Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Upcoming Webinar

Centered Set: What Did We Get Ourselves Into?

Join us for a webinar on December 7
Reserve your webinar seat now at: CLICK HERE

It's a familiar concept for us in the Vineyard movement. It is supposed to describe how we function as a community. Have we fully considered the radical implications of this perspective, particularly now as we are more serious about really engaging with the communities in which we live, work and play?

• Are centered and bounded sets mutually exclusive?
• Is this just for "Baptists in transition" or for everyone?
• Why does this "feel" like compromise?

We will explore this together along with a panel of practitioners.

You can download the webinar later, even if you can't attend the live event, but only if you register now. (You will receive an email the day after the webinar with a link to download the file at your convenience).

Panelists: Gary Best and others tba
Title: Centered Set: What Did We Get Ourselves Into?
Date: Tuesday, December 7, 2010
Time: 10:00 AM - 11:30 AM PT
11:00 AM - 12:30 PM MT
12:00 PM - 1:30 PM CT
1:00 PM - 2:30 PM ET
2:00 PM - 3:30 PM AT
6:00 PM - 7:30 PM GT
This message was sent by: Vineyard Resource Canada, PO Box 333, St. Stephen, NB E3L 1H8, Canada

Theology Pubs

This summer I presented a few Thoughtworks workshops at the National Gathering in Penticton, BC. We had such a good crowd for the Theology Pub/Post-modern Hermeneutics workshop that we had to run two groups (sample theology pubs)! The format was simple, I presented a bit on the model of theology pubs and then we did it on the topic of post-modern hermeneutics. Some of the feedback on the theology pub format was really good - and my experiences with running theology pubs in Ottawa has convinced me that it is a way of creating space for those who want to really reflect on their faith and the challenging issues we face trying to faithfully live out our faith in the world today. So, I'm going to share a blog version of the presentation I ran in Penticton. I know there are other approaches to theology pubs so I'm hoping to get some of the other leaders who have been running them in Ontario to share their ideas on the topic as well.

The first thing I addressed was the venue. Although it is trendy to call them theology pubs it isn't the pub that makes them special. In fact a lot of bars that call themselves pubs are not really good environments for a theology pub. What you want is a coffee shop, quiet pub, or restaurant where you can seat everyone together comfortably and carry on a conversation. From experience it takes a bit of work to find a good location - we had added challenges with accommodating a couple wheelchairs. A few other important aspects of the venue need to be considered. First this is about a public conversation. There is something about bringing it into a public space that allows participation that you wouldn't get say in a church building or in a private space. It also allows listeners on to jump in. Another consideration is size. Because we run theology pubs on edge topics relevant to our community - we can have fairly big turnouts for a pub setting. It is worthwhile thinking this through before you get to the venue and find that you can't really have a proper conversation with the group you attracted. In Penticton I figured we might run into this problem so I had asked Mark Taverner, a pastor I knew ran theology pubs in Langley, to be ready to take half the group.

Then I spent some time on the philosophy of theology pubs, what they are all about. The most important aspect for us is having a good conversation. I define a good conversation as thoughtfully engaging the topic with an eye on the implications of our faith life towards that topic. At Freedom we intentionally take on topics that we are wrestling with as a church community. By bringing these things into conversation we are creating a community that works through issues together. It makes church function more like a family, and even when there isn't consensus on an issue, at least folks feel like they've had a part in shaping the churches response to the challenges of the day.

I have already looked a bit at why a public conversation is important. But another aspect is that the mode of a theology pub is a bit different than we usually do training in the church. The technical name is a Socratic conversation, which really just means that together you explore an issue by asking questions in a group. It isn't about getting to the one right answer, but allowing the answers and questions to be explored. This doesn't mean it never lands on answers - but it requires a lot more patience than we might be used to. Which is the third point - listening. I think Wimber had a brilliant insight in his healing prayer model when he talked about listening to the person and at the same time listening to God. I find that this works really well in theology pubs. Conversations are about hearing the different views and questions. We usually invite someone into the conversation who we know has a different perspective on it than we do, this enriches the conversation. It is important that we don't see theology pubs as debates. But we also need to recognize that we are people who hear and respond to God. So we listen in two directions. But the nuance I like to insist on is not to try and hear what God's answer is - cause often we get that confused with what we want God's answer to be - but rather, in light of this what would God want me to do? How would God want me to respond? Just that little shift is an amazing change to the conversation. Overwhelmingly I find people who want to explore deep issues, but us evangelicals haven't made ourselves very good conversation partners. (I am also convinced that Jesus' brilliant way of responding to folks came from his ability to actually hear what they were saying, something to think about as we read the gospels.)

In terms of content, the world is a complicated place. Historically the evangelical churches (in particular) have had an amazing capacity to experiment and find fresh expressions of the gospel that speak into the culture. What I think we are called to today is to rise up to the challenge of culture once again. We don't shy away from tough subjects in our theology pubs. I know Mark did his first one on hell, great subject. We need to recognize that most people are wrestling with the ideas we once thought were settled - and that this is not a bad thing. At Freedom we've taken on everything from the Eucharist to homosexuality. And they have been wonderful conversations. What I would encourage is that you don't just come in with your already established opinions. Either do some research into the subject and the various perspectives on the subject, or find someone who has been working in this area. I often invite someone from one of the universities to participate. They don't lecture, they are just there as another person in the conversation. There are folks out there who would love to come and be part of such a conversation, often we tell them we'll buy them a pint for coming - but most enjoyed themselves so much we had to fight to pick up their pub tab!

Really the only person you need though is a facilitator. The facilitator does not need to be an expert on the topic. But they do need to cultivate a few skills. First they need to know the goals of the theology pub, conversation not debate, etc. Second they should prepare a few starting questions that can get the conversation rolling. Our experience is that this is important to get things going, but usually we have to decide to stop it because the conversation takes on a life of its own when it gets rolling. Third, they need to steer the conversation clear of becoming a debate. What I loved about the workshop I ran in Penticton was that there were a variety of opinions on how we read scripture in a post-modern day - but it didn't devolve into an argument. At one point, as the facilitator, I realized two people were saying almost the same thing but with different language. I simply introduced a new term and helped each side see how it captured what they were trying to say. The new term was helpful because they hadn't attached themselves to it as the way to say what they were saying.

Hope this was helpful, I would love to hear of your experiences with theology pubs. What works, what doesn't, and what could be done differently.

Frank Emanuel (Freedom Vineyard, Ottawa)

Monday, November 29, 2010

Society of Vineyard Scholars

Recently on my personal blog I talked about the importance of presenting papers at academic conferences. And this morning a reminder came into my inbox about the near deadline to submit papers to the Society of Vineyard Scholars. Much as I'd love to participate, I have prior commitments this year. But that should not stop you from considering it. The call is open to all who believe in the mission of the society.

Within the current call for papers, I super interested in the topic 'Doctrine of Justification' as this doctrine has been subject of a lot of conversations I've been part of around the Vineyard in Canada in the last couple of years. There seems to be a growing concern that while substitutionary atonement is an important understanding of Jesus' death and resurrection, it is not the only one and that we might have lost some of the richness of resurrection theology by focusing on just one aspect of God's work through Christ. Last year folks had posted articles from the conference, I'll be sure to put a link up here for all that come up from this years meeting.

One last note, if you are from the Ontario region and plan on attending (alas I cannot this year) then please consider writing a review for this blog.

Frank Emanuel (Freedom Vineyard, Ottawa)

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Resource: The Song Share Project

The Canadian Vineyard is a wonderfully active place. The Worship Development team has set up an amazing site for sharing and developing new worship songs. It is called the Vineyard Song Share Project. As Prosper of Aquitaine (390-455) noted, lex orendi, lex credendi, that is how we worship shapes what we believe, therefore, it is so important that we intentionally develop worship that reflects the theology that has been life to our movement. Worship has always been a central value in our movement and the Song Share Project lets us all have a hand in shaping worship that will bless the Church and, more importantly, bring glory to God.

Frank Emanuel (Freedom Vineyard, Ottawa)

Friday, November 26, 2010

New Thoughtworks Blog

Thoughtworks is a Development Group of the Vineyard Church in Canada. Our purpose is to equip churches to faithfully love God with both heart and mind. While our resources focus on thoughtful engagement with Christian theology, history, and practice, our ultimate passion is to see Christians strengthened in their faith so that they can participate with God's redemptive works throughout the whole world.

How does it work?

Through the Thoughtworks website you will find curriculum and other resources developed by our national task force to serve our churches. Thoughtworks also works with each region to organize workshops and training opportunities to help you equip the saints. Regionally a representative helps get the resources into your hands. These resources focus on four important areas of theological mentoring: God Thoughts, what we call foundational theology; Biblical Foundations, recognizing the authoritative role scripture plays in our movement this material fosters a deep relationship with the Bible; Kingdom Encounters, because whole people are a whole lot better than the alternative!; and, Future Church, where we focus on how we continue to build effective ministries in a changing culture.

So why the blog?

In order to better facilitate resourcing the Ontario region, this blog was set up as a central point of contact for those interested in mentoring and discipleship from a Canadian Vineyard perspective. Here we will feature articles to get you thinking and keep you connected.

Look for articles:
  • on approaches to mentoring and discipling

  • reviews and discussions of books and tools that Vineyard folk have found helpful

  • on upcoming regional training opportunities that you can get involved in

  • reports from past events that folks in our Region have attended

  • articles on theological work that is relevant to Ontario regional Vineyards
As with any good blog you will be able to comment and interact. Comments will be monitored by regional Thoughtworks representatives. Announcements will not have commenting enabled, but should always include contact details for further inquiry.

OK, so is there a catch?

Actually yes there is. We are looking for content. This blog belongs to the regional Vineyards in Ontario. If you hang out with us then you are invited to participate. Send your blog posts to the Ontario Regional Thoughtworks Coordinator.* He's a really nice guy named Frank.

We are looking forward to many fruitful conversations and seeing more of what God has for our region, our churches and our world.

* Article submissions must match one of the above listed categories. Please include a note about your affiliation with the Vineyard - you do not need to be a member of a Vineyard church, but you do need to be known to a Vineyard church. We reserve the right to edit your article, but we will make sure any changes meet with your approval before we post.