Saturday, January 28, 2006

Conversation Thread - part 2 - "Like the Wideness of the Sea" by Lewis B. Smedes

Here and here can be found a powerful and thoughtful piece written by Lewis Smedes, former Christian Reformed pastor as well as Fuller Seminary ethicist.

I was going to post it, but it is a lengthy article. I believe it coincides nicely with Walt's article posted recently.

Return here for comments regarding the Smedes article!

( here are the links to the article as well - )

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

from Dave Livermore ~

Global Learning Center Symposium: The Changing Face of Missions at GRTS
Wed-Fri, February 1-3.

There's no charge for any of the events and registration is only required for the GRAMPS lunch (RSVP needed immediately to if you plan to attend that lunch on Wed, Feb. 1).

Over 20 missions agencies will be joining us and a number of churches and missions leaders. Complete details are at
I hope you or some of your team can join us!
Dave Livermore, Ph.D.
Global Learning Center
Grand Rapids Theological Seminary
1001 East Beltline N.E.
Grand Rapids, MI 49525

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Conversation Thread - part 1 - "No Longer Angry" by Walt Marston

To our readers: Please note that the following article is meant to be used for discussion, for thoughtful engagement of the issue. It is not intended to define the value of emergent west michigan. It is not intended as a defining point by either Walt or me.

No Longer Angry

By Walt Marston

My initial reaction to recent church pronouncements about homosexuality was one of anger. Then it turned to puzzlement, wondering about how people see the issue so differently. Now I am past being angry. I think I can see why some churches and individuals believe as they do about homosexuality. It seems that our understanding of homosexuality is based to a large extent on our understanding of “natural order.”

~Limited View of Natural Order

Many people believe that the natural order is a patriarchal type of order. Everything flows downward from God the Father to the princes and priests of our world (all men) to fathers as heads of families. Women are generally subordinate in this order. Some men are superior or more powerful than others in this model, and the relative worth of a person is based on his success in controlling (or protecting) those below him in the order. Gays are tolerated only to the extent that they are out of sight or at least not interfering with the “natural order.”

Of course, in this life, some things do need an authoritative order. We all like to think that things are “under control,” that some authority provides stability, protecting us and making us feel safe. But only to the extent of providing a reasonable level of safety and security, not a rigid and oppressive control of our lives.

All of this begs the larger questions. Where does true authority, real safety and security, reside? What is the real natural order? When does a hierarchical order apply and when does it just misrepresent the real underlying spiritual order?

~Misunderstanding of Homosexuality

Likewise, it appears that the church and society have usually held the view that homosexuality is wrong or abnormal because it doesn’t fit a model of sex only for procreation and perpetuation of the patriarchal order. Scriptural interpretation has often been used to support this view.

However, in Bible times there was no clear concept of homosexuality. They didn’t see some people as “straight” and others as “gay.” They thought everybody was straight but that some of these straight people performed perverse or unnatural acts.

Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians refers to the sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes and homosexual offenders. However, this “homosexual offender” was not a person in a loving same-sex relationship, but rather, a person whose excessive lust was gratified with the use (abuse) of boys or male prostitutes.

Similarly, the so-called “homosexual offenders” implied in other Bible passages, such as the Sodom story in Genesis, were actually heterosexuals engaging in immoral behavior – humiliating foreigners or degrading other people. These were acts of exploitative dominance or lust, not love. The people in these bible passages were sinning all right, but their sin was not homosexuality. It was idolatry, excessive self-gratification and abuse of other people.

Unfortunately our society and media promote stereotypes of gays as being selfish, self-indulgent and promiscuous, totally pre-occupied with sex within a so-called “gay culture.” The reality is far removed from this perception. Most gay people live ordinary lives, indistinguishable from the rest of us. The sexual aspect of their lives is no greater than it is for heterosexuals. The totality of who they are is not centered on their sexual orientation. There is no single “gay culture” just as there is no single “straight culture;” however, the stereotype that is continuously reinforced suggests that there is.

The real issue is not sexual orientation at all. It is the misuse of sex by anyone to dominate, manipulate or hurt other people, or the exploitation of sex in the media and the popular culture.

~The Natural Order of God

Jesus gives us a fuller understanding of our true relationship to God and each other – a way that does not depend on power relationships. He shows us that the old top-down model no longer applies. Rather, the way of the Spirit is where our real security is found. The Spirit shows no partiality, no preference for power (actually empowers all persons, not just a privileged few).

The right order is that we are all equal before God and in direct relationship to God – this is the “natural order.” Because we are all equal in God, we are also equal to each other. Everyone is of equal worth. Only when we recognize this will we treat others with the love and respect they deserve, not some as more valuable or worthy than others.

Another important truth is the infinite variety of God’s creation. We are equal in value, but unique in expression. We are all different, yet we all have the same Source, indeed are inseparable from that Source. Not only are we all shades of color, but unique in a multitude of respects. Some are left-handed (and in past centuries persecuted even for this). Sexual orientation is one of the ways in which persons are infinitely different and unique. We must celebrate this uniqueness, not quash it to fit a false notion of a “natural order.” God made us different for a reason. Instead of seeing differences as threats, we should see them as creations of God that enhance our experience of life.

The wisest among us realize that diversity leads us to a fuller and clearer understanding of Truth. The reason is that individually, and even in our limited communities, we can only comprehend part of the Truth. In community and dialogue with those who see things differently, we are able to see more of the pieces that together make up the whole Truth. It is a grave mistake to think we’ve found all the pieces and then discontinue the search or wall ourselves off from others who would further clarify the full and ongoing revelation of God and Truth. The tendency is often to clutch tightly the pieces we’ve already found, out of a fear of losing them. The reality is that we never lose what we’ve found and known to be part of the Truth; we only enrich our understanding by opening to new experience of it.

The key is love. We must honor and encourage relationships that are based on real love and caring for one another. When two persons love each other and are committed to one another, they are not a threat to society; rather, they contribute to a higher morality by manifesting more of God’s love in the world. We should encourage loving, committed relationships, regardless of the persons’ sexual orientation. It is only hurtful and hateful use of sex and power that should be condemned.

Monday, January 09, 2006

January 2006 Update

Emergent west michigan gathering THIS week…

Wednesday, Jan. 11 @ 10:30 a.m. - The Bite (downtown Grand Rapids)

Topic #1: Isaac Munji, a native of Kenya, will be sharing both his perspective on the emerging church around the world and the work he has envisioned for Kenya.

Isaac has been in G.R. for 7 years, and he just finished his Master’s Degree in counseling at GRTS. He founded Africa Family Life Ministries, and he is closely connected with the missional efforts of Jason Anderson.

Topic #2: Where we have been & where we are going with emergent west michigan for 2006. Join us for a lively discussion. Your input will help shape our story for the next year.

West Michigan cooperative update…

If you are interested in joining a group of pastoral minded people every other week for prayer, support, and encouragement, please e-mail Jason Anderson:

Detroit area emergent cohort begins to form…

If you have friends in the Detroit area, please pass this information their way! I’ve had the opportunity to converse and meet with Lonnie a number of times over recent months. He is passionate about the ways of Jesus, the church, and the emerging church conversation. Here is a recent e-mail I received.

My name is Lonnie Burrell and I will be creating a cohort group in the Detroit Metro area. It would be great if you were a part of the group. The group will probably meet monthly. I’m not sure of the actual day of the month, but we can work that as a group. I am excited about meeting everyone. Please reply as soon as possible.

Thank you,

Lonnie Burrell

To encourage thoughtful reading…

A New Year and a time for reflection is the theme of this month's issue of Next-Wave.

Be sure to check out Tony Jones' article on The State of Emergent 2006.

Be sure to take advantage of our new comments feature to add your input to the articles...

Charlie Wear

Sunday, January 08, 2006

FYI - e.w.m. logo

Posted here only for reference. :)