today being International Women's Day n' all... (originally International Working Women's Day) and since some of my friends are promoting this event IN THE COMPANY OF WOMEN - paying attention to the place of women in Christian ministry leadership...
I thought I would like to give a shout-out to some of the gifted and capable Christian women, in ministry leadership, who have influenced my life. I would have to say that the first woman I saw standing up front in church and doing stuff with skill and gifting was my mother Dorothy (I'm recollecting from about age 4 or 5, so mid-1960s through to the present day). Then I think of Mrs Christina Winslow (Faith Chapel), Miss Moyer, Miss Mouland (Dorion Bible Camp), Muriel Rorabeck. In fact, I can honestly say I don't remember hearing someone teach that women "shouldn't be in Christian leadership" until I was a teenager (mid-70s), by which time that thought just seemed confusing.
As I worked in Christian camping from my mid-teens to mid-20s, I was constantly working alongside gifted women leaders. I lived in an intentional discipleship community on Vancouver Island for a year, where Joan McKee gave leadership and Debbie Maxie and Gloria Troll planted a church. The mission society that I joined (WEC) welcomed strong, gracious, gifted women in ministry leadership (Racille, Lucille, Melita, Edie, Peggy). My first real assignment in Christian ministry (Student Mission Advance) was led by Nancy Bridgeman, with colleagues, Kathy Scott, Andrea Brandsma.
And then I met my wife Kathy. A confident, engaged, gifted, thoughtful and committed Christian (a nurse and actively involved with The Navigators). From day 1 we thought of our marriage and ministry involvement as wrapped up together. We have served together in ministry in Egypt, pastoring in Niagara Falls, church planting and community development in South Africa. She is an active contributor to our house church community here in Hamilton.
So, yeh, I wouldn't want to do it any other way...
Terror, Brexit and U.S. election have made 2016 the year of Yeats’s ‘Second Coming’ https://t.co/JLmOMCCJRD via @WSJ
A poem written by W B Yeats in 1919, just after WW 1.
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
Recapping my first post on "The Meaning of Sunday" -- It is no surprise to most Canadians that Christian religious presence is dwindling in our society. In fact the fastest growing sector in Canadian society is those who identify as having "No Religious Affiliation" -- now at 24% of our population (Census 2011). Over the past month I have been digging into the research of Canadian sociologist Joel Thiessen in his book The Meaning of Sunday(2015). Thiessen's work is based on qualitative social research that he conducted with 90 participants, 30 each of whom he describes as: "active affiliates" (those who regularly participate in a Christian community), "marginal affiliates" (those who rarely participate but still identify as some sort of Christian), and "religious nones" (those who have no involvement in a religious community).
While some in the Christian community want to make the issue of dwindling numbers a matter of "supply" -- that is, if we had a better product, whether preaching, music, programming, spiritual vitality, etc. -- numbers would return, Thiessen's research encourages us to take a broader look.
Thiessen says he seriously doubts whether marginal affiliates and religious nones (even though they might go to a candlelight service at Christmas or want to get married in a church) continue to give much thought to faith issues. In his research only about 35% of marginals and nones said they might consider greater involvement in a faith community -- more than half said they had no interest at all. So he asked those who expressed some interest in greater involvement, what would actually lead them to increased attendance in a faith community?
Important to remember from this info -- these are factors just for the small sector (35% of marginals and none) who said they "might" consider greater involvement if...
And Thiessen's point -- most of these factors, including the most substantial ones, are largely beyond the control of church "strategies" for increasing attendance, they are intangibles that are dependent upon 1) authentic disciple-making, creating an environment of caring koinonia and outward-oriented, authentic friending; and 2) family life factors that have nothing to do with people "in" church.
Thiessen also makes the point that, for the most part, people will continue being in the future, what they have been in the past -- something significant would have to intervene for most of the marginal affiliates and religious nones to make any changes to their present approach to faith issues.
(1 more post to come on thoughts about, for me, the most important reflection on Thiessen's research -- the role of Christian community in shaping belief, belonging and behaviour, that might have any hope of catching the attention of the majority of the Canadian population.)
morning reflections from Wittgenstein (I've been reading his biography the last couple months).... these comments relate to a lot of stuff that is going on in the public forum/world stage these days...
Thinking is sometimes easy, often difficult but at the same time thrilling. But when it's most important it's just disagreeable, that is when it threatens to rob one of one's pet notions and to leave one all bewildered and with a feeling of worthlessness. In these cases I and others shrink from thinking or can only get ourselves to think after a long sort of struggle. I believe that you too know this situation and I wish you lots of courage! though I haven't got it myself. We are all sick people.
...what is the use of studying philosophy if all that it does for you is enable you to talk with some plausibility about some abstruse questions of logic, etc., and if it does not improve your thinking about the important questions of everyday life, if it does not make you more conscientious...
You see, I know its difficult to think well about 'certainty', 'probability', 'perception', etc. But it is, if possible, still more difficult to think, or try to think, really honestly about your life and other people's lives. And the trouble is that thinking about these things is not thrilling, but often downright nasty. And when it's nasty then it's most important.
A couple months ago I was working with the leadership community of a local church who were thinking about their place(s) of engagement in the wider world. We had some great dialogue about our desire to solve other people's problems -- often without really listening to understand whose problem it was, really -- theirs or ours. Nathan sent me this link to an excellent article by Courtney Martin discussing this challenge. She describes this challenge as "the reductive seduction of other people's problems." Martin suggests that this reductive seduction is not malicious (i.e., people's motives are in the right place), but it may be reckless.
"First, it’s dangerous for the people whose problems you’ve mistakenly diagnosed as easily solvable. There is real fallout when well-intentioned people attempt to solve problems without acknowledging the underlying complexity."
"Second, the reductive seduction of other people’s problems is dangerous for the people whose problems you’ve avoided. While thousands of the country’s best and brightest flock to far-flung places to ease unfamiliar suffering and tackle foreign dysfunction, we’ve got plenty of domestic need."
She says lots of other really good things, then concludes with:
There’s a better way. For all of us. Resist the reductive seduction of other people’s problems and, instead, fall in love with the longer-term prospect of staying home and facing systemic complexity head on. Or go if you must, but stay long enough, listen hard enough so that “other people” become real people. But, be warned, they may not seem so easy to “save.”
The current refugee crisis -- as portrayed in the media -- is all about the thousands of refugees showing up in Europe, and now here in Canada. What has surprised me the most is the absolute vitriol showing up in social media from people opposed to settling the Syrian refugees -- many of them claiming to be Christians. On the other hand, these are a couple memes that I have appreciated.
Yesterday I spent the day with a group of Christian leaders who are deeply involved in refugee settlement and sponsorship processes, from across the country, talking about responses to the current environment. This was organized by the Refugee Highway Partnership, an ad-hoc working group of practitioners from around the world. We heard Christine MacMillan speak about her work with WEA as an advocate to the UN on refugee concerns and human trafficking. We heard from a refugee settlement worker in Malta, via skype. And we got a perspective on where the real crisis is -- and its not in Europe or Canada. Click here to see a map of where the greatest concentrations of refugees can be found. We also watched this video clip.
It seems quite obvious to me that one of the best things we can do in this crisis is help organizations working with the millions living in deplorable camp conditions, still in the Middle East, just waiting to return home. They don't want to migrate to Canada, but they do want to survive this winter. This is a clip from one of the organizations that I have consistently recommended over many years.
"I made this map to give people perspective on the Syrian refugees. The purple country is Turkey, they took in over 2,000,000 Syrian refugees and spent as estimated 4.5 billion USD, the green country is Jordan, They took in an estimated 1,400,000 Syrian refugees. Last but not least, That tiny red dot, that's Lebanon; Lebanon is the smallest country in continental Asia. Lebanon took in over 1,100,000 Syrian refugees. People want to ban Syrian refugees from Canada, saying 10,500,000 dollars is too much and 25,000 people is too much. We have a population of 35,160,000 people, in 2014-2015 we had a surplus of 1,900,000,000 dollars. Our government has yearly expenditures in the 270,000,000,000 range. Keep telling yourself we can't help. People are letting fear of ISIS try to stop us from helping people. In this world you can never be 100% safe, but the moment we stop looking after each other is the moment we give up on humanity. Let's continue to be a diverse country that accepts and helps people."
Rick Hiemstra, a researcher, from EFC recently had some comments on evangelical congregations in our Canadian context.
Essentially, we're increasingly finding ourselves on the periphery of culture. That is because there is a fairly aggressive civil religion emerging - WYRA (who you really are). The central notion is not that humans are separated from God, but that we lack knowledge of our true identity. Our culture proclaims that when we discover who we really are, we will discover a superhero or someone who has all the pieces put together. The orthodox Christian story is that who we really are is broken, warped people who need to meet Jesus and through transformative grace and healing come to look more and more like him. This is the heart of the conflict we are experiencing with our culture, differing views of our essential character and identity.
Questions about where we root justice and what's right and wrong are answered with: "right or wrong is based mostly on what I feel." So this emerging civil religion is built around personal subjectivity.
Christians need to find means for inserting an alternative story to this dominant motif. That God created good things, which we broke through our self-centred search for identity within ourselves. Restoration calls for re-orienting our lives around Jesus and a focus on God's kingdom concerns, rather than our own. And this is the foundation of social justice not rooted in personal subjectivity.
Article says more than 100,000 Canadians will travel abroad on voluntourism trips... But there have always been serious concerns about the efficacy of such trips for both participants and recipients.
CBC doc explores the issues.
A further article here lists some "voluntouring do's and don'ts" - like:
And an interesting TED-type talk here.
The fastest growing "religious" grouping in Canada is those who declare they have no religious affiliation on the census form (24% in 2011). For some of us, this grouping has become of particular interest. What does "good news" look like for those who could care less about church, Jesus and Christianity? This story is a look at some thinking and practice from others who are working on the same issues.