Saturday, January 20, 2007

Reflections: Congress on Evangelism - Part 4 and Wrap Up

Here, finally, is my last set of reflections from the Congress on Evangelism.

Bishop Scott Jones was the Denman Lecturer at the event. I first met Bishop Jones in his pre-bishop days at General Conference 2000. Jones was the vice-chair of the legislative committee that I was on, Faith and Order, which in that quadrennium discussed all the sexuality issues. Though I disagreed with Jones' point of view, I did definitely appreciate his knowledge of the Book of Discipline, and his willingness to apply it consistently even when the responses it gave weren't necessarily supporting his personal point of view. Later, when I was interning at the General Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns (say that five times fast), I read most of Jones' book, John Wesley's Conception and Use of Scripture , to write a paper on John Wesley and the authority of scripture. Of course, my paper made almost the exact opposite argument as Jones' book, but still, that's my prior experience of Bishop Jones.

I enjoyed Jones' presentation. He packed a lot in to a short amount of time, and moved quickly through his material - so quickly that I occasionally missed points I wanted to catch. Some highlights:
  • Excellent congregations are churches that have a 'missional culture' rather than a 'club' mentality. They embrace tradition but not traditionalism - we celebrate "the living faith of the dead, not the dead faith of the living," he said, which I think he was quoting from someone else, but I didn't catch it. He talked about intention - things that don't just happen randomly, but happen because of intentional effort.

  • He listed things he considered "not really essential" when it comes to faith - in other words, things we don't have to agree about or have a specific 'right belief' for: 1) A particular kind of experience of being 'born again' 2) Membership in a particular church 3) A particular doctrine of the second coming 4) A specific 'correct' mode of baptism or 5) A particular political ideology.

  • Jones listed 10 things that we ought to know as Christians, and have some clear understanding of: 1) The Church is a spirit-filled missional community 2) The doctrine of a Triune God 3) Creation - not as in creation science, but our understanding of God as Creator and that God's role as Creator is the important thing to know about creation! 4) Sin 5) Repentance 6) Justification 7) New Birth 8) Assurance 9) Maturity 10) Grace. I really liked this list - very Wesleyan (naturally) but also one that I think hits on key things, as Jones says. And I think in these 10 things there is a lot more unity or at least common ground within our denomination than we realize, even when we have different expressions of such.

So, I enjoyed Jones' lectures. I did miss the last one, but I liked what I heard (except his dig at the lectionary, but I can let that go! :) )

I was a bit disappointed in the overwhelmingly white male leadership in the event. Yes, there were some women who were speakers and workshop leaders, and people of color, but overall, the event was pretty white-male dominated, even down to the musicians, at least what I saw of it. I did also find it a bit off-putting when I was interacting with one person who was very clearly positioning for a run for the episcopacy - very interested in self-promotion and politicking. Ah, I guess General Conference time is a-coming.... But, overall, I had a really good time - mostly, firstly, because of meeting other methobloggers. But I also did get a lot from the content of the event, the workshops and speakers, and I've find myself already using or referring to things I learned while away.

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