New Year Greetings!
Rejoice and Resolve

We hope this issue of the EP newsletter finds you rejoicing in the new (liturgical) year. The Christian New Year starts off not with a day of hangovers and football, but with an entire season of waiting, hope and the proclamation that, though the days and the world itself at times seems to get darker, the Light has come into the world. And so we rejoice. Gaudate!

Debra Dean Murphy reminds us, in today's post in b LOGOS, that this Sunday is Gaudate Sunday. We will say more about bLOGOS below, but let me suggest that one New Years' resolution for all EPers might be to deepen our involvement with EP -- visit bLOGOS weekly; pick-up books by EP authors and publishers; develop your own "meet the EP" by connecting with other endorsers; keep in contact with us about the website or other ways the EP could foster conversation about radical discipleship in your own congregation. One way to do this would be to set up an RSS feed to your browser from the EP website. It adds no spam to your mailbox. Having that little EP link in the toolbar at the top of my browser has made it easier for me to remember to check the newest posts on the website, which I find without fail to be a cause for rejoicing.
May the blessings of the Prince of Peace be with you and your communities as we wait in joyful hope.

Therese Lysaught

New Books
I always see a number of interesting books when I attend the AAR/SBL each year (the book exhibit is huge!). My book appetite always exceeds available reading time, but here are a few that I picked up last month. Consuming Jesus: Beyond Race and Class Divisions in a Consumer Church by Paul Metzger (Wm. B. Eerdmans). Metzger calls the evangelical church to see the ways in which they have set up structures of church growth that foster segregation by appealing to consumer appetites. Social Distinctives of the Christians in the First Century by E.A. Judge. (Hendrickson). Judge wrote a number of pivotal essays that initiated many important discussions in the establishment of social scientific criticism of the Bible. In compiling these essays into books form, Hendrickson has done a great service to those of us who are interested in studying the social realities of the early church. To Share in the Body: A Theology of Martyrdom for Today's Church by Craig Hovey (Brazos). Hovey argues that the Gospel of Mark's recurring theme of martyrdom is crucial to understanding how the church today remembers martyrs and understands Christian discipleship.

These are only a few of the books that found their way onto my reading stack (I've neglected to mention the fascinating book on Russian mail-order brides from Duke University Press - I do not jest!). I'm going to cross a boundary that I usually avoid and mention a couple of relevant Wipf and Stock books from EP endorsers. Steve Long has written a Cascade companion on Theology and Culture, and Michael Gorman has written a companion to Reading Paul. They are both excellent introductions. Additionally, Stanley Hauerwas and Rom Coles have written a book together that offers up an engaging conversation between a radical Christian and a "radical democratic trickster," titled Christianity, Democracy, and the Radical Ordinary: Conversations between a Radical Democrat and a Christian.

Jon Stock

Meet the EP
Joel Shuman
Amos Shuman The feast of St. John of the Cross seems a fitting day to feature our third new board member, Joel Shuman, in Meet the EP. Joel has been with the EP from the beginning, wearing a variety of hats. Currently, in addition to his work with the board, he is co-editor (with Kelly Johnson) of the EP pamphlet series. Those who attended the gathering in summer 2006 will remember his wonderful account of Dante.

Joel is currently an Associate Professor and Chair in the Department of Theology at King's College, in Wilkes-Barre, PA, where he also directs their Center for Ethics and Public Life. In his writing, Joel focuses on questions in medicine as well as Wendell Berry -- frequently even bringing them together. His books include To Live is to Worship: Bioethics and the Body of Christ (CMU, 2007), Reclaiming the Body (Brazos, 2006), co-authored with EPer Brian Volck; Heal Thyself (Oxford, 2002) co-authored with EPer Keith Meador; and The Body of Compassion (Wipf and Stock, 2003).

Since I was unable to find a picture of Joel on the web, I'll include here a picture of his son Amos, a professional guide and whitewater rafter.

Read and Rejoice
These past few weeks in bLOGOS and Pastor's we hear from:

Debra Dean Murphy, on Gaudate Sunday (a homily help for those pastors still working on their sermons);

Kyle Childress on learning how to wait and be patient;

Brian Volck on the ongoing violent deaths in the US, the passing of Gordon Zahn, and the alienation of Christmas-time in America;

and Tobias Winright's find of a piece on the religious history of waterboarding and torture.

bLOGOS has assembled an amazing team of commentators, who will shortly be posting two to three times per week, with reflections that are beautiful, powerful, theological, creative, penetrating, humorous, and graced. Brian Volck, Debra Dean Murphy, Kyle Childress, Joel Shuman, Jessie Shuman (how many other theology blogs boast such a theologically-hardhitting father-daughter team?), Tobias Winright, Erin Martin, Halden Doerge, and Allyne Smith offer reflections on items as diverse as lectionary texts, liturgical seasons, happenings in the church, and commentary on cultural events. They provide helpful links to further online reading and commentary.

We are exploring how to add a 'comment' function to the blog itself. Meanwhile, please use the forums to continue the discussions that bLogos begins. Let their work not be in vain but for the upbuilding of the EP and those communities the EP seeks to serve.

EP Financial Report
As you might remember from last month's report, EP has enough funds to pay the bills, but there is little margin for much else. What else is there, you might ask? Well, let me make a few observations. First, if our Summer Gathering has a focus on the Church across many types of boundaries, it is reasonable to assume a broader spectrum of participants, which may call for a greater demand on our scholarship pool and increased costs for invited speakers. Second, if the Congregational Formation Initiative continues to expand, our generous grantmakers will expect EP supporters to show their support by shouldering a larger portion of the financial burden of the initiative. Third, there is no room, given our current income, for any upgrades to our website or any other service we might deem helpful to our endorsers (such as regional gatherings, additional pamphlets, new book series, etc.). All of this to say that as 2007 comes to an end, your contributions would be greatly appreciated and put to good use! Next month, we will give a 2007 financial report; and as always, feel free to e-mail if you want our current detailed report (mjbowling@indy.rr.com).

Michael Bowling, treasurer

Regional Gathering in Portland
Inhabiting the Church: Ecclesial Discussions in New Monasticism
There will be a Northwest Regional Ekklesia Project gathering in Portland, Oregon. The topic will be on Inhabiting The Church: Ecclesial Discussions in New Monasticism. The speakers will be Jonathan Wilson- Hartgrove, Tim Otto, and Jon Stock. The dates are Feb. 29th & Mar. 1.
Sessions will be: Friday evening Saturday mid-morning Saturday late afternoon Details are being worked out for the exact location and times. For news, updates and registration information contact Michael Munk.

From the Editor
Greg Sampson, the pastor of the little emergent church Susan and I have been a part of for the last year, shared several interesting observations this past Sunday. The first was that "even the books in Christian bookstores are asking some interesting questions these days." If so, it is one of the most encouraging developments I can imagine. The second concerned his own early roots in Willow Creek Church. I had not been aware that they recently released the results of a comprehensive, three-year study that concluded, in essence, that their mega-church, seeker-friendly model has resulted in little or no success in inspiring genuine Christian discipleship. (For more on this, see Debra Dean Murphy's post "P ractices not Programs.") As founding (and widely imitated) Willow Creek pastor Bill Hybels is quoted: "Some of the stuff that we have put millions of dollars into, thinking it would really help our people grow and develop spiritually, when the data actually came back it wasn't helping people that much. Other things that we didn't put that much money into and didn't put much staff against is stuff our people are crying out for." I commend Hybels for his soul-searching honesty, and pray that the EP (which is hardly in a position to put millions of dollars into anything) may help God to yield a greater harvest with a more modest investment in fertilizer.

John McFadden, editor

Donate online
Donate by mail