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Walking in the Sacred Way: Ojibway Prayer

In a prayer offered by an Ojibway elder, themes of brokenness, restoration, and balance with all of creation are present. From a North American First-Nations/Native American perspective, we can begin to see these themes in a new light within our own communities.

Grandfather,
Look at our brokenness.
We Know that in all creation
Only the human family
Has strayed from the Sacred Way.

(more…)

15 Conversations the Church Needs to Have in 2015

Fuller Theological Seminary surveyed faculty across their campuses and departments to find out what conversations the Church should be engaged in during 2015 and provided links to further reading on the subject (books, articles, and blogs) to help inform those perspectives.

Five of the top six presented spoke about conversations related to diversity, equity, and reconciliation!

An edited screengrab of some of the responses from faculty.

An edited screengrab of some of the responses from faculty.

Read the full responses and see the reading recommendations here: 15 Conversations the Church Needs To Have in 2015

José y Maria: Still No Room

In the United States, it is typical to rent a room temporarily while traveling. Mary and Joseph were not looking for a room for the weekend, as we are accustomed to doing around the holidays. They were looking for temporary lodging, to fulfill whatever obligations of the census and to be ready in case Mary went into labor. In a town that would have been filled with Joseph’s kin, none were willing to make room for him and his pregnant fiancee. Think less about a “No Vacancy” neon sign and more of being told that there are no guest rooms, no rollaways, no couches, no air mattresses, no floors that you are welcome to. “That girl” is not welcome in our town.

Illustrator Everett Patterson has an image that strikes this chord in scene preceding the nativity we are accustomed to decorating our homes, lawns, and churches.

José y Maria, by Everett Patterson

José y Maria, by Everett Patterson

In his commentary on the piece, he writes, (more…)

My Problem with The Lord’s Prayer

We recently began attending a church that recites The Lord’s Prayer each Sunday as a part of their liturgy. We have never been a part of church that practiced this weekly–participating more in communities that place spontaneity over ceremony. While I do appreciate the intentionality of a liturgical church, there is something specific that bothers me every time we pray these words together.praying

The English translation which we use is based on the text of Matthew 6:9-13 that depends on an outdated form of language, namely the “King James” English. See the chart below for words and phrases no longer in common usage:

Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.

Not a single sentence can be understood with contemporary usage!

Why do I have a problem with the Lord’s Prayer? Two reasons… (Click to Tweet) (more…)

World Cup of Theologians: USA – Cornel West

The World Cup of Theologians is a blog series that coincides with the 2014 World Cup Tournament. Each team in the round of 16 has an entry with the biography of a noteworthy theologian or leader from that same country.

westCornel West (1953- ) is the Professor of Philosophy and Christian Practice at the Union Theological Seminary and an outspoken public academic, philosopher, and activist.

He uses philosophy, Christian practice, and Marxist thought to bear witness and influence in love and justice. Much of his work has grown out of studies on race, class, and gender within American society, as well as the ways in which people interact based upon racial conscientiousness.

As a public intellectual, West’s dream of keeping alive the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. takes shape in the ways in which he writes and participates in current events, asserting that theology must be expressed in one’s social and political life. In Race Matters, he examines moral authority and racial debates regarding skin color in the United States and focuses on progress through what unites man in love and justice as he points out the differences that divide humanity.

In these downbeat times, we need as much hope and courage as we do vision and analysis; we must accent the best of each other even as we point out the vicious effects of our racial divide and pernicious consequences of our maldistribution of wealth and power. We simply cannot enter the twenty-first century at each other’s throats, even as we acknowledge the weighty forces of racism, patriarchy, economic inequality, homophobia, and ecological abuse on our necks. We are at a crucial crossroad in the history of this nation–and we either hang together by combating these forces that divide and degrade us or we hang separately. Do we have the intelligence, humor, imagination, courage, tolerance, love, respect, and will to meet the challenge? Time will tell. None of us alone can save the nation or world. But each of us can make a positive difference if we commit ourselves to do so.

Currently, Cornel West contributes to the radio show Smiley and West and has authored a memoir, entitled Brother West: Living and Loving Out Loud. For more information, you can find his official website here.

Phillip Sturgeon is a graduate of Chapman University. He writes at his personal blog, phillipotamus.com and lives in Southern CA, where he almost always drives with the windows down.

World Cup of Theologians: Germany – Johann Metz

The World Cup of Theologians is a blog series that coincides with the 2014 World Cup Tournament. Each team in the round of 16 has an entry with the biography of a noteworthy theologian or leader from that same country.

metzJohann Baptist Metz (1928- )is a unique German theologian who learned first-hand both the devastation of human suffering and the furtherance of suffering caused by the silence of Christians. After World War II, in which he was an American prisoner of war, he returned to Germany and studied at the University of Innsbruck under Karl Rahner. He was a primary voice in the development of Political Theology, working to find meaningful theology after the collapse of humanism ideals seen in the Holocaust.

Metz is best known for his concept of the dangerous memory of suffering, an element of the Theology of Hope that stresses the role of Christian’s creating spaces for stories of suffering. Dangerous memory is also an essential part of our Christian experience because the memory of Christ’s suffering is one of our key catalysts for our salvation and the justice for all peoples that comes with that salvation. His ideas have been used to argue for an increased Christian presence alongside those with mental illness, survivors of abuse and genocide, and alcoholism.

Metz writes of the way memory is destroyed, in this instance for the survivors of the El Mezote Massacre in En Salvador in 1981:

The destruction of memory [in situations of injustice and violence] turns out systematically to hinder identity, to prevent people from becoming subjects or continuing to be subjects in their social-historical contexts. Uprooting slaves and deporting them always tends to destroy their memories, and precisely in this way serves as a powerful reinforcement of their state of being as slaves, their systemic disempowerment in the interest of effecting their complete subjugation. On the other hand, the formation of identity always begins with the awakening of memory.

Metz’s classic work, Faith in History and Society. Toward a Practical Fundamental Theology, expands on his understanding of political theology, with special attention to the implications of living out this distinctive expression of faith.

Zane Ridings is a Masters of Divinity student at Brite Divinity School. As an undergraduate at Eureka College, he completed an honors research thesis titled: Walking Alongside the Least of These: Liberation Hermeneutics and Praxis-based Missions in Guatemala. This work has been part of Zane’s theological exploration of questions concerning justice, politics, and Christian fellowship and ethics.

World Cup of Theologians: Netherlands – Henri Nouwen

The World Cup of Theologians is a blog series that coincides with the 2014 World Cup Tournament. Each team in the round of 16 has an entry with the biography of a noteworthy theologian or leader from that same country.

NouwenHenri Nouwen (1932-1996) was a Dutch priest whose extensive written works and participation in the L’Arche communities contributed to a profound influence upon both Catholics and Protestants. Writing from a background of both psychology and theology, Nouwen’s insight upon Christian spirituality repeatedly drew on themes such as inner rejuvenation and the contemplative life of faith. His most popular work, The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming explores the spirituality of plumbing the depths of the Jesus’ parable (Luke 15), borne from a captivating encounter with Rembrandt’s painting of the same.

…But the father couldn’t compel his son to stay home. He couldn’t force his love on the Beloved. He had to let him go in freedom, even though he knew the pain it would cause both his son and himself. It was love itself that prevented him from keeping his son home at all cost. It was love itself that allowed him to let his son find his own life, even with the risk of losing it.
Here the mystery of my life is unveiled. I am loved so much that I am left free to leave home. The blessing is there from the beginning. I have left it and keep on leaving it. But the Father is always looking for me with outstretched arms to receive me back and whisper again in my ear, “You are my Beloved, on you my favor rests.” (44)

The parable of the prodigal son is a story that speaks about a love that existed before any rejection was possible and that will still be there after all rejections have taken place. It is the first and everlasting love of a God who is Father as well as Mother. It is the fountain of all true human love, even the most limited. Jesus’ whole life and preaching had only one aim: to reveal this inexhaustible, unlimited motherly and fatherly love of his God and to show the way to let that love guide every part of our daily lives. In his painting of the father, Rembrandt offers me a glimpse of that love. It is the love that always welcomes home and always wants to celebrate. (108)

As inspiring as his books have been, his participation in the L’Arche communities to restore the dignity of people living with intellectual disabilities brought awareness to how differently-abled people are excluded from society and the church. Though the dedicated work in communities around the world, a new way of life is imagined and lived based on mutual respect, recovering a valued identity, and each person discovering their giftedness and intrinsic worth.

Michael Shepherd is the editor of GlobalTheology.org. He is a graduate of Fuller Theological Seminary and Hope International University in southern California, USA, where he lives with his wife and son.

World Cup of Theologians: Chile – Sergio Torres

The World Cup of Theologians is a blog series that coincides with the 2014 World Cup Tournament. Each team in the round of 16 has an entry with the biography of a noteworthy theologian or leader from that same country.

TorresSergio Torres is a Chilean Catholic priest whose leadership and writing has focused on how the Liberation Theology of Latin America can separate itself from the ideologies of Eastern Europe and its Marxist materialist underpinnings and adapt to new contexts. In an interview with Instituto Humanitas Unisinos, he covers a broad range of liberation theology history, including the role of Amerindia in forging a new path for the church of the American continent.

IHU On-line: In 2012, we are also celebrating the 40th anniversary of the publication Gustavo Gutiérrez’s book. Since that inaugural work, what were and are the main contributions of liberation theology in the context of Latin America? What is the meaning of liberation today?

Sergio Torres: The rise of liberation theology represented an important moment in the history of theology in general. Before it, it was thought that there was only one universal theology, along the lines of St. Paul’s expression, “One Lord, one faith, one baptism.” Without in any way denying this fundamental principle, liberation theology opened the contextual perspective. We believe in one Lord, but we do so from our contexts and our own different situations and cultures. The context allows one to delve into some aspects of the single message and make it more credible to people of different cultures. Born in Latin America, liberation theology has spread to Africa and Asia and has also generated experiments in contextual theology in North America and Europe.

The concept of liberation expanded and became richer. At first, they talked about the liberation of the poor, understood as the workers in the industries and factories of the great cities of the continent. Subsequently, the concept of the poor also deepened. The poor are the excluded ones, the marginalized, those who have no voice, are discriminated against, or, as we say today, “the other”. Currently, the concept of liberation expresses the salvation and liberation that Jesus brings, including many terms that refer to the salvation of neglected and oppressed sectors in the current cultural and social situation.

Today, there is not just one liberation theology. There is an open theological pluralism, one that is truer to some of the intuitions and basic principles of the first liberation theology. That theology still has much to give in and of itself. For example, it should continue joining the individual and complementary contributions of academic theologians and grassroots theologians. Moreover, professionals are called on not only to speak ‘for’ the poor but, from [the perspective of] the poor and with them.

Read the full interview – in Englishem portuguêsen español

Michael Shepherd is the editor of GlobalTheology.org. He is a graduate of Fuller Theological Seminary and Hope International University in southern California, USA, where he lives with his wife and son.

World Cup of Theologians: Brazil – Paulo Freire

The World Cup of Theologians is a blog series that coincides with the 2014 World Cup Tournament. Each team in the round of 16 has an entry with the biography of a noteworthy theologian or leader from that same country.

Like many contributors outside of the West, Paulo Freire (1921-1997) entered the theological conversation through alternative means. His original research was in education- specifically, how to teach adults who were illiterate and without a basis for traditional, institutional education.

Painel Paulo Freire by Luiz Carlos Cappellano via Wikimedia Commons

Painel Paulo Freire by Luiz Carlos Cappellano via Wikimedia Commons

In this context, he became critical of the “banking” philosophy of education, in which the learner was an empty vessel to have knowledge “deposited” by an expert and then “withdrawn” by the student to apply to a given situation. Chief among his criticism is that this approach reduced the person to the value of their deposits from an outside institution and did not take into account their contextual education—traditional knowledge and experience – that did not fit the categories of formal academics. His primary work on this topic was Pedagogy of the Oppressed (1968).

“One cannot expect positive results from an educational or political action program which fails to respect the particular view of the world held by the people. Such a program constitutes cultural invasion, good intentions notwithstanding.”

The application of these theories to theology have been revolutionary. In contrast to the formal topics of theology proper (which is largely insulated by the power and privilege of Western institutions), Freire’s theories opened up the study of the Bible and theological reflection to communities long considered outside the scope of meaningful contribution. The value of community-based knowledge to theological reflection gave voice to disenfranchised groups whose experience with the sacred speaks into a void in the academic setting.

Michael Shepherd is the editor of GlobalTheology.org. He is a graduate of Fuller Theological Seminary and Hope International University in southern California, USA, where he lives with his wife and son.

Misusing Christianity to Change Cultures

In his article, 10 Ways Christians Misuse Christianity, by Stephen Mattson (Author’s Blog@mikta) describes areas that have been inappropriately conflated with a “Christian” identity. To value and celebrate (not simply reluctantly accept) cultural identity is an area that is difficult to succinctly communicate to people who do not already have a frame of reference for diversity appreciation. Readers of this blog are probably already on board with this concept, but it is refreshing to see it expressed in the larger, Christian media and targeted to a rising generation of church leaders and engaged Christians. (Relevant is an online platform that engages 20-30somethings around issues of “faith, culture, and intentional living”.)

10. To Change Cultures

Christianity isn’t meant to erase or change a cultural identity. Christianity is amazingly complex and diverse, and it was never intended to be a uniform religion of ethnocentric beliefs.

Many mistakenly perceive that a “correct” Christianity will exactly mirror all their own traditions, beliefs and lifestyles. Thus, instead of introducing people to Jesus, they attempt to change and conform people to their own cultural preferences. When people inevitably don’t conform, they’re often unfairly accused of being sinners—condemned to hell.

Questions to go deeper:
Historically, we see examples of a cultural imprint tied to Christianity actively erasing culture (colonialism, conversion to European cultural expression), but how does contemporary Christianity change cultures today?
What does it look like to celebrate cultural diversity within a local church?

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Welcome to Global Theology- a blog dedicated to exploring cultural expressions of Christianity around the world, diversity in the Church, and contextual theology!

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