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Displaying all posts tagged "Church".
Un Done - Part One: A Reflection on the Forum Experience
February 12, 2015 | Jeanna Boase
Un Done - Part One: A Reflection on the Forum Experience
Today I read an article titled “The Rise of the ‘Done with Church’ Population.” The article details how many faithful, active church members are leaving simply because of what can only be described as being “done with church.” About two years ago, I was “done with church.” I hit a wall of what I would call “Christianese Burn Out.” I was exhausted from countless talks, prayer meetings, small group gatherings, Bible studies, and mission trips. The Christian world I was a part of did not connect with my experience of an interior desert walk, following in cracked and painful footsteps of the suffering Christ. Instead, it seemed all I heard of from the front was about being carried by the “arms of grace.” At least that was what I heard at the prayer meetings and church services I attended, religiously. I grew up in a strong Christian family, and chose to personally follow Jesus 14 years ago. I have been active in ministry work around the world, and involved in several intentional community movements. If I were to crunch some numbers, I would estimate that over the last 14 years I have listened to approximately 1800 talks, participated in over 2000 bible studies or small groups, and attended over 1500 church services. And yet, even with all of this “discipleship,” “community,” and “formation,” I found I was done, or almost, done. I attended my first TCF forum about 18 months ago. The delicious food, engaging people, and comfortable environment invited me in, sparking my curiosity. I sat facing a few friends and a few strangers and we began to share, to listen, to be together; we began to “forum.” During my first listening forum, I discovered in a new way the voices of God’s people. And I haven’t looked back since. Through collaborating with the TCF team, I have fallen in love with the “forum” model, and have had the amazing opportunity to introduce over 40 people to this new kind of conversation. The article referenced at the beginning says “The ‘Dones’ are fatigued with the Sunday routine of plop, pray and pay. They want to play. They want to participate. But they feel spurned at every turn.” I was among that group. I felt unheard, unknown, but also disconnected because I didn’t have opportunities to hear the voices of God’s people around me. The forum setting, the paradigm shift of “challenges as opportunities,” the face-to-face honest interaction, and the hospitality of TCF has begun to bring me back from “done.” Through the over 20 forums I have been involved with, I have heard the beautiful harmony of the voices of the other. I have found a way to create spaces where participation is the point, laughter and tears are standard fare, and where real openness around hard and challenging issues serves as the catalyst for a conversation that is never “done.” Within the diversity of experience, practice, expression, and perspective I have encountered through “foruming,” I have found a new hope. I have sat face-to-face with those I love and those I deeply disagree with, I have heard their heart and firmly held beliefs, and in the midst of it all I have been drawn back into the possibility of a new way, a new kind of conversation for the church and God’s people.   Noelle Gornik is the Office and Program Coordinator at the Issachar Fund.  Noelle has global program development, implementation, and coordination experience. Before joining the Issachar Fund, Noelle worked in program coordination for several organizations including Cornerstone Development based in Kampala, Uganda and ORA International based in Andorf, Austria.  Noelle has a BA in International Relations and African Studies from Grand Valley State University.
TCF in TIME
January 30, 2015 | Jeanna Boase
TCF in TIME
The Colossian Forum’s work was recently recognized by a brief mention in Time magazine. In her article “A Change of Heart,” author Elizabeth Dias writes that we’re working with Justin Lee and Alan Chambers to “help evangelicals warm to the gay conversation.” This comment is so brief—and so easily misunderstood—that we thought we’d take a moment to clarify why we’re so excited about our work with Justin, Alan, and many other friends on these issues. It’s true that The Colossian Forum is heavily invested in helping the church engage difficult conversations, and questions surrounding homosexuality top most folks’ lists. The nuance that perhaps got missed is that our work isn’t about helping the church move towards a particular stance on gay marriage. Rather, we’re focused on helping the body of Christ, in community, to hold this difficult conversation in a way that builds up rather than tears down. This means that voices on the left and the right get heard and the brothers and sisters on the left and the right learn to love one another while still holding firm to their convictions. We’re firmly convinced that our differences on this issue do indeed offer an occasion, albeit a difficult one, for us to grow in the fruit of the Spirit. It’s exactly here that we learn to love each other with joy, peace, patience, and so on (Gal. 5:22-23). As we hold to our convictions—though they differ widely—we have the unique opportunity to also hold to the deep truth that in Christ “all things hold together” (Col. 1:17). In the summer of 2014, we hosted a weeklong Colossian Forum with Christian scholars and leaders on the topic of human sexuality. Some of these leaders rarely have opportunities to speak forthrightly from their very different convictions, to listen carefully to each other, and to worship our one Lord together. As part of that event, we invited local Christians to join us for an evening of worship and conversation. Our participants continued their exchange in this public setting, without any script, but with faith overcoming their trepidation. It was far from perfect, of course, with creaky floors and glaring lights serving as backdrops to painful questions and sometimes strained responses. We’ve still got a lot to learn and more voices to include, but in the midst of it all, the Holy Spirit’s presence was evident and it was a remarkable evening. As participants worked to extend grace to one another, even while maintaining strongly opposing viewpoints, the fruit of the Spirit was on display in beautiful ways. And because of it, the audience got to see something different from the typical FOX/MSNBC bickering: brothers and sisters in Christ modeling his love across their disagreements, thereby pointing to something deeper and richer than either one side or the other could have alone. The folks who attended the event as observers overwhelmingly described this as a positive first step, a faithful model of engaging difference as an opportunity for discipleship rather than a threat to our faith. Their experience encourages us to make footage of those evenings available as an introduction to our work. These films aren’t perfect, just like the events weren’t, but then, they’re not about us. They’re about the Holy Spirit who displayed himself in the midst of the broken yet incarnate body of Christ—the church, and we dare not hide this light under a bushel, even though it will inevitably draw fire. Despite the humble nature of the films, I think you’ll agree that they reveal the Holy Spirit doing something new, making possible a strikingly different way to engage these contentious issues, one which may help us all warm to a conversation that draws us into deeper, faithful discipleship!
Stewarding Conflict
October 29, 2014 | Lori Wilson
Stewarding Conflict
As churches across America wrestle with difficult conversations - sometimes poorly and sometimes well - there is a great deal we can learn from one another. TCF is grateful for the many Christians we encounter who are willing to share their experience and wisdom in transforming conflict into an opportunity for spiritual growth. From time to time, you’ll find those resources posted here to encourage your pursuit of faithful discipleship in the midst of conflict. At the recent Annual Session of the Indiana-Michigan Mennonite Conference, Pastor Mark Schloneger introduced the Unity and Variance Discernment Task Force, a small team charged with exploring ways to engage difference in a constructive and transformative way. His talk inspires listeners to develop the capacity to “steward conflict” well, as a way forward in the midst of painful issues that threaten to divide. Mark then introduces Michael Gulker, President of TCF, who reflects on the nature of Christ’s sacrificial love for us – and how this love gives shape and meaning to our own work to love one another, even in the midst of difference. The IN-MI Mennonite Conference has generously offered to share the audio of these messages with you, in hopes that it will encourage you to work in your own context to transform conflict and division into an opportunity for faithful discipleship.  
Resources to Explore: Christian Faithfulness & Human Sexuality
August 16, 2014 | Lori Wilson
Resources to Explore: Christian Faithfulness & Human Sexuality
The Colossian Forum has spent the last week with a variety of scholars, pastors, teachers, and leaders, engaging hard questions about human sexuality. For many, engagement with these issues is fraught with difficulty, confusion, frustration, and disagreement. As Christians continue to engage with these issues, however, it will be very important to understand and converse with a variety of perspectives and people, so that we can know better how to reach out together to our world with the Gospel. To this end, we have asked the contributors to this gathering to recommend for us some of their personal books, websites, and resources in engaging with faith, science, and culture on these hard questions. As you will see, these resources represent a broad variety of Christian perspectives. We share them with you as an encouragement that the church can enter into this conversation without fear, testifying to the truth that somehow, this too “holds together in Christ.”  Ron Belgaucityofgod.netspiritualfriendship.org Alan Chambersalanchambers.org Christopher Damianspiritualfriendship.orguniversityideas.wordpress.comWendy Gritternewdirection.ca Harold Heierespectfulconversation.netEvangelicals on Public Policy IssuesWesley Hillspiritualfriendship.orgWashed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality Justin Leejustinlee.cogaychristian.netTorn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays-Vs.-Christians Debate Tim Ottoorientedtofaith.comOriented to Faith: Transforming the Conflict over Gay Relationships Mark Yarhousesexualidentityinstitute.orgfacebook.com/issi.siteUnderstanding Sexual IdentityHomosexuality and the Christian  This guest post was contributed by friend of TCF Christopher Damian, who graduated from the University of Notre Dame in 2013 with a B.A. in philosophy. He currently serves as a Terrence J. Murphy Fellow at the University of St. Thomas, where he is pursuing a J.D. and an M.A. in Catholic Studies. He has broad and varied interests, including the history and philosophy of education, Christian philosophy, political theory, sex and sexuality, virtue ethics, professional development, and the new legal economy. He has written for Spiritual Friendship, Ethika Politika, The Intercollegiate Review, The Observer, The Irish Rover, Millennial Journal, and Crisis Magazine. In his free time, he enjoys playing piano and writing reviews of coffee shops in the Twin Cities area.
The History of a Wicked Problem
October 29, 2013 | Lori Wilson
The History of a Wicked Problem
This week’s conversation with our gathering of local leaders took a bit of a twist, as we explored how the church has wrestled with and “solved” a wicked technological problem. The Pill – a technological innovation that has occasioned no small amount of controversy – presents a sort of case study for both positive and negative ways of engaging new tools. The Roman Catholic church has of course maintained a strict position on this issue, which, if it suggests a number of troubling questions, is nevertheless a well-thought-out and consistent approach. The Protestant church, on the other hand, has largely relegated decisions about the Pill (and contraception, more broadly) to the private sphere. While this allows the individual believer to adopt what she or he believes to be a faithful response, it tends to leave some of us floundering, trying to sort out on our own the ethical and even theological implications of human sexuality and procreation. Many of the questions engendered by this technology remain largely unaddressed. As we continue to grapple with the fallout of the Sexual Revolution, might we need to reexamine the “unbounded freedom” promised by the Pill? What are the effects on a church community when we absolutely privatize these decisions? What does it mean to remain open to God’s leading while practicing “family planning?” This contraceptive “tool” has typically been either categorically refused or uncritically embraced – and in either case, considered a problem solved. One of the hallmarks of a wicked problem, however, is that it has no one single, permanent solution.  These various ways of thinking about a single contraceptive technology illustrate the ways in which we might make progress on an issue, while nevertheless discovering along the way that questions remain unanswered. How then might we hope to make headway? One practice might include committing ourselves to the uncomfortable task of keeping the conversation alive. Silence may be a less awkward approach, but it guarantees that, as a church body, we will fail to make progress in wisdom or obedience regarding this particular issue. As one of our participants noted, perhaps marital counseling should encourage couples to consider these difficult questions. Another commented that our congregations ought to be places where folks can work through difficult ethical tensions like these. Furthermore, for problems like these, the faithful Christian response involves learning how to live faithfully “in the midst” of the problem.  As this group continues to meet, our conversations are helping us develop some of the virtues that will help us do this well – among these honesty and patience, a willingness to confront our own blind spots, and to trust God’s goodness with the “wickedness” of what we don’t yet understand.
A pastor tells his story:
What I’ve Learned from Scientists (So Far)
August 23, 2013 | Lori Wilson
A pastor tells his story:
What I’ve Learned from Scientists (So Far)
A recent article in the Huffington Post Religion section, What I’ve Learned from Scientists (So Far), tells the promising story of a pastor currently participating in the Templeton Foundation’s “Scientists in Congregations” project.  Rev. William Lovin, a pastor in Iowa City, writes about the revitalized conversation between scientists and other members of his congregation. The program was designed to help break some of the gridlock in the faith and science arena, as individuals from diverse backgrounds enter into conversations specifically situated within the context of the church. In Lovin’s case, the developing dialogue has helped him better understand the scientists in his congregation. He respects their staunch commitment to asking questions and working for the truth – all the while choosing to “keep their faith.” Notably, most of these scientists do not experience irreconcilable differences between their work and their faith – as Lovin writes, “the ‘war’ between science and religion [is] being waged someplace else.” As a short piece for an online news source, this article necessarily leaves open some questions for a theologically-minded reader. How, for instance, do these scientists reconcile some of the “problem” questions which often trouble many Christians? How might the evolutionary biologists to which Lovin refers engage with Scripture’s creation narratives?  How, in turn, might the church respond to claims made by scientists that seem to undermine significant elements of faith? What I’ve Learned from Scientists (So Far) may not answer all our questions. It does, however, tell the story of Christians committed to working together on difficult problems. It inspires hope in the possibility of congregations not divided, but united, in seeking a common life and faith. It tells the story of a community of Christians who embody the confidence that “in Christ, all things hold together” (Colossians 1:17).
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