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Common Peace Community

  1. 1. THE BIRTH OF AN IDEA Since joining Broadway Baptist Church two years ago, I have experienced a strong sense of calling to people in normal, predominantly white, moderate churches. I call my idea the Common Peace Community. The goal is to look at the world through the eyes of the poor and ask why.
  3. 3. Born in Calgary, Alberta in 1953, I spent most of my childhood in Yellowknife (1955-1963) in the North West Territories of Canada.
  4. 4. EARLY INFLUENCE Bill Davidson was my pastor at Calvary Baptist Church in Yellowknife. Before coming to the church he and his wife June spent two years at Trout Rock, a tiny fishing village, translating the Bible in to the Dogrib language. Although I didn’t think much about it at the time, their example suggested to me that Christianity was about living sacrificially for the sake of the poor.
  5. 5. THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT CAPTURED MY YOUNG IMAGINATION When we moved a thousand miles South to Edmonton, Alberta in 1963, the civil rights movement was reaching a tumultuous climax. In Canada, Martin Luther King Jr. was a hero and white Southerners were dismissed as racist bigots. To my young mind, the spirituality of the civil rights movement looked like the closest thing to genuine Christianity I had ever witnessed. By comparison, the bland moralism of the Baptist churches I attended seemed tepid and uninspiring.
  6. 6. I arrived at Southern in 1975 and married my wife, Nancy, in 1977. We both graduated with Master of Divinity degrees. During the 1980s, I pastored churches in Canada and Wyoming before returning to the Seminary in 1989 to work on a doctorate in church history and theology. A LITTLE BACKGROUND ABOUT ME
  7. 7. I wrote my doctoral dissertation on William Owen Carver, a relatively progressive missions and world religions professor at Southern between 1898 and 1954. Carver wanted Southern Baptists to cooperate with other Baptists and to cooperate with other denominations on the mission field. This made him a controversial, occasionally scandalous figure. By the end of his career he was writing long, complicated books that avoided subjects that might get him in trouble. Carver had been effectively silenced. THE SAD CASE OF W.O. CARVER
  8. 8. When I arrived at Southern Seminary in 1989, the faculty had changed very little during my ten year absence. After two years, a fundamentalist faction had taken over the board of trustees and the entire church history faculty was gone. The formerly moderate R. Albert Mohler had reinvented himself as the voice of Southern Baptist conservatism. A crop of conservative professors was hired, then fired for not being conservative enough. Eventually, Dr. Mohler had his faculty singing out of the same hymnal. A CHANGING OF THE GUARD AT SOUTHERN SEMINARY
  9. 9. Albert Mohler and his spiritual kin long for a homogenous church in which authoritarian pastors echo the fears and passions of the people they serve. Those who can’t march in lock step are forced out of the parade. Many of us find this kind of enforced conformity distasteful but we aren’t sure what to offer as an alternative. THE HOMOGENEOUS CHURCH
  10. 10. The Bean family moved to Tulia in the summer of 1998. Nancy had lived in the town of 5,000 as a child and was crowned Little Miss Tulia in 1959. Now, after a vivid dream, Nancy felt a strong desire to return to her roots. I had spent the past 20 years as pastor of Baptist and Methodist churches. Nancy was a school teacher. Lydia was a college freshman. Adam and Amos were Jr. and Sr. high school students. A TURNING POINT
  11. 11. In the early morning hours of July 23, 1999, dozens of police officers from across the Texas Panhandle descended on the poor end of Tulia, arresting dozens of black residents at gun point. Startled defendants, their hair unbrushed, were paraded before television cameras in their underwear. The headline in the local paper read, “Tulia’s streets cleared of garbage.” The forty-six defendants were called “scumbags” and “a cancer on the community.”
  12. 12. Nancy and I did a little investigating in the poor black community . We learned that most people close to the sting operation believed the undercover officer was lying and that innocent people were being framed. Our concern deepened when we discovered that the officer had been fired from every police job he had . In fact, he had been arrested in the middle of the Tulia operation because a sheriff in a nearby county had filed theft charges against him. TROUBLING DISCOVERIES
  13. 13. COLLATERAL DAMAGE We also found that over fifty children had lost one or both parents to the drug sting. Nancy and I ended up taking three of these children into our home because there was no one to care for them.
  14. 14. FRIENDS OF JUSTICE Every Sunday evening the defendants, their families, and a handful of supporters from the white community would gather in the Bean’s living room to pray, sing, and plot strategy. We called ourselves the Friends of Justice.
  15. 15. VICTORY Friends of Justice cobbled together an unwieldy coalition of attorneys and advocacy groups. After four years of struggle, the undercover agent was exposed as a liar with a history of racist behavior. Three months later, thirteen inmates were released from prison in a dramatic ceremony at the Swisher County courthouse. By the end of that summer, Governor Rick Perry had issued blanket pardons.
  16. 16. LIVING IN EXILE During this four year ordeal, Nancy and I were virtually excommunicated from the churches of Tulia. One congregation wouldn’t allow us to join because we were considered too controversial. Even when it became obvious to everyone that the sting we were opposing was deeply flawed and racially motivated, most church people continued to stand behind the sheriff and his undercover officer. Those who refused to conform were excommunicated from polite society.
  17. 17. LIVING WITH A LABEL I always intended to return to pastoral ministry when our fight for justice in Tulia was over. I found, however, that I was now regarded as a radical nonconformist—hardly the kind of person you want preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. Our earlier experience at Southern Seminary helped prepare us for these disturbing revelations. In the meantime, our notoriety had caught the attention of a family in Church Point, Louisiana who were being accused of running a major narcotics operation.
  18. 18. Nancy and I moved to Arlington in 2007, shortly after assisting six young men in Jena, Louisiana who faced attempted murder charges after a series of racially charged incidents culminated in a school fight. Friends of Justice employs a narrative strategy. We tell stories that put the pertinent facts of a case into perspective while giving young defendants a face, a faith, a family and a future.
  19. 19. A PERCEPTION GAP My work with Friends of Justice has made the perception gap between white and minority Americans painfully obvious. Most of the churches in which I feel most comfortable are light years removed from the issues poor people frequently encounter.
  20. 20. THE BIRTH OF AN IDEA The Common Peace Community was designed with churches in the “messy middle” in mind. I feel a special calling to work with Christians who know about as much about the issues affecting poor people as I did when we started Friends of Justice in 1999. The goal isn’t to create a homogeneous church where everyone adopts the same opinions and social attitudes. The goal is to look at the world through the eyes of the poor and ask why.
  21. 21. THE COMMON PEACE COMMUNITY CONSISTS OF TWO CLOSELY RELATED PROGRAMS First, Friends of Justice has been sponsoring monthly Common Peace Community gatherings.
  22. 22. JUSTFAITH Secondly, we are currently partnering with First Presbyterian Church in an in-depth study series called JustFaith. This weekly study runs the entire length of the school year. It is a logical next step for those who wish to make a deeper commitment.
  23. 23. TWO COMPLIMENTARY ELEMENTS OF A SINGLE PROGRAM When I refer to the Common Peace Community, I am talking about both the monthly gatherings and the weekly JustFaith study group. The Common Peace Community
  24. 24. TWO REQUESTS 1. I am requesting that the Missions Committee make the monthly Common Peace Community gatherings a program of Broadway Baptist Church. 2. I am requesting that the Missions Committee consider adopting JustFaith as a program of Broadway Baptist Church beginning in the fall of 2014.
  26. 26. LIVING IN THE MESSY MIDDLE Messy middle churches are a complex blend of conservative, moderate and progressive perspectives on economic, theological and social issues.
  27. 27. MESSY MIDDLE CHURCHES BRING A HOST OF CONFLICTING OPINIONS WITH THEM TO CHURCH The members of messy middle churches are all over the ideological board. For instance, a single person might be conservative on economic issues, theologically moderate and progressive on many social issues.
  28. 28. FEAR We don’t talk much about the issues that affect the poor because they tend to be controversial. We are afraid that addressing moral issues might expose internal divisions and spark conflict.
  29. 29. THE SOLUTION IS THE PROBLEM The easy solution for messy middle churches is to fall silent on issues that might divide us. In the process, we lose our prophetic voice. We have nothing to say on the great issues of the day.
  30. 30. MESSY MIDDLE CONGREGATIONS CAN’T TALK ABOUT PRESSING SOCIAL ISSUES If all you knew about the world was what you learned from attending messy middle worship services, you would never suspect that issues like immigration reform, mass incarceration, abortion, pornography, gun violence, the wealth gap, the shrinking of the middle class, or the environmental crisis existed in the wider world.
  31. 31. HOW THE CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY REPRESENTS JESUS According to a study conducted by the Barna Group, Christians of all persuasions are more pharisaical than Christlike
  32. 32. AMERICANS ON RELIGION AND POLITICS Most Americans think religion has no place in public debates about political and social issues
  33. 33. IN MESSY MIDDLE CHURCHES THERE IS NO CONSENSUS REGARDING THE PUBLIC ROLE OF THE CHURCH 87% of religious progressives believe that religion is a private matter best kept out of public debates. By contrast, 82% of religious conservatives believe that if everyone had a personal relationship with God, social problems would disappear.
  34. 34. RELIGIOUS ORIENTATION BY GENERATION A religious compromise cobbled together by the Silent Generation and Baby Boomers isn’t working for younger generations.
  35. 35. ECONOMIC ORIENTATION BY RELIGIOUS AFFILIATION African American and Latino Christians are conservative on social issues but moderate-to- liberal on economic issues. If our cross-cultural conversation ignores money issues, it isn’t a real conversation. The perception gap reflected in this graph is likely much greater in Texas.
  36. 36. THE THOMAS– KILMANN CONFLICT MODE INSTRUMENT There are five basic ways in which people who differ on important issues can relate to one another. We have chosen avoidance when the goal should be collaboration.
  37. 37. AVOIDANCE GENERATES FEAR Much of Western Christianity today is fearful. Our churches have become places of retreat, bastions of intellectual and spiritual timidity. Sundays are times to convince ourselves that what we believe is true even though it seems to have little bearing on the other six days of life in the big bad world.
  38. 38. WALTER BRUEGGEMANN: CANDOR OR DENIAL The Old Testament presents us with a choice: Generosity > Candor > Hope or Scarcity > Denial > Despair
  39. 39. BIAS ISN’T BADNESS We all bring biases to the table. It’s only a problem when we pretend we don’t.
  40. 40. ACCORDING TO A RECENT STUDY BY THE BARNA GROUP . . . Our inability to address pressing issues has consequences. Between high school and turning 30, 43% of once-active Millennials drop out of regular church attendance—that amounts to eight million twentysomethings who have, for various reasons, given up on church or Christianity.
  41. 41. RACHEL HELD EVANS ON WHY “MILLENNIALS” ARE LEAVING THE CHURCH “We want churches that emphasize an allegiance to the kingdom of God over an allegiance to a single political party or a single nation . . . You can’t hand us a latte and then go about business as usual and expect us to stick around. We’re not leaving the church because we don’t find the cool factor there; we’re leaving the church because we don’t find Jesus there.”
  42. 42. INDIFFERENCE Affluent Christians have little interest in issues like deportation, mass incarceration or homelessness because they almost exclusively impact the lives of poor people.
  43. 43. THE IDEA OF A COMMON PEACE COMMUNITY WAS INSPIRED BY EPHESIANS 2:14 No matter what walls divide us; Jesus can knock them down. He is our peace. Our common peace.
  44. 44. THE COMMON PEACE COMMUNITY IS ROOTED IN THE JESUS STORY The Jesus story includes what Jesus taught, the stories he told, the prophetic acts he performed, the Old Testament texts he emphasized in his preaching, and what the Bible says about him.
  45. 45. THE INAUGURAL ADDRESS OF JESUS IN LUKE 4 ESTABLISHED THE THEME THAT WOULD GUIDE HIS MINISTRY He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written: ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.’ And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, ‘Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’
  46. 46. THE LAST PUBLIC WORDS OF JESUS IN THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’
  47. 47. BLESSED ARE THE POOR Then he looked up at his disciples and said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. “Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled. “Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. Luke 6:21-21
  48. 48. BLESSED ARE THE POOR IN SPIRIT Some of us possess great wealth, but we can become “poor in spirit” by viewing the world through the eyes of the poor.
  49. 49. WE ARE KNOWN BY THE COMPANY WE KEEP In the Gospels, no one could get to Jesus without wading through a throng of poor, sick, hungry and desperate people. We must look at the world through the eyes of the poor because it is the only way to encounter the living Christ.
  50. 50. SILENCING JESUS when we can’t repeat his message about wealth and poverty the voice of Jesus falls silent.
  51. 51. THE RECIPROCITY PRINCIPLE Patron-client relationships, in which we do all the giving and the poor do all the taking, create dependency. When we are dealing with issues that impact the poor, affluence is ignorance. We have much to offer those in need; but they have much to teach us. IGNORANT BY VIRTUE OF AFFLUENCE NOT BUT PATRON CLIENT INFORMED BY POVERTY
  52. 52. PURPOSE # 1 The first purpose of the Common Peace Community is to celebrate and strengthen existing ministries of compassion.
  53. 53. PURPOSE # 2 The second purpose of the Common Peace Community is to transcend culture war divisions by creating a distinctly Christian discourse rooted in the Jesus story.
  54. 54. PURPOSE # 3 The third purpose is to help messy middle churches develop a simple public theology and a distinct prophetic voice.
  55. 55. PURPOSE # 4 The fourth purpose is to bring affluent Christians into close conversation with poor Christians who know the realities of poverty and with religious leaders who work with the poor.
  56. 56. THE COMMON PEACE COMMUNITY IS FOR EVERYONE The Common Peace Community isn’t reserved for peculiar Christians of a particular ideological bent; it is for everyone.
  57. 57. TWO COMPLIMENTARY ELEMENTS OF A SINGLE PROGRAM When I refer to the Common Peace Community, I am talking about both the monthly gatherings and the weekly JustFaith study group. The Common Peace Community
  58. 58. TWO REQUESTS 1. I am requesting that the Missions Committee make the monthly Common Peace Community gatherings a program of Broadway Baptist Church. 2. I am requesting that the Missions Committee consider adopting JustFaith as a program of Broadway Baptist Church beginning in the fall of 2014.