Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Recent Travels

I'm just home from an intense three-week stretch of travel. The most shocking part of the whole trip was taking the red-eye home from LAX: I left 78 degrees and returned home to -19 degrees. However, you won't catch me complaining about the cold, cuz I Love It! Now, some highlights in reverse order:

Last weekend, I was at the incomparably beautiful Pepperdine University in Malibu. I spoke at a Friday morning chapel service, had lunch with some faculty and administrators, and led a prayer retreat for about 40 student leaders. I'm not a big fan of Christian colleges in general, since they too often promote just the kind of Christian enclaving that I dislike, however, Pepperdine gives me hope. While they are attempting to stay true to their Restorationist heritage, they are also desiring to be "radically ecumenical" (to quote one faculty member). This, I think, is just the way to move forward in a pluralistic world. The students were sharp and theologically inquisitive, and the faculty were outstanding -- I was afforded a warm reception.

Prior to that, I was in Decatur, Georgia, at the Mainline Emergent/s event at Columbia Seminary. This was a hybrid event, a meeting-of-the-minds between mainliners and emergers. Many ask, "What is Emergent?" But here, the question was, "What is the mainline?" Of course, the answer is that term is just as squishy as "evangelical" or "emergent." Diana Butler Bass helpfully called it, "Name brand Christianity," but that falls a bit short, too.

Different collections of our two groups came together over a year ago at Princeton Seminary with painful, if not disastrous, effects. This event at Columbia was much better. There was spirit in room -- and Spirit -- thanks in large part to Troy Bronsink and Eugene IV who led us in song and reading. The sessions and break-outs were helpful, but the connections at the Brickstore Pub each night were the high point. As usual, the formalities serve to make way for the relationships.

But the event was not without discomfort, as the blogosphere has told the tale. Where were the people of color? (They were on the stage, but not in the crowd.) Was it another event of "us" vs. "them"? What's the common ground? For my part, I'd say the difficulties all stem from an inability to really hear one another. That is, just because someone (me) challenges someone else to theological justify their practices does not necessarily imply a lack of commonality, or a lack of respect. Surely, emergers have engendered an ethos of sharp, even deconstructive, debate; to other ears, that often sounds harsh and unchristian. But we don't mean it to.

The week before last, I was teaching a week-long intensive class at Olivet Nazarene University. I'll say this: teaching one of those classes is hard work. And this: eating in a college cafeteria all week is not good for the waistline. Again, my hosts, particularly Mark Holcomb, were extraordinarily hospitable. The class went well, I think. The most fun was doing some cultural anthropological exegesis on the Olivet dining hall -- where different kids sat, and what that said about their cultural position. A dinner one night with the Dean of Theology and a historical theology prof cleared up some misconceptions about Emergent, I hope.

And the week prior to that, I was in Boston, meeting with a dozen Episcopal priests engaged in young adult ministry around that city. What a great group! I ran my smack about an Aristotelian understanding of spiritual formation, which I hope they found helpful. Plus, I got to have dinner with my cousin and her boyfriend, and then have a beer with the Boston Cohort -- now that group is crazy! Seriously, they remind me of my friends at Journey in Dallas.

Boston, Illinois, Atlanta, Los Angeles.
Episcopal, Nazarene, Presbyterian, Churches of Christ.
Anglican, Holiness, Reformed, Restorationist.

Honestly, I feel exceedingly blessed to have made friends with such a wide array of Jesus-followers.

Now, two weeks at home to finish the book, be with the family, and do the taxes before the next trip.


Blogger Tora Massey said...

Tony, Greetings from the Christian Education Journal! I am the manager of academic publications at Biola University and we are reviewing a couple of your books in the next issue of CEJ (www.biola.edu/cej) I wanted to get in touch with your publisher (Zondervan) for possible advertising opportunities. I apologize for using your personal blog to get in touch with you, but Blogger makes it so easy! Please contact me directly through the CEJ website (www.biola.edu/cej). In response to your blog...I am a Pepperdine grad and, yes, the weather in SoCal is still incomparably beautiful! Blessings, -tora

3:08 PM  
Anonymous Drive-Thru Society said...

Tony- I am sure that Boston was crazy, but I know the folks at Journey and I have not yet met anyone who can hang with their crazyness...well except maybe folks at the Porch. By the way I would take 78 over this -19 any day! I am glad you back home and I will see you soon.

7:17 AM  
Blogger spankey said...

Tony, I was at, and live blogged from, the Emergent/Mainline conversation and left feeling blessed. As an emergent episcopalian I felt at home for the first time in quite a while. Thanks for stretching your comfort zone while stretching ours. I hope, with the help of Karen Ward and others, to begin an Emergent Episcopalian network with the help of our national church center in NYC. Thanks to the three days in decatur, I've found a calling to serve the wider Church, and for that I'm exceedingly grateful.

7:24 PM  

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