Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Link Dump: What I've Been Reading

Some things I've been reading and considering:

-- Bishop Robert Hayes Jr. on UMC unity (page 3):
"But it is not a form of unity that declares everyone must think alike. Rather, it is the unity demonstrated in the virtues befitting a person who follows Christ: humility, gentleness, and patience."
"We must find the path that leads us to the unity that was present in the early church. We owe it to the Church we love to do this."
I love the phrasing about what we owe the Church. Bishop Hayes is one of my favorite speakers and writers, and while I don't think there is much new here, I appreciate his tone and that he addressed this topic. He also ends with a note about what his role - his calling - as bishop is, which is important.

--Steven D. Bruns on "How the Early Church Engaged With Culture"
"They were expatriates of the Kingdom of God in the Empire of Rome." By the end of this year, I'll have spent about 45% of the last year and half outside of the US, so the expat image really resonated for me.
"It was this kind of group identification that held the early Christians together and encouraged them to continue in the faith... No one was ever alone in the faith. No one was on an exclusively personal journey." This is something I will hold to forever. Yes, faith is personal, but this is also a corporate journey. We need each other.

-- Derek Z. Rishmawy on Penal Substitutionary Atonement
Theories of atonement were one of the things I discovered this summer, and I find this really helpful. I also appreciate that Rishmawy emphasizes that one can work with multiple models for atonement at the same time. He mentions both Christus Victor and moral influence (though Christus Victor more),  though not ransom or governmental, but the focus isn't really on comparison to other atonement models but more a defense of PSA against common criticisms.
Reading through as a sort-of-outsider, it seems like there's a problem with PSA being presented in a way that so lacks nuance as to dangerously distort the theory, but I'm not sure.

-- From the United Methodist Committee on Relief Newsletter:
On the anniversary of Hurricane Sandy:
"We offer prayers of thanksgiving for those whose lives have been restored and we pray for those who continue to struggle for light, for order, for healing, in their lives.
But Lord, let us do more than pray. Let us offer ourselves in service. Guide us to the people and places you would have us serve in your name."

-- Jonathan Aigner on not offering different worship styles:
I agree with a lot of what he has to say, especially about historical elements and the purpose of worship, and I love that he does not equate traditional with old. There are also some things - like the part about falsely equating music with worship - that I think he states better in the comments than in the original post.
On the other hand, for four years I attended a church that offered three services, two traditional (early and late) and one contemporary (same time as late service). The church was large enough that it needed three services -- yes, even early was well attended! -- and having the contemporary and late traditional at the same time meant that everyone had Sunday School at the same time. I think the mixing in SS classes was more important to congregational connection than a single type of service style would have been. But I was also surprised by how many people sometimes went to one service and sometimes went to another, which isn't normal at other churches I've attended.
As someone who almost always goes to early service if a church has multiple services, I also wonder about early vs. late service, even of the same style, in terms of congregational unity. The church I attended for a decade growing up definitely neglected its early service musically compared to the later traditional service, for example.

--If you haven't heard, Frank Schaefer was reinstated. Really this time. Here's the comment I made on Facebook because I've seen people of all opinions misunderstanding this decision:
"It's tempting, I think, to try to see this decision as a statement about the church's position on marriage, but it's not. From the beginning, this has been about upholding the Book of Discipline. Schaefer was reinstated not because the trial court was wrong in finding him guilty, but rather because the trial court's penalties themselves violated the Discipline. This is not a step towards changing the Discipline; it is an affirmation of it."

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