Friday, November 23, 2012

open letter to oden

"Welcome, Dr Thomas Oden. I have just elected you to a select band of scholars who have transformed my way of looking at the world. The company you keep is an esteemed one, led by the triumvirate of Phillip Jenkins, Lamin Sanneh, and Rodney Stark.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

lest we never know

'Lest we forget' is the refrain we associate with horrid history like the Holocaust. Keeping alive the memory is designed to help prevent history from repeating. Forgetfulness is just not acceptable.

Yesterday I visited Cheoung Ek (The Killing Fields) for the first time and Tuol Sleng (the Genocide Museum) for the second time. It is sobering to the point of sickening. I find it so disturbing that it happened in my own lifetime. While I can not be held responsible for knowing the events of 17 April 1975 as they occurred, it bothers me that it took me so long to be impacted by what happened here in Cambodia.

I came away preoccupied by the danger of 'lest we never know'. In an age of information flooding all kinds of media channels it is still possible to never know. Forgetfulness may be unacceptable - but surely so also is ignorance, given the the information sources to which we have access? Is it acceptable to remain in the dark with horrid history? While 'lest we forget' is noble, the reality is that holocausts keep happening. I understand why the Holocaust of the 1940s retains such a focus in our attention - but it is troubling that the Cambodian one of the 1970s took so long to spark a response ... and then what about the Congolese one (referred to here) of the 2000s in which 5 million are estimated to have died? Is 'lest we forget' enough - or does the 'lest we never know' refrain need to grab our hearts and minds as well?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

finding the finest

Doing serious research has taught be a significant life-skill.

If I want my own argument to be robust, then as I encounter those views which I oppose it is wise to paint them in their best light, not their worst light. It is about taking time to find the finest exponents of the views with which I disagree and trying to engage with them. Stereotypes and cheap-shots be damned.

Friday, November 09, 2012

ppk governance

It is a consistent theme. In the churches, mission organisations, and employers with whom I have been associated over the past twenty years, (almost) without exception they have tackled the same issue: identifying what good governance looks like and trying to make the changes to embrace it.

I am at San Francisco airport on my way home after the annual Langham Partnership meetings in Phoenix. One of the pleasing features this year was the progress made in this area - freeing governance to govern and releasing management to manage. Mixing up the two groups seems to be a persistent challenge for Christian organisations.

Monday, November 05, 2012

celebrating otago

I return to a favourite theme.

Has there been a better season for (evangelical) theological education in New Zealand than this current one? I don't think so (NB: I've touched on this topic here and here and here). For example, Carey Baptist College is in full bloom, while Laidlaw College has a compelling vision driving it forward. The two colleges complement and compliment each other. And no doubt behind the scenes there is a little gentle competition which keeps everyone on their toes. The impact may take a generation to be fully felt, but it will come.

But in the last week I've been celebrating the Department of Theology at the University of Otago, based in Dunedin. Here is a secular institution. Almost by definition, it cannot be 'evangelical'. Here is a university with a focus on research outputs. Almost by definition, it cannot retain contact with the 'grassroots'. Here is a Department that has tended to be built around a 'pure', or more classical, curriculum with Biblical Studies, Christian Thought & History to the fore. Almost by definition, this is not the place to go looking for the 'applied' curriculum.

And yet, in 2012, two of Otago's Theology faculty have published books which engage the grassroots in applied ways that can only stir the heart of 'shaped by the Bible - focused on Christ' evangelicals.

Tim Cooper collaborates with Kelvin Gardiner on Pastoring the Pastor in which we find a collection of 'Emails of a Journey through Ministry'. I read the entire book in a single day of airplanes and airports in the USA. A little reminiscent of Letters Along the Way, it records the correspondence between a young pastor, Daniel Donford, and his  Uncle Eldon during the first two years of Daniel's time in pastoral ministry. It develops the personalities which can accompany that first church... The obstructive Frank. The chatty Martha. The church-growth-expert Schneider. The colleague Sam. The conspirator Harry. The eccentric Meredith. The wise Hayley (Daniel's wife!). A nice touch is the inclusion of emails between people other than Daniel and Uncle Eldon. It adds depth and fullness to the story - but it means the book needs to be read relatively quickly, so that you don't lose track of people.