people to understand others, and help their mental well-being, you should encourage them to put down their popular, commercial fiction and read more classic literary fiction.

In a series of experiments, participants read a short passage, and then completed several tasks, including one in which they were encouraged to identify people’s facial expressions in photos. (I confess this type of social psychology and study deeply fascinates me.) Analysts said that when people read the less commercial fiction the response in their performance temporarily improved. (This research, according to an October 4 USA Today story, was done by David Comer Kidd and Emanuele Castano of the New York School for Social Research in New York.) Kidd says, “The effect was the same (even for not particularly well-read subjects) . . . if they pick up a work of literary fiction and read it, they will be more sensitive to other people’s subjective states.” But why is this true?

Castano says that he believes this is true because literary