Insights from The OOZE

I received the latest newsletter from The OOZE the other day and, prefacing all of their new info, was a really thoughful and insightful article by Spencer Burke, founder of The OOZE, regarding the dialogue on what many are calling the "emerging church".

For the sake of reprinting it on the Wind Farm, I have edited out some small, irrelevant elements that relate specifically to OOZE events. The omitted pieces have no bearing on the overall import of his thoughts.

Enjoy them .. they ought to give us all pause as we consider how we’re communicating with people, and how we might be interpreting what we hear, during a time of great flux in the church.

For the record, whilever we waste our time arguing over the "emerging" v’s "institutional" church, I think we’re missing the point. It is, what I call, the "great leveller" we ought to be discussing .. because it is the emerging Kingdom of God, and not the church, that is ultimately all-important.

To allow the Kingdom of God to fully emerge, all of us in the church, regardless of our theology, ecclesiology, christology or eschatology, must fall in line with the reign of the King. Our King is so secure in who He is as King, that He is more than happy to allow a multitude of expressions of His body in the earth, regardless of what we think or believe.

Remember, so long as Christ is "first and last", whatever we do "in between" is not that important!!  Enjoy Spencer’s insights …..

I’ve been doing some listening and thinking lately.

It seems like the conversation about what the Church is today and should be in the future has become more and more heated lately. I have this theory about why this is, but before we get to there I need to make a few observations.

First, it seems that the fine art of practicing hospitality is becoming more and more endangered, especially in regards to conversations about theology and ecclesiology.

All it really takes is a quick glance at the many discussions going on in the media and on blogs across the blogosphere. The tone and tenor, on both sides, is often anything but gracious and hospitable.

I think we need to rediscover the lost art of practicing hospitality – the ability to host a discussion that is intellectually stimulating in an environment of commonality and safety. This does not mean that we have to agree on everything, but that we have a common respect for each other, each other’s opinions, and for the intellectual integrity of the conversation.

But as I listen and observe, I have this theory that this kind of environment for dialogue is going to be more and more difficult in the near future. Here’s why?

In the next three to five years, I foresee a change in the conversation regarding the Church. With a change of political climate, and the diminished platform and voice of religious fundamentalists has within the political arena, we may see an influx of people coming back from the political dialogue into the ecclesiological one. Perhaps with the same passion they lobbied the political system, those in the religious fundamentalist movement might come into the Church with a renewed sense of recapturing the "nostalgic" vision of what the "Church" is – the one that many have found wanting and have left almost completely. Will we see the same tactics of fear and intimidation? Will we hear more ad hominem attacks, using clichéd innuendos like "un-Biblical," "un-orthodox," "un-Christian," and even "heretical"? Will we buy into these quick dismissals which threaten to disenfranchise and avoid the opportunity to engage in real, lasting dialogue? I hope not.

This is where you and I come in. I think more than ever we need to be people who choose to rise above this kind of dialogue and risk in engaging this discussion – to practice theological hospitality. I believe that we need to be the ones to lead by example, to intentionally create environments of gracious dialogue. We also need to show what respectful disagreement looks like in the midst of intellectual and theological tensions. If we are to see the Church, the beautiful expression of God in this world, move forward in being all that is should be, this kind of hospitality is not merely required; it is the way of Jesus.

So once again, it comes back to you and me. Will we choose to practice this kind of theological hospitality or not? Will our future be divisive or destructive, or will we choose to have our words be seasoned with grace and love?

Because in the end, we might become what we have fought so hard to change.

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