Life 103

Thursday, February 09, 2006

theological conversation 1

As I write this I am headed West somewhere over America on a Continental flight with three of my ten favorite people in the world; AJ, Gregg and Steve. We’re headed home from New Haven, Connecticut, Yale University, and the Emergent Village Theological Conversation featuring keynote speaker Miroslav Volf. The first time I heard Volf’s name was in a Church Theology class last term where we studied several significant theologians from various church traditions. Volf is one of Gregg’s favorite professors from Fuller who now teaches at Yale and when he asked if I wanted to go to the conference with them I said a resounding yes but I can’t afford it. One thing led to another and now I’ve been there and back again.

Here I would like to say thanks to my husband for the significant sacrifices he made to our household budget so I could go and to my kids who gave me birthday money to buy a Yale sweatshirt – I got a sweet one! I had a great birthday. My only wish is that my family could have joined us to share it. They missed a sweet piece of chocolate cake at Denny’s.

Volf’s books have opened doors in my head that I thought were closed forever. We read them, “Exclusion and Embrace” and “Free of Charge,” prior to the conference then discussed them while there. Their pages are filled with so many deeply thought out aspects of the church and of God that it’s hard to know how to begin telling about what I learned. Some of what I took away was clinical church stuff (which I find that I enjoy much more than I would have ever expected) while some of it was very deeply personal and spiritually formative. I’m still processing it on several levels so I’ll be making multiple posts as I sift my way through my notes, my head and my heart.

First “Exclusion & Embrace”…

Volf talks largely about our propensity to exclude others based on culture, religion, ethnic background, gender, situated self, etc.. The human self, he writes, is formed “through a complex process of “taking in” and “keeping out.” We are who we are not because we are separate from others who are next to us, but because we are both separate and connected, both distinct and related; the boundaries that mark our identities are both barriers and bridges.” (68) He names exclusion of others a sin and goes on to describe how the cross, God’s arms-open-wide- embrace of humanity on the cross, is our means for being able to do the same. I find myself needing to better understand the deeper theology of the cross.

In the chapter on gender identity, Volf wrote that he starts from the position that men and women are equally saved, equally spirit filled and equally called. I read his chapter about the same time a call came out for Emerging women to arise which was about the same time I was struggling with feelings of being the ugly step-sister at the local clergy club. I’ve rarely felt discriminated against as a woman but Volf’s bold, black and white statement caught my attention because I know this isn’t the position most people, male or female, would profess with their mouths let alone with their lives. And I have had to sort that through, not for myself but for my sisters in Christ outside the Quaker tradition who have been so deeply, deeply wounded by people’s crappy attitudes toward their call to ministry. They are quite often called by God yet too rarely called by mankind. The injustice done these women is an injustice done to humanity on a grand scale and very few people even know about it. They come from all corners of the country with the watermark of discrimination on their spirits, limping along as best they can, given the hedges that men and women alike have put around them in their (our) ignorance.

While Volf didn't touch on gender issues at the conference, it does appear that many of the women who gathered have been deeply wounded by the barriers set round them, keeping them from fulfilling their call.


Post a Comment

<< Home