I had a little break from Third Way Newsletter thanks to a generous 3 month sabbatical from my co-pastor duties at Blue Ocean Faith, Ann Arbor. But I’m back. Here’s what’s been happening in my life as it pertains to all things Third Way.
Second Edition of A Letter to My Congregation
During Sabbatical I finished up revisions for a second edition of the book that got this started. Various reviews and critiques alerted me to a few sources I hadn’t been able to include, primarily the work of James Loader, mentioned in the Tim Keller review. So I incorporated these into the second edition. I made the most changes to the chapter on the biblical texts dealing with same-gender sex. It’s the chapter I was least satisfied with and it felt good to re-work it for added clarity, in addition to a couple of scholarly updates.
I also added two chapters. First, an introduction to the Second Edition, which also dealt with the question of my claim to the label “evangelical.” Second, a “What Happened Next” afterword chapter that updates the reader on the surprising and painful effects (best of times/worst of times) of publishing a book that was ultimately rejected by my former denomination, Vineyard USA. By the way, if you’re ordering the book from Amazon, it usually ships in 2-4 days, not 2-4 weeks as Amazon incorrectly reports.
Taking a Plunge into Rene Girard’s Scapegoat Theory
My sabbatical study led me to read most the works of Rene Girard on what he calls the scapegoat mechanism or mimetic theory. Heavy going, as Girard came to his conclusions as a literary critic with forays into myth, anthropology and eventually the Bible. It was totally invigorating and I hope to post more on this as it pertains directly to Third Way. In the meantime, you can check out a sermon series that I did with my co-pastor Emily Swan on Envy, Rivalry, and Violence. Emily studied Girard at Fuller Seminary and was the one who alerted me to his importance.
More Developments in the Blue Ocean Church Network
Advocating for the full inclusion of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender people precipitated the transformation of what had been an informal network within the Vineyard USA into a new fully inclusive network of churches committed to Third Way as its approach to controversial issues. So far as I know, it’s the first network of its kind to work the wisdom of Romans 14 into it’s foundation. We’re small–a handful of established churches and a growing handful of brand new church plants–but we’re hoping to become a place where many can eventually find a home. So far as I know it’s the first network with significant connections to an experiential, Jesus-centered, Bible-loving form of faith to fully include LGBT people at every level. We hear from people all over the country who are longing for a church like this in their community. Keep your eye out for a book coming out from my publisher, David Crumm Media, by Dave Schmelzer, the Executive Director of the Blue Ocean Church Network,called–you guessed it–Blue Ocean Faith.
And More Churches Exploring Third Way
I’ve been in touch with lots of churches around the country who are interested in exploring Third Way as a faithful path through controversy. For established congregations or denominations in the throes of conflict over LGBT, it’s not an easy path because it requires full inclusion of LGBT people. The United Methodist Church and the Mennonite Church USA have had smaller groups or commissions make various proposals that, so far, haven’t carried the day. But the conversation has begun. And I’ve learned that even denominations which have national policies of full inclusion, including The Episcopal Church, Presbyterian Church USA, and the United Churches of Christ, haven’t resolved this question on the parish level. Many of these mainline denominations include many congregations that continue to discriminate against LGBT people. The idea that Romans 14 can be applied to today’s most challenging church controversies is still a small whisper in a cacophony of loud voices. But it’s been encouraging to talk with leaders in all of these denominations about the possibilities of another approach.