Sunday, September 30, 2007

Brian McLaren's Symposium in Ottawa, Canada (part 1 of 2)

It was a very good symposium by Brian McLaren here in Ottawa.

It was a symposium organized by the Anglicans. Brian McLaren was the main speaker. It took place September 28 and 29, 2007 here in Ottawa, Canada.
I was very glad to meet some new Anglican friends. Rev. Robert Davis was very kind to allow me and my friend Sidney G. to join the symposium. The venue was just perfect: tables of ~7 people, perfect sound and so on.
The whole symposium was a service (Eucharist). It began with music, went on to prayers and Scripture reading. Brian MacLaren had two main talks Friday and two main talks Saturday.
I'll try to summarize some of the thoughts brought by Brian McLaren.
He joked he would summarize the 'History of mankind' in 8 minutes :) That is to say that he identified what he called some abrupt/discontinued changes in society. These were either because of technological changes, or social changes. His thought is that during of immediately after these abrupt changes the church and theology deserve to change as well to maintain its relevancy and relationship with the world. He mentioned the 'invention' of writing, the invention of the press and, more recently, the Internet.

He went on to characterize the time of modernity and reason (after the Industrial Revolution), mentioning the main scientific rationale and philosophical advances of the time.

He didn't quite precisely define post-modernity, but mentioned that we are living now times of great change in the world and very fast changes. The firs talk Friday was mostly an introduction. After the second talk he moved on to talk about how he interprets how the church related to this History. He classified them into some sort of 'flexibility in hierarchy' criterion, begining with Catholics, through Anglo-Catholics, to Anglicans, to Lutherans, Presbiterians, to Baptists, to Pentecostals, to 'fluid/micro' churches (I can't quite remember the terms). And, of course, from an American view, he depicted two ways: liberal and conservative. Brian went on to advocate for a 'via media' that flows in-between liberals and conservaties.

It was between breaks that I had a chance to pose him a question. The question was: imagine a church with about 40 people. With new members, new christians. They probably have in them the potential to lead change so that the church is relevant in today's context, but these people are not probably aware of this potential. How to move forward? I was hoping to draw upon Brian's experience, knowing that he travelled a lot in the past years, speaking to all sorts of organizations. His hint was that established churches (affiliated to conventions) tend to move forward by immitation, whereas new 'churches' move forward by direct innovation. I have some hints of willingness of the Canadian Baptists (CBM) to engage in relevant discussion. ( One hint was that some high-level pastor from CBM mentioned the book Emerging Churches: Creating Christian Community in Postmodern Culturesby Eddie Gibbs and Ryan K. Bolger in of the Baptist magazines. And another important hint is the partiticaption of Dr. Leonard Sweet as the keynote speaker at the Baptist Convention of Ontario and Quebec (BCOQ) in Toronto, 2007). My takeaway was to walk closer to BCOQ and the Ottawa Baptist Association.

Friday's supper was very good. They assembled a bar (yes, a bar!) with wine, beer and other liquor, so that folks could buy it for their supper. Every table had wine! I don't know why I was impressed... I have no theological problems with it, of course. I guess I'm just not used to seing it. At the table, the two Anglican ministers were very surprised to see us, two Baptists, drinking wine. We said we were 'good' Baptists :) Mind you that they mentioned 3 times they were surprised with a drinking Baptist... One of the Reverends said to us: "I think as Anglicans we can't even be ordained if we don't drink wine!" The other interesting comment came later on from the other Reverend, who said that "I think you Baptists got it right with regards to Baptism by immersion". Anglicans still perform pedobaptisms (baptisms of children).

I'll comment the second day in another posting.

( The folks in our table. Anglicans and Baptists drinking together)

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