Friday, August 29, 2014

Vanishing Grace: Whatever Happened to the Good News? By Philip Yancey (Forthcoming Book)

"I made my fourth trip to this land of endless fascination in August.  I’d been asked to give the Ida Scudder Humanitarian Oration (a fancy word for a speech) at the Christian Medical College in Vellore in honor of Dr. Paul Brand, with whom I wrote three books." I read Philip Yancey's latest blog post "Darkness and Light in India" utterly fascinated; its been less than a year since I was at Paul Brand's chapel in Karigir and Dr. Ida Scudder's home in Vellore. Besides, Yancey is one of my favorite contemporary Christian writers (Soul Survivor is my personal favorite). Yancey's Jesus is the Jesus I know and love, a humble God-man who changes us and our life, our world. Yancey's descriptions and arguments about how Western Christianity had misunderstood Jesus core message resonated with my own lived experience in the West. Now, it looks like Yancey's done it again.  In his latest book, which is due out in late October, Yancey starts with a question which he has apparently been asking all his life: “Why does the church stir up such negative feelings?” I invite you to join me on Yancey's Book Tour of this his new book, Vanishing Grace: Whatever Happened to the Good News? on Oct. 25th in San Diego.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Casa Charis: 1 Yr. Anniversary Coming Up!

Brewers? Patron Saint of Brewers is the Catholic Online entry for Augustine of Hippo. We, reformed people, know him simply as Augustine, one of the great early Church Fathers who lived in the last days of the Roman Empire, one of the early Church's greatest theologians and and the author of Confessions. Well, the one year anniversary of the publication of my devotional Casa Charis: A Day Book of Freedom on Galatians is coming up and once again, I'm reminded of the delightful humor into which the Spirit leads my writing. My conclusion in Casa Charis ends with the date on which I wrote it: 28 August, Feast day of Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, Teacher of the Faith.  That's how the Anglican liturgical calendar remembers and celebrates Augustine. 

Friday, August 8, 2014

The Road Less Travelled

An anti-totalitarian theory/view of religious establishment is popular in America for church-state relations, one that emphasizes institutional pluralism and the importance of competing sources of authority. It is often used to defend the two religion clauses in the First Amendment to the US Constitution (Establishment clause and Free Exercise clause)*. We resist the establishment of a single official church and embrace religious pluralism, even though pluralism at the time of the Founding Fathers meant varying Christian denominations. We seek to preserve separate sources of authority so no single source of authority gains power because, the argument goes, a population with varying religious beliefs is less likely to accept or enable government concentration of power. Church leadership then it seems should look more like the servant leader model Jesus demonstrated. Is it so? That's what I begin to explore in The Road Less Traveled By, a title, which, btw, is from the last para of Robert Frost's poem, The Road Not Taken.** It should be self-explanatory.

Rebuilding the Presbyterian Establishment is a paper on church leadership and their structures written by Beau Weston 6 years ago. I could neither resist the paper's title nor a name like Beau. Beau conjures up visions of enthralling entertainment. I just had to read the article! It turns out Beau's name is William J. Weston but the article did not disappoint. Here are some interesting snippets from Part 1 of  the paper. If your appetite is whetted the link to the full text of the article is at the end. There are 4 parts

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Balleilakka (Fusion Music/Multi-Ethnic Worship?)

Do you listen to songs in languages you don't know? Can you worship in a language you don't understand? I do and I can.  It hardly seems to matters that I can barely make out the words;  I wish I could understand, of course, but even without the shared meaning I seem to be able to appreciate the music deeply, enjoying the beauty and creativity of the sounds, and become lost to the wonder of our Creator. In other words,  not understanding the words isn't a barrier to worship or enjoyment. And so I have an eclectic music collection. Recently, I acquired a song in a language I should know and understand but with which I still struggle, my native language Tamil. A social media friend shared a video of the Augustana Choir singing Balleilakka.  The young American college students rendition of this song along with their choir director's verve and energy so completely captured me that I bought and began to research it. At first, I wasn't even sure if the words were in Tamil because it is such a tongue-twister.

Very simply, the song asks: "who is he? is he the sun or the moon? who is he? tell me now." 

Friday, August 1, 2014

Project Harmony: The Numbers Behind the PLR Discernment Process

IMPORTANT NOTE: I received feedback (thanks brother!) that the table wasn't rendering correctly in all browsers and so I took the opportunity to add a brief explanation about harmony from the Bible to expand this post along with a new image of "harmony" besides correcting the table. Anita, Aug. 24th, 2014, Feast Day of St. Bartholomew, Apostle of Jesus.] 

The word “harmony” occurs three times in the Bible, in Romans 12: 16 (live in harmony), Romans 15: 5 (blessing of harmony) & Colossians 3: 14: 
 Above all clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony (NRSV). The NIV reads: And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity

A little while ago, I began to gather numbers about the churches that went through the PLR discernment process (June 2013 - July 2014). I was interested in finding answers to two questions: What is the impact of formal discernment? How many people changed their minds in the churches that have so far been dismissed? Well, the data collection took over a month since I could not just get it from the websites of the churches. But I finally got the data and voila, I have my preliminary answers now, thanks to mathematician Kurt Norlin who just happened to step back into my life a few days ago. God is amazing and has perfect timing.