Wednesday, March 26, 2014

World Vision Shifted the Center on Gay Marriage: Facts, Implications, & Questions

World Vision is blowing up the internet via gay marriage.  What's going on?

Just in case you've been living under a rock, let me update you on some of the basics.

1. Rapid Legal Change. The United States is experiencing radical and rapid changes in our cultural and legal stances on gay marriage.  At the beginning of 1999, no states allowed same-sex marriages or civil unions.  Now, 15 years later, 17 states have legalized gay marriage; 4 have legalized same-sex civil unions; and federal courts have struck down gay-marraige bans as unconstitutional in 5 states.  That's a total of 26 states in which gay marriage or civil unions are considered legal (at least by federal courts).  If you can do the math, that's a majority of US states.  Zero to majority in 15 years.  That's fast.  (See this map for a very helpful visualization of this change.)

2. Change within the Church.  Officially, a few large denominations have accepted gay marriages or unions or given room for local churches and pastors to make their own decisions (eg. Episcopals, some Lutherans groups, United Church of Christ, and Presbyterians).  Acting independent of their denominations, quite a few Christian leaders have come out in favor of gay marriage, and some pastors are performing gay marriages or blessing gay "unions" despite prohibitions from their denominations.  Furthermore, within the larger Christian Church, opinions "in the pews" are changing much faster.  According to this Gallup Poll, 66% of Catholics and 41% of Protestants say "gay/lesbian relations are morally acceptable."  Other studies show (like this one), those numbers skyrocket among people under 40 and even more for people under 25.  All of this is a drastic change in a very short time.

3. World Vision Changed Policy about Gay Marriage.  On March 24, Rich Stearns (WV's US President) announced that WV "will now permit Gay Christians in legal same-sex marriages to be employed" at WV.  (If you don't know, World Vision is one of the largest and most respected Christian charities in the world.)  Basically, they made a small change in their "Code of Conduct" to reflect the changes mentioned above - including gay marriage as a form of marriage.  They still expect their employees to abstain from any sex outside of marriage.  The rational was simple (even if bold).  WV has a simple mission: to reduce poverty around the world.  WV has consistently refused to take stances on divisive issues within the Church: divorce/remarriage, abortion, modes of baptism, women in leadership, evolution, etc.  Given the extreme debates currently happening, gay marriage is CLEARLY a debatable issue for Christians (as in it is being debated), and this issue is extremely divisive and emotional.  So WV was trying to take a neutral stance to stay out of the debate.  WV was trying to say, "Some of our partners think gay marriage is OK, and some don't.  We're going to remain neutral and let you guys sort that out yourselves so that we can all work together to combat poverty." Alas, that didn't work - see the next fact.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Thank You Thursday (#1)

 by woodleywonderworks
   OK, so I'm a day late, but I got the idea on a Thursday.
     Last night, Amy and Joe Jamrock invited Sarah and I to attend a fundraising/celebration dinner for Frontline Foundations - a fantastic Christian substance abuse treatment center based here in Chesterton, IN.  The keynote speaker was Tim Sanders - former Yahoo executive and author of Love Is the Killer App.   
     One of Tim's key points was the amazing positive power of gratitude.  Study after study shows that being grateful tremendously boosts our own attitudes, energy, and even health.  However, recent studies are also proving that expressing our thanks to others also acts as a huge boost to those around us.  That just makes sense.  We all like to get thanked, and we feel a little better when someone tells us that our hard work or little kindnesses are actually making a difference in the world.  Tim encouraged all of us to write one thank you letter a week to someone who has helped us.
     I love that idea so much that I'm creating a new thing (at least for me) - Thank you Thursdays.  Every Thursday, I plan to write and to post a short but specific blog or facebook post thanking someone for a specific way they have helped me or improved the world around me within the past seven days.

    So consider this my first Thank you Thursday note for Joe and Amy for inviting me to an awesome night with the Frontline crew.  It was great to hear their stories, to be encouraged by Tim, and to spend some time with you.  Thanks guys.

     Feel free to make this viral and start a storm of thank you letters on Thursdays.  Really, if thanksgiving is so good for us and everyone around us, why should we limit it to one Thursday a year?

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Renovating Holiness: Contributions Round 5

Photo by morganlevy

We now have more than 130 confirmed contributors to the Renovating Holiness Project.  Having inherited our grandparents' theological house which desperately needs updating, we are faced with three options: resentment, rejection, and renovation.  Nazarenes from around the world (from at least 24 countries) are joining together to revision sanctification for our world and our time.
Here are the next round of introductory submissions.  Enjoy.

To read the previous submissions, click here: Round 1Round 2Round 3, Round 4.)

Ryan Quanstrom (Pastor, North Carolina)
Entrepreneurialism as Holy Living
I would be working off of Wendell Berry's The purpose of a Coherent Community and some work done by Peter Storey. Holy people don't let broken systems sin for them. We need people to be righteous with their purchases to do that, they need entrepreneurs. 

Janary Suyat de Godoy (Pastor & Asia-Pacific NYI Coordinator, Philippines)
Holiness and Small Groups
Is holiness an individual pursuit? I have been a part of a traditional church in my growing up years and was taught to go to church, attend all the services and programs, sit in Sunday school classes and have my personal devotional time. It is just in the last 5 years that I have been involved in small groups, and have experienced the richness it has brought to my understanding and pursuit of holiness.
My essay intends to present an understanding of holiness in a small group setting, that holiness is not just an individual affair, but something we share.

Arseny Ermakov (Booth College, Australia) 
Separation or Presence? Reimagining the Biblical Theology of Holiness
Holiness in the Bible is traditionally defined through the terminology of ‘separation’ or ‘withdrawal.’ This has a profound effect on the understanding of God (as unapproachable “Other”), the Church (as separate from the world) and the practices of sanctification (emphasizing withdrawal from the wider society and culture). 
I would like to suggest that separation is not a primary meaning of holiness in the Scripture. Depending on the context, holiness in the Bible may refer to power, glory, wholeness, perfection, goodness, morality, being set apart, and life. Moreover, holiness in the Scriptures has never been equated with God’s withdrawal or absence. On the contrary, holiness constantly indicates the presence of God in the human or heavenly realm. 
I strongly believe that in order to restore the balance in our theological universe, we ought to see holiness primarily as a concept of presence rather than one of withdrawal. This paper will demonstrate that holiness as powerful, contagious, transformative, and inclusive presence could be found in both Old and New Testaments. This notion of holiness forces us to reimagine the identity and the mission of the holy people of God in the modern world. We would have to move away from a static category of status of separation to a more dynamic and dialectical concept of holiness that embraces both notions of presence and being set apart.