Thursday, February 21, 2008

"Other Diversity"

Ethicsdaily is carrying an op-ed by Gary Nelson about the New Baptist Covenant. Nelson has written the most insightful article I have seen yet. It is a friendly yet much needed critique of the old paradigm on which the New Baptist Covenant celebration was built.

It is a worthwhile read even for those who don't care anything about Baptist life because it lays out the central issues which are defining the church today. The core issue is this: the next generation of Baptists are the now generation of Baptists and unfortunately they were for the most part left off the ticket in Atlanta. The broader implication is that church just can't be done the way we've been doing it. This includes the way we have formulated language like Conservative or Progressive or Evangelical or Mainline. The point being that when I talk with clergy friends my age they say, "Well, I serve a Mainline church. But I'm an Evangelical. But, I mean, I am socially progressive. But, well, I'm also conservative when it comes to issues like sex and violence on TV."

See, the old wine skins are about to pop. And it's going to get messy. And the blood of Christ is going to be everywhere.

As an aside, Ethicsdaily would do well to listen to what Nelson is saying. Younger, postmodern Baptists do not define ourselves by what we are against - ie, the Southern Baptist Convention. Rather, we define ourselves by a common passion for authentic life with Jesus and with others. And most of us could find that in a Southern Baptist Church, or an Episcopal Church, or a United Church, or the bar down the street.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Baptist Blogger

Yesterday the Burlington Free Press ran an article about me and this blog. To be honest, I haven't even read it yet. I just haven't been able to bring myself to do it.

There are something like 80 million blogs out there. I learned that in a Times article yesterday that talked about some of the "ultimate blogs" that are out there. I was not surprised that Fromthewilderness was left off the ultimate list.

That's probably why I haven't read the Free Press article here. Because there is no story. Nothing sexy. Certainly nothing that would be described as ultimate. I mean, my pictures aren't even in focus.

A pastor friend of mine called me to rib me about the whole thing. I told him how creepy I was feeling and that I couldn't even bring myself to read the article. He went into compassionate pastor mode. "Well, it was pretty innocuous," he said. "Yes," I said, "and that is the point. Blessed are the innocuous was not a beatitude."

Look, for some reason I am writing this thing. And, for some reason you are reading it. And so it is what it is. Not sexy. Not ultimate. But a gift. To me and I hope to you too.


Monday, February 18, 2008

The Laying on of Hands

Yesterday we celebrated the calling of two new deacons at our church.

I have participated in a lot of laying on of hands ceremonies over the years and for the most part pretty much considered the whole thing as a merely symbolic act. We Baptists are inherently skeptical of rites and ceremony. That's why we have "ordinances" instead of "sacraments". Because we would rather be safe than sorry, we tend to stay well clear of what we see as a fine line between holy acts and "empty rituals".

But yesterday, as I held my hands upon the shoulders of our new deacons, I realized that my hands were more than just outward symbols of an inward blessing. I was literally trying to bless these two with my hands. The best way I can describe what I was feeling is to remember the movie Ghost, when that Patrick Sweazy character was trying to learn how to move things with his mind. The trick, he was learning, was to put all of one's self into the object.

That's what I was doing yesterday. I looked up and realized that my fingers were buried into flesh, and all of my physical and spiritual being - heart, and soul, and mind, - was surging through these 10 points of contact. I was trying literally to squeeze the Holy Spirit out of my fingertips into these new deacons.

And, I believe, the whole apostolic communion of saints, were squeezing with me.