Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Family Relations -- Faith Identity

I've been attending (through today)  a most interesting conference at Rochester College.  The conference is entitled:  Streaming:  Biblical Conversations from the Missional Frontier.   Our primary presenters have been Scot McKnight and Miroslav Volf, with topics focused on the book of James and Miroslav's book on Allah.  It's been great fun -- meeting new people and connecting with folks I've known before.  

Rochester College is Church of Christ, the a Capella portion of the Stone-Campbell Movement.  By definition, the CofC people are my ecclesial cousins.  We might not agree on everything, but we're related.  We share a heritage and certain practices in common -- weekly communion and baptism by immersion.  But we have our differences, and not just in music.  We both value the Bible, but we tend to read it differently.  Still, we're related.

I have experienced another set of relationships -- more existential perhaps, but still there.  I have strong evangelical roots.  I'm a graduate of Fuller after all.  I may be more liberal today than I once was, but when I'm at a conference with evangelicals, I feel a connection, even if I'm not in total theological agreement.  To give an example from the conference.  I had the opportunity to be in conversation with Scot McKnight, our presenter on James.  Scot and I have very different theologies, and yet despite the differences, there's this familial connection.  Indeed, my pushing him at points in the presentations is connected to my sense of connectedness and need to wrestle with these connections.
But even closer to home is the personal -- familial relationships that we have within our traditions.   At dinner last night I was  having a conversation with a number of people, including today's preacher -- Katie Hays, a Disciples pastor.  Although we'd never known each other prior to this conference, we had immediately connected.  Why?  We share a common heritage.  We're not just cousins, but we're ecclesial siblings.   

So the question is -- what creates these relationships?  The Disciples have extra-congregational structures and have created theological explanations for how these structures are connected to congregations, but how do these structures create relationships?   I'm friends with Presbyterians, Methodists, Lutherans, etc.  But these relationships seem different?  So why is it?  

So, here's the summary question -- what makes you you as a person of faith and how does that connect to your faith community connections?


Brian said...

"So, here's the summary question -- what makes you you as a person of faith and how does that connect to your faith community connections?"

When I reflect on my spiritual roots, I return to the nurture and community that I experienced as a teen in regional CYF programs. Camping at Tall Oaks and serving on leadership councils for the region. Indeed, it was as a 16 year old at a regional leadership event that I first felt a clear and undeniable sense of call to ordained ministry. (I tried to deny it for 16 years.)

In my 20's I had a 'crisis' of faith. I no longer called myself a Christian. Then I read Bishop Spong's book, "Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism". I found that I could be a Christian without having to deny my honest thoughts and feelings.

When I finally decided to go to seminary, I chose the one with the reputation as being the most liberal in our denomination, CTS. There I was encouraged to speak the truth as I best knew it. Today I try to write freely about liberal and non-theistic Christianity. I do it partly because I have no choice (duty of ordination vows), but also to show that a minister can speak frankly about controversial issues and not be formally disciplined by the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).

As a person of faith, I am formed by our liberal Disciple intellectual heritage. Because of our heritage I can have frank and honest conversation with good people like Bob who have come to our table via a different route.

Gary said...


You are not a Christian. And neither is John Spong. Both of you long ago decided the Bible isn't true and set out to define your own god and your own designer religion. But it is very dishonest of you to call it Christianity.

Brian said...


I respect that you and many other folks, including Christopher Hitchens, would not consider me to be a Christian. I do. The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) does. I'm in good standing. Mostly, I believe that the risen Christ considers me to be one.

Frankly, I'm not so different from you Gary. I do my best to discern wisely and I speak up for what I believe in. Our only difference comes down to matters of opinion.

Love ya big guy!


Gary said...


You and I have a great many more differences than just our opinions. I don't have time to go into them, and you wouldn't understand them anyway.

Brian said...

OK - We've covered much new ground today. Gary thinks I'm not a Christian. I think I am. Neither view accomplishes anything meaningful. The point of the thread is the question that Bob asks.

"...what makes you you as a person of faith and how does that connect to your faith community connections?"

This is not hard to answer if we honestly believe that being a part of a faith community is important. We often say it is important. Is there evidence that we believe it?

David said...

I wanted to say I've enjoyed the conversation the last few weeks, but haven't commented because I had gotten my gmail ID misremembered in my head.

Gary, don't stop trying to make us see the truth as you perceive it. And don't expect us to. I predict all our beliefs will change if we survive long enough. There has to be some common grounds. Not to would be the greatest enigma.

Gary said...


I am not trying to get any of you that I disagree with to see the truth. I don't believe any of you ever will. At least not in time to be saved. I would be pleased if it happened, but I don't think it will.

David said...

"I would be pleased if it happened, but I don't think it will."

Wow Gary, thanks. I sincerely hope you become more enlightened also.

I pray we all move closer to where Jesus would have liked us be.

I'll admit, I have a long way to go.