Apr 17 2014

Rev. Brent L. White: A video for Holy Thursday

I prepared the following movie from video footage and photos I took during my Holy Land trip in 2011. It features what was perhaps the most moving part of the trip: our visit to the House of Caiaphas (now the Church of St. Peter in Gallicantu), where Jesus was tried before the high priest and spent his […]

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Apr 17 2014

Wesleyan/Anglican: Maundy Thursday

Today is Holy Thursday, also known as Maundy Thursday.  The term Maundy comes from the Latin, mandatum novarum, which means, “a new commandment.”  It is a reference to John 13:34-35, where Jesus says to His disciples, “I give you a new comman…

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Apr 17 2014

Commmonplace Holiness blog: Charactorizing the Walk With God – Psalm 15:3-5

So, the question Psalm 15 raises for us is this: Lord God, what is it like to be the kind of person who is fit to live in Your Presence from day to day? We are invited into a life…

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Apr 17 2014

UM & Global: Hendrik Pieterse on UMC Conflict and Grace Upon Grace: Mission: An Expanding Agenda

Today’s post is the latest in a series of posts that are re-examining the mission document of The United Methodist Church, Grace Upon Grace (Nashville: Graded Press, 1990). Various United Methodist mission professors and practitioners are re-examining this theological statement and how it can inform our corporate life in The United Methodist Church today. This piece is written by Dr. Hendrik Pieterse, Associate Professor of Global Christianity and World Religions at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary. Dr. Pieterse is commenting on the sixth section of the document, “Mission: An Expanding Agenda.”  Use the “Grace Upon Grace” tag to identify other posts in this series.

As both Dr. Carlos-Orlandi and Rev. Lisa-Beth White point out in their reflections, the section “Mission: An Expanding Agenda” interprets grace as a form of “seeing.” And both point to the increased complexity of such “grace-ful” seeing for United Methodist mission today—a complexity, as they both note, that now challenges the adequacy of the expansiveness of that original agenda. And both, rightly, suggest important ways in which United Methodism’s missionary agenda today needs fresh interpretation, correction, and expansion.

Rev. White points to an important dynamic at the heart of Methodist mission—a kind of hermeneutical dance of vision and confession, imagination and repentance. It is just the interplay of these two modalities that enables us to see the world rightly—the world as grace sees it (para. 37)—and precisely so to experience the world’s summons for our concrete response. And, for United Methodists, authentic response to the world’s need has always demanded that we give grace a concrete shape—a form attuned to this place, this time, this context. Hence the ever-recurring question “[W]hat is grace . . . for us?” (para. 29, emphasis added) As United Methodist historian Russell Richey has pointed out, at its best, Methodism has thrived when it held in dynamic tension a missionary imagination fired by a “confidence to go with the Spirit, to experiment, to try new things, to change”[1] and an obligation to give that imagination concrete form in discipleship contoured in discipline, structure, precept, polity. Yet, the all-too-familiar litany of lament in paragraphs 30-39 is testimony to our struggle to dwell in this tension for long. Abandoning the “creative tension”[2] of this space, we opt either for the comfort of a connectional covenant turned predictable bureaucracy or for an iconoclastic frenzy in which denominational “restructuring” stands proxy for missional vitality (as the 2012 General Conference illustrates all too well). Either way, as para. 38 reminds us, the church loses the “prophetic dimension” by which faithfulness to the missio Dei “brings it in conflict with culture” and, in so doing, sets it at odds with its own complacency.

That Methodist mission at its best invites us to expect, even to embrace, conflict may be less than welcome news for a conflict-ridden and conflict-weary United Methodist denomination today—in the midst once more of a contentious battle over human sexuality, episcopal authority, the propriety of church trials, and on. Yet para. 38 might hold a reminder for us precisely at this point. For I think the state of our current churchly bickering reveals a denomination that has made its peace with conflict, so to speak, by thoroughly domesticating it. Our present ecclesial Sturm und Drang, after all, exists in a predictable (if fragile) equilibrium of opposing forces holding each other at bay—“progressive” versus “conservative,” “liberal” versus “orthodox,” and the like. Have we not in the process, ironically, become the “comfortable church” that para. 38 indicts as a “questionable church”?

Paragraph 38 powerfully reminds us just at this point that conflict in fact signals a church alive to God’s mission on behalf of the world. But here is the crucial difference: This conflict is the work of “clear-eyed,” piercing grace (para. 37), exposing, making visible, the world and the church “as they are.” It is conflict that strips the world and especially the church of pretense and self-deception. It is the kind of conflict that sets a comfortable church at odds with its taken-for-granted internecine stalemates and stand-offs. And it is kind of conflict that allows United Methodists to embrace “crisis” not as a problem to solve but as a sign of missional faithfulness. As the great Dutch missiologist Hendrik Kraemer once remarked: “Strictly speaking, one ought to say that the Church is always in a state of crisis and that its greatest shortcoming is that it is only occasionally aware of it.” Crisis, says Kraemer, is a sign of the church’s faithfulness because of “the abiding tension between (the church’s) essential nature and its empirical condition.”[3] Comments David Bosch, “Like its Lord, the church—if it is faithful to its being—will, however, always be controversial, a ‘sign that will be spoken against’ (Lk 2:34).”[4] It is on these terms, I think, that this section in Grace Upon Grace invites United Methodists to make our peace with conflict, to welcome crisis as a state of being. We can do so, however, only in once more indwelling that tensive space between confession and vision, repentance and imagination of which Rev. White has reminded us in her post—a space that is the lifeblood of a United Methodist Church enabled to be “challenged by Christ and, with Christ, [to] challenge[] the world and offer[] its life for that world.” (para. 38)


[1] Russell E. Richey, with Dennis M. Campbell and William B. Lawrence, Marks of Methodism: Theology In Ecclesial Practice (Abingdon, 2005), 25.
[2] The phrase belongs to David Bosch, Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission (Orbis, 1991), 11.
[3] Quoted in Bosch, Transforming Mission, 2.
[4] Ibid.

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Apr 17 2014

Tina Fox Talk: Just Say Something

When someone is hurting, we don’t always know what to say to them. So, we say nothing. Just say something. I’ve read so many blogs (and written some myself) about what NOT to say to grieving people, about how we often hurt people with our well-meaning words. That may be true. However, silence hurts more. […]

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Apr 17 2014

Kairos CoMotion Lectionary Dialogue: 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 (Thursday)

Year A – Maundy Thursday or Courage Thursday
April 17, 2014
Renewed verse:
For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”

In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”

For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, remember you are strengthened to practice the Lord’s last “command” until he comes: “Love one another, even betrayers as well as strangers, and widows and children.”

Note: This is another opportunity to remember that Maundy Thursday is about Foot Washing and Loving One Another, not Communion/Eucharist. We get distracted by tradition (ritual) as much as we might learn from it (service).

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