Friday, May 08, 2009

Book proposal away, Generous Ecclesiology

With two sample chapters written, I finally found a couple hours to fill out the rest of a book proposal. Here are excerpts from it...

A number of trends are in the air. One is the movement away from denominationalism and a rising distain toward any group that would claim to be the group that has a corner on God. At the same time, the non-denominational shift often has some blind spots. First, we find those who mistake taking a position for arrogance or intolerance. They confuse pluralism with generosity toward those who disagree. A second group pushes toward a radical return to “the New Testament church” without any real sense either of its diversity or of the necessity for the gospel to be played out in a local context concretely.

Generous Ecclesiology attempts to reframe these sorts of issues in a way that affirms the complaints driving the non-denominational movement while demonstrating the inevitability of Christians grouping into collections of individuals with distinct emphases and practices. It denies that we can have an ideal, New Testament local church today because 1) the early church itself was diverse enough that its groups could almost be called denominations and 2) because a church with any impact will have to form positions on issues beyond clear biblical teaching that will inevitably distinguish it from other groupings of Christians.

The chapters of the book play out these claims. We inevitably take positions on various issues, but we try to find the good in the diverse emphases of different groups and to defend Christian diversity. For example, it seems a bit odd in the light of the New Testament and Christian history that the Salvation Army does not baptize. Yet they should be considered part of God’s church, and their reasoning highlights the fact that the truly essential element in a Christian being “in” is receiving the Holy Spirit. The book proceeds through the practices of the church with a view to generosity toward Christian diversity without disintegrating into some sort of radical pluralism.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: The Myth of the Ideal Church
1.1 The Good Old Days
1.2 The “Platonic” Church
1.3 The Incarnated Church

Chapter 2: Getting In: Baptism and Other Things
2.1 Baptism
2.2 The Holy Spirit
2.3 Confirmation
2.4 Church Membership

Chapter 3: Where and When We Meet
3.1 Houses and Synagogues
3.2 Cathedrals and Homes
3.3 Saturdays and Sundays
3.4 Multiple Services and Sites

Chapter 4: Who Should Lead?
4.1 Apostles, Overseers, and Deacons
4.2 Ordination and Training
4.3 Popes, Bishops, and Pastors
4.4 Women in Ministry

Chapter 5: Word and Table
5.1 The Lord’s Supper
5.2 Communion Today
5.2 The Role of the Bible
5.3 The Sermon

Chapter 6: Sacred Events
6.1 Easter and Christmas
6.2 Weddings and Funerals
6.3 Revivals and Camp Meetings

Chapter 7: Other Things We Do
7.1 Singing and Praying
7.2 Confessing and Testifying
7.3 Giving
7.4 Sunday School and Evenings
7.5 Dressing Up

Chapter 8: Relating to Those Outside
8.1 Other Churches
8.2 Surrounding Community and Culture
8.3 Evangelism and Missions



James Petticew said...

I am going to struggle with the "Dressing Up" chapter :-) What did you have in mind?

Ken Schenck said...

Here's the summary I put for that section: "A brief foray into the various clothing of priests and laypeople is made, arguing that as long as we are all authentic in who we think we are and claim to be, any custom is potentially Christian. The question of modesty and how it differs from culture to culture is mentioned."

Angie Van De Merwe said...

How far does one allow "authenticity"? it is a practical question...
When you speak of "modesty", I "hear" "moral policemen" who measure hems and scrutinize one's heart by the outside. It is only one step away from the "Taliban".

I think one should realistically assess whether one "belongs" to a certain community. I have been presumptuous in this regard. And I am sorry that I have been presumptuous.

Religion is a way to belong, but there are other ways to belong in this world. And I think they can be more healthy.

Ken Schenck said...

Modesty is of course a blurry issue that can vary widely in subcultures and even from person to person in a subculture. It is at least conceivable that an individual might not have any impure motives at all and come to church naked, but it is hard to imagine many North American contexts where that would be edifying to the others worshipping there. Given fundamental Christian values, that would generally lead a Christian not to come to church that way once he or she understood the impact they were having on the others.

The fundamental Christian value is not the expression of my rights but a view to the edification of the body, which of course is not to say we must submit to those of a different opinion.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

I appreciate your "consideration" for others, but I have found experientially, that there is no way that one can be in the world authentically, and please everyone else. I have come to a point to being as direct as I was before coming to faith, because it becomes an absurdity when both sides accuse you of "offending them", or "doing wrong". One just comes to a point of just wanting to be human, not spiritual, not a Christian, not a hero, not labelled in any other way than a human with the human right to justice...

That is not to say that one does not consider or evaluate what is "offensive", but one cannot live their lives for others and in other's judgments, this is what co-dependence is about. Mutuality is what healthty relationship is about, not subservience, submission, and "doing whatever it takes" to please.

And this was the "good news" to me, that there was nothing in me, or about me that deserved anything, but was just because I was, and am and will be...

John said...

Your premise sounds too obvious to merit serious argument.

It seems inarguable that God speaks to each person in a language they can understand, if they will listen. It also seems clear that the languages in which God speaks to each of us are not going to be necessarily intelligible to everyone else.

The corollary is that not only is denominationalism inherent in the relationship between humanity and its creator but multiple faith traditions as well. Each denomination and each faith will be attuned to the historical and social roots of the worshiping believers.