Archive for category Publications

Theological conversations are not just for theologians – Rev. Dr. Molly Marshall

Theological conversations are not just for theologians, ministers and seminary students – baptistnewsglobal.com

 

Molly Marshall

People are talking theology all the time without really knowing that is what they are doing. Every time they reflect on human identity, a particular view of God, the world, or Richard Foster’s un-Quakeresque trilogy – money, sex and power – there is an implicit theological perspective in play.

It is not only seminary students wrestling with questions into the night who are “talking theology.”

Recently I got to do one of my favorite things – convene a theological conversation in a congregational setting. In this case, it was with adult Sunday school participants at Smoke Rise Baptist, a vibrant church in the suburbs of Atlanta. There’s something wonderful about demystifying some of the “verities” alongside thoughtful students of the Bible who are eager learners about how what we believe shapes our lives. We talked about how our embedded theology must give way to deliberative theology as our beliefs collide with new experiential realities. When an issue begins to wear a face, unexamined assumptions shift.

“I wished I had taught students more about how beloved they are by God.”

Colin Harris, retired professor of religious studies at Mercer University, opened his Sunday school class so that the two of us might have a freewheeling conversation about things of importance. He then invited class members into a larger engagement of ideas and practices that puzzle and challenge us. It was a lively time, and we had to end much too soon.

He and I began by reflecting on what we wish we had taught students more of in our early years of teaching. I suggested that I wished I had taught students more about how beloved they are by God, especially as many came to seminary battered by the judgmentalism of their churches or the dysfunction of some of their homes. Most of us carry shaming ideas that we “are not enough” and that God is there to remind us of that.

I also suggested that human agency is the primary means of God’s work in the world, so just as we count on God, God is counting on us. This grants significant dignity to our sense of vocation.

Dr. Harris wisely suggested that if we think of human participation in this way, it reconfigures our understanding of God. I agreed, observing that the “omni-attributes” which accord all power, knowledge and presence to the divine have to be qualified by God’s choice to be in relationship with us, even as God dwells in the eternal flow of trinitarian relations. To be in relationship means that God does not hold all the power, determine all the knowledge, or even coerce how we experience divine presence. God invites our participation, indeed, that of the whole community.

One of the interesting exchanges with a member of the class had to do with the kind of hierarchy he perceived between ordained and non-ordained. The questioner wondered why one has to be an ordained deacon to serve communion and why only ordained ministers could baptize.

I responded that there is no theological reason for this, only traditional Baptist conventions in discrete churches. Actually, a church may authorize whom it chooses to perform these ministry functions, giving demonstrable reality to the statement that “every member is a minister.”

So why do we ordain?

“Human agency is the primary means of God’s work in the world, so just as we count on God, God is counting on us.”

The tradition of ordaining deacons and ministers arises out of the conviction that “setting apart” leaders for particular functions strengthens a congregation. A deacon demonstrates what mature discipleship looks like, and the ministry she or he provides multiplies the church’s impact.

Ordaining ministers is a recognition not only of gifts for pastoral leadership, but also acknowledging that formal theological education equips them to be reliable guides as they proclaim, administer the sacraments and shepherd their flocks. Ordination does not require hierarchy; rather, it places the ordained in the posture of servant, which is thoroughly Christological.

Another question had to do with what really distinguishes Christian theology from humanism. In the desire not to be tethered to dogma, have we let go of essential concepts?

Christian theology would be unrecognizable without the earliest kerygma that proclaimed: “Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again.” Actually, dogma or doctrine does not have to be a deadly, cerebral concept that demands compliance; rather, it is what the church must teach now in order to be the church, in the words of Baptist theologian James McLendon Jr.

Another fruitful aspect of our conversation was our thinking about how a church enacts the Body of Christ as it mobilizes spiritual gifts in service to a larger vision of justice. Smoke Rise, for example, cares about interfaith relations, significant investment in mission pursuits and refugee work. That is incarnational theology at its best.

The clinker question came from an impudent class member who asked Dr. Harris, “How did you manage to keep a job so long and our friend, Dr. Marshall, has a rather checkered career?” It was a one word answer: “Gender.”

Baptists continue to have this theological conversation, also, for which I am grateful.

 

 

Tags: , , ,

Why It’s Important to Record Your Family Stories – ethicsdaily.com

Why It's Important to Record Your Family Stories | Mitch Carnell, Storytelling, Family, Memory, Remembering, National Day of Listening

If you do not write or record your family stories, they will die with you, Carnell says.

Who was the funniest person in your family? Who was the most serious? Who was the caretaker? Who was the prankster?

Family stories are important. They tell who you are and where you came from.

My grandfather had the greatest laugh I had ever known until our son, Michael, came along. His laughter can light up the room.

My sister is the caretaker. She mothers everyone. Cousin Virgil could spin an unbelievable yarn. Uncle Calvin was the optimist. Daughter, Suzanne, could compete with my dad for being tenacious. The two of them were thicker than thieves.

You haven’t experienced anything as ridiculous as listening to my great-nephew, Justin, talking about his love affair with bologna. I hold the family record for preparing the worst ever Christmas ham.

I have a prized family heirloom. It is a record of the births and deaths of my father’s brothers and sisters in my grandmother’s handwriting on a parchment scroll. It was rescued in the nick of time from under my uncle’s house.

The record starts in 1888 with my grandparents’ wedding on Sept. 20. My dad took it with him to prove his eligibility for Social Security benefits. It made the rounds of the office before he got it back.

Why are these things important? These stories tell us who we are. If you do not write or record your family stories, they will die with you.

Nov. 24, the day after Thanksgiving, is the National Day of Listening. It was started by StoryCorps in 2008 as a day set aside to tell and record family stories. Where did your family come from? What brought them here?

My friend, Carl, tells the most wonderful stories about his father, who was one of the first highway patrolmen in Texas. I keep urging Carl to record his stories; otherwise, they will disappear with him. I would buy his book.

You may think that your family’s history is dull, and no one would be interested. Think again.

When I was writing my book, “Our Father: Discovering Family,” and was about to give up on the project, my wife said, “You have got to finish this at least for your grandchildren.” I finished it, and one of the reviewers said, “His grandchildren and great-grandchildren will treasure this.”

Of course, you can spend Black Friday shopping, but sitting with relatives, friends, fellow church members or civic club members and recalling and recording shared moments will prove to be much more meaningful. Try it with some older members of your church.

When I was about 9 years old, we were in Spartanburg, South Carolina, walking to the office of my ophthalmologist. I was a few paces in front of my parents. I heard my mother say to dad, “I’m not sure I want Mitch to get new glasses. He has always thought that I was so pretty.”

My late wife, Liz, was such a procrastinator that my sister told her, “Liz, you will be late to your own funeral.” As we were riding in the limo to her funeral, my sister said, “Mitch, look at your watch.” We were 10 minutes late.

Do I want that story to die with me? No, absolutely not.

When my children were small, we were driving to my Uncle Calvin’s funeral. We passed a small country church with a sign out front that read, “Revival in progress. Come and be revived.” Michael spoke up front the back seat and exclaimed, “Daddy, that’s where we can take Uncle Calvin.”

I never tired of hearing my dad talk about his asking my grandfather for my mother’s hand in marriage.

My grandfather was a big man, already dressed for bed in a nightshirt and barefoot. “There he was with tears flowing down his cheeks. ‘Well, Carnell,’ he said, ‘if you don’t know how to treat her, you know where you got her.'”

Your family stories are just as valuable as mine. Take some time. Laugh a little. Tell the stories. Be sure the voice recorder or video camera is turned on.

Tags: , , ,

Welcome Anaheim California and Mayor Tait

Mayor Tom Tait of Anaheim and the City Council issued a proclamation declaring Say Something Nice Day on June 1. Mayor Tecklenburg of Charleston sent him a copy of my book, Say Something Nice; Be a Lifter at Work. They had met at the National Mayor’s Conference.

Mayor Tait campaigned on a platform of kindness. He declared Anaheim the City of Kindness. Say Something Nice Day fit beautifully with that theme. When I met with Mayor Tecklenburg and Mrs. Tecklenburg they were both enthusiastic about that idea. Michelle Hill in Mayor Tecklenburg’s office and Loretta Day in Mayor Tait’s office were both extremely helpful. I received a beautifully executed proclamation from Anaheim signed by Mayor Tait and all of the council members.

Little by little, we are making progress. The harsh rhetoric that is so prevalent in our national discourse is taking a toll on our national character and the lives of individuals.

We would welcome your help in persuading your city to endorse Say Something Nice Day on June 1 each year and/or your church to celebrate Say Something Nice Sunday on the first Sunday in June.

Words matter. In Charleston we have witnessed firsthand the power of words to heal.

Tags: , , ,

Celebrate 11th Annual Say Something Nice Sunday

The book of Hebrews tells us, “Not to neglect to show kindness to strangers.” When members and visitors exit the sanctuary of historic First Baptist Church of Charleston on June 4, they will be given a daisy, the symbol of friendship, with the instructions, “Give it to a stranger and say something nice.” Mayor Tom Tait of Anaheim, California said, “Acts of kindness create a vibration that extends out like the ripples from pebbles and brings people together.”

Sunday June 4, 2017 is the 11th. Annual Say Something Nice Sunday. Every church, denomination, religious organization or group fostering greater harmony and goodwill are encouraged to join. There are no fees or anything to buy. “We are just trying to make the world a safer and happier place to live,” according to Mitch Carnell, Chair of the ecumenical committee.

The movement began at First Baptist Church of Charleston and was adopted by the Charleston County Baptist Association. The Charleston/Atlantic Presbytery joined followed by the Disciples of Christ and the Catholic Diocese of Charleston which includes all of South Carolina. Many American Baptists, Episcopal, Lutheran and Methodists churches around the country joined. Recently Green Lake Conference Center in Wisconsin and Louisiana College have joined the movement.

The Most Reverend Bishop Robert Guglielmone of the Catholic Diocese of Charleston said in support of the movement, ”Our words should be used to express love not hatred. What better way can we express this belief than to celebrate a day devoted to healing with our words? I heartily endorse the mission of Say Something Nice Sunday and urge all Christians to participate. In Corinthians 13:13, St. Paul tells us that the greatest virtue is love. What better way is there for Christians to express this virtue than to participate in Say Something Nice Sunday?”

Everyone can use a word of encouragement, a smile or a pat on the back. That is our purpose. Everybody is somebody. You are unique, one of a kind. You make our lives better. That is the message we want to send.

Free materials are available at www.fbcharleston.org. Click on Messages/Resources at the top of the page then scroll down to Say Something Nice Sunday. You will find, Bible verses, devotionals, suggestions for use, art work and the purpose of the celebration. You are encouraged to create your own materials and share them. Send to lori@fbcharleston.org.

 

 

Tags: , , ,