Center for Religious Wisdom and World Affairs

Happy_Passover

 

This week Seattle University School of Theology and Ministry will convene the inaugural symposium of The Center for Religious Wisdom and World Affairs.  Everyone on campus is infused with a palpable excitement about the collaboration of faculty, students, staff, scholars and religious leaders from around world and their engagement of the subject of homelessness. The Center synthesizes three resources – civically engaged academic scholarship, faith-based action and theological education.  It seeks to help faith-based leaders and activists become more thoughtful in their social action; scholars to become more relevant in their research and attentive to practical application of their thought; and students to learn from this interchange and become smart and effective “public” theologians capable of presenting the wisdom of religious traditions to the broader community.

 

As we move into the launch of this new and innovative endeavor I am curious about whether or not our liturgies in our faith communities take seriously this idea of religious wisdom engaging world affairs?  Does the hymnody of the week speak to the news cycle of that week, while at the same time address the broad existential realities of the human condition?  Is the preaching informing a response to moral questions about the economy or military acts? If the church is a community of people bond together by their willingness to journey into the meaning and mystery of God, then should not our corporate worship experiences be directed toward the meaning of God as it relates to our present realities (Spong 2001)?  This work of engaging society in gospel values that the new center is undertaking should be a part of the work of every local congregation.

 

I believe our world would change drastically if only the wisdom found in our religious traditions was lifted to the forefront of public discourse. Postmodern culture is one where social identity is formed through mass –mediated images and where culture and economy have merged to form a single sphere (hooks 1990). The mass media dwells on and perpetuates an ethic of domination and violence because our image makers have more intimate knowledge of these realities than they have with the realities of love  (hooks 2000).  Every major religion has some teaching on self-love and neighbor love, these values alone have the potential of reshaping our world toward a more just and humane society.   If the work of the image makers was informed by a love ethic they would consider it important to think critically about the images they are creating. The shape of our culture would be completely different if religion and its values began to inform how we think and act in everyday life.

Eric Lincoln suggests that viable religion has a working reciprocity with the culture that produces it or with which it interacts (Lincoln 1984). What causes us to be a church, synagogue, mosque, or temple that is alive, vibrant, and engaged in relevant work, is our ability to present a clear message of how our spiritual tradition offers a preferable picture of society. We become prophetic as a people when we threaten culture’s power structure by holding up a mirror to its folly and showing where such folly leads (Pearce 2002). There is a need to revitalize the prophetic witness of religion in today’s culture, and endeavors such as The Center for Religious Wisdom and World Affairs are powerful answers to that call. I wonder what it would look like for our local congregations to engage the work of public witness in ways that lift gospel values to the forefront of public discourse?  How would the sociopolitical landscape of our cities, states and country be different if we took seriously the task of emphasizing in the commons the best values and norms of our various religious traditions? This week as you contemplate the liturgical life of your local community I invite you to ask these and other questions that will spur an active engagement in the betterment of the world.

 

Peace Is Possible,

+Donalson

 

Bishop Edward Donalson, III | Director of Liturgy and Worship | Assistant Clinical Professor
SCHOOL OF THEOLOGY AND MINISTRY | SEATTLE UNIVERSITY
 

Works Cited

hooks, bell. 2000. All About Love: New Visions. New York: HarperCollins.

—. 1990. Yearning: Race, Gender and Cultural Politics. Boston: South End Press.

Lincoln, C.Eric. 1984. Race, Religion, and the Continuing American Dilemma. New York: Hill and Wang.

Pearce, Joseph Clinton. 2002. The Biology of Transcendence: A Blueprint of the Human Spirit. Rochester: Park Street press.

Spong, John Shelby. 2001. A New Christianity For A New World. New York: Harper Collins.

 

 

Worship & Liturgy Announcements

Liturgies of Resistance

Liturgies of Resistance-8 5x11_CC-400px

Any liturgical moment that intentionally decenters imperialist white supremacist capitalist heteropatriarchy as norm and gives voices from the margins room to speak is a liturgy of resistance. Practicing Christians are identified by their involvement with the symbols of particular Christian traditions. There are many Christianities based on the many engagements with ancient text. These ways of being Christian are lived through the patterned symbolic activity that we call ritual or liturgy. It is our liturgies that embody the main theological teachings of our traditions (Empereur 2002). This is the place where the conversation begins for my upcoming course at Seattle University’s School of Theology and Ministry. As we consider the one set of interlocking political systems that are foundational to our nation’s politics; and we live in a political climate where so much of our populace is being impacted by the collision and/or collusion of these systems, those of us who take ecclesiology seriously must create spaces where resistance takes center stage (hooks 2004). Liturgy is about ritual; it is about holy actions. Christian liturgy is particularly a volunteer gathering of diverse people in local communities enacting a shared vision that always carries public meaning (Lathrup 1993).

Our worship gatherings are some of America’s most intense moments of ritual. Ritual provides the actions and forms through which people meet, carry out social activities, celebrate, and commemorate (Empereur 2002). In this way liturgy lends itself to be a site of prophetic resolve or resistance. I believe that the heart of the gospel is found in Jesus’ message of radical welcome; he consistently identifies with those on the margins. This message of liberation is a prophetic critique of the society which Jesus encountered as well as the world we face today. The tasks of our liturgies, then, is to empower the community of those gathered to engage the principles of Jesus message of liberation. In this way the church becomes a real, visible, embodied presence of Christ’s body in the world, i.e., the sacramental presence of God on earth as it is in Heaven (Pecknold 2010).

We live in an epoch that demands a countercultural prophetic critique of the systems of domination that threaten to hamper human flourishing. Our liturgical moments must involve the transformation of cultural patterns that idolize the self or the local group at the expense of a wider humanity, or give central place to the acquisition of wealth at the expense of the care of the earth and its poor (Wilkey 2014). Our conversation on May 30-June 2 will focus on strategies of resistance from the past and present, with an eye toward the future. Whether it be the music selection, the text for preaching, or the drama presentation in your local church context, each can be a transformative countercultural moment of resistance. Often our resistance is as simple as changing the lyrics of a hymn that excludes our siblings based on gender or that dismisses our siblings based on race. Our resistance can be as profound as changing the bread we serve at the moment of communion. Wherever we discover systems of oppression, domination, or subjugation that marginalize, disenfranchise, and alienate people from experiencing the fullness of human flourishing, the Church is called to rituals of resistance. This week ask yourself and your worship planning team in what way will our liturgy allow the suffering to speak?

Peace Is Possible,
+Donalson

Bishop Edward Donalson, III | Director of Liturgy and Worship | Assistant Clinical Professor
SCHOOL OF THEOLOGY AND MINISTRY | SEATTLE UNIVERSITY

Works Cited
Empereur, James L. 2002. Spiritual Direction and the Gay Person. New York: The Continuum Publishing Company.
hooks, bell. 2004. The Will to Change: Men, Masculinity, and Love. New York: Washington Square Press.
Lathrup, Gordon W. 1993. Holy Things. Minneapolis: Fortress Press.
Pecknold, C.C. 2010. Christianity nd Politics: A Brief Guide to History. Eugene: Cascade Books.
Wilkey, Gláucia Vasconcelos, ed. 2014. Worship and Culture: Foreign Country or Homeland. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

Worship & Liturgy Announcements

The Cross and the Resurrection

cross sunset

For millions around the world this week marks the apex of the Christian calendar. This Sunday is the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus, also known as Easter. In many circles there is much contention about the association that Easter may have with pagan celebrations or the Jewish holiday of Passover;, however, the Council of Nicaea settled the formula for determining the date of Easter in 325AD and completely Christianized the celebration, centering it in the Jesus narrative (Davidson 2005).

The story of the resurrection is central to the Christian faith and holds powerful imagery of possibility and potential. It is an invitation to radical newness and boundless hope that resonates with our shared human drive toward generativity. It beckons us to take seriously the mystery of life and the ways in which our lives are transitory. Resurrection is a consolation to Christians of the shared affirmation that death is not the end. Yet this radical newness comes at an expense; for with every resurrection there is a preceding death. This resurrection narrative speaks to us of a new embodiment; a new way of being human in the world.

The resurrection of Jesus is no exception; it is as expensive as it is glorious. The crucifixion of Jesus, commemorated this Friday and known as( Good Friday), is a horrific scene of epic proportions. It is described as that moment so disturbing that the sun refused to shine and God turned God’s self away so as not to behold the tragedy of the moment. The message and paradox of the cross and resurrection ground us in “deep time” – which encompasses all time, past and future, geological and cosmological, and not just our little time or culture. The deep time connection somehow orients the psyche, gives perspective, realigns us, and grounds us in a narrative of triumph over tragedy (Rohr 2011).

What unites the tragedy of the cross with the triumph of the resurrection is an inversion of the world’s value system; that is, with the news that hope comes by way of defeat, and suffering and death do not have the last word. The cross calls out our desire for justice— and the empty grave fulfills the requirement. The occupied execution tree and the empty tomb work together to show that even in the face of the worst of humanity’s worst behavior, there is always an unquenchable ontological thirst for life that refuses to let the worst determine our final meaning (Cone 2011).

Life is a series of expanding frontiers. Every crossing is something of a death and resurrection (Spong 1993). A new way of being in the world requires a no to what was and a yes to the possibilities of what can be. In our current sociopolitical moment this sacred dance between the occupied cross and the empty tomb—which sees Jesus falsely imprisoned, undergo a sham of a trial, get convicted and sentenced to execution by torture,— exhibits the power of the resurrection with more potency than ever. Surely it is insanity in the face of massive evil and global destruction that we miss the opportunity to lift the hope of resurrection. As an American I am profoundly aware that of the American prison industrial complex holds the largest incarcerated population percentage of citizens in the free world and I ask myself and my faith community if we are holding hope this Easter for the resurrection of those we have labeled convicts? Is it possible that this Easter celebration we might take the bombings happening around the world, whether at the hands of citizens or governments, as an invitation to seek for new ways of being human in the world?

Peace Is Possible,
+Donalson

Bishop Edward Donalson, III | Director of Liturgy and Worship | Assistant Clinical Professor
SCHOOL OF THEOLOGY AND MINISTRY | SEATTLE UNIVERSITY

Works Cited
Cone, James. 2011. The Cross and The Lynching Tree. Maryknoll: Orbis.
Davidson, Ivor J. 2005. A Public Faith: From Constatine to the Medevil World. Grand Rapids: BakerBooks .
Rohr, Richard. 2011. Falling Upward. San Francisco: Jossey Bass.
Spong, John Shelby. 1993. This Hebrew Lord. New York: HarperOne.

Worship & Liturgy Announcements

Liberation Sunday, The Invitation of Palm Sunday

741bcd727efaaffcd7bd9581ef50216b_clipart-palm-sunday-graphic-clipart-palm-sunday_2400-1159This Sunday all over the world Christian churches will celebrate Palm Sunday. Some referring to it as the Triumphal Entry, it is the day we set aside to commemorate the final entry of Jesus and his disciples into the Holy city of Jerusalem. In many traditions churches will pass out Palms and people will sing songs of celebration. This is for some, one of the most festive times of the year where the church is decorated in special colors and other visual cues reminding congregants of majesty and glory of the Christian faith. For some there will be pomp and pageantry, and some may even present the celebration in ways that have imperial and militaristic undertones.

 

With all this celebration, I wonder if we are remembering anything at all? I wonder if in our time of celebration we take pause to consider the radical otherness of Jesus? Jesus was a member of a minority group in the midst of a larger dominant and controlling group. How many churches will remind congregants of the historical setting in which Jesus grew up, the psychological mood, or the economic and social predicament of Jesus’ family (Thurman 1976)? Are we in our congregations having discussions of the embodiment of Jesus who knew intimately refugee status, occupation and colonization, social regulation and control (Copeland 2010). Do we remember that the triumphant entry was a political satire? The Jewish people, the people of Jesus were not just trying to survive in terms of economic viability, they were in a fight for their culture and faith. Roman military intimidation and brutality coupled with Herodian economic exploitation and taxation uprooted and displaced people from their land, forced them into debt, and occupations less than what was indicative of their capacity. This celebration of Palms was a genius and most creative act of resistance. This was a clear moment where an oppressed people exercised self-determination. The Romans were famous for their parades of militaristic might, oft times amidst Jewish feasts and celebrations and here is Jesus mocking the horses and chariots of Rome while the whole Jewish community came out to cheer!  Here he who is born in poverty unhinges the relationship between the underpriviledged and the privileged. Here in this moment without wealth or military might, Jesus becomes a King by being proximate with those who are on the underside of power.

 

In this time when so many people in our world are suffering under the interlocking sociopolitical systems of imperialist white supremacist capitalist heteropatriarchy a fresh look at the person and work of Jesus may be precisely what we need (hooks 2004). Perhaps this year we are being invited to turn our celebrations from spectacles into deep rituals by lifting up the radical nonnormativity of Jesus. Ritual is that ceremonial act that carries with it meaning and significance beyond what appears, while spectacle functions primarily as entertaining dramatic display (hooks 1992). This may hurt our liberal sense of erasure by forcing us to actually see those members of our communities who are disinherited. This may injure our conservative pietistic ego’s need to hyper-spiritualize the memory of Jesus. This is an invitation that may cost us.  Liberation theologies of all sorts have focused on reformulated patterns of communal ritual as one primary bearer of the hope of liberation; perhaps this Sunday in our churches can be for us Liberation Sunday (Lathrup 1993). A holy Sunday of resistance; the kind of resistance that takes seriously the person and work of Jesus. My prayer is that in each celebration the church will find a way to offer the exploited and oppressed a vision of freedom that is linked to the struggle to end systems of domination in the world.

 

Peace Is Possible,

+Donalson

 

Bishop Edward Donalson, III | Director of Liturgy and Worship | Assistant Clinical Professor SCHOOL OF THEOLOGY AND MINISTRY | SEATTLE UNIVERSITY

 

Works Cited

Copeland, M. Shawn. 2010. Enfleshing Freedom: Body, Race, and Being. Minneapolis: Fortress Press.

hooks, bell. 1992. Black Looks: Race and Representation. Boston: South End Press.

—. 2004. The Will to Change: Men, Masculinity, and Love. New York: Washington Square Press.

Lathrup, Gordon W. 1993. Holy Things. Minneapolis: Fortress Press.

Thurman, Howard. 1976. Jesus and the Disinherited. Boston: Beacon Press.

 

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Worship & Liturgy Announcements

Rehumanizing “the stranger”

I would like to take a moment and introduce our guest blogger, Hannah Hunthausen. Hannah is the program coordinator for the Center for Religious Wisdom & World Affairs. She joined the School of Theology and Ministry in 2013; prior to working for the Center, Hannah served as program coordinator for the school’s Gates-funded Faith & Family Homelessness Project, which worked to increase advocacy, partnerships, and overall engagement around the issue of homelessness among Puget Sound faith communities. The Center builds on that legacy, integrating scholarly examination of homelessness and other pressing social issues with practical, solution-oriented responses initiated by faith communities and their organizations.

Peace Is Possible,

+Donalson

 

Bishop Edward Donalson, III | Director of Liturgy and Worship 

SCHOOL OF THEOLOGY AND MINISTRY | SEATTLE UNIVERSITY
Rehumanizing “the stranger”

On cold rainy days like this one, I think of the many people and their many stories living on our streets, sleeping without shelter, without “home.” These strangers in our midst, to whom we are called by our religious wisdom traditions to show hospitality and love (Exodus 22: 20-21; Exodus 23: 9; Leviticus 19:33-34; Matthew 25: 34-40; Hebrews 13: 1-2; Surah An-Nisa 4:36; Sn 1.8: Karaniya Metta Sutta), we so often ignore and exclude instead.

I think of a remarkable woman named Raven Canon.

Plagued by health problems, poverty, addiction, and bouts of homelessness for much of her life, Raven had the incredible spirit and grit to launch Colorado Springs’ first street newspaper this past December. She quickly rose to become her community’s most prominent homeless advocate with seemingly boundless energy and zeal.

“You have to realize that we are human, and that we all must do more to help,” she would say, as Tim Harris, her friend and the Founding Director of Real Change, recalls. (Harris poignantly shared her story in the paper last week.)

But, in a time of acute personal crisis that landed her back on the street earlier this month, her own big heart was not reflected back to her—she died outside and alone in the Colorado winter.

. . .

Sometimes, after sharing a story like Raven’s, advocates will make the point that she is one of many, that there are countless stories of tragedy and injustice like hers.

And this is true and important to note[1] in certain contexts as we fight for justice.

But today, I want to make the point that she is not one of many, but one—one precious and irreplaceable human life.

Irish poet and theologian, Pádraig Ó Tuama, speaks powerfully to this notion in his poem, “Pedagogy of Conflict” (excerpted):

When I was a child,

I learnt to count to five:

one, two, three, four, five.

But these days, I’ve been counting lives, so I count

one life

one life

one life

one life

Because each time is the first time that that life has been taken.

‘Legitimate Target’

has sixteen letters

and one

long

abominable

space

between

two

dehumanizing

words.

(It’s worth listening to the whole poem here.)

 

Though the poem excerpted above references the Troubles in Northern Ireland, the way in which it speaks to human beings’ tendency to dehumanize the other, and its implicit call for a re-valuation of human life, is universal and compelling. Distancing and faceless collective terms like “the homeless” or “illegal aliens” could just as easily be substituted for “legitimate target.”

The poet’s refusal to quantify life and to insist on individuating and sacramentalizing each in a persistent litany of “one life” recalls, for me, God’s loving creation of and care for humanity as expressed in Psalm 139: “You formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother’s womb” (Psalm 139: 13 NABRE).

I think of all those precious humans who have been, and continue to be, individually and systematically devalued and marginalized: black and brown, poor and homeless, refugee and migrant, disabled and mentally ill, LGBTQ and gender non-conforming.

I also think of the many ways we have become (or continue to be) strangers to one another—divided across racial, class and wealth lines, religious and political, urban and rural, cultural, generational, and geographical.

Our world paradoxically both enhances and stymies our human connection, and we suffer for the ways in which our technology, our social segregation, and our media consumption widen the gaps between us and neighbors near and far. As individuals and as a society, we continue to otherize and deny our shared humanity.

But I have hope.

After more than three years of doing this work—learning and teaching about poverty and homelessness, sharing resources and successful models, and catalyzing partnerships—I have seen acts of extraordinary compassion, moments of recognition and deep empathy, and people joining together across difference in the long, hard road toward justice.

This work for justice is the essential progression once we’ve decided to live into our shared humanity with the “stranger.”

In a 1967 speech at Riverside Church in New York City, Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said,

We are called to play the Good Samaritan on life’s roadside; but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life’s highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring. (King, 1967)

Using the parable of the Good Samaritan, King challenges us to reexamine the meaning of true compassion. If we take our shared humanity and the mandate of the Golden Rule seriously, it follows that we examine and challenge the systems that cause suffering.

Urban planner Peter Marcuse presciently warned in 1988 against the dangers of continuing to simply treat the symptoms of homelessness, which depoliticizes and divorces the issue from its complex structural causes (Marcuse, 1988). Nearly a quarter of a century later, social ethicist (and Center scholar) Laura Stivers has challenged Christian communities and organizations as they approach homelessness to question the neutrality of policies and systems (housing, education, transportation, etc.) that marginalize black and brown individuals and communities: “We do not have a level playing field, and until we uplift those who are routinely disadvantaged by “neutral” attitudes and systems, we cannot equate neutrality with justice” (Stivers, 2011, p. 14). We are called to both charity and justice.

. . .

In the fear-ridden and empathy-depleted era of President Trump, it will be more important than ever to embody King’s vision of true compassion by confronting structural causes.

This begins from a place of solidarity and relationship with our neighbors, as Rev. Craig Rennebohm, author of Souls in the Hands of a Tender God: Stories of the Search for Home and Healing on the Streets (2008) and founder of Seattle’s Mental Health Chaplaincy, attests:

In reaching out to the stranger in our own midst, the person we have been taught to fear or ignore or shun or despise, we discover the fundamentals of faith. The pilgrimage of peace does not require travel to faraway sites; the way begins with our next step, with our neighbor who is suffering (p. 9).

 

 

Harris, T. (2017, March 15). Director’s Corner: Remembering Raven Canon. Real Change. Retrieved from http://www.realchangenews.org/2017/03/15/directors-corner-remembering-raven-canon

King, M.L., Jr. (1967, April 4). A Time to Break Silence. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Qf6x9_MLD0

Marcuse, P. (1988) “Neutralizing Homelessness.” Socialist Review, 88(1), 69‑97.

Ó Tuama, Pádraig. (2013). “Pedagogy of Conflict.” Sorry for your troubles. Norwich, UK: Canterbury Press.

Rennebohm, C. with Paul, D. (2008) Souls in the Hands of a Tender God: Stories of the Search for Home and Healing on the Streets. Boston: Beacon Press.

Stivers, L. (2011) Disrupting Homelessness: Alternative Christian Approaches. Minneapolis: Fortress Press.

 

[1] When compared to the general population, people experiencing homelessness, unsurprisingly, “are at greater risk of infectious and chronic illness, poor mental health, and substance abuse” and “have a mortality rate four to nine times higher than those who are not homeless” (CDC, 2016). In 2016, well over 10,000 people (and likely many more) were experiencing homelessness in King County on a single night in January (All Home, 2017), and at least 549,928 were experiencing homelessness across the country (HUD, 2016). But street counts reliably underestimate (Bernstein, 2017), so there almost certainly more than 550,000 people experiencing homelessness nationwide, and millions more living in poverty and with housing instability.

 

Worship & Liturgy Announcements

International Women’s History Month

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This month is International Women’s History Month, and this week brings International Women’s Day with its theme: Be Bold for Change! This call to change is both an invitation to possibility and a rejection of what has been. For women in religious contexts particularly, there is much to mourn in the history of organized religion and much to lean into toward a preferable future. While most of the major religions in the world have some history of heteropatriarchy woven into their tapestry of expression, Christianity bares a heavy burden in seeking to normalize the marginalization of women in the Western world. From Tertullian’s caricature of Eve as more fleshly and carnal than her male counterpart—thus making her the particular locus of sin—the Church has found a way to make female embodiment a problem (Longfellow 1994). Thereby preferencing the masculine.

Patriarchy is a socio-political system that insists that males are inherently dominating, superior to everything and everyone deemed weak—especially women—and endowed with the right to dominate and rule over the weak and maintain that dominance through various forms of psychological terrorism and violence (hooks 2004). The Bible and other religious texts have often been co-opted and hijacked in the service of patriarchy with the express intent of subjugating women. From the role of women in the family unit to the role of women in ministry, much of the religious rhetoric has denied the equality of woman in such ways to disempower the voice and presence of half the human population. The post-Pauline Church vehemently asserted as norms the patriarchal relations of husband over wife and master over slave so that any countercultural Gospel must be ferreted out. The authentic narrative of Jesus that is an egalitarian vision of the Kindom—a purposeful nod to the anti-imperialistic message of Jesus—must be rescued from the lines of the New Testament. It must be salvaged, in contrast to the patriarchal Church that established the canonical framework for interpreting Christianity (Ruether 1993).

As we mourn the history of women’s plight in organized religion, we look with fresh eyes toward a picture of a better future. What if we radically redefine the way we talk about the Divine? In spite of Western and Christian uneasiness over female imagery for God, since the imago dei is twofold, female as well as male, and yet beyond both, both types of metaphors should be used. Names are important because what we call something, how we name it, is to a great extent what it is to us (McFague 1987). If we began to embrace female imagery and metaphors for God, how radically different we would understand and lift the voices of women in our community. The Quakers as far back as the Reformation included the right to preach and act as lay governors in the spirit of egalitarianism. They wrote that the subjugation of woman was not God’s intent, but represented the sinful distortion of human nature (Ruether 1993).

Indeed, change is possible when we apply a liberative ethic and lens to the work of Justice in the world. Such an approach to bringing together particular and universal moral concerns compels people of faith to engage in an ongoing struggle for sustained and systemic changes in the universal moral agreements about social relationships in our society. Likewise, this effects improvements in the material conditions that help produce these particular problems (West 2006). Our vocation is to let suffering speak, let victims be visible, and let social misery be put on the agenda of those in power (Buschendorf 2014). My prayer as we approach the celebration of women is that we will look at those places where we have betrayed the best of our faith traditions and reclaim the voices of those who have been pushed to the margins.

Peace Is Possible,

+Donalson

 

Bishop Edward Donalson, III | Director of Liturgy and Worship

901 12th Avenue, Seattle WA 98122-1090 Office (206) 296-6357  |  donalso1@seattleu.edu  Follow the school on social media: Facebook | Twitter |  Instagram  | YouTube | LinkedIn | Vimeo 

Works Cited
Buschendorf, Cornel West with Christa. 2014. Black Prophetic Fire. Boston: Beacon Press.
hooks, bell. 2004. The Will to Change: Men, Masculinity, and Love. New York: Washington Square Press.
Longfellow, James B. Nelson and Sandra P., ed. 1994. Sexuality and the Sacred. Louisvile: Westminister/ John Knox Press.
McFague, Sallie. 1987. Models of God: Theology for an Ecological, Nuclear Age. Philadelphia: Fortress Press.
Ruether, Rosemary Radford. 1993. Sexism and God-Talk. Boston: Beacon Press.
West, Traci C. 2006. Disruptive Christian Ethics: When Racism and Woman’s Lives Matter. Louisville: John Knox Press.

Worship & Liturgy Announcements

The Present Moment

o-VULNERABILITY-facebookThe opening lines of Michael Eric Dyson’s latest work  tell us that America is in trouble. He goes on to say that everywhere we turn we see discord and division, death and destruction. I think he is absolutely correct (Dyson 2017).  It is true that U.S. history  is fraught with dissonance, and the very DNA of this grand democratic experiment is laden with revolutionary polarities; however, this moment in history exhibits a profound bifurcation that cannot, and should not, be ignored. Amidst the partisan atmosphere where the worst of humanity’s xenophobia seems to have become normalized, the church has the opportunity to be quite radical and countercultural.

We are currently embroiled in some of modernity’s worst problems: mindless relativism, corrosive cynicism, disdain for tradition and human dignity, and indifference to suffering and death. However, we have the opportunity to ensure that our liturgies and worship experiences provide a public space that offers a critique of, and an alternative to, global militarization, the commodification of personhood, multinational corporate greed, racism, patriarchy, and the other failures of love that plague our society.

All positive religions contain three distinct parts: First, a code of morals that is nearly the same in all; second, a geological dream; and, third, a myth or historical novelette, in which the last becomes the most important of all (Buell 2006). I believe that the scripture, at least the Bible as we now have it, is a record of our ancestors in faith seeking to worship God (Spong 1998).  Moments occur in the recorded narrative when those who lived before us got it right, and definite moments are recorded when they missed the mark. We learn what is necessary to be successful in navigating our world by interrogating their attempts in their own contexts.  If we are to take seriously the ancient attempts at worshipping God, we must consider the admonition to the church at Rome not to be conformed to this world. Rather we are told to be transformed by renewing our minds (Romans 12:2).  Here the ancient writer calls the Church to its countercultural work, and asks that we not conform to the ethos of our particular epoch, but rather allow gospel values to lift a prophetic witness against the lower inclinations of our human condition.  Because some components of every culture are dehumanizing and contrary to the gospel message, our worship must transform cultural patterns that idolize the self (or a group), at the expense of the wider human community (Wilkey 2014).

Perhaps God is using the turmoil of this moment to invite the church into a new way of being gospel messengers. It might be that in our current sociopolitical climate we reimagine what is good and right in our praxis as church, holding on to only those practices that redeem. Our hymnody, Eucharistic celebration, and preaching moments should call on each individual to abandon every habit that wars with their physical welfare and moral improvement, and to produce—by appeals to the reason and conscience—the love of inward order that leads to the wellbeing of the collective (Buell 2006). We must ask our congregations key questions upon which the success of our grand social experiment hinges: Can we be equitable? Can we listen deeply? Beyond our intellect? With our heart? Can we offer our attention rather  than our opinions? We seem bifurcated in our intentions, while we long to be generous and equitable, at the same time, we cling jealously to our share (Palmer 2011). As we attempt to live into the mission of the church, my prayer is that we will become the passionately reasoned voice of compassion and justice in the midst of the insanity that is our present moment.

 

Peace Is Possible,

++Donalson

 

Bishop Edward Donalson, III | Director of Liturgy and Worship

SCHOOL OF THEOLOGY AND MINISTRY | SEATTLE UNIVERSITY

Works Cited

Buell, Lawrence, ed. 2006. The American Transcendetalists. New York: The Modern Library.

Dyson, Michael Eric. 2017. Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America . New York: St. Martins Press.

Palmer, Parker J. 2011. Healing The Heart of Democracy. SanFrancisco: Jossey-Bass.

Spong, John Shelby. 1998. Why Christianity Must Change or Die. New York: HarperSanFrancisco.

Wilkey, Gláucia Vasconcelos, ed. 2014. Worship and Culture: Foreign Country or Homeland. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

 

 

 

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