Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Congress - Where Were You?

I am becoming increasingly concerned with the lack of new evangelical scholarship at Congress. Congress is a wonderful environment for students and other scholars to share their projects with a wider academic community. It is a place where we can discover new resources, establish key connections and get valuable feedback on our projects. What concerns me is that it seems like such events are no longer a priority for students and professors.

On the student side, there is a need for doing our work amongst our peers. Young scholars can benefit not only from the pool of wisdom at Congress, but from the mere fact of presenting their work to academics outside of their own, sometimes isolated, school experience. In fact sometimes such presentations are the only way we can get the critical distance we need to do our work with academic integrity. Students need to be here.

On the professor side, there is an onus to encourage our students to do the things that will help them develop a career. Attending events like Congress is critically important for developing an academic career. In fact as professors we owe it to our students to suggest excellent papers be submitted to student essay contests. We owe it to them to connect them to research partners and acclimatise them to the academic culture in which they aspire to work. Graduate education is not just about thinking skills - it is about preparing the next generation to encourage the development of our disciplines.

How many of you students ever had a prof tell you how important academic societies are?. How many of you didn't even know Congress was on? How many professors encouraged a student to submit an essay to the contest?

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Preparing for Congress

I fly out Saturday for Fredericton. Congress 2011 is on and I'm attending meetings for the Canadian Evangelical Theological Association and the Canadian Theological Society (of which I'm no the exec). I'm not presenting this year so it will be a different experience, usually when I'm presenting I don't really get to enjoy anything until my moment in the sun is over. I hope to run into some old friends (Kenny you coming?) and make a lot of new ones as well. The highlight though will be hanging with fellow Saint Paul grad student Mike Tapper. Mike has arranged for us to stay with friends of his from when he pastored in that area. It will be a real good chance for me to get to know Mike and encourage him in his academic work. I love that Saint Paul is growing in diversity and having solid Methodist scholars like Mike in the mix is exciting.

If you are coming to Congress drop me a note and we can grab a coffee. I fly in Saturday and leave Thursday. That's me on the left - say hi if you see me.

Monday, May 23, 2011

An Open Letter to Family Radio Worldwide

I felt I wanted to write and open letter to Family Radio Worldwide in light of this weekend's events. I was prompted by visiting their website and seeing the fruit of this fear campaign - the false declaration that the Bible somehow guarantees a May 21st rapture. You don't have to read far into my blog to know what I think of such proclamations, but it struck me that this just might be a redemptive moment for this ministry. Perhaps they will turn their faces to God and leave behind their fears and join with God's redemptive work in this world. I can hope can I not?


Family Radio,

So sorry that you had to experience the pain of failed expectations this past weekend. I can’t imagine how disturbing that could be. Unfortunately the rest of us Christians have had to put up with your scare mongering for a while now, so in a sense there is a sigh of relief that this is finally over and maybe we can get on with what is really important about the life God has given us. Maybe this could be a moment when you not only re-think your website but your whole ministry. It will be a time when I will lend my prayers to seeing your ministry return to the heart of the gospel – which has nothing to do with escaping the world God so loved. Maybe with this behind you God will inspire you to put your hands to the plough and participate in God’s redemptive work amongst the nations – starting with your own communities. This could be just such a redemptive moment for family radio. I would encourage you to take your considerable passion and turn it to praying, reaching out, feeding the poor, loving your enemies, healing the sick and even binding up the broken hearted. Wouldn’t that be awesome? I find that focusing on those things means I don’t have time to get carried away by speculative scenarios and that I’m sure that whenever Jesus does return I will be found labouring in God’s Kingdom work. Isn’t that what you really wanted in the first place?

I would also encourage you to hire Biblical scholars who actually know how to work with the original languages and are not prone to Gnosticism. That might have saved you from this tragedy. It is obvious that your organization has the ear of a decent and readily motivated group of Christians. How about treating them like the worthy daughters and sons of the Kingdom they are and giving them the best you can? How about bringing in a balance of voices into the conversation as well? Let them challenge you from the Word of God so that you might put your hands to tasks that are worthy and not programmes of fear or hate.

I pray that God will surround you as you decide the next steps for your ministry. Much as I was disturbed by the events of this weekend, I wish no ill for any of you. I hope you will find the courage to use the discovery that you were wrong to craft a humble, God-focused new path for your ministry. I pray that God will be glorified as you embrace the plan of redemption that even rescues ministries from the mire and clay.

in Christ,
Frank Emanuel

Friday, May 20, 2011

American Lust for Certainty

Apparently Harold Camping's doomsday cult has become convinced that tomorrow is the date of the supposed rapture. I've already declined the facebook invite to join them, so I guess I'll just remain grounded in reality. Aside from the real sadness that I feel over those foolish enough to believe such drivel - this is not entirely unexpected nor is it without precedent in American history. Camping is part of a long line proclaiming the end is near with specific dates. Always calculated by arcane methods that distort the Bible into something that supposedly can give them absolute unassailable certainty. But really this should only serve to highlight the horrible way many of us evangelicals treat scripture. Sure we might thumb our noses at the arrogance of date predictions, but is that really any different than any of the other ways we fashion Scripture into a weapon to beat back and down the very ones Jesus died for? I for one hate it when we do that.

I plan on being here tomorrow, and the next day, in fact as long as the Lord lets me. As long as the Lord gives me breath I plan on challenging the very idolatry of certainty that creates this madness. I hope that when the disappointed followers of Camping realize that he has once again led them astray with false promises - they might see wake up and decide to really serve God. What I mean is that they would give up serving their idol certainty and let God really be God - the only one who actually knows the day and hour.

Lord have mercy.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Value of Family

Monday we were off to the Ontario Regional Vineyard Leader's Retreat. We do this every year and it is often a high point. This year was no exception. But something was quite different. In years past we've had Gary Best and/or another speaker come and share with us. But this year we shared stories from our communities and prayed intensely over each other. I think it was Ed Kolar who said it was like all the after meeting stuff (that is soooo good) done as the main thing. He was right. We loved on each other, encouraged each other, shared each other's pain and struggles, laughed and hugged, prophesied and prayed. It was so refreshing. Our Andrew's comment was that every conversation led to prayer. What an awesome way to spend three days.

To me this underscores the value of denominational families. When they work well, and to me the Vineyard works very well, they are such a great blessing. I always end up leaving denominational meetings feeling more connected to something much bigger and better than what we are doing on our own. And I've never felt anything but encouragement from this family - even when I've taken risks they would not have. I really love my Vineyard family.

We also really felt supported in the decisions we've made recently to put kinships on hold until September. For now I am going to focus on getting my thesis written. I am even hoping to go up to Brad and Mary Culver's homestead to use one of their retreat huts to be alone and write, write, write. Should be awesome to not have any distractions. Not sure how much time I'll be able to pull off, but it is the plan for this summer. Well, one of the plans.

I feel a lot of hope for the future of Freedom. I think that September will have a lot of new avenues open up for us. We needed a good dose of hope like that. Hope grounded in both a prophetic sense of where God is leading us and also in what God has built into us as a leadership team. It feels a lot like we've shaken off some dust and are able to see where we need to go next. (And finishing my thesis is actually a priority to God's plan as well as our church.) In a real sense I can't wait to see what God does in the fall.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Blogger Ate My Post???

Hopefully Blogger will restore my post on Pentecostal myths sometime soon.

I am preparing for a retreat next week - Vineyard pastors from all over Ontario. We do this every year and I'm really happy to be going this year. I wasn't going to be able to with my teaching, but that is the one perk about my course being cancelled. Sharon had decided already she was going to go in my place - so this will be the first time in ages we've gone together. I am hoping that through the prayer we will get a renewed sense of adventure to bring with us into whatever the future has for us and our congregation. My youngest daughter is also coming with us - I think she'll have fun. Her older sister is staying with some amazing friends of ours who have a son in her class. We are also taking our leaders Andrew and Lori. I am hoping that God will re-energize them as well. I am also hoping that God will heal them up so that they can minister in the way they want to (both of them have considerable health challenges).

Pray for us. I'll post something when I get back.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Myths About Pentecostals

Although my course was cancelled (not enough numbers) I thought I'd share a few fun things I learned while prepping it. I'll start with three fun misconceptions about Pentecostalism.

1) Pentecostals are Fundamentalists. I've probably made this generalization myself. But it is completely untrue. Not only did Fundamentalists have a hate on for Pentecostals, their operative eschatology is completely different. At least in terms of Classic Pentecostals, they did adopt a dispensationalist form of premillennialism. But the paradigm was one of restoration and it has a socially optimistic (read revivalistic) orientation. Fundamentalists gravitated to a more pessimistic, Darbyesque version. Fundamentalists were adamant cessationists simply because their view is always one of the world getting worse and worse and threatening the church more and more until the end. Pentecostals saw a church being restored to its place of power and evangelism. They anticipated that this would culminate in a massive revival that would likely be global in dimensions.

Pentecostals also would never take up literalism in the same way as Fundamentalists. Their driving hermeneutic is completely different and their expectation is that the church relies on both Scripture and the Spirit. Contrast this with the Fundamentalists who are holding very modernist claims and relying on the veracity of Scripture as their only proof. Fundamentalist certainty is based on how they construct their argument - evidences that they think demand a verdict. Pentecostals expect more than that - they convince with experience and radical acts of faith. It is wrong to assume Pentecostals are Fundamentalists.

2) Pentecostalism just appears out of nowhere with Azusa. This myth seems to live strongest amongst Pentecostals themselves. The reality is that Pentecostalism is really just the logical progression of the Methodist Holiness theologies that were so popular at that time. Pentecostals articulate their cluster of theologies a bit differently than these Methodist forerunners, for instance tongues was not an evidential aspect of Spirit Baptism for the Holiness groups - but it was a fairly common practice. Pentecostalism is really just a re-configuration of the Holiness movement - and one that has incredible appeal around the world.

3) Pentecostalism is all about ecstatic experiences. This is the thinking behind judgments that Pentecostals are 'holy rollers' or 'Noizerenes'. While ecstatics are definitely a strong part of Pentecostal culture and liturgy - Pentecostalism is actually a readily defined cluster of ideas. This is why, I believe, Pentecostalism has been so adaptive and persuasive. Tongues is not unique enough to define a movement - but theological positions are.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Glaringly Obvious - Once Pointed Out

Just returned from a visit to my academic director. She has read my first chapter. Probably the least painful visit over a piece of my writing yet. That is encouraging. My issues are not with content or overall logic - but rather with the internal logic of paragraphs. Stuff that I was watching for, but as soon as she points out it is painfully obvious that I missed them. I've talked in the past about being an expansive thinker and the problems this has caused for my writing. Seems I have a real knack for introducing new concepts without explaining them - most of them really interesting concepts. The funny thing is that I am quite a bit more coherent in my lecturing style. But some what makes this difference is that I have learned how to bring a lecture back from a tangent (and recognize that I've departed on a tangent). I am not always the most linear of thinkers. Doctoral dissertations are painfully linear.

I am in good shape to fix up these problems next week, my course was cancelled due to low enrollment. That sucks in a way, but it allows me to accomplish more work on my thesis.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Election 2011

What a crazy night. People seem to be glad that we will not have another election for four years, but I can't help thinking that Harper has four years to really screw Canada over. Can you tell I'm less than thrilled at a Conservative majority. I actually worked the election as a Deputy Returning Officer (the only other person than you who can touch your ballot) for Elections Canada, so I was busy counting votes and closing down my ballot when the results were coming in (so I did not hear anything). By the time I got to my car to scoot the counted ballots back to Elections Canada they were already announcing a Conservative majority on the radio. But there were clues this would be a dramatic election. We had a lot of folks come in to register at the poll to vote, in fact the poll I ran had over 75% voter participation (even apart from the new registrants). The other indication was that the majority of the voters were older (lots of senior citizens) and the next largest group was young voters, many of whom were voting for the very first time. The poll I was at is in a fairly stable part of the riding (not a lot of transient voters) so I was hoping this youth vote was indicative of the rest of our polls.

Running the poll was exhausting, but a lot of fun. They gave us bottles of this awesome hand sanitizer (I usually hate this stuff) that smelled like Beecham's Black Cough Drops (I used to eat these like candy as a kid, sooooo yummy. Am I the only one who remembers these?) Well the bottles became the subject of endless jokes between our poll and the one across from us. Great group of people to work with. But a lot of work (especially as the DRO).

The one bright spot was the election of Elizabeth May, the first elected Green Party member of parliament. Give em hell May! Not only do I think May will do an excellent job in parliament, this is a new day for my party. I can't help feeling a tremendous amount of optimism for Greens in the future - when our children are old enough to vote things will change dramatically. And I think Greens will be poised to bring about a lot of those changes.

OK, so now it is back to the grind. I'll try my best to live peacefully with the dark blue shadow that has overtaken our land - at least long enough to do my work and hopefully sow the seeds of a brighter tomorrow.