The Ekklesia Project

   August 2009   

*New Voices on bLOGOS

*Calvin conference on "Teaching, Learning, and Christian Practices"

*Report from Institute on Reconciliation

*Theology and Culture, by D. Stephen Long

*Join the newsletter team


good farmerAs we turn from August to September, harvest season begins.  Ragan Sutterfield highlights the paradox of gift and work in both farming and God's relationship with Israel and the Church in the most recent bLOGOS post.  Ragan is but one of a new cadre of EP'ers recruited at the July gathering to regularly contribute to the EP weblog.  Ragan is joined by Doug Lee, posting this month on What to Wear In Battle, Kyle Childress querying the notion of Kings?, and Halden Doerge on Receiving Gifts.  Other new voices will soon add to the mix.  We remain deeply grateful for the good work of all those who write for bLOGOS, knowing how much their insights are a gift to us all, words of calm, peace, wisdom, humor, joy (and incisive critique) in an oversaturated world.
Teaching, Learning and Christian Practices

EP endorser Jamie Smith sends us an invitation to a conference on "Teaching, Jamie Smith
Learning, and Christian Practices."

We are familiar with recent theological discussions of Christian practices such as hospitality, Sabbath-keeping, forgiveness, intentional community, healing, prayer, worship, and spiritual reading, emphasizing that faith is not reducible to a mere system of ideas and beliefs. There has also been significant discussion in the world of education regarding the nature of educational practice, and of teaching and learning settings as communities of practice.

The Kuyers Institute for Christian Teaching and Learning will host a conference in October 2009 that seeks to address the intersection between these discussions, asking how Christian practices illuminate, challenge, or contribute to Christian teaching and learning. The keynote speakers are Paul Griffiths (Duke Divinity School) and Rebecca DeYoung (Calvin College).
For more information, including a complete schedule and registration details.
Report from the Duke Summer Institute on Reconciliation
by Dominque DuBois Gilliard

CORDr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said that the most segregated time in America is on Sunday mornings when Christians are attending Church. That was over fifty years ago in the midst of the Civil Rights Movement, yet this statement still rings as a violently vivid truth today. Why is this?  A primary reason is, without penance there can be no reconciliation. The Church globally must first acknowledge both its societal shortcomings and its sinful nature regarding its past exploitation of people, groups, and countries. Furthermore, the United States Church must acknowledge that it is a broken institution which has been fractured by the social stratifications of this world. We have neglected biblical mandates and turned a deaf ear to God's cry for justice, mercy, and diversity. Instead of transforming the world, the Church has allowed the world to shape and form it.

The media, educational system, and criminal justice system play a large part in creating the divisions institutionally. Yet we as believers play a primary role in creating these divisions as well through our inability to escape comfort zones, the luxury of not endure issues of injustice as a daily reality, and by selected homogeneous residential communities, churches, and schools. All of these choices contribute to sustaining segregation within the body of Christ, and when we model these things for the next generation, our children grow up thinking they are normative, natural, and even the way that God designed it. The Church must make some drastic changes to redeem Christ's purpose for us and to reemerge as a light in a time of darkness for the masses.

The Summer Institute sponsored by the Duke Center for Reconciliation was a great time of realigning God's people with His mission. Over 100 people learned about many strategic approaches to reconciling all things, including the five stages of healthy reconciliation for individuals and institutions. I also attended a course taught by John Perkins and Mary Nelson where we learned tactical skills such as asset based community development, John Perkins 3 R's (Relocation, & Redistribution of wealth as well as a resources), and Christian Community Development Association (CCDA's) 8 steps to Christian community development. All of these were done with the hope that the attendees will begin to embodying Christ's incarnational example and take back what was learned to infuse these skills and paradigms into our churches/communities to further kingdom building efforts.     

Click here for highlights from the Summer Institute, including photos, audio from some of the plenaries, and Q&A with John Perkins and Sam Barkat.

Theology and Culture: A Guide to the Discussion, D. Stephen Long (Eugene: Cascade Books, 2008). 114pp.
Reviewed by Jake Wilson
As the pastor of two local churches, I am constantly told that our church must be culturally relevant if we are to reach more people. Every week I receive junk mail offering the latest workshop on "connecting with Gen-X" or planting a church in a coffee house. It wtheology and cultureould appear that if the Gospel is to be proclaimed we must be tuned in to the latest cultural trend. But why all this push to be culturally relevant? Or perhaps a better question: what kind of assumptions are at work when we seek to relate the Christian faith to culture? And for that matter, why is that we invoke the word culture at all? Isn't theology sufficiently complicated without tying it to the language of culture? In this short work, Steve Long offers us a guide to pondering such questions.
Long acknowledges that the book is but a guide, seeking not so much to offer definitive answersas to lead us through the complexities of the modern preoccupation with culture. This preoccupation brings both promise and peril, which Long explores in the first lesson. The next several lessons work toward defining culture, its many uses in various disciplines, as well as its relationship to both nature and language. These are dense chapters, as the material doesn't lend itself to simple descriptions.
The second half of the book focuses in on specific theologians and their engagement with culture.  Long leads the reader through a list which includes Ernest Troeltsch, H. Richard Niebuhr, Paul Tillich, George Lindbeck, James McClendon, Katherine Tanner, Sara Coakley, and John Milbank among others. As the list suggests, this is terrain that calls for a skilled guide. It is this second half of the book that really shines as Long helps the reader to see the development of our preoccupation with culture, as well as offering six contemporary approaches to engaging with theology and culture.
Long argues that the relationship between theology and culture is ultimately a question of Christology; of how we frame the relationship between Christ's human and Divine natures. Following the example of the Christological definition set forth at Chalcedon, these are questions which call for engagement and discernment, not airtight explanations. Steve Long's ''Theology and Culture" is an essential guide to this discernment process.

From the Editor

At our Gathering I spoke with a number of folks about helping with the EP Newsletter, and our "team" is slowly coming together.  But all readers can help to make the newsletter a more useful tool by alerting me to events of interest to fellow EPers, reviewing a book you believe others might profitably read, or suggesting the names of persons (including yourself) who would be good candidates for a "Meet the EP" article.  Contact me here with your thoughts and suggestions.

John McFadden