In Search of a Theological Method for the Transformational Leader

       Transformational Leadership in the Christian community is a theological endeavor. Everyone agrees that the secular world in the United States has changed dramatically from the time when today’s model of church life took form – i.e. the 1940s, 50s and 60s. Theology is not just something we tell, it is something we do. Theology is the communal work of discovering God. The Theological Community is formed by those actively doing the work, along with the voices of previous generations of theologians, those of the authors and editors of scripture, those of the characters within scripture, and those of the community around us.

The Word is active, a living force which creates by its presence. How we engage that Word determines the content of theology, and thus the results of living out that theology. If all we do is pass on what others have said the word means, then we have failed to engage the Word. We need a way to connect, a theological process that is real and accessible to all who desire to participate. I believe that an exploration of Latin American Liberation Theology as it developed within base communities can give us such a process. Classically trained theologians entered as pastors to local communities of largely uneducated laity. As they gathered and formed a theological community, they were able to do theology – to have a life giving creative conversation with all the voices mentioned above. The result of this was both doxa and praxia – thought/belief and activity/action. Each community needs to do this work for themselves.

How will religious leaders, as resident theologians, move from telling people which theological ideas are right, toward enabling a process in which people hear the Word afresh and come to their own understandings as a part of that larger conversation? Even in the popular postmodern expressions of Christianity led by such figures as Brian McLaren and Rob Bell, there seems a dearth of interest in helping people do theology. Indeed, I think the criticisms that Juan Luis Segundo, S.J., makes of Liberation Theology in The Liberation of Theology, apply to the contemporary postmodern, postchristendom “theologies”. They have found an audience, as they resonate with the frustrations of many regarding conservative interpretations of scripture and Christian doctrine, which are felt to be too narrow, restrictive, and not representative of God’s wild creativity that we see revealed throughout creation. Yet both are externally imposed on congregations and society at large. Talking heads say, “This is what it means.” Rather, I suggest there must be a way to follow the lead of Jesus who said, “Who do people say that I am?” And who told wonderful but elusive stories as his way to explain the unfolding kingdom of God.

Some people seem to want to be fed the right answers rather than working them out together in community. This reality needs to be acknowledged and understood if possible, and perhaps even honored. Questions leave open the choice to engage or not. My interests lie in understanding a theological process that is rooted in historical Christian theology and yet enables lay people to engage the process of theology together toward a way of being Christian in this present day. Today’s churches and communities need leaders with a new vision. As our context has changed, so we need to be transformed. We need new wine skins for the new wine for this new day. I believe that the processes and practices of Latin American base communities under the leadership of those pastoral theologians can reveal for us a way of being faithful Christian communities in our current context.

Chalice Abbey Fair Trade store in Amarillo – born from a Disciples’ Dream

The Hi-Plains Area of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) sought to spend a gift from the former members of Arden Road Christian Church on a mission first for Amarillo. Arden Road Christian didn’t make it, said the Rev. Paul Carruth, an associate area minister. The former church turned its assets over to the area.

“We wanted to be faithful to their gifts by beginning new ministry from the proceeds,” Carruth said. “We spent some time chewing on it and decided that the last thing Amarillo needs is another church because there are plenty of churches doing good things out there.”

So a fully volunteer nonprofit was born to run The Chalice Abbey Project out of retail space acquired at 2717 Stanley St., south of Hastings Entertainment at Georgia Street and Wolflin Avenue. The project will operate Chalice Abbey Fair Trade Emporium and Chalice Abbey Center for Spirituality and the Arts.

The emporium will be the only certified fair trade store for a far piece, according to the church denomination’s research.

“While some fair trade products have begun edging their way into the marketplace — some of them right here in town — there is no store dedicated solely to fair trade,” Carruth said. “The Abbey will be.”

Carruth defines fair trade goods as those for which everyone involved in their production derives “a fair living wage for their corner of the world.”

Plans are being drawn up now for the store and center, which Carruth said will provide space where people “can share their experiences of God and creation and explore together their deepest questions of faith.”

The project will open the center to community events and also will have 1,800 square feet of lease space available.

via Welch: ‘Creative movement’ makes for fit tots | Amarillo Globe-News.

Preach Locally – Live Globally

In Jesus’ day, ‘neighbor’ had a pretty narrow definition. He expanded the definition exponentially from – “the people like you in your community that you like” – to – “love your enemy”. Still, all of this was grounded locally. Today, I can talk, email, video conference and text with folks around the globe in real time. My friends regularly have work staff meetings with folks simultaneously on 4 continents! Neighbor now includes everyone. Jesus hinted at this several times, most notably at the end of Matthew and the beginning of Acts when he challenges the church to go ‘to the ends of the earth’ sharing the good news of God’s love revealed in Him.

I’ve been spending some time over this last year thinking about global ministry, and my/our involvement in it. My Aunt Diana travels to Kenya annually for several months as a short term missionary from Belfast with the Presbyterian Church in East Africa. Several of my local clery coleagues are or have traveled overseas for various kinds of ministry. Yesterday I met Peter, a US resident Evangelist from Nigeria. He has just returned from there, and has trips planned to Mexico, German, and back to Africa later this year. I’ve gotten to spend some time in Mexico just across the Texas border around Matamores, and a week in Honduras 12 years ago. I feel drawn to our Spanish speaking neighbors here in the community as we minister to them at the neighborhood park outreach – providing lunch, some activities for the kids, and seeking to build community with and among them.

The world is a small place, and our own local community continues to diversify with dozens of languages in the local schools. And I have a dream of a whisper of a calling to respond, to act intentionally in the midst of this environment. I desire deeply to travel the world and experience many cultures, but I resist the temptation to be a vouyer, or simply a consumer of multicultural experiences as yet another luxury my affluence can afford. I want to act in ways that grow the Kingdom of God. I want to expand my own understanding of the Body of Christ through these experiences, and toshare with others what we have to give. I want to build reciprical community, if that’s even possible.

I also realize that my $3000 for my trip to Africa could make a big impact on a village if I would simply give that money. Do I have enough to offer and enough to gain by making such trips? As I said, I want to make them, but this really doesn’t matter much. What matters is what Jesus wants of me, and that I do not know. What I do know is that I can be more intentional at Forest Grove to raise the visibility of Global Ministries, Disciples and otherwise, starting with the resources through Disicples Overseas Ministries. I wonder if twice a year we could highlight DOM for a month, once in the spring and once in the fall – around Pentecost and again around World Communion Sunday, perhaps. The Fall emphasis could also tie in with and ‘alternative Christmas’ fair in October or November.

How would this connect in with our purposes and core values?