Thursday, May 31, 2007

Global Peace Index - US ranked 96 out of 121

Australian entrepreneur Steve Killelea came up with this peace index idea, and it's getting kudos from around the world. Check out the rankings of nations on his peace index.

Brian McLaren on the Worship Industry

Check out this cool short video by Brian McLaren about his concern over the worship industry. I found it through Tony Jones' Emergent Village site. Wow, Brian says this better than I could. I download the loop, but it being offered by the group "The Work of the People" and it costs $250/year to sign up. Now that's ironic, isn't it?

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Beyond the Pall (Part 5): Emerging From Outer Darkness

She screamed from inside the locked vault. I closed only one of the two massive doors of our double-doored vault. As I turned the handle, the gentle clicking noise accompanied the narrowing of the thin crack of light until it disappeared altogether. Then she screamed all the louder, but these were faint and distant cries to us.

Within the locked vault a person can not see their hand before their face. Complete and utter darkness envelopes you, and no amount of time will allow your eyes to adjust to see even faint images.

I allowed her to scream a short time - short for me, but perhaps an eternity for her. After about 45 seconds I spun the handle counter-clockwise, and the gentle clicking gave way to the fine crack of light, and then to the opening of the door.

She was free again. A Witch who was a mother of two young children emerged from the Vault. She was cursing, and shouting, and confessing sins, and saying she did not deserve this.

We listened. We laughed. We discussed the experience with her.

She described the utter feeling of isolation, and the sense of truly understanding the concept of Hell as outer darkness.

She said thank you - repeatedly.

After she left, we scratched our heads, and considered this strange, but remarkable interaction.

She had come into our church meeting space. It is a 200 year old bank, with a massive vault directly opposite the entrance. She came with her friend. Both dressed mildly witchy in black, with tall shoes.

We discussed our plans for an event which we are planning for the Halloween season in Salem. These Witch friends of ours were publicizing, and helping sponsor the event for us. We described elements of this event, which we call "The Brimstone Chronicles." "The Brimstone Chronicles" will walk through the history of the Christian concepts of death, and the afterlife. It will include an experience of outer darkness. People will be asked to consider outer darkness as they are locked into the old vault for a short time.

She was excited about the idea, and asked to be locked in the vault. We asked if she was sure she wanted to do this. She was insistent. We obliged, and the strange story of screaming, cursing, confessing sins, and thanking us for the experience unfolded.

A couple weeks later she returned on a Sunday afternoon. She was walking downtown Salem with her mother.

"Mom. this is Pastor Phil," she smiled proudly, "Pastor Phil this is my mother."

"I've heard so much about you. It is nice to be able to put a face with the name." Her mother replied.

We spoke awhile, and even reminisced about the experience with outer darkness. My friend the Witch had asked for Hell. We gave it to her, and we were still friends. Her Roman Catholic mother thanked me for being a positive influence. They left.

I scratched my head again.

To read parts 1-4:
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Beyond the Pall (Part 4) Dancing in the Battle Zone

Three silver knives were stuck in the turf at my friend's gravesite. They were evidence that someone hoped to keep his spirit from tormenting them from beyond the grave. After the death of my friend the Witch, Pagans from near and far had divided into friend and enemy status. I care little for the battle lines of men, and prefer to befriend everyone while carelessly navigating the battlezone. Someone was crucified millennia ago for dancing in the battlezone. He sat with drunkards and religious leaders, came to break down the partition between Jew and Gentile, and the cross He bore is still my model for action.

Similarly I don't respond to superstitious fears. Silver knives, incantations, or chants seem powerless to soothe the demons of bitterness or fear in our own hearts. Those personal sins are the real ghosts of which we should be wary.

So as the battlelines were drawn. I ignored them. Pagan stood against Pagan, and of course Christians joined the fray as well. There are Christians who have a need to mention eternal torment to those who are not Christians at every possible opportunity. These pitched their tents on the side of Hell, and lobbed their morter in my direction. They believed that I was somehow compromising my faith by not emphasizing Hell during this season of my friend's death. Once again I danced in the militarized zone, and let the bombs fall around me.

Witches and occultists were accusing other Witches of being Satan worshippers. Of course, Witches don't believe in Satan, and so it looked more like a politically motivated accusation. At stake was licensing for Tarot Reading, and Psychic Readings in the city of Salem. If one group could make another look bad, perhaps it meant more money, more customers for them during the tourist season.

Meanwhile Christians made similar accusations of Satanic worship. I wondered quietly if such unfounded accusations against Neo-Pagans (which is a broad category including Witches, and Wiccans) were a way for the Christian church to develop a much needed visible enemy. A visible enemy gives us a more adventurous message, and maybe even an upperhand in fundraising.

Having been asked to speak at, and/or create workshops for Pagan events, I met with Witches to discuss upcoming teachings. I passed my ideas through them, and they were excited about these lessons on the Christian message which I was preparing.

During this time the battlezone became more active.

I have seen Witches lie about one another, and I have seen Christians lie about one another. I have seen Witches posture for position for personal gain, and I have seen greed in Christian leadership too. I have seen Witches dishonor those among their spiritual family who pass away, and I have seen Christians speak ill of the dead as well.

I have seen Christians who have chosen to speak the truth even if it cost them, and yes I have seen Witches do the same. I have seen Christians act mercifully toward those who do not deserve mercy, and I have seen Witches do the same.

Often my little world of Christianity prides itself in being the model of ethical behavior. I am not sure that we can honestly wear those shoes, because they do not always fit us. Instead I think we are called to dance gracefully in the battlezone.

We are called to avoid choosing sides in personal struggles for the sake of loving all people. We are called to navigate the places of strife with the words of peace. We are called to help the defenseless in the moment of their greatest need, and to cease throwing stones even when stones are deserved. We are called to speak words of truth even if those words defend non-Christians, and call Christians to repentance. I believe that this is what dancing in the battlezone looks like, and I believe we are all called to such a ministry.

Unfortunately, even Christians are saving their silver knives to join the fight instead of dancing in the battlezone.

To read parts 1-3:
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Monday, May 21, 2007

Why I like the Title Pastor

Because I don't like self appointed Apostles.

Because Prophets think they're all that.

Because Teachers always know it all.

Because Evangelists can't take a breath to listen.

Okay, those really are not the reasons. Those are just stereotypes I have come up with.

The real reason is that Pastor is the only title among the the list in Ephesians 4:11 which carries an automatic connotation of relationship. It is a title which reminds us to be friends, and caregivers. Of course, we've seem to forgotten that the title is a caring title, but I still like it because it reminds us (if we remember its meaning) that we need to return to friendship in the church.

So, if you have a problem with the fact that every position in a church is a "Pastor" remember that it should be a reminder to get back to the basics of caring for one another.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Leadership as a Familial Model and Acceptance of Sinners

We had a rather interesting discussion last night at church, which moved to a discussion of homosexuality, and then to outreach among fringe people groups. We had been foraging through some follow-up from our Conference "God For People Who Hate Church."

Jim Henderson, Jay Bakker and Tony Jones all emphasized in some manner reaching out in love with no agenda, and this became a point of challenge which included wondering if there was a place in which the Gospel was being compromised in order to show acceptance to those outside the church.

As an afterthought concerning this discussion I have had some thoughts based upon a discussion with one of our members following the evening dialogue.

I believe the model of Christian leadership outlined by Paul is one of familial interaction. Nowhere are potential leaders asked to measure up to some corporate or militaristic model of leadership, rather they are expected to be family men and women, who run their family well, and peaceably. This means that way Christian leaders treat people should be like the sacrificial love and patient longsuffering we show our family members. If we really lived like this in church, I wonder if it would significantly reorganize or transform our experience and our leadership patterns?

Westboro Baptist Church to Protest Jerry Falwell's Funeral

So, Westboro Baptist Church is at it again. This time they are going to protest the "false prophet Jerry Falwell". SAY WHAT!? Wow this is sick, but I guess anyone who changes the words to pop songs so that "God Hates the World" has got to be willing to disassociate themselves from common sense, and be willing to desecrate a memorial service for the dead.

see story at Fox News here
see "God Hates the World"

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Post SynchroBlog Post - Getting the Most Out of Your SynchroBlog

Just a few thoughts on the backside of our SynchroBlog on Christianity and Film:

First off kudos to Steve Hayes who came up with this month's topic, and generated the interest - even among some people who had not been part of a SynchroBlog for awhile, or had not been participants before. Which leads me to welcome, and say thanks to:

Cobus van Wyngaard, Lance Cummings, and Dr. Kim Paffenroth; and welcome back for this one time Blog-brilliance to John Morehead.

Then I found someone Synching who I didn't even know was doing it until afterwards. And it was a killer post! So, thanks for hopping in Rev. Sam.

I have found that over each of the SynchroBlogs we have done since this started in December, I have seen a spike in the number of visitors to my blog on the day the Synchroblog runs which has been anywhere from double to triple the average daily visitor count, and following each SynchroBlog I have seen a slight increase in daily readership as well. So, for you SynchroBloggers, here are my suggestions for getting a little more traffic: 1) Get on the list early so the other Synchies know you're coming. 2) Post a little earlier than the expected time of release - maybe the evening before. If someone else posts early, the traffic coming from their site will find you up and running, and they'll stick around. 4) If you have some sort of mailing list, send out a bulletin about the SynchroBlog release, and give some information about the topic. 5) I keep my SynchroBlog up all day before I post another topic so people find it easily. 6) I respond to the people making comments on my blog by commenting back to them. 7) You might want to add "SynchroBlog" as a tag/label as well, especially if you are hooked up with Technorati.

So that's my way of Synching up with each of you.

My interest in getting this going was believing that we had something to say, and that we could get more people to read our deep wisdom (dislocating arm by patting myself on the back) with some coordination. Plus I can relate to Pinky and The Brain - "What are we going to do today?" "Take over the world."

Here's my list of surprising moments in the SynchroBlog for May: Dang! I was sure that Jenelle was a professional film critic with her observations on Dancer in the Dark. I had no clue that someone knew as much about Buffy: The Vampire Slayer as Steve Hollinghurst. Marieke gets the bravery award for suggesting that Jesus loves Borat in a very cool post - this just might get the postmodern/emergent nod of the day as well. For being able to pull allegorical content out of movies in a way I just can not do, I have to give some serious kudos to Sonja for The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, and to Adam's work on Spiderman. Greatest Surprise? Someone else loves Babylon 5! Yeah David. You rock!

SynchroBloggers, did you have some favorites this time around? Perhaps you want to respond with a post on your Blog.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Frisbee: Time to Toss it Back

This is supposed to be a SynchroBlog on the subject of Christianity and Film. (For info on SynchroBlogs see The Original SynchroBlog Post from back in December.) I know the original idea of this SynchroBlog probably was to discover places where heaven met the secular silver screen, or to challenge the idea that it does, but I thought that I would write something about a good Christian flick, because finding one is a miracle in itself.

The movie is Frisbee: The Life and Death of a Hippie Preacher. Our church owns the film. Of course, we also own Marjoe, which I believe every preacher ought to see.

Okay I've spent two paragraphs saying nothing about Frisbee, so here we finally go.

It is a documentary about Lonnie Frisbee. Most people today have never heard of Lonnie. I saw him preach in 1981, and he was quite a celebrity in certain circles. Those circles were Calvary Chapel, and Vineyard Churches. He was a little hippie dude, who by 1981 looked less the hippie, and held services in which people experienced lots of radical charismatic God things - you know, speaking in tongues, healings etc.

I did not know at that time that he was responsible for the early miraculous growth of both the Calvary Chapel and Vineyard movements. Later the historical connection between the church movements and Lonnie would be kept quite silent in most circles. Why? Because Lonnie contracted AIDS through homosexual relationships which he had over the same years he was in ministry, and died in 1993.

Two movements had their genesis, and thrived under his passion, and his impetus. Yet today few people in those movements know his name. He has been tossed out as an unclean leper, and his legacy is forgotten. Perhaps it is time to toss his name back into the discussion, and work through the questions his life challenges us with.

At our recent church conference God: For People Who Hate Church we showed the movie, and followed it up for a discussion. Perhaps you should consider buying the DVD, and creating a discussion group around it as well. Thanks to David Di Sabatino for putting this postmodern Bible story together for us.

May 16th SynchroBlog - Christianity and Film

Steve Hayes was the impetus behind this month's SynchroBlog topic about Christianity and Film. I don't watch enough movies to even have come up with this topic, so I needed a more movie-manic personality to get me to post about it. Below are the links to the people who will be writing about this subject. As expected Spidey rules the web here as he does elsewhere. Links should be connected to stories by Tuesday PM, or Wednesday AM.

Steve Hayes ponders The Image of Christianity in Films
Adam Gonnerman pokes at The Spider's Pardon
David Fisher thinks that Jesus Loves Sci-Fi
John Morehead considers Christians and Horror Redux: From Knee-Jerk Revulsion to Critical Engagement
Marieke Schwartz lights it up with Counter-hegemony: Jesus loves Borat
Mike Bursell muses about Christianity at the Movies
Jenelle D'Alessandro tells us Why Bjork Will Never Act Again
Cobus van Wyngaard contemplates Theology and Film (as art)
Tim Abbott tells us to Bring your own meaning...?
Sonja Andrews visits The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly: Christ in Spaghetti Westerns
Steve Hollinghurst takes a stab at The Gospel According to Buffy
Les Chatwin insists We Don't Need Another Hero
Lance Cummings says The Wooden Wheel Keeps Turning
John Smulo weaves a tale about Spiderman 3 and the Shadow
Josh Rivera spells well with Christian Witchcraft
Phil Wyman throws out the Frisbee: Time to Toss it Back
Sally Coleman is Making Connections- films as a part of a mythological tradition
Dr. Kim Paffenroth investigates Nihilism Lite
Rev. Sam escapes with Apologia pro video sua

Jerry Falwell Dies

and with his passing, perhaps the passing of an era in American Christianity. See the story here.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

SynchroBlog for May

Steve Hayes over at Methodius gives us the update on this month's SynchroBlog. Interested in joining the topic about Christianity and film? See Steve's Post on the subject.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Dang! I want to see the Check!

Okay, I'm not sure how they rate dollars to technorati rating, but I look pretty decent for all this blog work, and that's only this site. It doesn't include The Church Site, or The Why Man.

So here's what Dane Carlson's Site says the value of my blog is:

My blog is worth $49,114.98.
How much is your blog worth?

Go to How Much is Your Blog Worth?.

I found this on Beyond the 4 Walls.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Beyond the Pall (Part 3): Fellowshiping with Darkness?

Should I have said that I would pray about it? Should I have asked for advice from my ministry peers, and considered their wisdom first? Should I have weighed out the factors, and considered how it might look to other Christians? I don't know. But I did do what I usually do. I saw a door crack open, and rushed through it headlong.

"I would love to teach a workshop!"

It was set in motion, and I, an evangelical Pastor was headed to being one of the workshop presenters at a festival with 1,500 Pagans. In turn she hoped to give my name to some national coordinators, and wanted to see if she could get me connected at a national level, taking my message on the road.

It was the end of my friend's memorial service. My friend the Witch had died, and I became a larger part of the lives of his friends who were left behind. Speaking at his service, I hailed back to the Celtic Christians, and referred to the Thin Places where Heaven meets earth. The death of a friend is a Thin Place, because it blindingly reminds us of our own mortality, and captures our fears, and our hopes, our joys, and our sorrows in one anarchic clash, and we meanwhile squint in the light of eternity. I ended my short message by calling everyone to consider making their own lives a Thin Place where people could capture Heaven through interacting with us. It was not a Gospel message, but it was one rooted in the source of my faith, and it reverberated gently among the Pagans in attendance that night. You see, I am convinced that what we give people is often indicative of where we are headed. If we show them heaven by treating them graciously, then it is heaven which is flowing from our hearts. On the other hand, if we give people Hell by treating them poorly, that speaks for itself. I was encouraging people to live in such a way as to give away pieces of Heaven.

After the memorial I worked on developing a workshop idea for this Pagan festival. Over the next couple weeks this is what developed:

The Circle and The Cross Talk:  Re-visioning Pagan/Christian Relationships

"Looking back to the Caesars, and to the Burning Times misconceptions and urban myths have had deadly results for both Pagans and Christians.  In our own times, though mild in comparison, Pagans have been on the receiving end of the religious persecution.  Some have chosen to remain in the broom closet, and others have faced the struggle head on - sometimes to bitter disappointment with family, friends, and work associates.  This workshop is designed as a deeper look into the worldview differences between Christian and Neo-Pagan thought with a focus upon deconstructing, and re-visioning some of the beliefs which cause the greatest pain.  Come learn to navigate this battlefield of philosophical tension. Topics of frustration to be covered include judgment, conversion, spiritual dissonance, and sexuality."

I am going to be giving a workshop discussing Heaven and Hell, Salvation, Spiritual Warfare, and Sex from a Biblical perspective at a Pagan gathering, and people are excited about it. Someone pinch me and wake me up.

Paul spoke of his love for the Jews. I have this same deep appreciation, and love for Neo-Pagans. Over the last 12 years of getting to know them, I have learned that this much-maligned group is filled with beautiful people. In our Christian tendency to reduce every person to simply a sinner, we sometimes lose sight of the imago dei which simmers gently in the every person. In our tendency to demonize cultural and religious groups we do not understand, we sometimes loose sight of legitimate critiques they may have against our own culture, and our ways. I have found my Neo-Pagan friends to be among the brightest, and the most concerned, and also the ablest critics of our own Christian culture. Yet, here I was being accepted as a voice of legitimacy on their own turf, and I am a man of the cloth they choose not to weave their garments from.

Did this support the old adage that it is not what you say, but how you say it? Has my work in deconstructing, and redefining Christian doctrine missionally for alternative spiritualities had its effect in making me a more gentle Christian to those I really loved? Had I found a way to express Jesus to people who seemed to have no problem with Him, but struggled mightily with His followers? Perhaps it was simpler than that. Perhaps it was that when my friend died, I showed myself true - as a friend to him, and to his friends, and did so without worry of whether my reputation would be sullied by hanging out with Witches.

Perhaps I am actually compromising my faith, as my detractors warn, or I am being subtlely deceived by the wiles of the devil, and moving into unprotected territory where I would be subject to the devil's attacks and deceptions. One pastor had suggested as much when he asked me the rather sophmoric question, "Have you ever heard the term fellowshiping with darkness?"

"Uh, yeah..." 'Gee, It's not like I haven't been a Pentecostal Pastor for 20 years,' I thought.

"Well what does it mean to you?" He querried deeper, as though he was trying to mine some deep-seated unrepentant condition from my heart.

I wanted to answer, "It looks like sitting in a room with a bunch of cowards screaming at demons, while people who need Jesus are out on the streets during Halloween. That looks like fellowshiping with darkness to me," but I held my sarcasm, and remained gentle before his inquisition. Halloween in Salem is a month long, and while we made friends, served the community, and shared our faith, this man had critiqued our outreach projects, while he sat in holy huddles inside the safety of the church.

I guess if Halloween outreaches have been a problem, teaching at a Pagan Festival is going to be a bigger problem for some people, but for now I will prepare, and see what the upcoming months moving toward the conference bring.

As I draw deeper into the culture of these people I love, will I find deeper expressions of the imago dei? Will I find people earnestly seeking authentic spirituality? Will I find other Christians who are willing to join me in a quest to share Shalom? or will I find myself fellowshiping with darkness, turmoil, and succumbing to deception? I think I know the answer, but who can read the map of the untrod paths of the an adventure yet untried?

Only one Person can read that future which does not yet exist.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

First Podcast From "God: for People Who Hate Church" - Jim Henderson (Friday, May 4th)

You can find the first Podcast from our conference here in Salem, MA at our church website.

Jim Henderson pushes some boundaries of our thinking about church life, and incarnational ministry. If you like Jim, this may be an opportunity to here him speak more freely than you have heard before. Heck, when you speak at a conference entitled "God: for People Who Hate Church" it 's a bit difficult to get much more provocative than that! So, Jim says he felt pretty free to speak up. Check it out!

Friday, May 04, 2007

So it Begins - God for People Who Hate Church

Hi Friends,

Our conference begins tonight. People are beginning to show up now. Karen Ward is in Town, Jim Henderson is here, Jay Bakker will be here in a couple hours. The Christian Science Monitor will be here today and tomorrow to talk to Jim henderson and I. Of course, Tony Jones is too emergent to get here when everyone else does, he'll arrive at 11pm.

So, we are off and running. For those who will be here, see you soon. If you haven't registered and want to come, you can just come as you are, and register or any of the events tonight through Sunday morning.

View our flyer for the event here.

You can also follow live blogging of the event for those who can not make it at The Gathering Blogsite.

Gwyn eich byd, White your world!

CONFERENCE TIME! God for People Who Hate Church is Here

Today, I met Agent B who flew out here form Abilene, TX. I took him around Salem, and he met real live Witches - at least five of the locals. He got a feel for our beautiful New England city, and felt the cool breezes and the warm sun of late spring. Then Don Rylander from Jackson, MS - my old buddy who was there on the first day I began pastoring a church I Carlsbad, CA 22 years ago arrived in town, and we spent some time together this evening.

Tomorrow at 7pm the event officially begins. There will be people blogging live from the conference, and you can follow their writings. The live-bloggers will be linked in the right-hand column of the church blog site. There will also be a variety of people guest blogging from the church blog.

Our guest speakers include Jay Bakker, Jim Henderson, and Tony Jones.

Guest panelists include Karen Ward, John Smulo, Ken Nelson, and Beth Maynard.

We will also hear from Lou, Jonas, and Michael on our Humanist/Christian discussion panel, and from Teri Kalgren, Suzy Wade, and Krista Grillo during our Pagan/Christian discussion.

So for the next three days you will find us at The Gathering's Blog Site.

This conference is charting some new territory for us, and we hope to discover how we might become better servants to the variety of people around us.

Gwyn eich byd!
Pastor Phil

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Beyond the Pall (Part 2) at Relevant

A previous post Beyond the Pall (Part 2): Standing Between the Worlds has been published at Relevant Magazine online, and just came up today - 5/2/07.

Here is the link to the article at Relevant.

The original without the editing is found here.

Check it out at Relevant, and leave a comment. I am hoping to create a series based upon my growing interaction with the Pagan community, and have a larger audience like the readers of Relevant follow it. I have presented the idea to the editors of Relevant, and they are willing to look at it an article at a time right now.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Are We Americans Really This Stupid?

I wonder if it is a peculiar American passion to offend entire countries, or have we learned this only recently from our movie star role models. I am appalled at the lack of consideration for a culture as this story about Hollywood meeting Bollywood.

How do we learn from this kind of negative role model, and gain insight for missions?

Live Blogging from God For People Who Hate Church

May 4-6th - yep that only 3 days away! - we will provide some live blogging from our conference. Topics and themes of teachings and panel discussions will be provided by various observers. Carly Menasco, Kevin Menasco, Josh Rivera (see His blog rivera's Blog), and others will take a hand at some live commentary. If you follow the blogging at the blog site for The Gathering, you can send some questions from distant places and get involved.

If you want to find the schedule for the conference, and follow along, go to our church website and follow the link to the conference flyer. Of course, you will need to add or subtract hours to adapt to Eastern Standard Time US.

Vampire Lynched?

Tell me it ain't so!

Is our world so superstitious that we lynch little old ladies, because they look and act strange. Do their peculiar behaviors become a reason for accusing them of unimaginable evils, simply because we can not understand them?

Of course Christians in a Christian nation would never become superstitious and do strange things would we?

Hmmm...what are these interesting items?

Guidance for Human Service Workers
A Free Guide to Get Rid of Those Demons Inside You

Could it be that there is superstition in Christianity? What do you think?