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Displaying all posts tagged "Young people".
Formed Through the Crucible of Conflict
October 12, 2016 | Michael Gulker
Formed Through the Crucible of Conflict
Our president, Michael Gulker, wrote an article for the recent CSE (Christian School Education) magazine about finding our way through conflict when teaching about faith and science. Enjoy! We had gathered in hopes of using tough, complex conversations like evolution as occasions to deepen faith and witness to the truth that all things hold together in Christ (Colossians 1:17). But things sure didn't feel like they were holding together as we factionalized into two groups--those insisting on the authority of Scripture and those insisting on the need to take science seriously and teach it with integrity. Things had started so well. We began the two-day retreat in prayer and worship, meditating on Mary's annunciation in Luke 1, reflecting on what it might mean for Christ to be born in us in the midst of a pressured conversation like evolution. Later, we read Psalm 22, the opening line of which Jesus quoted from the cross--"My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" How are we to act when we, who have been given authority for both the intellectual and spiritual formation of our students, come face-to-face with challenging conversations that threaten to call our own faith into question? How are we to balance our teaching authority and our confidence in Scripture with openness and vulnerability to new learning? And what, in our culture, did students need to see most--a tidy answer or a faithful question to a God whom we can trust to see things through even we we can't? You can read the rest of the article from CSE here.
Teaching faith and science? This new website changes everything.
September 14, 2016 | Jennifer Vander Molen
Teaching faith and science? This new website changes everything.
From TCF’s earliest days, our staff has worked closely with high school teachers to help students engage with difficult questions in the arena of faith and science. Young people so often feel the pinch of our culture’s inability to handle conflict well—but we’re convinced that the church can show them a better way. In order to help educators address these unique concerns, TCF has collaborated with the Kuyers Institute on the three-year FAST (Faith And Science Teaching) Project to create and launch teachFASTly.com. Designed by teachers for teachers, teachFASTly.com promotes an integrated, intentional, and creative approach to teaching and learning at the intersection of faith and science. The site offers hundreds of free, ready-to-use activities organized by subject area. It also features a robust resource section containing practical teaching strategies and conceptual resources. Teaching FASTly means teaching in a way that allows both faith and science to remain in play, each with its own integrity, neither canceling out the other. The website was designed to support teachers in their efforts to engage students as whole persons, honoring their range of beliefs, commitments, feelings, and relationships. TeachFASTly.com focuses on both information and formation as students engage big questions. The FAST Project is a collaborative endeavor that draws on the expertise of high school teachers, scholars, writers, and web developers. It is made possible through the support of a grant from the John Templeton Foundation.
Millennials Pursue Unity: Expanding Our Horizons
June 1, 2016 | Jennifer Vander Molen
Millennials Pursue Unity: Expanding Our Horizons
Rebecca Kates, former intern at The Colossian Forum, wrote a series of blog posts for us about millennials and how they see and pursue unity. Here’s part one, part two, part three, part four, part five and part six of the series. She recently graduated with a masters degree in Theological Studies at Calvin Theological Seminary, and we’re thrilled to share her insights with you. Perfect unity and reconciliation across denominations, political affiliations, nationalities, economic levels and races is beyond our abilities and even our vision as Oscar Romero points out. Still it is the work of God to bring the kingdom and he invites us into the work he is about. Depending on how it is done, being challenged by Christians from different traditions is a great experience. It is an experience that can, at times, be elusive in our society where it is so easy to segregate.  That is why it is so important to seek out opportunities to meet with people who are different from us. The Colossian Forum model of using prayer, worship and discussions to grow in Christian love of God and neighbor while engaging challenging topics is an essential practice in developing an “ecumenical reflex”. A reflex that John Radano describes as “a conscious urge and commitment, despite major problems, to continue the reconstitution of the unity of Christians.” (John A. Radano, “The Future of Our Journey: Issues Facing Ecumenism” in Ecumenical Trends 37, no. 5 (2008): 4/68-10/74.) In the mess and confusion of bringing different traditions together, we have the chance of expanding our horizons. We can do this in many ways and it can be done in a myriad of ways. The first step may be placing ourselves somewhere where we have the chance to encounter the other. Some people might move to a neighborhood where people do not all look the same or live the same way. It might mean a church pastor or priest calling up the church leader of the ministry or church down the street and collaborating on some project to reach out to the neighborhood. It could mean turning off the television and inviting someone you don’t know over to dinner or riding the bus instead of driving. It is important for younger generations to see older generations committed to loving their neighbors and reconciliation across peoples. There are many different areas for the church to pursue unity and reconciliation. Transforming conflicts into opportunities could bring both healing and excitement for many in the church.
Millennials Pursue Unity: The Full Range of Possibility
May 25, 2016 | Jennifer Vander Molen
Millennials Pursue Unity: The Full Range of Possibility
Rebecca Kates, former intern at The Colossian Forum, wrote a series of blog posts for us about millennials and how they see and pursue unity. Here’s part one, part two, part three, part four, and part five of the series. She recently graduated with a masters degree in Theological Studies at Calvin Theological Seminary, and we’re thrilled to share her insights with you. A deep commitment to reconciliation may be the difficult work that begins to bring back this generation. The past century has seen great divisions but also great pushes toward reconciliation and often, young people have been the drivers. In the 60s young people were fed up with seeing the injustices of racial segregation and persecution (something which the church still needs to face). Michael Novak commented in 1969, Segregation is a great human evil precisely because it is a narrow prison--a prison for both groups who are segregated one from another. Each segregated group settles for less than the full range of human possibilities. Each makes a clay god out of its own “way of life” and in the name of that idol cuts human aspirations down to size until each individual is mutilated enough to fit “in his place.” --Identity and Intimacy. In A Theology for Radical Politics (p. 40). New York, New York: Herder and Herder New York. When we are segregated from one another, we miss out on our full potential, which is something very important to young people. Though progress has been made in some areas of our culture to bring people together, there is a great deal more to be done. Segregation pops up in many forms. We are now more than ever separated from our neighbors. We have our private suburban homes, our own yards surrounded by a picket fence. We must drive everywhere we need to go, in our own cars, bypassing any opportunity to get to know our neighbors. The very structure of sprawling cities with no urban center promotes segregation. Similarly, our church experience is often just as segregated as the rest of our lives, as churches have split in so many ways as to allow everyone to choose what accommodates them. Perhaps young people leave the church because they aren’t experiencing the full range of human possibility that comes with diversity and reconciliation. Michael Novak further comments, To some extent, a man needs at least two communities if he is to find himself. If he is a member of one community only, the inertia of human life seems to be such that his identity is handed to him too easily; social pressures tell him who he is. But expose a man to the possibilities of another community of life and instantly psychic energies are released, confusion arises, and the germs of creativity begin to multiply in the chaos. --Identity and Intimacy. In A Theology for Radical Politics (p. 40). New York, New York: Herder and Herder New York. So much life can be brought to a community when diversity and reconciliation is embraced. When we are confronted with big questions we are forced to either have faith in God or give up in despair. Though falling into despair is a risk, we never fully grow into the mature daughters and sons that God has called us to be without facing big questions and wrestling with differences. Several responses in the survey discussed in the previous blogs illustrate this point: As members of different churches we have different approaches to the ways that we live our faith. Some of the comments, prayers and discussions that sisters and brothers from another denomination can bring forward are sometimes things we would have never thought about but that truly strengthen our faith. Challenging but worth it. I continue to choose an ecumenical life because I can't see my life without the richness of daily ecumenism. My Christian spirituality would be poorer without it. There are misunderstandings, carelessness, and insensitivity involved, but also so much depth. I HAVE to talk about certain theological and practical differences with my friends because I can't take it for granted that we agree (or disagree!). … It challenges me to know my own tradition better, because I get asked about things regularly. If I were only around other Anglicans, I probably wouldn't know Anglicanism as well as I do - because other Anglicans don't ask me questions about it! Our culture’s response to disagreements is often to embrace relativism or to segregate in order to not have to deal with the difficulty of working together. Though this is hard work, the students who participated in trying to live together in discipleship despite having lots of big questions found it overwhelmingly worth it. Many young people want to be challenged. They don’t mind when people do not have all the answers. They want to be at peace with the discomfort that diversity can bring, and perhaps more fundamentally, they want the commitment to one another that is stronger than the disagreements between them.
Millennials Pursue Unity: The Commitment Problem
May 18, 2016 | Jennifer Vander Molen
Millennials Pursue Unity: The Commitment Problem
Rebecca Kates, former intern at The Colossian Forum, wrote a series of blog posts for us about millennials and how they see and pursue unity. Here’s part one, part two, part three, and part four of the series. She recently graduated with a masters degree in Theological Studies at Calvin Theological Seminary, and we’re thrilled to share her insights with you. I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, ... and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Attila and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn't quite make out. I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn't make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet. -- Sylvia Plath, the Bell Jar Having worked a number of years in two different college ministries and attended a variety of conferences on youth ministry, I have often heard youth ministers (myself included) lament the lack of commitment of my generation and younger. Young adults these days move from place to place; they have so many choices that many struggle so much with choosing a path that they risk not committing to anything. This is proclaimed as one of the problems contributing to young people leaving the church or the difficulty of doing effective ministry among them. Lack of commitment makes this generation difficult to reach. While it may be true that young adults have problems with commitment, the Church has itself struggled with commitment long before this generation came to be. In order to be committed to something, a person or church must have a good practice of reconciliation when disagreements inevitably arise. Instead, when things get tough, we have seen the church splinter in thousands of different directions. Many churches may not see this as a problem because they focus on what Chris Rice and Emmanuel Katongole in their book Reconciling All Things call a “gospel of evacuation.” This gospel focuses almost exclusively on personal piety, well-being, and individual reconciliation with God rather than a gospel that transforms people and the brokenness of social realities and history. With a sole focus on personal piety and a person’s salvation only for an eternal afterlife somewhere else, the brokenness of much of church and society can be ignored. But the good news of the gospel is to bring shalom for all of creation -people, the environment, social structures, and more. Many young adults value authenticity and will use it as an excuse to not go to church because the rituals seem inauthentic to them. What they could be rightly pointing out is that the gospel the church proclaims is not being reflected in the churches seeking out reconciliation with others. Too easily we shut out people instead.
Millennials Pursue Unity: The Front Lines of Ecumenism
May 11, 2016 | Jennifer Vander Molen
Millennials Pursue Unity: The Front Lines of Ecumenism
Rebecca Kates, former intern at The Colossian Forum, wrote a series of blog posts for us about millennials and how they see and pursue unity. Here’s part one, part two and part three of the series. She recently graduated with a masters degree in Theological Studies at Calvin Theological Seminary, and we’re thrilled to share her insights with you. Over the past several months, a group of friends and I have engaged in a series of forums regarding issues important to Millennials in the Church. Topics have included poverty and economics, environmental issues, submission in the Church, and many more. These are topics that are extremely important to the Body of Christ in the present era, but the Church is by no means unified on the answers. For these forums, young people from many different denominations have been present as we enjoyed food and drink, laughed and prayed together. Many of our participants have expressed a feeling of excitement, belonging, and rejuvenation in the midst of these conversations. How is it that in the midst of what should be contentious issues, these people have found a sense of community and belonging? What is it about these experiences that people find good and life-giving? In my previous blogs (read part one, part two, and part three), I discussed the great potential for the Church to grow in unity. I suggested that this could be the missing factor that could draw people of my generation back to the church. The question now is what are the benefits and challenges of engaging in this sort of exercise in ecumenism? To explore this, I turn once again to the responses of over 300 young adult participants involved or previously involved in an ecumenical college ministry, University Christian Outreach. The participants came from a variety of nondenominational churches, Protestant, Roman Catholic and various Orthodox traditions. The participants engaged in a number of ecumenical practices including communal prayer, worship, spiritual conversations, Bible study, meals, and living situations. The model practiced here is similar to a model of receptive ecumenism where participants brought their beliefs and Christian practices from their backgrounds that could enrich and not compromise other participants beliefs and practices. These participants had overall agreement (86.6%) that knowing Christians from different denominations had drawn them closer to Christ. How did they build relationships and what obstacles did they have to overcome? A major challenge mentioned by participants was overcoming misconceptions they had of others or others had of them. 72.08% of participants agreed with the statement, “I had one or more misconceptions of a different denomination before meeting someone from that tradition.” Many of the participants’ misconceptions consisted of questioning the authenticity of another’s faith in Jesus based on how the person practiced or failed to practice various spiritual activities. Many did not understand the reason behind various practices. The following responses illustrate this: I had the misconception that Protestants were more about obeying God because if they don't they will burn in hell forever (as opposed to Catholics trying to do it more to please God and for love). I could overcome this prejudice by spending time, praying and worshiping with them to have an experience of my own which showed me that wasn't the case. I have been able to overcome other similar misconceptions the same say, perhaps being the most important one my relationship with Mother Mary and also the importance of the Sacraments for me. The biggest difficulty in building a relationship with my Greek Orthodox friend was not knowing different aspects of her faith. I did not understand why she had so many icons and why she prayed with them. I asked her a lot of questions about her denomination and she explained a lot of things to me. That helped us grow closer and overcome our differences with understanding. Some even encountered other Christians doubting their salvation or relationship with Jesus: I was once faced with a friend's parents and uncles having some doubts about me being saved because I was a Catholic. I had dinner at their house quite often so over time I was able to share my faith, mostly through talking about my relationship with God through Jesus and my service to church. They asked many questions so I was able to share my thoughts. It was helpful. They recognized my sincerity and dedication to evangelism and I think that helped break down some of their doubts about Catholicism or at the very least my own salvation. The whole experience showed me that they were concerned more for me than what denomination I was a part of and that was nice. They also grew to respect me. We still have a mutual respect for each other. I think there was an openness and a humility on both parts to stick to the friendship long enough to get to the point of mutual understanding and respect. Another difficulty that was fairly common for participants was facing triumphalist attitudes from other participants or feeling proselytized: A challenge that I have faced and continue to face is the stance of many Catholics on the inherent superiority of their church. On an emotional and intellectual level, I can feel offended or slighted by this. Here again, building relationships of trust has been key--when I have Catholic friends who I know respect me and respect my relationship with the Lord and knowledge of him, I am encouraged to be able to move forward in relationship with other Catholics, despite the overall stance that I find off putting. The biggest challenge I had was with some Eastern Orthodox. Though I adored many of their theological views, I often find dialogue strained by some of their exclusivist views on the Church. I found some EO believers who were more willing to believe that I, as a non-Orthodox Christian, am in the Church, but my heart was still broken about the majority who do not believe I am truly in the Church of Christ. Nevertheless, when I found out their willingness to be friends, and see the image of God in me, as well as their refusal to say I am bound to hell and that they were more than hopeful for my salvation, I found peace. It took listening, and it took humbling on my part to realize that our languages and worldviews are very different, but I am thankful we can at least all see God in one another. [Challenges arose] when he/she was more interested in his/her doctrine and converting me than in Christ's will! Though some complained about people assuming they had triumphalist attitudes: A lot of people assume that being a Catholic, I am not ecumenical, am arrogant about my tradition, and think all others are wrong. I find this a common misconception that people have towards Catholics. Sharing my testimony and about my relationship with Christ helps people see that it is not our tradition that defines us and the boundaries and characteristics about our relationship with Christ. Also telling them that I very strongly believe and encourage ecumenism is helpful. Many, however, found the attitude of downplaying the importance of differences to be challenging as one respondent put it: “A frustrating notion that there are "no big differences". Though many people found that they learned something from a Christian of a different denomination, the majority still believed that theological differences are important and that they are part of the tradition they believe is best. These sentiments are illustrated in the following survey results: 57.68% agree or strongly agree with the statement, “My church could learn from the doctrines of a different denomination.” 21.16% disagree or strongly disagree. 21.16% neither agree nor disagree. 61.17%, agree or strongly agree with the statement, “My church could learn from liturgical practices of a different denomination.” 18.56% disagree or strongly disagree. 20.27% neither agree nor disagree. 64.51% agree or strongly agree with the statement, “Theological differences between denominations are important.” 13.65% disagree or strongly disagree, and 21.84% neither agree nor disagree. 62.88% agree or strongly agree with the statement, “I am part of the denomination that I think is best.” 9.28% disagree or strongly disagree.  27.84% neither agree nor disagree. The survey also sought to answer the question, “what practices can Christians engage in to foster unity? Which practices are the least helpful?”

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