I got back today from the evolving church conference in Oakville (Greater Toronto) Ontario today. Is there something happening in Canada or what? 700 people showed up for the Saturday. I came away deeply impressed by the commitment and character of the younger generations (20’s-30’s) and all the rest of us there too. I came away incredibly encouraged. Thanks to Nathan, Darryl, Chris, Steve for having me be part of it.
My quick take on the conference.
Ron Sider delivered another one of his standard excellent overviews of the stunning inequities between the rich developed world and the poverty stricken underdeveloped worlds. Ron always makes you think. He also describes how the Scriptures, with no compromise, call us to participate in ministering to this situation. Ron has some proposals that are always good. My push for Sider? Resist any bifurcation of personal salvation from social righteousness. Instead of saying that we must have both, talk of how there is no justification without participation in the justice-ification. Nevertheless, he was the first prophet of “holistic salvation. Also, let us resist quantifying justice in the terms of the system that causes injustice: capitalism, lest we foist its ills on the poor and make them poorer still.
Jim Wallis talked about the themes he has become famous for. How Christians should be pro-life both in regard to resisting abortion and the Iraq war. How Christians should neither be Republican or Democrat (he tried to translate these issues into Canadian terms). But he added how there will be no social justice without people of faith. And how poverty will not change until we have community with the poor and are touched by/in relationship to the poor. I greatly appreciate this aspect of Wallis. My push for Jim Wallis? Too often however his message can be taken as a call to get involved in National politics. For Wallis to be credible, I think he must address more directly how social action gets subsumed by the discourses of power (Foucault) and therefore will inevitably fail (in already has a record of failure) apart from a subversive body living this justice (the church).
Shane Claiborne was probably my personal favorite keynote. He described the process of living justice communally in the streets of North Philly. He described the simple ways they would address and engage poverty I thought this was amazing. My push for Shane? I think most suburban folk take a look at him or read his book and just say, “that could never be me.” But quite the contrary! I think the ethos (that way of living seeing, understanding and embodying) of justice that Shane models could take shape in the suburban churches. But I fear the radical nature of his appearance might just say to a lot of people that could never be me. I don’t believe it.
For more good stuff, see Darryl Dash’s live blog. Thanks Darryl for all your great work.