The Ekklesia Project

   June 2009   

This issue of our newsletter contains matters relevant to Gathering 2009, and its topic--Christian faithfulness in economics. We hope to see you in July.


Who's coming? 

  • About 70 folk have now registered for this summer's Gathering.  We're hoping for at least that many more.
Who is presenting?
  • Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove - "Tactics from Jesus for a Good Life Now"
  • Bill Cavanaugh - "Creation" 
  • Kathy Grieb - "Paul's Theology of the Cross and the Jerusalem Church Collection

What about workshops?
 Here are titles (and some descriptions) of our Tuesday workshop offerings:

  • "Congregations, Communities and Development: Stories and Conversation": A workshop to explore together issues related to churches/communities engaging in real development projects both large and small. Stories from Reba Place Fellowship and Englewood Christian Church will help focus our conversation.
  • "Doing Business for the Kingdom or the Empire?": A workshop exploring how two communities attempt to practice gospel-informed economics within the context of the marketplace. Georgia-based Koinonia Farm, founded by Clarence Jordan as a "demonstration plot for the kingdom of God," and San Francisco-based Web development company Dayspring Technologies will share their experiences as a starting point for our conversation.
  • "All things in common: Sharing money in intentional Christian community"
  • Kingdom economics in 'traditional' congregations"
What about worship?
  • This year we've asked 2 congregations to lead 2 of our worship services. Redeemer Community Church will lead closing worship, with their pastor Danny Fong preaching. Christ Community Church (Des Moines) will lead our footwashing service on Friday evening. The planning team for opening worship includes Chi-Ming Chien, Ed Phillips, and preacher Roy Terry (of Cornerstone UMC).
When does it start and end?
  • We start registration Thursday at 10 am, with the first meal beginning at noon. Our welcome and introductions follows at 1 pm.  We conclude Saturday just before noon.

How do I get transportation from the airport to DePaul?

  • This and so many other questions will be covered in a transportation information sheet sent to all registrants. You should give yourself at least an hour for transport to and from DePaul and either airport.
 Is  financial assistance available to persons with need?
The Gathering is a great place to duscover (and renew) gospel friendships. We have intentionally structured the conference to help encourage that.  
Last month I received confirmation of how our Gathering a copy of Gabe Santos' new book, Redeeming the Broken Body: Church and State after Disaster. In his preface Gabe writes:

"Many thanks to Steve Fowl for telling Chad about my research-I never would have thought that a brief talk in the salad line at the Ekklesia Project annual gathering would have had such impact"

You may not like salad, or be writing a book either, but similar serendipities away you at Gathering 2009.

Franks He Became PoorHe Became Poor:  The Poverty of Christ and Aquinas's Economic Teachings, Chris Franks (Grand Rapids:  Eerdmans, 2009).  207pp. 
Reviewed by Kelly S. Johnson
I am sick to death of being told -in actions, policies, and sometimes words-that the gospel is wonderful, but when Christians face economic problems they must "balance" that idealism with common sense.  Catholics rationalize this by invoking Thomas Aquinas's teaching that "grace does not destroy nature, but perfects it," meaning that believing in Jesus does not do away with our need for prudential self-preservation, which unites us to all humans.  For protestants, the theological rationale may be more neibhurian:  individuals may follow a Christological practice of self-sacrifice, but nations must act on self-interest, without abandoning the tempering ideal of love.  
I love this book because it is a carefully researched argument that the poor and crucified Christ is at the heart of a full understanding of nature and therefore at the heart of economic (including ecological) thinking. 
Chris Franks patiently reconstructs the relationship between prudence and poverty, nature and grace, arguing that grace does indeed perfect (rather than destroy) nature-and therefore a full understanding of nature, of prudence, of self-love, and of economics will have the crucified Lord at its center.  Drawing on Aquinas to illuminate Wendell Berry's "great economy," Franks demonstrates that Christian economic thought ought not set its Christology aside when addressing economic questions, because the poverty of Christ reveals the patient receptivity that is the heart of any truly full account of nature. As it turns out, it is Christ's poverty that helps us understand use and exchange value.   (Now that's cool.)  
Franks' argument in outline is that although many commentators have seen Thomas as anticipating modern economic thought, drawing strong connections between Thomas and Locke, those two have profoundly different understandings of nature.  For Locke, each person has natural property in him or herself and therefore has a right to property.  For Thomas each person exists within a natural network of mutual dependence created by and dependent on God, and accounts of property and exchange are always conditioned by our initial receptivity.  The presumption of this 'great economy' is a point Thomas shares with Aristotle, but Thomas sees what Aristotle could not: vulnerable, dependent poverty is instrumental to the perfection of human nature.  The following of Christ crucified leads humans to cultivate humble lowliness as a part of, not the enemy of, proper self-love.  Knowing the cross as prelude to resurrection teaches humans the hope that renders suffering for the sake of charity prudent. 
Franks is a careful and insightful reader of Thomas, a smart writer on philosophical questions of economics like the nature of exchange value, how to determine just price, and the meaning of property.  And he's an inspiring writer, exemplifying the kind of gentle, receptive strength he advocates for Christians.  It's a great book.  Go get it and read it.  

Note: this book is the second volume in the Eerdmans Ekklesia series.  Kelly is the author of the first volume.

Room In the (greater Chicago area) Inn?
We have some need for housing a few members of the EP Board on Wednesday,  July 8.  If you could offer hospitality, as well as a way to get that person to DePaul by 8:30 Thursday morning (whether via public transportation or a ride with you), please contact Brent Laytham by email or at 773-428-5745.

"Through the Consuming Fire: Economic Faithfulness in an Age of Consumerism" is a conference that will be held at Englewood Christian Church in Indianapolis, Nov. 13-14. Visit their website for more information.