Friday, June 27, 2008

Vacation Reflection - Part One

Those of you who know me were probably shaking your heads as to my choice of vacation. I’m not usually a resort holiday kind of guy. Actually, I’m not a vacation kind of guy. I find resting hard. Relaxation is a foreign tongue. I have difficulty settling down.

Lying on a beach. That’s not me.

But I hadn’t been sleeping. Or when I managed to drift off and get a couple hours of snooze time I didn’t feel refreshed when my alarm clock blasted 7:31. It was worse than having no sleep.

The cumulative result was that I became jittery, grouchy, and sad. My doctor said something needed to change. I couldn’t keep doing what I was doing and expect to dance at my granddaughter’s wedding.

Call it an “emergency vacation.”

I went to Air Canada Vacations, clicked on “Last Minute Deals” and chose the cheapest package. A week-and-a-half later I was laying under a beach umbrella in Ixtapa, Mexico, book in hand, while Sergio filled my bucket with Corona.

Maybe it was the 34 degree weather (Humidex 44), but, by the second day, I could feel my anxiety drain, washed away by the current, flushed into the Pacific by the commanding undertow.

Around 2:45 Monday afternoon, I planned my day and week in my head, dividing the time between meals, excursions, walks, and what order I was going to read my books, alternating between fiction and non-fiction.

But then I realized, “I don’t have to plan ANYTHING. I can just do whatever I want, when I want.” At that moment I recognized that my most pressing concern was when I was going to eat dinner, and wondering if the woman in the chair next to me had real breasts or silicone enhancements (not that I was looking. But her bikini top was smaller than a shoelace, and her black hair did a better job of keeping her modest than any swim apparel).

“Being here is exactly what I needed,” I said out loud, to no one in particular, pulling my hat over my eyes for an afternoon nap.

Friday, June 13, 2008

On Vacation

Before my brain turns completely to cabbage soup, I'm heading to Mexico with a bag full of books and a bucket of sunscreen.

Be good while I'm gone.

Church of the Future?

Who does your church play nice with? I think, if we’re honest, a lot of us find synod convention – family gatherings – difficult. Some have better relationships with the neighbouring churches of other traditions than we do with other ELCIC churches.

Back when the Full Communion agreement with the Anglicans was being talked about, I heard former Archbishop Peers talk about the sharing of table and pulpit between an Anglican and Lutheran church in Winnipeg – 30 years ago – before we started “ordaining” bishops (rather than “installing” them) and agreeing to a host of compromises – on both sides.

I wonder if part of the problem with the current divide is that we’re trying to maintain unity at an institutional level instead of a personal one. It’s true, we’re Lutherans. We have more in common than what we disagree upon.

This was brought home to me at the study conference when Paul Scott Wilson led us through a discussion of law and gospel. Hearing classical Protestant theology is like getting into a warm bath. And we all seemed to soak in it.

But our disagreements are not small. They cannot be dismissed too easily. And they make me wonder if synod gatherings simply magnify our divisions, to the detriment of our mission.

Even though we share a common history and theology, we’ve reached an institutional impasse. And we wonder quietly (or aloud) when the “inevitable” divorce will come. And will the church of the future look decidedly different than the denominational alignments that we have currently?

I wonder if the church of the future won’t be determined by institutional allegiances, but by personal connections.

Here at Good Shepherd we have ministry partnerships with the Anglican and Roman Catholic Churches, not because of the Waterloo Declaration or the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification. But because our people drink coffee with their people.

And are those relationships any less valid because they haven’t been institutionally mandated?

Is that what God has in mind?

NB: Cross-posted at the synod convention blog

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Well Played

When I first heard that CBC wouldn’t budge on the Hockey Night in Canada theme-song, letting CTV pick it up, I figured it was a massive blunder from a hoity-toity CBC exec who misunderstood the role “Canada’s Second National Anthem” played in Canadian’s hearts.

But then I heard the composer was looking for $3 Million dollars. Then I also heard that the CBC is thinking of using Stompin’ Tom’s Hockey Song instead of the HNIC theme.

Then I thought, “Well, played, CBC.”

: Stephen Colbert weighs in (look for Steady Eddie).


What did Convention Accomplish?

In response to Laverne and Erik.

Laverne wrote:

Perhaps those are even more important - equipping and providing support for those of us at the convention for mission in our home churches - for that's really where mission is accomplished.

So perhaps we can say that if the convention (and in turn, the structure of the Synod) helps and facilitates the congregations in continuing their own mission, then there is a reason for these conventions, even if there isn't some profound and grand "accomplishment" directly from the convention itself.

That’s so true it causes me blisters. But what I heard underneath all this is the question: what is the role of synod in congregational life? How DO we relate to each other as an institutional church? What makes us a church family beyond the institutional level?

I struggle with these questions. I know we’re all Lutheran, but how that Lutheranism expresses itself among clergy and congregations is very different.

We have high-church Lutherans and American-style evangelical/charismatic Lutherans.

We have Marcus Borg-type Lutherans and Carl Bratten/Robert Jensen-style Lutherans.

We have clergy who snore in their clerical collars and clergy who wouldn’t be caught corpse-like with one on.

We have Evangelical Catholics who want a Magisterium to govern our doctrine, and we have Norwegian Pietists who resist anything smelling like papism.

And, yes, we have Lutherans who see homosexuality as a God-given expression of human intimacy, and we have Lutherans who see it as abhorrent to God and God’s Word.

And everything in between.

Yet, still, Lutherans.

Some may see such diversity as a strength, something to celebrate. It tells us that we are a thinking church, a living church..

Others may see it as a millstone, dragging us down to the ecclesial nether regions.

Either way, such multiplicity lobs a challenge at our Birkenstocks. How/Can we live together when we can’t agree on what Lutheranism looks like?

Does meeting in convention help us understand and live with those whose theology and approach to church life want to make us pull out our eyebrows?

Does synod convention help break down stereotypes to help us see other Lutherans, not as the enemy, but as confrères in mission?

Or does meeting in convention merely entrench existing divisions? When we meet, do we listen to others’ opinions or do we circle our partisan wagons, strategizing on how to beat the other side, parlaying parliamentary procedure to assure a desired outcome?

Or does it do both? CAN it do both?

That’s the challenge that’s lying at our toes. But that’s no surprise to anyone with open ears and even wider eyes. But it’s what you do with the challenge that counts.

How we meet that challenge is something we’re going to have to decide together. Along with a healthy dose of the Holy Spirit. Maybe that’s what synod convention is supposed to accomplish.

NB: Cross-posted at the Convention blog

Saturday, June 07, 2008

National Bishop Susan Johnson

National Bishop Susan Johnson offered her report outlining the 5 pillars that National Church Council will rest it's In Mission for Others theme.

But the most moving part of her presentation was, for me, when she shared how she felt Jesus embrace her during her ordination as bishop. That was good for us to hear. She modeled for us the faith sharing she wanted us to do.

Not only that, she let her humanity shine through, showing us that we are on a common faith journey, trying to figure out - together - where Jesus is leading our church family.

NB: Cross-posted on the convention blog

A House Divided

NB: Cross-posted at the convention blog.

Is it just me or does it feel really heavy in here? I noticed it as soon as I arrived. People are quiet (mostly). Maybe it's the high ceilings and rubber floor in the gymnasium where we're meeting cushioning the sounds of laughter. Maybe it's the row on row of delegates facing forward away from each other.

Maybe it's because the Tim Hortons upstairs has been closed the whole time. (I'm too lazy to walk across the street in the rain)

Or perhaps it's because The Issue is ever hovering over us. Beyond the platitudes and good intentions of unity, we know that a difficult conversation is approaching.

That was brought home to me yesterday when the Task Force on Marriage, Family, and Human Sexuality provided their report. And regrettably, they were unable to reach anything resembling consensus - even to continue. They needed a consensus to keep their deliberations moving. But one member of the task force decided the impasse was too great, the gulf unbridgeable. So, the bishop and convention thanked them for their work, and relieved them of their responsibilities.

I don't think anyone was surprised with the results, but there was disappointment. The divisions in our church run deep. And the outcome reminded us that we are a house divided. And Jesus had something to say about that.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Youth Delegates?

You know the church is old when I’m considered a “young pastor.” At 38 (and counting), my bald head and protruding belly is quickly pushing me toward middle age. My mp3 player has Willimon sermons and music by Arvo Part. I have no tattoos nor piercings and puzzle why anyone would want to do that to their body.

The point I’m getting at is that I’m not really all that young, even though here I’m in a minority given that most delegates and guests are retired and have time to participate to gatherings like these. We are governed by older people. And I worry that our grey and white heads send the message that we are a church of and for older people.

But we’ve passed a motion allowing youth delegates (age 16-22) with voice and vote. But I can’t think of any young people who’d want to participate in this kind of exercise. And if they did, I would be shocked if they wanted to come back, or invite their friends to participate.

However, the mood here among some folks is that having youth attend as delegates will attract only a handful, if that. So we’re not in any real danger of an army young people out voting the clergy (as if that would be a BAD thing). Some people are concerned (or celebrating) that we couldn’t get enough young people.

We have 151 churches in the ABT synod. So we could conceivably have 151 more people at convention. Some say that such a challenge is impossible, beyond the ken of our small church family. But I think we could easily get one young person per congregation to attend. ONE PERSON. If we can’t find, recruit, cajole, wheedle, entice, ONE young person to attend the gathering of our church family, then we’re not doing our jobs.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Bored and Tired

I often wonder if the way we do conventions is what God had in mind for the church. Does God REALLY want our meetings to be THIS ordered and dull? Does God REALLY want us lined up in rows with red and green cards listening to and voting on reports?

There HAS to be a better way to do God's "business" than the way we're presently doing it. Everyone looks and sounds BORED and tired.

At least the key note speaker was interesting. Otherwise I think I might have put my head down on my table for a small cat nap, hoping I wouldn't get too much drool on my notes.

I don't know what the alternative is. I'll have to give that some thought. Stay posted.

Convention Blogging - 2008!

I'm at the 2008 Convention for the Synod of Alberta and the Territories, and I'm part of the blogging team. Check out the convention blog! I might cross-post here and there. But keep checking back at both places anyways.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008


I was at this very concert and remember this song vividly. Pure magic.