Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Ekklesia Conference day 1

I said in my last post that I'd try to blog some about my experience at the Ekklesia Gathering 2006. For those who are unfamiliar with the Ekklesia Gathering, it is the yearly conference of the Ekklesia Project, a network of academics, pastors, and lay people from many different church traditions who are thinking together about what it means to be the church in the world and what it means to be disciples of Jesus in the world. Two particularly distinctive aspects of the Ekklesia Project are their commitment to pacifism and their belief that the Kingdom of God is the primary political loyalty of the Christian rather than the nation-state or any other earthly entity. While I am not a pacifist (I am a just-war adherent), I still think that many Christians in our times, especially in the United States, need to think more clearly and seriously about the relationship between violence and Christianity and about the nature of our loyalties to governments, countries, and other earthly groups.

I attended the gathering with the two pastors from my church, who are both full endorsers of the Ekklesia Project. The theme of this year's gathering was "The Kingdom of Heaven is Like: Imagining Our Life Together in Christ," and focused specifically on the parables of Jesus which deal with this theme. The gathering opened with a worship service, with the opening sermon delivered by the theologian Stanley Hauerwas. I had been excited about hearing him preach, but I confess I found his sermon to be more like a lecture and pretty dry. One intriguing thing he said, was that Jesus himself is the ultimate parable, though I can't remember how he unpacked that idea, unfortunately. An interesting idea for reflection though.

After the opening service came the first plenary session, which was lead by Sam Wells, a Hauerwas protege and author of the book "Improvisation: The Drama of Christian Ethics," which re-envisions ethics in terms of drama and narrative rather than in terms of prescription and proposition. This was my favorite part of the first day. Wells spoke on the parable of the shrewd manager found in Luke 16: 1-9. He rejected conventional understandings of the parable, which he summarized as "Sometimes you have to be crafty." Instead, Wells sees the parable as being about generosity and friendship, and about using our worldly wealth in such a way that when it is gone, we will have formed the kind of friendships that enable us to live without it. This was summed up by the statement "Generosity is the best way we do business." There is more I could say about what he said, but I'll cut it short for now. I bought Well's book, so maybe I'll do a longer entry on him later.

The last part of day one was an open discussion about the practice of fasting as a communal practice. Later in the evening, there was a concert by the musical group The Psalters, whose music is a mixture of many world/folk traditions with a more punk ethos and strong political and spiritual lyrics (you can download some of their stuff for free on their website). Unfortunately, we were all tired and needed to get up early the next day, so we didn't stay for the concert.

There were a lot of good books available and they were all at seriously discounted prices for the convention. I got four books: The formerly mentioned Sam Wells book, "Postmodernism 101" by Heath White, Laura Smit's "Loves Me, Loves Me Not," and a used copy of John Howard Yoder's "The Politics of Jesus." So that's pretty much it for day one.

I'll blog later about day two. Peace.

9 comments:

thekid said...

Sounds like it was a thought provoking conference. Thanks for sharing the idea of Christ as the ultimate parable. I have been turning that one over from many different angles today.

The passage from Luke is like a beautiful multi-layered piece with themes of forgiveness and generosity. The editors of my Bible make a point to clarify that the steward is actually falsely accused (the translation uses the word 'reported' in verse 1 instead) and he is not an unrighteous steward as my translation (NASB) offers. They want to call him the "economist of unrighteousness" with the unrighteousness being specifically related to money used for wrong purposes.

I'd have liked to have heard the teaching. I can see several benefits to approaching money with an attitude of generosity. Of course, Jesus knows all of the benefits I could think of and then some which is why he taught what he did I guess.

We just have to have the humility to receive from one another.

Looking forward to hearing about day 2.

God's Grace and peace to you,
Jenny

AnJaka said...
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Gordon Hackman said...

Thanks Jenny for your encouraging comments and for your additional insight into the parable of the shrewd manager. Also glad the Hauerwas comment was able to provide you with good food for reflection.

Thanks Anjaka for the encouraging comment and for the link.

Peace,
Gordon

Anonymous said...

Gordon,

Haven't had time to stop in lately but wanted to let you know that Paul Helm and Vanhoozer have had a few words to say to one another at http://reformation21.org/

Cheers,

Andy

Gordon Hackman said...

Andy,

Thanks for stopping by again. I checked out the Helm - Vanhoozer discussion. I'm impressed by the way Vanhoozer accepted (in part) Helm's critique, but glad he didn't surrender his position, as I'm more sympathetic to it than i am to Helm's I think.

Peace,
Gordon

Jessica said...

Hey Gordon,

I've misplaced your email address so I'm just sending a comment. (All others, feel free to skip this.) We're doing well, there's probably no news to speak of that you haven't heard from your siblings. Seth is three weeks into kids back at school and it's been hard work but good work. He's working very hard, to exhaustion sometimes. We expect this is just the beginning phase and things will even out soon, but we already are beginning to wonder. The prob. is that he won't physically be able to keep up this pace so we're COUNTING on it slowing down. He likes and respects the new principal (Cherie(sp?) Whitehurst) who was brought in specifically to FIX the high school. She's devoted, hard working, logical, rational, common-sensical. She's instituted some much needed hard-line policies and is enforcing them and giving real back-up, rather than than just pretty words. Former principal was much more of a pleaser and sayer without the action, though probably very well-intentioned, best tries. My work continues to be satisfying though not necessa4ily fully. I am still remaining open to new paths, and if a new path appears, it would be still a while, years?, that I stayed at my current job while I worked towards it (e.g. getting a degree for special ed). This is all well and good. Erica's boyfriend (who she intends to marry though nothing is formal yet) will be leaving Illonois and moving in with my mom at the beginning of October while he looks for a job in the Charlottesville/Northern Va. area - international development type deal preferred; degree in Geography. Cam has been down a few times with a couple friends we enjoy. Blake has retired and they will be moving, :-(, to South Carolina. We attended your dad's 70th and thoroughly enjoyed the food and company. Congratulations on soon adding a 4th to your Uncle qualifications!!!! Hope you are very very well and from what I hear from Hol, am glad your new jobs are going smoothly. All best, Jess

JessicaHeadHungLow said...

Oh dear oh dear oh dear oh dear. My brain apparently knew something was wrong b/c lying in bed very early this morning it suddenly occured to me that I had written Nico back into the womb. I have no excuse. I am extremely embarrassed. I had earlier looked at a sonogram of my friend Josh's inutero daughter, so that hints at the problem, but... I am very very embarrassed. I would love it if you edit and delete my entries; I realize they might be up here a while though... ayyyyyyyy. Jess

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