Paul writes – Following on from this recent post about the formational importance of dialogue, conversation, listening, and making space for the “other”, Alan Roxburgh offers some thoughts on the importance of listening, particularly with respect to missional leadership and the work of listening and discerning (see this recent post by Steve Taylor) in our communities. Notice too the importance of sitting at table, and of food and wine. There is something profound in the simple act of “breaking bread together”.
“…Missional leadership is … about learning to become the one who calls forth, calls back into life and gives voice to the screaming voices, the choruses of voices out there in our neighborhoods and communities. This is where the Spirit is out ahead, in front of us. I thank God for long evenings, tables with great food and good wine, where we can be surprised by conversations, where voices can emerge that take us by surprise and move us to places that we could never imagine in the rush of our self imposed busyness. I love the neighborhood where I can sit down at a table on a front lawn and talk with people, amazed by them and their stories as we encounter one another in the ordinariness of an evening and conversation. Such pleasure in relationships and others far exceeds the superficiality of new technologies and social networking.”
Deep listening isn’t easy. The invitation is always to listen more deeply – listening not only to the “other”, but also to your own life – listening beneath your frustration, your own negative or melancholic tendencies to see responses as shades of black, your disappointment, your excitement, your inner judgements, and your hopes for resonance.
Listening beneath all that you experience in the course of conversation and dialogue is hard work. It’s tiring, and this is all the more so when you and the “other” are in different places, and oftentimes with very different hopes and needs. You need to push through the tendency at times like this to close down and to discontinue listening.
But then, there’s still more that has to be done! Beyond listening to the “other” and beyond listening beneath the surface of your own life, there is the critically important need to listen for the still small voice of the Spirit.
Finally, there is always the possibility, I suspect, that we’re listening, discerning and acting in the wrong place. Steve Taylor recently quoted Jonny Baker who said: “change or newness is most likely to come from having people work at both the centre and the edge”. Perhaps the place or the group where we are listening is the wrong place for us. Maybe we’re better at listening and working for change at the “centre” (say, for example, within a church congregation), rather than at “the edge” (say, beyond the church congregation)? In our listening to the other, perhaps we discover that we’re longing for and needing different things?
Paul writes – Barry Taylor offers more thoughts on Graham Ward’s new book – The Politics of Discipleship. I was particularly struck by the follow observation. It had resonances for me of a really fruitful discussion a number of us had in Hamilton in 2007/2008 during Steve Taylor’s “Missional Church Leadership” course; in particular around our interaction with John Drane’s work and questions having to do with “spirituality” and “mission”, particularly in suburbia. The bold text below is mine. The quote is from Barry’s post:
“He [Ward] offers up a definition of a post-materialist that came from the work of Ronald Inglehart. Inglehart argued that as people moved out of economic instability their values change (in this thought he is not alone), and that the contemporary move is towards quality-of-life issues. He names five issues which make up the 'postmaterialist'--human rights, personal liberties, community, aesthetic satisfaction and the environment ...with the shift towards these values...”
You can read the full reflection here. I’ll add future comment by Barry Taylor on Ward’s book as a comment with links appended to this post. I’ve previously quoted Barry on Ward’s book here.
As an aside, it’ll be a loss to Opawa Baptist and a gain to Adelaide when Steve Taylor and his lovely family head across the Tasman “ditch” for new roles and opportunities in Adelaide at the start of 2010. You can read more about this in Steve post here.
Paul writes – In her introduction to Perspectives on the Rule of Saint Benedict(with the great subtitle: Expanding our Hearts in Christ - surely one of the great themes of spiritual formation in the Christian tradition!) Aquinata Bockmann quotes Henri Nouwen. I like what Nouwen is saying:
“…It seems that progress is always connected with a refreshing of our collective memory. Practically all reforms in the Church and the Orders of the Church [he’s talking about the Catholic Church – Paul] have been marked by a new appreciation of the intentions of the early Church and a renewed study of the past, not to repeat it but to find there the inspiration for real renewal…”
“…The age of globalization confronts the observer with more ironies than certainties. It was once assumed that the growth of modern institutions – democracy, capitalism, science – would be attended by a series of mutually reinforcing social processes, most notably secularisation, rationalisation and disenchantment. Not only has the global spread of these institutions proved patchy and uneven, religious movements and belief systems have doggedly refused to assume the private status once thought to be their natural destiny. In both the West and the wider world, religion continues to make competing claims on the public sphere and public morals. Developments like this have been accompanied by conceptual critique and innovation. Increasingly, traditional accounts of modernity are seen as Euro-centric and prescriptive, while there has been renewed interest in the question of political and civil religions and the more general relationship of the political and the theological…”
A more accessible audio recording of Ward can be found here courtesy of BBC Manchester. It’s only about 8 mins long but will enable you to put a voice to the words on the pages of the books Ward writes. In this interview Ward talks about religion and civil society.
Paul writes – Andy Goodliff offers a short review of Graham Ward’s latest publication The Politics of Discipleship. A few reviews are starting to trickle out. Also Barry Taylor offers some early and thus tentative thoughts (given he’s only just started the book) on the same book. Me? I haven’t even started it yet, but have benefited a lot from my interactions with Ward’s work over the last 12-months (my last post on Ward, not directly related to this book, can be found here), though I need to confess that like others I find him hard going at an intellectual level. You really have to work to get what he’s saying, but the reward for doing so is most often well worth the effort.
The real challenge then becomes to synthesise and earth that learning in the everyday issues around practical theology, mission, church, and cultural engagement that learning in terms of every day activity. You have to work hard to meaningfully and usefully respond to the “so what...?” question
Barry Taylor writes:
“...I am not sure that I am on the exact same theological page as Ward, his radical orthodoxy is undoubtedly a viable option, but it's not my cup of tea, since we are using the tea metaphor, but his take on culture and its intersections with theology is something I spend much of my time thinking about and he has been helpful in shaping a methodology of engagement. I like it that nothing is outside of his theological circle, nothing is off-limits, and everything can be brought into conversation. In an earlier work he speaks of his theology as seeking to "reclaim the world," not in the evangelical sense of the word, but with the idea of bringing things once left outside the domain of theology back into conversation and dialogue...”
Anyone come across any fuller or large scale reviews of Ward’s book...?
Paul writes – Today’s post extends or maybe makes explicit, and thus deepens one of the important themes of the last two posts – the (trans)formational importance of conversation and dialogue; the importance of the “other” in our growth and (trans)formation.
In many ways the practice of blogging serves to help me in this project.
One of the great advocates of this need (the need for the “other”, especially the “other” who is not like us), is Rowan Williams.
Earlier in the year – 4th June 2009 to be precise - James McEvoy who teaches at Catholic Theological College in Adelaide, (all-to-briefly) reflected on this theme under the title “Dialogue with Rowan Williams”. In this reflection he wrote:
“…For Williams, dialogue is more than a fulfilment to which we aspire, although it is certainly that. It is far more, too, than a moment or even a series of moments in a person's life. Williams sees human identity as fundamentally dialogical. Through the exchange of dialogue we become ourselves. In dialogue, insights emerge that shape our lives in a way that is new not only for the hearer but also for the speaker…
With this dynamic in mind, Williams says: 'dialogue and interaction bring to light, not to say bring into being, hidden dimensions in a speaker. To engage in this venture is to accept at the outset that no speaker has the last word ... that at the outset no one possesses the simple truth about their own identity or interest'.
Openness in dialogue implies we are open about ourselves and open to the other. Williams calls it 'responsibility for the other'. By responsibility he does not mean we have a resigned acceptance of the other's burden. Rather, the opposite. We are so open to others that they find it possible to take responsibility.
Responsibility for the other is 'a matter ... of discovering what the other can say in one's own voice, and what one can say in the other's voice. In that mutual displacement, something new enters the moral situation, and both speakers are given more room to be who they are, to learn or grow by means of this discovery of "themselves outside themselves"…”
You can read the rest of the reflection here. Related to this theme, in my mind anyway, is the paper by Jeffrey McCurry referred to in this post and this one. And also to an article on Rowan Williams’ theology and the impossibility of the “last word” by Humphrey Southern, linked to via this post. Some of you, like me, when you see “last word” you might also think of the US-title of NT. Wright’s book on understanding the “authority of Scripture – a book that could be helpfully inserted into this conversation too.
Paul writes – Peter Carrell offers a useful response to a post by Michael Jensen (from Moore Theological College, Sydney) in which Michael comments: “...More than ever, we need to renew our vision of what it means to be an evangelical Anglican. My conviction is that not only is being evangelical the most authentic way of being Anglican – we’ve been saying that for years - but also that being Anglican is a great way of being evangelical...”
Peter interacts with Michael’s post and includes the following statements:
“...The hidden premise is that this thing called 'evangelicalism' provides the perfectly sound foundation upon which to stand and pronounce judgment upon the state of both Anglicanism and evangelical Anglicanism/Anglican evangelicalism. One knows something fishy is going on - terrible pun about to be unleashed - when the conclusion reached by many from this perspective is that the Anglican Church is 'a good boat to fish from'.
The premise is questionable and many evangelicals do not understand this! Evangelicalism is not a sound platform from which to judge other theological positions because (a) it is not itself one uniform position, thus the judgment boils down to 'my group of evangelicals' perspective' or even 'my perspective'; (b) it is an amalgam of doctrines new to the history of the church from after the time of the Reformation (but often confused as being equivalent to either the original Lutheran Reforming theology or even the theology of Paul himself); (c) even when in Anglican circles the implicit claim is that (true) Anglican evangelicalism is more or less Cranmer's theology, the reality is that Cranmer can be ditched to suit the needs of our day...
...In other words the supreme confidence of many evangelicals that evangelicalism (accepting for a moment that it is one uniform body of theology) is the true theology revealed by God misses the point that for some 1500+ years [pre-Reformation] this [so-called ‘true’] theology was missing from the church of God!...”
Paul notes – "Charles Taylor is a philosopher in a grand style. His recent very big book, A Secular Age, sets out to describe us to our western selves in a way that counters much conventional thinking. Ruth Abbey is a political scientist who runs an ever-growing web-based bibliography of Taylor related material, and James McEvoy is a theologian who appreciates the way Taylor's analysis of our age opens up possibilities for dialogue and for religious faith. Join Ruth Abbey, James McEvoy and Charles Taylor" on Australia’s ABC Radio National programme Encounter. Broadcast on the 6th September 2009.
You can find it here. Audio is available as a downloadable Mp3 for a limited time. I have most recently commented on Charles Taylor here.
“…The locale for the formation of one’s character is community. As Edmund Pincoffs reminds, ‘Aristotle did not give open lectures; St. Paul did not write open letters. When they used the word “we”, they spoke from within a community of expectations and ideals: a community within which character was cultivated’. This, of course, is one of the weaknesses of so-called ‘situation ethics’, or what James McClendon [in his book refers to as ‘decisionism’. McClendon argues that decisionism is ‘ill equipped to understand and shed light upon those dark struggles of our selves in which, confronted with imponderables, we do flounder about, sometimes conscientiously, sometimes self-deceived, sometimes locked in the struggle that classical Christian theology calls temptation’. He contrasts this with what he calls the ‘classic view’, the notion that a person’s life is ‘a journey, a pilgrimage, in which one’s self is not mere datum, nor an electronic calculator reading “decisions” off new “situations”, but a soul in the making, a self which can become itself only as the weight of sin is fully recognized and the self recognizes a center of meaning and source of power beyond itself, forgiving and remaking that self’ (p. 9). Such recognition, I concur, requires being-in-community. There is no stand-alone ‘I’. The journey inwards cannot be made apart from the journey outwards. Learning, maturation and character are perichoretically-determined activities…” [emphasis throughout is mine – Paul]