Why Church?

I often get a sense that as mainline Christians we don’t understand the significance of our work in the 21st century. Too often we get stuck as we look with dread at church decline and the growing numbers of “Spiritual but not Religious”, as if we are looking over a cliff with no way forward. Our response to this has been a series of reactions:

  • Denial with a myopic focus of doing what we have always done within the walls of the church
  • Making the church great again by claiming orthodoxy as ultimate morality
  • Tinkering at the edges and trying harder with what we know that doesn’t work
  • Micromanaging our limited resources of money and gifted leaders hoping that exerting more control will save the institution.

Not only are those responses unrealistic they are also very depressing because we end up wasting time and resources on things that no longer matter. We say we want to “make disciples of Christ for the transformation of the world”, but in all honesty I think it has become more of a rallying cry for saving the institution.

So really, why bother? Why is church so important anyway? And what would make it more relevant now than ever? Continue reading Why Church?

Finding our Moral Grounding in a Clash of Values

The religious minister has the obligation to defend values; what happens is that the political world can become overly scrupulous: it listens to a pastor and they say that he is preaching against so and so. We do not preach against anyone; we refer to the value that is in danger and that must be safeguarded. — Pope Francis “On Heaven and Earth”

There is an underlying narrative that we seem to be glossing over as we try to make sense of what happened in Charlottesville. It is the movement from modernism to post-modernism, from truth to post-truth, from purpose to nihilism, from traditional party politics to identity politics, from freedom to equality.

Our nation was founded upon Enlightenment principles, which are reflected in our Declaration of Independence, “We hold these Truths to be selfevident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

This was the modern era in which moral truths were self-evident and scientific truths were verifiable. It was a time when freedom of religion, speech and the right to bear arms were a reflection of these self-evident truths. As our country matured and our life conditions changed, we began to see that all Americans did not share these freedoms.

The counter-culture of the 1960’s called the country to move beyond freedom to equality with the feminist movement, civil rights and, finally, LGBTQ rights. As our world has become smaller through the rise of globalism and the advent of social media, we have begun to question our self-evident truths and, in recent years, even scientific truths–to the point where truth itself has become relative and personal, and objective news reporting is portrayed as “fake.”

One consequence of this post-truth world is that many are left either capitalizing on this with creating our own narcissistic social media world and/or falling into a nihilistic fatalism where nothing matters and there is no purpose in life. Continue reading Finding our Moral Grounding in a Clash of Values

The Naked Bike Ride to General Conference

Naked Bike Ride

In May 2016 the world is coming to my home – Portland, Oregon — a place where we proudly claim our weirdness and laugh along with episodes of “Portlandia” in an endearing way. We are into communal and laid back living, farm to table eating, free swaps and DIY on just about everything including our spirituality. We are concerned about the environment and recycle our food scraps. We love our LGBTQ brothers and sisters and even advocate for bike safety with our annual Naked Bike Ride through the streets of Portland. The coffee, beer and wine are always flowing and people who visit feel genuinely welcomed. Tolerance, understanding, diversity, natural fibers, life/work balance, communing with nature, good books, funky flavored ice cream and authentic conversations are important to us.

But frankly, we are having difficulty preparing for the General Conference delegates from all over the world who will be coming to our city for the quadrennial legislation of the United Methodist Church next May. You see, WE will tolerate differences as long as YOU tolerate differences.   We will welcome your expression of diversity as long as you welcome our expressions of diversity.

Here is our issue: We know you don’t want to welcome such diversity. Continue reading The Naked Bike Ride to General Conference