CANA Initiative: An Initial Response

I was invited by my friends and fellow co-conspirators (Transform) of goodness Steve Knight and Holly Roach to a gathering called the CANA Initiative. The CANA Initiative is being framed as a ‘network of networks’ or a ‘meta-network’. A meta-network seeking to be a hub for collective action and collaboration. Stephanie Spellers, one of the initators holding the space, presented on the last day a promising initiating collaborative description or edited conversation starter for future collective action:

What is CANA?

A collective of Christian leaders, organizations and networks across the United States who collaborate to embody and act on a courageous, liberating and compassionate faith.

There were many individuals and networks present for this gathering. Many important conversations and issues raised by folks like Alexia Salvatierra, Lisa Sharon Harper, Peter Matthews and Brian McLaren around this question:

Who is not here for this initial gathering and conversation?

While there were many great people and networks present and issues raised (I hope to talk about that in a subsequent post) this became one of the dominant themes of the gathering for me. And a big takeaway that must be resolved if we are to truly represent a new Christian wineskin in the United States. In asking that question we were confronted by a deep and long history of white supremacy that has been in existence for several centuries. A white supremacy that has morphed in each generation (think: transatlantic slave trade, Jim Crow, the New Jim Crow, etc.). It is a history that must be worked through, processed, repented of, becoming more self-aware of and not simply dismissed as playing identity politics (a sign of privilege) or by saying I have a few non-white friends. You will know if Mista Charlie is present by who is in the room, who you are speaking on behalf of, and by what you are saying. Don’t be offended by that last statement. It is true.

There was tension in the room when it became apparent that this issue might get skipped again and not addressed in a meaningful way by all the stakeholders present Yet, we broached the issue. I sensed it was uncomfortable for many. You could feel it in the room. While there was a tension there was a very pronounced presence of the Holy Spirit in the room (When Lisa Sharon Harper testified about her work on immigration reform and the impact this issue is having on many of our immigrant sisters and brothers). We almost quenched the Spirit by moving too quickly from Lisa’s testimony. We persisted. I suspect that there is a good reason to be hopeful due to the enormous goodwill and sincerity that was present. However, the next stage will be crucial for this embryonic meta-network. We must attend and intend to how we carry this space from here on out. We can’t jump the track of American history ignoring the necessary deep ongoing work of racial repentance.

We also encountered our own exceptionalism by initially attempting to speak on behalf of the planet by saying we were wanting to be a global meta-network. A globe that was not present at the gathering. By the grace of God and the past spiritual-cultural work of many present we were quickly unblinded by our own global privilege by naming and lovingly owning our own location as the locus of our work: the United States of America.

We were reminded by our brother, Gareth Higgins, that many of us tend to hold the United States at a critical arms length (for often good and honorable reasons) rather than learn and practice a deep love for, be a redemptive presence within and be prophetic voice and witness to the United States. Basically, we must love our country as God loves it yet be prophetic to it as God is wanting more from it than war, inequality and our participating in and complicity with the destruction of the planet.

These are my initial thoughts of the CANA Initiative itself nowhere near an exhaustive commentary. I do want to give a shout out to my new friends Christy and Bryan Berghoef for their hospitality for letting a few of us stay with them in their home for the duration of the gathering. Beautiful folks doing beautiful kingdom of God work in Washington DC. Also, special thanks to the Washington National Cathedral for letting us convene in their space.

Thankful for the leadership of Stephanie Spellers, Brian McLaren and Doug Pagitt in giving the rallying call for this much needed meta-network.

There were so many friends present and new friends made. Many great networks present bringing their full attention into the space. Forgive me for not mentioning you and the good work you are doing.

I asked this question during the gathering: what do I tell my friends back home when they ask “who showed up at the table?”

This will be my response: I believe the Spirit showed up in the midst of a well intentioned group of sincere and loving network of people answering a call to be present in the United States as a courageous, liberating, prophetic, justice-seeking and compassionate Christian social witness.

The next step will be crucial…

A Review-Reflection on Brian McLaren’s new book Naked Spirituality: A Life With God In 12 Simple Words

I am currently reading Brian McLaren’s latest book Naked Spirituality: A Life with God in 12 Simple Words. I’ve had three weeks to read it finding myself reading only a couple of chapters so far. I am encouraged by the direction that Brian has taken with this recent work. I’ve noticed a progression with Brian’s writings. There is this continual theme of deconstructing/reconstructing Christian faith. If you’ve been tracking his writings over the years you’ll notice the progression from deconstruction to reconstruction.

However, as you’ll see with Brian, it’s not enough to deconstruct our faith (Deconstructionist Jacques Derrida does say that deconstruction is justice). Deconstruction, it seems, is a necessary step towards a healthy vital spirituality. Deconstruction alerts us to the idolatrous beliefs and practices we stake our lives on even at the expense of others, our own souls, and the rest of creation. Without deconstruction or what I like to describe as calling-down-fire-from-heaven-to-burn-up-my conceptual idols is necessary to be able to name, discern, and learn to live in a more just direction than unjust living. But once fire has come down from heaven and I’ve landed on something more just and confident I can begin the journey of reconstruction. I can breath again. And Brian’s book begins this journey. I wish I had this book 10 years ago. I had to settle for St. John of the Cross at the time. But once one has deconstructed the next question is this: now what? What does life with God look now that Jesus is no longer, for me, a white Republican or a Genie in a Bottle, a human pyschological projection?

In this book Brian is talking about something simple: our life with God. It’s not enough to deconstruct our cherished beliefs and practices. We must reimagine our life with God in the wake of deconstruction. How do I tend to the fire of God in my soul without reverting to individualism or engaging the world without the flame of Pentecost? I believe Brian is accomplishing this in this latest book.

In the beginning of the book Brian shares with us his own journey through spiritual experience and experiences. He sets the narrative of his own spiritual journey within the larger context of tectonic shifts in spiritual, religious, and cultural beliefs and practices taking place in our time. This section is very dense. Oftentimes too much bio with too much cultural exegesis. Of course, if you are unfamiliar with Brian’s writings these portions are necessary. However, I suspect he is setting us up with a thick personal and social narrative that will have payoff in later chapters.

Next up…Chapter 1 “Spiritual Experiences and Spiritual Experience”

Hopes for Big Tent Christianity

September 8-9 is Big Tent Christianity right up the road from us in Raleigh, NC. There will be some great panel discussions and I’m sure challening/inspiring side conversations. Friends connecting again that haven’t seen each other in a while. There will be a wide array of Christian bodies and traditions represented. Everything from Storefront Pentecostals (like myself) to Mainline Protestants to Catholics. This will be an opportunity for us to practice the hospitality we see exemplified by Jesus. I’m pretty sure popular issues of the day will be debated, discussed, and side-lined (e.g. sexuality, race, poverty, et al.).

I’m schedule to be a panelist on the discussion about Justice. Not sure what I’ll say yet. I’m sure I’ll be throwing racial justice into the mix along with justice issues related to doing ministry in the margins. We’ll see. I grow weary of talking about race. The only cure I’ve managed to see for racism is friendship. Everything else is coerced diversity and tokenism.

My passion these days is doing ministry in the margins. I’m learning how to see Jesus at work in the forgotten places in my community. Here is where I’m finding my calling to live justly. I’ll talk more about that at Big Tent Christianity.

My hopes?

1. Big Tent Christianity will be one more prophetic catalyst in bringing about North American Christianity’s shift from an absolutist religion to an embodiedment of the life of God we find in Jesus. What does that look like? I hope that Big Tent Christianity will help give us some starting clues.

2. Big Tent Christianity will help Christians find friendships of virtue centered around a more minimalist understanding of Christianity (Love God, Love Neighbor). A Christian minimalism set within the context of a wider range of issues than the normal left-right issues that carry the day.

3. Big Tent Christianity will challenge, deconstruct, and provide theological/ecclesial re-toolings to reconstruct my (our?) understanding of God, how God works in the world, and how God expects us to participate in this redemptive work.

Here are the hopes/expectations of others (synchroblog) for Big Tent Christianity.

TransFORM this week!

This week I’ll be hanging out with some interesting folks at the Transform East Coast Gathering in D.C.. I’m anticipating great conversation and missional imaginings taking place with missional practioners from around the country.

Peter Rollins has an interesting thought on the expense of this gathering

I’ll be speaking at the gathering on Saturday morning. My talk will be introductory thoughts on being missional, kingdom, and being born ‘again’/above/anew.

Ted Haggard

I heard this morning while watching the news that brother Haggard of the National Evangelical Association has entered into some serious challenges.  There is a small personal connection here.  A couple of months ago I had the chance to have a candid conversation with a niece of his about the emerging church and the postmodern cultural shift.  It was a lively discussion.  I was impressed by her deep regard for brother Haggard.  This morning as I watched the news coverage my heart went out to him and his family.  My good friend Will Samson offers some good wisdom on how to process this:

Please pray for Ted Haggard and his family – Even if you do not agree with all of his politics, he is in the middle of a private hell that most of us cannot relate to. This is true whether the allegations are confirmed or not.

Don’t rejoice with either outcome – I find too many people, even some in the Church, hoping for one outcome or the other. Sadly, even my first reaction was to take sides. But love does not delight in evil. Period. If these allegations turn out to be true, how sad. If they are false, how sad. I pray we have the conviction to think this way.

Pray for Haggard’s successor at the NAE – While Ted Haggard is stepping aside from his church temporarily, it appears that he has resigned permanently from the National Association of Evangelicals. And, while I was not a fan of all his politics, Haggard was nonetheless a champion for the environment and human rights, and expressed openness on the issue of domestic partnership benefits for homosexuals. I fear a conservative backlash within the NAE to this incident, whatever the outcome.

Of course the next thought comes to mind as a possible response to some of us responding to this: why care?  Well…firstly because this is a brother in Christ in need of burden-bearing.  Secondly, he is a leader in the broader evangelical community to which I align myself with.  Thirdly, I know what it feels like to be caught in something shameful.  Admittedly, I have no idea how he feels.  I don’t have a quintillionth of the platform and visibility of this brother.  So the embarrassment and sense of shame probably feels like Mt Kilimanjaro on his and his family’s back.  I write this response because I felt a special burden to stand in the gap for him, his family, and the larger evangelical (‘c’atholic) community that recognizes his leadership in the Body.

Plight Deepens for Black Men, Studies Warn

A recent article informs us that black men are not fairing well in our society.  I was just recently in conversation with my mother dealing with a topic very similar to this.  She told me about how growing up during Jim Crow and the Civil Rights era black folks of varied socio-economic status lived in the same communities.  She talked about how integration paved the way for middle class/affluent blacks to leave those close-knit black communities for greater opportunities.  This left behind a black under class in mostly urban centers.  What also happened in this black middle class exodus was a weakening of traditional black institutions that were autonomous from the dominant culture.  Anyways…this article gives much food for thought for those of us who are engaged in inner city work or ministry.

ht: Max (when are you going to start a blog man!)

Gordon Parks…a true Renaissance man



(November 30, 1912 – March 7, 2006)

I stand in amazement of the figures that have recently passed on from the scene (e.g. Coretta Scott King, et al).  I remember as a child hearing about Gordon Parks and his contribution to what I call the black prophetic canon.  He will be missed.  His voice and contribution to the arts and social change will be remembered for a long time.

Click here for more info.

To Anyone With Family Members Signing up for the New Medicare Prescription Drug Plan

Make sure they are not going to places where only ‘one’ or a few options for drug coverage are being discussed.  Your Family member can go to their local SHIIP (Senior’s Health Insurance Information Program). office or location where they will be informed of ‘all’ the drug plans being offered for that state.  BEWARE:  there are reports of department stores and pharmacists giving the elderly few options when they have a whole range of options for drug coverage.

Thinking about Tookie

Many thoughts. Very few words. I have been thinking about Stan “Tookie” Williams alot lately. Actually I am a little depressed about the whole deal. I found this quote from one of my favorite theologians, D. Stephen Long in his book The Goodness of God. I thought it somehow applicable to this situation.

Christianity was born out of the imprisonment and execution of an innocent person. Given our history, we cannot seek the solution to crime in a punitive prison industry. Although Christians and other innocent persons have often been labeled as criminals, this does not imply that all criminals are unjustly persecuted. Some people do evil things that require the kind of correction imprisonment could potentially bring. Imprisonment should not be a time of punitive retribution but an opportunity for people to face the reality of the evil they have committed in hope that they might yet repent and turn toward the good. p. 299

Did Stan turn toward the good? I hope so. Whatever good that he did do I hope that it finds it way towards the hood in the midst of nihilism and violence. I hope the good that Stan may have done be not swallowed up by the revenge of the State. Much more to think about.

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