Saturday, June 24, 2006


Pam and I are in Sedona, Arizona this weekend, attending the national conference of the Center of Theological Inquiry's Pastor-Theologian program (see the CTI link under institutions and foundations). I was a participant in this program in its first years of inception, and then was the moderator of a local group, in Winston-Salem, and now am involved in a research group of a group of pastors as the program completes its nineth year. The director, Wallace Alston, was formerly the senior pastor of the Nassau Presbyterian Church in Princeton, and has labored under the conviction that the renewal of the church is related to the formation of a theologically substantive clergy. And so we meet three to four times a year, interracting with pretty complex material, and spending time with amazing theologians. In my experiences with CTI some of them have been Jurgen Moltmann, John Polkinghorne, Don Juel (rest in peace), Bill Schweiker, Robert Jensen, Serene Jones, and Miroslav Volf. One of the things I most like about these gatherings of clergy is that the folks here do not just gather together to complain about life or to gripe about the church. In general, these are pastors, from all over North America, who are growing in their love for and understanding of God, and seeking to be more faithful to their ministries. It is a joy to be around them.

I will write later about some of the folks in this current conference. The theme has been the relationship between the mission of the church and the salvation of the world. Particularly compelling for me were lectures by Robert Jensen (on the relation of church to salvation, and the meaning of Christ's body), Cheryl Bridges Johns (on the Holy Spirit and the marginalized of the world amidst the rise of pentecostalism) and Serene Jones (on the recovery of desire in the mainline church, especially the desire to glorify God). Since Providence UMC's vision is "to be the body of Christ by glorifying God and serving others", I have reflected on what that phrase means in new ways here.

Meanwhile, Sedona is in the vicinity of a huge fire, about ten miles to the north. Many of the parks are closed, but it has relatively little effect on the area we are in; for example, you really cannot see the flames or smell the smoke. There is much danger, however, to those who fight the fires and to those who live in the surrounding canyons, and of course also to the natural beauty that will be scarred.

Tomorrow we return, flying from Phoenix to Charlotte. It will be great to be home again.


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