World Religious Leader’s Summit

June 30, 2010

Orange robed swamis sitting next to black robed with purple trim orthodox bishops. Saudi officials in their black with Gold trimmed robes talking to a American rabbi with his purple kippah. These were the sights and sounds of the Inter-faith World Religious Summit that I was apart of last week.

For me the most poignant moment came as Romeo Dallaire, the Canadian General in charge of the UN forces during the Rwandan Genocide talked about how “Every Human is Human and not anything less”

Here is the insight that united these people from across the globe, who each confessed a different creed. Behind this insight stands all the ways in which we treat so many as less then human. Genocide, hunger, refugees, violent conflict, child soldiers, poverty  . . . the list goes on. In front of this insight stands the basic Christian belief that all are created in the image of God, and therefore of infinite value. The insight of Senator Dallaire, and the insight that the earth and its environment was something we all shared, and held us together.

In that week, around that table I saw a foretaste of what our future calling is as a Christian Church. It is a calling to join with others; To work with others of all faith; for our shared calling to love each others, and to care for God’s creation. For we now face challenges in which the willingness to act with compassion is more important then the iotas of a creed. And to face these challenges it will take nothing less then the miraculous power of faith to bring the impossible into reality.

If you want to read more. My sermon on the World Religious Leaders Summit can be found at Religious Leaders Summit Sermon

The website for the summit is at

What Can An Oil Spill Teach Us?

June 16, 2010

I must say that I have, in a very twisted way, began to find the response the gulf oil spill interesting. There are the environmentalists driving up in their SUVs to condemn BP. There is the president flying his jumbo jet for himself so that he can show that he is in charge and addressing this issue.  There are law makers huffing and puffing and then refusing to pass legislation that can make a difference. Then there is BP trying to look the contrite beyond petroleum company, after we have learned that carelessness, recklessness and greed helped cause the disaster. It is a great theatre of posturing. The reality is that as long as we have a lifestyle base on oil, there will be deep water wells. As long as demand grows greater risks will be taken. As long as politics rely on big business dollars ,lax legislation and enforcement will be bought.  Oil in the gulf is the result of the life we each live, and the political and economic systems we encourage to support that life. If we don’t want oil in the gulf – then something more fundamental must be transformed.

Wait – isn’t transformation what we are about as people of faith? If faith is real and alive it is able to bring about transformation in people’s lives so that we can be the living presence of God’s healing of the world. In other words, if our faith isn’t able to lead us in a meaningful transformationn of our lives in the areas of our world most broken, then we are fooling ourselves. So here is a question . . . how is your faith, leading you to transform your life, in response to oil in the gulf and pollution in the air?  As communities of faith how are we being transformed in response to this disaster? In the midst of a theatre of posturing, where are the faith communities living out lives of confession, repentance, grace, and transformation. If you have a story please share it, because as the spirit is alive, so there are communities already living out God’s call to the healing of the world that God so loves.

What if…we were about fresh cucumbers, and not just pickles

June 10, 2010

Nothing like a good pickle metaphor!  Ok, maybe not a good one, but a useful one.  Growing up, my parents always planted a few cucumber plants in the garden.  They produced cucumbers that were dark green, fresh and crisp; we ate well for weeks as we brought in our haul of produce.  The rest of the year we bought cucumbers at the store, and rarely did we eat pickles.  Sure, pickles are preserved cucumbers, but it wasn’t the same as the fresh garden variety.  In fact, I have an uncle who went on a “pickle diet” several years ago – I think it was a fad he read about in a magazine.  After a few weeks he started to fall ill and he told his doctor about the pickles.  The doctor scolded him for such a silly diet, “no one can live on pickles!”  The salty pickles were slowly killing him! (I’m happy to report he’s much better now, and eating a healthy diet).

It’s my experience that Churches often go the ‘pickle route’ when it comes to faith.  We preserve things well, but often fail to plant and foster new growth.  We get used to pickles when a garden of fresh cucumbers is a season away. 

This metaphor came to mind when I read a recent National Post article written as commentary on the Anglican General Synod.  A Bishop at the Synod was asked about the slow growth of the Christian Church in the Middle East, and whether Anglicans were trying to replenish the dwindling population by making new Christians.  He responded by saying, “no, we are not evangelical. We are just trying to preserve the ‘living stones’ (Christians) already there.”

Something happens when we move from a growing culture called by Jesus to tell others about him, to a preservationist culture geared towards maintenance and nostalgia.  We hope the church will persevere, but pickles do not beget more pickles.  The National Post commentator summed up his experience at the Synod this way, “Liberals tend to believe that Christianity is one of many paths that lead to God. The good bishop could not quite see that his liberalism is chipping its way through the branch on which he is perched: if Christianity is not unique, if it has no truth to offer that is inaccessible to other religions, there isn’t too much point in keeping Anglicanism, synods, dioceses, parishes or even bishops on artificial life support.  What reason could there be, other than nostalgia, for not letting this particular path fade gracefully away?”

I believe that we, as followers of Jesus, do have something powerful to share.  The Good News of Jesus changes lives, it did with the early disciples, it changed our own Martin Luther, and Jesus changed me!  Let’s embrace the hope we have in Christ and move into a new season of growth.  This spring, let’s close the proverbial pickle jar and plant some cucumbers.  Because you just can’t live on pickles.

Read more:

What if…we trained leaders in new ways?

June 9, 2010

Rhythm In Twenty is an interesting approach to developing young leaders.  It’s a two-year program for church leaders age 25-35 that takes a group of twenty on a number of spiritual retreats and formative experiences that create new rhythms of faith and leadership.  I don’t know enough about the program to vouch for it, but it’s an interesting approach.  Right now, leadership development in the ELCIC is tightly defined, hierarchical and generally quite linear.  Committees choose candidates, move them through several years of education, bestow titles, and connect them with a church.  But we live in a world requiring a complex adaptive approach to the discontinuous change our churches face.  Do we need a more dynamic approach?  We need to educate leaders well, but education alone does not a leader make.  What if we created new approaches to leadership that helped people (clergy and others), explore the ways God is working in their lives and shaping them for service.  Maybe it’s a one year intensive experience like Vantage Point 3, perhaps it’s a two year series of retreats like Rhythm in Twenty, perhaps it’s a degree from a seminary, or maybe a mixture of experiences.  Whatever the case, we would do well to re-imagine leadership development in our context.

What if…we were motivated

June 8, 2010

Motivation is a funny thing.  Organizations tend to live in the thinking that since money motivates people (and since we’re short on cash) then we will not have the power to motivate people or affect any real change.  But studies show that motivation is not tied to money in the way we might think.  In fact, some of the best ideas and innovations came about when money was not a big consideration.  Here, this short video will explain it better…

Cool eh?  Now, what are the implications?  How do we create a healthy and vibrant motivated community of pastors, church leaders, seminary teachers, and ordinary church-goers like you and me?  I have ideas, but based on this video, what are your ideas?

… we looked to the future with trust?

June 7, 2010

What if we looked at the future and trusted that what needs to happen will happen? We always get so caught up in what the future might look like and what changes it will require that we forget that the future is something that we have a part in making. We gathered this last weekend in Camrose for the Biennial Convention of the Synod of Alberta and the Territories and had opportunities to look back to the past, discuss where we thought we are at the present, and look forward to what might be. Can we truly embrace the future with trust? We have a God who in the midst of difficult situations reminds us, “All things work together for good.” We can trust the future because God is good and calls us forward each and every day to share the love of Christ with those around us that transformation might occur. But still we wonder what “might” be. We are anxious that the ELCIC we know may be different in the future. I believe that if the ELCIC doesn’t change to embrace what the future brings it is not truly the Church, but rather some dusty museum piece that only has life as it is remembered. The Church will change as the Holy Spirit blows. As we gathered for the Friday evening worship service, the Holy Spirit was blowing. We gathered around one another to join in laying down our burdens at the Cross while being healed and strengthened through the laying on of hands. Tears were shed. Pain was shared. Love transformed. The assembly who left following the time of worship were not the same as those who entered. Eyes were lifted. Shoulders were straighter. Eyes were filled with life and determination. And God’s love in Jesus Christ was set free through God’s people as new life was evident in those who walked again into the world.

Should we fear what the future brings? Never! For we are wrapped in God’s love and sent into the world to transform and bless. Thanks be to God!

A New Spirit Is Blowing

June 5, 2010

We have gathered as a church in convention these days. This is one of those few and important moments when we gather as a church.  Not just as a congregation, but as a wider and diverse church.

This has been my fist synod convention. So I have been asking others what they think about this gathering vs. others. A wonderful theme has begun to emerge. I have heard stories of how in the past there were great fights and animosity at these conventions. At this one they say that the spirit of the convention is quite different. On the one hand there is a shared recognition that we are at a place of concern. We have begun to recognize together that we are struggling as a church. What is interesting is this is a longing that for many is not one of despair, but a longing for the life that God is calling us into. So instead of animosity or despair, there is a longing hope. This longing hope is also pulling us into fellowship. It is a fellowship of shared relationships, of shared journeying, and a shared seeking.

It appears the spirit is blowing. We don’t yet know where it is going. We don’t know what the church of the future will look like. The Spirit of God though is blowing in our midst. It is beginning to carry us into the mission we are called to together.

What if…The Synod Convention Was a Catalyzing Event?

June 4, 2010

This weekend the Alberta and Territories Synod of the ELCIC is meeting for their convention in Camrose to worship, address business, and (hopefully) create new momentum for our ministry and life together.
Check out the ABT Synod Convention Blog following all the action.

This weekend, if you’re at the convention, be sure to connect and dream together about the future.  God is at work in our midst!

You may also be interested in the What if? One-Day Missional Conversation coming up on November 6th in Calgary.  It will be a full day of dreaming and idea-sharing for the future of the Church – an important event that you’re welcome to be a part of!

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