Had a great time at the conference. It was a blessing to be able to put faces to names and meeting friends for the first time. Here’s the paper I presented.
Thoughts on the conference:
1. One of the themes I kept hearing in this conference is the need for Evangelicalism to become more of an embodied tradition rather than a trans-historical faith, at least in its self-understanding. Which I think is part of the reason many younger evangelicals (to borrow from Robert Webber) are looking to ancient Christian practices and traditions that have been around longer than a couple of centuries. There seems to be a growing understanding that Christianity didn’t start with the Reformers or that the Reformation was some kind of re-pristination of primitive Christianity. There is the growing recognition that there is much in Christianity to draw from in its 2,000 year history. While I think this to be a good thing I just hope that aspects of ancient Christianity doesn’t become essentialized and uncritically embraced.
2. Another theme that was brought to the table was the conspicuous absence of historically marginalized voices. This was brought out by Arlene Sanchez Walsh. She is an Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at DePaul University. She is the author of Latino Pentecostal Identity: Evangelical Faith, Self, and Society. It was quite refreshing to hear her thoughts on Latino Evangelical identity. I see many parallels between latino and black pentecostal traditions that I found interesting. Especially the growing influence of the ‘prosperity gospel’.
3. Postmodernity didn’t seem to be the bug-a-boo you often hear about in many Evangelical circles. There seem to be a critical embracing of postmodernism or at least a recognition that it is something that we should not be afraid of (looking forward to James Smith’s forthcoming book, Who’s Afraid of Postmodernism?: Taking Derrida, Lyotard, And Foucault to Church).
4. Apparently Scot McKnight set the record straight about the Emerging church. Unfortunately I wasn’t there to hear him. We got a chance to briefly talk. He’s taller in person. He’s good people. I sat in on Phil Sinitere’s presentation on the emerging church and its potential relationship with world Christianity. Phil talked about the need for emerging leaders to become (if not already) more conversant with voices like Lamin Sanneh, author of Whose Religion Is Christianity?: The Gospel beyond the West. Dr. Sanneh’s translatability of the gospel thesis is something I have been chewing on. Great stuff! I also got a chance to sit in on Steve Bush’s presentation. Brother Bush proposed a political theology for Evangelicalism and gave a critical and nuanced appraisal of the work of Hauerwas and Radical Orthodoxy.
6. While I got to practice Pentecost with these brothers I got to see a church striving to do this. After the conference I was truly bless to hang out with Andre. He is senior pastor of Mosaic Life Church in Grand Rapids. I also got a chance to worship with this beautiful church…truly a mosaic of God. Andre is a very thoughtful and engaging brother.
7. One more thing and I wasn’t going to say this but it sucks being mistaken for the help (wink! wink!).