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Musings

Will the church be left behind?

Have you ever felt on election day that your vote doesn’t matter because what the pollsters are predicting is already inevitable?  We don’t feel like that in Alberta, for the first time in a long time.

A year ago Canada had a federal election and the pollsters were saying that Harper had a chance of getting a majority, but a respectable showing by the Liberals and modest gains by the NDP would interfere with that.  We woke up to realize that Harper easily had his majority, the Liberals had been decimated and the NDP had risen to unforeseen levels.

Only weeks ago pollsters were saying that Albertans would elect a new political party into power for the first time in forty years, but it didn’t happen?  Why not?

One can only speculate, but it seems that in the last federal election, Prime Minister Stephen Harper shifted left far enough that he could appeal to more people without totally alienating his base of supporters (and who else were they going to vote for anyway).  There was also a massive movement to the far left with many Canadians embracing the social values of the New Democratic Party.

Even in Alberta, where the choice was essentially between the Conservative party and the more conservative party, a shift to the left seemed evident.  For a long time, PC leader Alison Redford had been accused of being a closet liberal, and the polls indicated her leadership would be rejected by the province.

The campaign was gliding along smoothly for Danielle Smith and her Wildrose Alliance Party, but then there were a few blips.  Someone dug up an old article in which a Wildrose candidate from Edmonton wrote that homosexuals will suffer for eternity in hell.  Shortly after that, another Wildrose candidate said in a radio interview that, as a caucasian, he could speak for all people, whereas his non-caucasians could only speak for their own race.  The party leader said she didn’t hold the same beliefs, but she didn’t outright condemn them.

In any other province, in any other party, these statements would have been enough to get the candidates removed from their parties or at least openly chastised by their leader, but not in Alberta.  There are enough social conservatives who would support and/or tolerate these people that there wouldn’t be enough of an impact to change the course of the election, right?  Well, a week later, their expected majority didn’t come, and they were left to watch yet another Conservative majority government take power.

There are likely a number of other factors, but these two statements stand out as the most obvious reason that voters had a last-minute change of heart.  So do these two election results point to a national progression in social values?  Probably.  One can be sure that in the next four years, the Wildrose Alliance will work very hard to dispel their image as socially backward, and that they will try to re-brand themselves in a better light.  These two candidates, both of whom lost their riding, will either be barred from running in further elections or muzzled to prevent similar damage being done next time around.

I am not trying to be a political commentator, what’s interesting to me about this story, is that both of these candidates were pastors.  While a political party knows it needs to re-brand itself as an institution of tolerance and equality, the church will likely make no such effort.

The homosexuality issue is difficult to resolve, of course.  Our societal values have shifted to a point where anything short of a full embrace of homosexual nature, practice and lifestyle will be viewed as intolerant.  For a variety of reasons, most Christians are not at that point, and most are willing to accept the social consequences of that position.

The man who made the race based comments is Pastor Ron Leech.  He lives in a multi-ethnic neighbourhood. He founded a church recognizing that the global Christian church is a multi-ethnic body and that should be reflected in his congregation, which it is. The private school run out of their church is also a multi-ethnic group. I have personally observed him helping people of various ethnic backgrounds.  According to the mainstream understanding of the word, Ron Leech is not a racist.

Based on a conversation I had with him a few years ago, I am quite sure his comments were taken out of context.  During the leadup to the previous provincial election, Mr. Leech sought the nomination in that riding for the PC party, a race he lost to a gentleman of Sikh descent. After a few private conversations with people who observed the voting, he is convinced that a number of members of the Sikh community voted in that riding nomination who were ineligible. Someone without proper ID can vote with a signed affidavit of their eligibility, and Mr. Leech believes there was a Sikh conspiracy to get one of their own people elected. So, his comments were rooted in this experience.  I believe that what he meant is that ethnic minorities can get away with this kind of fraud easier, and so they are more likely to carry it out, whereas he, as a caucasian, could not get away with and so is less likely to try and so he should be trusted more.  It’s convoluted, but I’m quite sure that’s what he was getting at.

After his comments, a number of people in the community pointed Mr. Leech’s record and defended him as a friend to all races.  His opponent publicly stated that he did not believe Mr. Leech to be racist. His party leader insisted he had the freedom to speak his mind but that she knew him to be a man of integrity, etc. Still, the damage was done. Given the chance to speak in his own defense, Mr. Leech made a woefully inadequate apology. “I am sincerely sorry if any comment I made earlier was misconstrued in any way.”  To even call that an apology is a stretch.  I’m not at all surprised that this statement failed to resolve the issue.

The local church may very well deserve it’s intolerant reputation with regard to the homosexual community.  If we are viewed, however, as a white old boys club, that is untrue. The Christian community as a whole and a large number of individual congregations in this province are multi-ethnic bodies.  Any inter-denominational endeavour will display evidence to that effect.

I’m sure I don’t need to say that these two pastors don’t speak for me and don’t represent the views of my church.  They would probably proudly say the same thing about me. I’m also not saying that the church needs to make a shift to the left, but if the society as a whole is doing that, and the church shifts stubbornly to the right, we will become increasingly irrelevant. The church would be better off by removing itself from the political spectrum entirely

My fear though is that people won’t understand that this diversity exists within the church and that this narrow vision of the church will be the dominant perspective. The gospel will be skewed because of it.

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Maybe Trayvon Martin stood his ground

These days, you might see more people wearing hooded sweatshirts than normal.  You might see more people eating Skittles than normal. If you notice this, don’t feel intimidated. If this warning sounds absurd, it should.

South of the border, there is a news story that is stirring up racial tension and is bringing to light some questionable legal decisions and processes.

There are a few indisputable facts in this story.

On the evening of February 26th of this year, a 17 year old man name Trayvon Martin was walking home and talking to his girlfriend on his cell phone. He just stopped at a convenience store where he had purchased an ice tea and a bag of Skittles.  He explained to his girlfriend that he was being followed, and, during the call, yelled back asking why the guy was following him. His girlfriend told him to run, and they hung up the phone.

The man following him was a 28 year old named George Zimmerman. He was a self-appointed neighbourhood watch captain who suspected young Mr. Martin was up to no good.  Mr. Zimmerman had called 911 about Martin’s presence. The dispatcher assured him that police were on the way and that he need not continue following, and they hung up the phone.

What happens next is up for dispute, but the end result is not.

Shortly thereafter, the dispatcher received other calls from that area, reporting shouting and a gunshot had been heard.  When the police arrived, they found Trayvon Martin lying dead, face down, with George Zimmerman nearby.  Mr. Zimmerman claimed that Mr. Martin had attacked him, and so he fired his gun in self-defense.  There were no other witnesses. The evidence at the scene seemed to corroborate his story, and he was released the same day.

This has caused an outcry in the African-American community because Trayvon Martin is black and George Zimmerman is white. Would law enforcement officers have been so lenient if the races were reversed?

Details continue to emerge about this story, and many of them are unflattering toward the victim.  At the time of the shooting he was serving suspension from his school for having been found with an empty baggie of marijuana.  Police say that the condition the shooter was in at the scene suggested a violent altercation had taken place, with the victim being the aggressor.

Besides the race issue, the biggest thing being debated is Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law.  A number of other states have similar laws in place.  It states that “a person is justified in the use of deadly force and does not have a duty to retreat if he or she reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony.”  This legal provision gives an individual great leeway to determine what constitutes a valid threat and it puts the onus on the courts to prove that the threat wasn’t credible.

So, in this case, George Zimmerman felt that was in imminent danger of serious harm, despite the fact that he was at least 25 pounds heavier, 10 years older and the only one carrying a gun, and so he was legally entitled to use deadly force to protect himself.  The popular opinion however was that Martin was the hapless victim and Zimmerman the violent aggressor.  If the story of Martin’s violent attack is true, that weakens that perception, but I think it points to a greater truth.

Zimmerman had been following Martin.  Zimmerman had a gun and was physically larger than Martin. The young boy would have had good reason that he was in imminent danger.  According to Florida state law, he was no legally compelled to flee and could use whatever force he deemed necessary to defend himself.  In theory, he could have beaten Zimmerman to death and been protected under the law.

I am exaggerating, but I am doing so to prove a point. If the story of Martin’s attack on Zimmerman is true (and video footage of Zimmerman later that night seems to suggest otherwise) it would obviously be an escalation of the violence.  Zimmerman had a legal right not to flee and he too could escalate the violence.  The result of this escalation is what we are dealing with now.

Traditional Jewish teaching was that “an eye for an eye” was suitable justice, limiting the victim to exact no greater harm than was caused to them.  Jesus brought a different message of love, forgiveness and prayer, not just for our friends, but for our enemies and those who persecute us as well.

The escalation of violence often begins when we see ourselves, either as a nation or as individuals, as victims. We use the status that we give ourselves to validate any show of force we have in mind.  But the path to peace, the road to reconciliation begins when one side refuses to exercise their right to escalate the situation.

This story is not over. So far the protests have been peaceful. So far cooler heads have prevailed and higher governmental powers have initiated due process to see if the recourse pursued was adequate. Whether or not that will not bring justice, we have been given a model of what happens when two sides are legally entitled to escalate violence.

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Musings

Stop, in the name of grace

One of the first things that visitors and newly arrived residents will notice about this part of the world is that pedestrians are given an incredible amount of freedom to walk across the road, whenever and wherever they want.  The question of who gets right of way is answered differently around the world, but here it seems that the pedestrian always gets it.

From the outsider’s perspective, it often also looks like a fairly pleasant exchange.  A pedestrian decides that he or she would like to be on the other side of the road, and walks across trusting that any approaching vehicles will surrender the right of way.  The vehicles involved come to a graceful stop, and when it is safe again, they gently accelerate and resume their course, making no effort to demonstrate that they have been inconvenienced at all.

However, anyone who’s been here for any length of time knows that this interaction is not as graceful as it looks. The pedestrian is probably carrying with him or her a load of resentment from all the other times a vehicle has taken away their right of way, and he or she is ready to release a barrage of anger if anyone dares invade their personal space on the road.  The drivers are often angry that this person has walked across without looking first, angry that they have had to slow down, and afraid that if they honk or show any displeasure at all, they will get yelled at or worse.  So, what looks like a graceful exchange from an outside perspective really has two sides that feel like victims.

It is probably a little too simple to say to someone in that situation, “Just turn the other cheek.” This phrase is probably one of the most disliked Biblical passages, but it is probably also one of the most misunderstood.  The full phrase is “If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to them the other also.” The specific mention of “right cheek” should catch our attention.  Since the assumption was always that everyone was right handed, the only way a right handed person could hit someone on the right cheek is to hit them with the back of their hand.  In any society, this is an incredibly offensive gesture. So when Jesus says that we should instead “turn the other cheek,” he isn’t telling us to accept more abuse.  By turning your left cheek to your abuser, you asking them to hit you, not as a master to a slave or as a superior to an inferior, but as an equal.  The real point to this phrase is that we should not let our dignity be taken from us. If we refuse to accept victim status, we will maintain our dignity.

So we go back to the silent standoff between pedestrian and driver.  When I am the driver, I always try to smile at the people walking in front of me.  It’s harder to see if they don’t ever look in my direction, but it doesn’t have to be an angry encounter.  If I am getting tense about how much they are slowing me down, that probably means I didn’t give myself enough time to get ready in the first place. If you walk in front of my vehicle, you are not taking anything from me, I am giving it up freely. When I am the pedestrian, I try to wave as gesture of thanks. I teach my children to do the same. The drivers may feel like they are forced to stop, but by thanking them, I humble myself and I restore dignity to them.

Some people might read this and think I am working far too hard to make this point.  Maybe I am, but I have never been yelled at so loudly in public as when a pedestrian thought I had taken away their right to walk in front of me. I have never been so confused behind the wheel as when the person walking in front of me saunters totally unaware how close they came to dying if not for my heroic ability to stop.

So, the next time you decide to cross the road, or you stop your vehicle for someone else that is, remember, you are not a victim. You have a choice to honour the people around you. They are neither your oppressors nor your victims. They are your equals.

Reprinted from the March 22, 2012 issue of the Okotoks Western Wheel

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Brown-named handsome man

There are a lot of people who don’t follow the news because it’s too depressing.  Sometimes I am tempted to join them.

I wasn’t a huge music buff growing up, so I was never a big Whitney Houston fan. Still, her name was big enough that parts of her private life were common knowledge. I didn’t know who Bobby Brown was except that he was married to her.  I didn’t know any of his songs, or even recognize that he was a musician, but I knew that he had been physically abusive to his wife, and the two of them had abused drugs together.

A part of that sage ended on February 11th this year with her untimely death.  While the official autopsy has not yet released her cause of death, it would be hard to believe that it wasn’t somehow drug related.  And then, as if to prove that death could not end this conflict, there was a story that Bobby Brown left the funeral early after objecting to being asked to move more than once.  The Grammy Awards were held the next day and the program had a noticeably somber tone because of Whitney’s absence.

And then there was a scary coincidence, almost like we needed a reminder of what had happened to Whitney.  Bobby Brown’s name was in the news with Whitney’s passing.  The circumstances of her death reminded many that it was likely his influence that worsened her drug habit.  The day after Whitney’s death, her daughter, Bobbi Kristina Brown, had to be hospitalized.  With all of this in the minds of everyone watching and attending the Grammy Awards, another Brown took to the stage.

Immediately after Jennifer Hudson performed a song in tribute of Whitney Houston, Chris Brown took to the stage a second time.  He also won an award during the ceremony.  There is no relation between Chris Brown and Bobby Brown, but there is a similarity in their stories. I don’t know any of Chris Brown’s music.  Apparently he’s good.  What I do know about him is that in 2009 he beat up his girlfriend at the time, fellow R&B performer Rihanna, so bad that she was admitted to the hospital.  A picture of her bruised and swollen face was released to the media soon after.

Chris Brown turned himself in shortly after the incident, and hired a crisis response team.  His official response was that “Words cannot begin to express how sorry and saddened I am over what transpired.”  Twitter would later give him an opportunity to find those words.

Many people have been slow to forgive Chris Brown, which may be partly be because he hasn’t asked for forgiveness or demonstrated contrition.  In response to a number of critics during and after the Grammy Award show, Brown wrote on Twitter that his Grammy win was an ultimate tell off to all his haters (I’ve cleaned up the words he used).

So what does it matter that a man who has been given a second chance by the music industry doesn’t seem apologetic over his social media?  Maybe it doesn’t, but what’s worrying is that Brown and Rihanna have been seen spending time together.  Despite the five-year restraining order placed on him, he was at her most recent birthday party and there is speculation that they have recorded music together lately that will be released for sale soon.

This may be a case of the media and regular schmoes like me sticking their nose in on celebrities personal lives.  Naturally I wouldn’t want people all over the world to be talking about my relationship developments on their social media pages either.  But since his private life is being played out in public, and his story involves a domestic abuse situation, I as a father and as a pastor am allowed to be curious and concerned.

Grass has not yet grown over Whitney’s grave and this story is unfolding in front of our eyes.  I don’t follow pop music except for the events that make it to the newspapers. I hope that the young people around me who listen to this music know how dangerous this situation is.

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Manning Up

Did you see that video a little while ago where the American soldiers were videotaped urinating on the corpses of deceased Taliban fighters?  It was disturbing, to say the least.  Understandably, it made newspaper headline all around the world.

What ever happened to that story?  Were the soldiers identified and brought to justice?  Was a formal apology issued?  Were other military personnel educated about the inappropriateness of those actions?  As a non-American civilian, I may never know.  I can speculate that all of these things would be a best case scenario.  Ideally some of these things would happen as part of a larger recognition of wrongdoing.  Hopefully the response would be as much about repairing harmed international relationships as it would be about saving face. One can dream.

While we don’t know what happened there, we do know what is happening in a similar case. A few years before this urinating soldiers video, there was another video released secretly that became known as the “collateral murder” video. It showed video footage taken from a US military helicopter. In the video, you can see unarmed civilians (two of them were later identified as Reuters journalists) being fired on and killed by the soldiers in the helicopter.  The video also provides audio of the soldiers laughing about the scene. Whereas the other one mysteriously appeared on YouTube all of a sudden, this one was released by Wikileaks, a website that invited people to anonymously submit secret information.

While we may hum and haw about what might happen to the soldiers in the peeing video, there is one person I hadn’t asked about.  What about the person who released the video to the public? The video was probably shot with military equipment, or at least by military personnel on military time.  Shouldn’t this person face military discipline?  But sure, you might be saying, surely someone who witnesses this kind of immoral and/or criminal behaviour is obligated to release evidence and should be protected when they do so.

In the second case, there has been no mention of what happened to the soldiers who fired on and killed unarmed civilians. There has been no explanation made of what, if anything, was done to apologize the families of those killed. There is however one ongoing criminal case, which had a hearing today, that is connected to this video’s story.

The man who released that video to the public has been held in captivity for two years, much of that time in solitary confinement.  During the arraignment hearing today, he chose not to enter a plea, which buys his defense team some time to strategize.  He faces 22 charges, the most serious of which is aiding the enemy.

Every now and then, there is an event that foreign journalists are more interested than the local ones, and this was it. Perhaps if this played out in the open, the military might lose the public opinion poll. Does a video like this aid the enemy?  Does this kind of thing enrage the enemy so much that more soldier’s lives are endangered?  If the answer to both of these question is no, and I believe that it is, then an innocent man is being put in prison for the rest of his life.

Not only is he innocent, but he should be help up as a hero.  After WWII, the Americans tried all sorts of German prisoners with war crimes.  The common plea was that they were just following orders.  The American judges declared that despite the political and legal climate at the time, each of them as human being were called to a higher level of dignity and should have refused the Nazi orders.  Even the American legal system requires that soldier report war crimes.  So, is it a war crime to shoot innocent, unarmed, uninvolved civilians and journalists, or is it a crime to release a video of that?

The trouble with war crimes is, that when you win, there is no one to try you for the crimes you do. This case, unfortunately has nothing to do with war crimes. It has everything to do with making the US military look bad.  Rather than punish the decision makers at the top for giving them a bad name, they punish the ones at the bottom who haven’t bought 100% in to the propaganda machine.

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Articles

Give up the rim (for Lent) to win

This was printed last year in the local newspaper, and I’ve modified it to fit Lent this year.  Every year it boggles my mind that Roll up the Rim coincides with Lent.

Old fashioned church stuff is dying.  Various media outlets love to repeat this news.  Some people within the church don’t believe this news or they do and they’re fighting to change it.  But even in the church there are those who celebrate the demise of long celebrated Christian religious rituals.  But did you know that one of these old, almost forgotten rituals is keeping one of the largest companies in Canada on its knees?

Every year around this time, you might hear about people giving something up for Lent, but usually they would have trouble explaining what exactly exactly is behind the practice.  Lent is a 40-day stretch of time running from Ash Wednesday (more commonly known as the day after Mardi Gras) to Easter Morning, February 22nd April 8th this year.  The idea behind the modern Lenten fast is that people give up something they like and when they feel the urge to have that thing, they are supposed to think about God and their reliance on/relationship with God.  It’s usually most effective if the thing they give up is something they’ve sorta convinced themselves that they need or are semi-addicted to.  The problem of course is that it requires a person to admit that they are half addicted to something.

I usually don’t participate in the Lenten fast in any way. This year, instead of giving something up, I am taking something up.  I will be blogging in one way or another on each of the 40 days of Lent. I believe that writing is a spiritual exercise. I also believe that writing is one of many things that one gets better at with practice, so I’m writing in different way and about different subjects than I normally do so that I get better at it.

Historically the church asked people to give up meat for Lent.  So then the last day before Lent people would want to have a feast and use up a lot of the grease they had been saving from cooking meat.  They couldn’t think of a better way to use this all up than to have a meal of pancakes (neither can I really).  That explains the pancake suppers at Christian churches; I won’t even try to explain the Mardi Gras hoopla in New Orleans.

I don’t feel particularly convicted about this lapse in Lenten conviction.  I come from a proud tradition of Lent non-observers.  A long time ago, a group of people in Zurich, publicly and intentionally broke the Lenten fast and ate sausages together.  I consider myself to be part of that school of thought.  If I ever started a Christian basketball team, I’d like to call them the “Fast Breakers.”  Many Christians believe though that if there is something you can give up in your life to bring you closer to God, you should give it up no matter what time of year it is and not start up using it again 40 days later.

There are a few things that are given up more often than french fries to.  In high school I knew many girls who had a penchant for chocolate and gave it up for Lent, which worked out nicely so that they could binge on the stuff as soon as Easter rolled around.  But there is perhaps no greater quasi-addiction in our society than coffee.

Coffee is exactly the kind of thing that people should give up for Lent, it’s not particularly sinful on its own, and the cravings one might get for it would be a great reminder of one’s relationship with God.  Historically there has been a dip in coffee sales at this time of year.  Could it be because of Lent?  But besides the addiction most people refuse to admit they have, there is something that interferes with people’s willingness to give up coffee at this time of year.

To combat this dip, Tim Hortons launched a promotional campaign 25 years ago.  It was so successful that it has been running every year since then.  It does make me wonder if it is worth the cost to Tim Hortons.  The cost of extra advertising and all the prizes and fraud prevention stuff can’t really generate that much extra sales can it?  Especially since coffee and their brand of coffee in particular are so deeply engrained into the Canadian psyche.

Religious institutions are continually losing their grip on societal influence in this country, particularly the ones that would advocate a ritual Lenten observance.  Still, Lent has a transcendent power, even among people outside of Christian institutional religion.  If Tim Hortons gave up their Roll up the Rim campaign, more people would consider giving up coffee for Lent.  Since the company and its shareholders can’t afford interruptions in the profits, they can’t stop the promotion because people might use Lent or any other reason to stop drinking their coffee.  Is this an example of businesses interfering with Christian practice or a story of spirituality working under the surface?  I like to think it’s the latter.

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Anabaptism

What makes a Mennonite?

Mennonite is a term that can mean a lot of things to a lot of people. Many of those meanings can be summed up in three categories; Mennonites are known by seed, by deed and by creed.

… by seed. – Mennonite is primarily a faith position, but throughout time and in many parts of the world, people with Mennonite convictions have lived together in communities and formed distinctive cultures. Aspects of that culture will reveal itself in our church, but that is not at the heart of what we do and who we want to be. In many places, Mennonites are known for their distinctive dress and exclusive community lifestyle, but you will not find those elements at most contemporary Mennonite churches.

… by deed. – Mennonites take seriously Jesus’ words “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” and the Biblical admonition that “faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” (Matthew 25: 40 & James 2: 17, TNIV) Accordingly, we are happy to participate in and lend our support to various disaster response and global relief and development efforts. Although that work is not done to receive attention or credibility, in many places Mennonites are recognized by the charitable work they have done.

… by creed. At the core of our beliefs are statements about God’s sovereignty, the inspiration of the Bible and the nature of the trinity that would be in keeping with most other churches. Some of our distinctive are as follows:

  • Jesus at the Center – we believe that Jesus reveals to us, better than anything or anyone else, what God is really like. We believe that everything else in the Bible builds up toward his coming or builds on top of the foundation he laid. We seek to follow him before all others.
  • Separation from the world – we believe that the church should be motivated by different things, work toward different goals and be structured differently then mainstream society. Various Mennonite cultural expressions have come from a physical separation from society, but much more than that we emphasize a mental and spiritual separation.
  • Others centered Love – we believe that Love was at the core of what Jesus taught. “Love your neighbours as yourself” calls us to live and give graciously and “Love your enemies” calls us to live peacefully and embrace the people we might otherwise think we should hate.
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Musings

AMOEBAS are cuter than TULIPS

Bruxy Cavey recently bemoaned the fact that Arminians have no cute flower nicknames like the Calvinists have with their TULIP acronym. Greg Boyd agreed and issued a challenge for Arminians to come up with one.

I won’t pretend to have a full grasp of Arminian theology, but for me a great start is a great piece of writing that predates Calvin’s, the Schleitheim Confession. It’s language is a little old sometimes, but five hundred years later it still summarizes the Anabaptist position quite well. I will only quote it briefly, but if you want the full version with footnotes, etc, you can find it here. It has seven points and with a little rearranging, it spells out the word AMOEBAS.

  1. Arms – Christians are not to bear arms, as it is outside the perfection of Christ.
  2. Memorial observance – the Lord’s Supper doesn’t not magically transform into the actual body and blood of Christ, but when we gather with other believers to celebrate it, God blesses our act of worship and remembrance.
  3. Oaths – Christians shouldn’t swear oaths, in keeping with Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount, instead we should live lives of truth and let our yes be yes.
  4. Election of sheep – each church has the right to choose their own leaders, rather than them being handed down from a higher level of the church.
  5. Ban – following Matthew 18, Christians are to peacefully, lovingly send non-repentant members outside of their circle.
  6. Adult baptism – baptism should only be given to those who have come to a full confession of faith, which automatically excludes infants who are not capable of doing so.
  7. Separation – the church should live separate from the world, guided by separate values and separate motivations. In the world but not of the world.
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Welcome

Thank you for visiting this website. I will be posting some writing as well as sermon podcasts. I welcome comments on both.

This explanation is available in the “About Us” section, but this is why I’ve chosen the name “Third Way.”

For centuries, followers of Jesus around the world have felt that there are only two ways to follow Jesus, the right way or the wrong way, the Catholic way or the Protestant way, the state sactioned way or the rebellious way, the orthodox way or not at all. In his life, Jesus rejected this kind of binary thinking, and he calls us to do the same.

People asked Jesus all sorts of questions and they would often give him only two answers to choose from. Was it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not? Should we stone this woman caught in adultery or break the law and let her go? Is it right to heal on the Sabbath or not? Each time Jesus faced a question like this he challenged the ones asking to look outside of their binary thinking.

Other teachings of Jesus reinforced the same concept. Often people have to choose between risking their lives and trying to kill the enemies they hate or saving their lives and accepting their status as victims. Jesus calls us to a radical third way. His teachings in the Sermon on the Mount tell us to refuse to be victimized but also to risk our lives and love our enemies.

That kind of third way thinking needs to inform the way we live and they way we see God.