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Practicing Paradoxy: Exploring Incarnational Christianity
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Practicing Paradoxy: Exploring Incarnational Christianity


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A presentation for the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles at Christ Church, Redondo Beach, CA

A presentation for the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles at Christ Church, Redondo Beach, CA

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  • 1. Practicing Paradoxy Exploring Incarnational Christian Community April 2, 2013 Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles
  • 2. Who am I? Why is this important to me? What do I hope to leave you with? 3ImportantQuestions Getting On Board
  • 3. Who are you? Why is this important to you? What do you hope to leave with? 3ImportantQuestions Getting On Board
  • 4. What do I hope to leave you with? PROVISIONAL ANSWERS TO THREE QUESTIONS Where are we? How did we get here? Where do we go from here?
  • 5. Starting Places The Transforming Power of Christ’s Love The Reality of Death & Resurrection Concursis Dei Believing Our Belovedness Overcoming Our Fear of Failure (Death) Imanu-El (With-Us God)
  • 6. Where are we now?
  • 7. May You Live in INTERESTING TIMES! Blessing?Curse?
  • 8. Let me ask that a different way…
  • 9. Blessing?Curse? Riding Drowning
  • 10. It all depends on your point of view world view conceptual framework PARADIGM
  • 11. It should be the law: If you use the word ‘paradigm’ without knowing what the dictionary says it means, you go to jail. No exceptions. – David B. Jones, CTO of Innovative Robotics A word about Paradigms
  • 12. “A set of assumptions, concepts, values, and practices that constitutes a way of viewing reality for the community that shares them.” – American Heritage Dictionary Paradigm (Definition)
  • 13. Paradigm “Shift” Thomas Kuhn The Structure of Scientific Revolution
  • 14. Scientific change is not INCREMENTAL but rather occurs in MASSIVE SHIFTS because… Change is Non-Linear
  • 16. 1. Unchallenged Dominant Paradigm 2. Discrepant Data 3. Anxiety & Reactivity 4. Conservative & Progressive Camps 5. Demonizing of Opposition 6. Dominant Paradigm Collapses 7. New Paradigm Emerges How Scientific Paradigms Shift
  • 17. Not entirely what the conservatives feared, nor entirely what the progressives proposed. Elements of both…and neither. In other words, paradoxical & transcendent. Characteristics of Emerging Paradigms
  • 18. Examples of Paradigm Shifts? EXAMPLES?
  • 19. Paradigms can be useful when we recognize they are models of reality can be harmful when we confuse them with actual reality (or truth) Living in “Interesting” Times
  • 20. A Paradigm Rummage Sale! What’s happening in the Church?
  • 21. Every 500 years, the Church feels compelled to hold a giant rummage sale – Phyllis Tickle (quoting Mark Dyer) The 500 Year Rummage Sale
  • 22. Century Sale Early 1st The Great Incarnation Mid 5th The Great Excommunication 11th The Great Schism 16th The Great Reformation 21st The Great _________? Living in “Interesting” Times
  • 23. Rummage Sale OR Fire Sale! (Everything Must Go!) Signs of the Times?
  • 24. Living in an Age of Collapsing Paradigms Where are we now?
  • 25. Three Collapsing Paradigms of Christian Unity Christendom POWER Foundationalism CERTAINTY Religion SECURITY A COMMON ASSUMPTION
  • 26. Unity = Uniformity but in reality Unity ≠ Uniformity
  • 27. in reality When UNIFORMITY is the REQUIREMENT for COMMUNITY Then DIS/UNITY is the RESULT
  • 28. Uniformity = Us vs. Them US US US US US US US US US US US US US US US THEM THEM THEM THEM THEM THEM THEM THEM THEM Christianity as a Bounded Set
  • 29. How does knowing these things help us?
  • 30. perhaps a little humility about our UNDERSTANDING OF GOD the nature of paradigms means we’re all a little bit wrong
  • 31. perhaps a little understanding about WHAT WE’RE GOING THROUGH anxiety & reactivity are natural responses to paradigm shifts
  • 32. perhaps a little insight into our BLIND SPOTS liberal: a conservative who’s been mugged conservative: a liberal who’s been arrested
  • 33. perhaps a little Compassion for our FELLOW TRAVELERS all of us are trying to find a path into our future that does not leave behind the heart of who we are
  • 34. Recognize/Resist Anxious Reactivity Respond to change with more compassion Recognize/Resist tendency to demonize Deal with opponents not as enemies but as fellow travelers whose insights we need
  • 35. How did we get here?
  • 36. Century Sale Early 1st The Great Incarnation Mid 5th The Great Excommunication 11th The Great Schism 16th The Great Reformation 21st The Great _________? Living in “Interesting” Times
  • 37. Paradigms of Unity Paradigm Premise Presumption Prognosis Christendom Power Power w/o Corruption Dead but not buried Foundationalism Certainty Rationality w/o Sin Auto- Immune Syndrome Religion Security Stability w/o Death Imagine no Religion
  • 38. Foundationalism: Two Paths to Certainty Outside-In (Locke) Process Objective observation of outside world Progeny Modern science Modern Fundamentalism (Inerrant Scripture) Inside-Out (Descartes) Process Objective analysis of internal experience Progeny Modern philosophy Liberal Biblical Analysis (If in doubt, throw it out)
  • 39. Questions for Contemplation In what ways might these collapsing paradigms be continuing to affect: • Your ministry? • Your congregation’s ministry? • Your diocese’s ministry? • Your denominations ministry?
  • 40. Where do we go from here? Tools for the journey
  • 41. THE QUESTION When Our Old Paradigms Collapse… WHAT WILL REMAIN? What will put the UNITY in Christian COMMUNITY?
  • 42. The Shift PowerLove Certainty SecurityHope Faith Sound Familiar?
  • 43. We’ve always known these applied to individual Christians. What would it be like if we applied them TO THE CHURCH?
  • 44. the answer is… YES! (It all depends on your diagnosis) May You Live in Interesting Times! Curse or Blessing?
  • 45. If you think you have to REPAIR the Church Turbulent Times can seem like a CURSE
  • 46. If you think WE are called RE-PARADIGM the Church with God’s help Then we can begin to see the changes we are facing as BLESSINGS IN DISGUISE
  • 47. CURSEBLESSING The PARADOX at the heart of the GOSPEL
  • 48. So where do we start?
  • 49. FAITH + HOPE + LOVE What would it be like if we applied them TO THE CHURCH?
  • 50. Orthodoxy is my doxy. Heterodoxy is another man's doxy. William Warburton English literary critic and churchman, 1698-1779 (Bishop of Gloucester from 1759) The Problem Orthodoxy has come to mean different things to different people.
  • 51. For Conservative Christians ORTHODOXY has come to mean HOLDING THE RIGHT BELIEFS “Propositional Orthodoxy” or “ORTHOPROXY”
  • 52. For Liberal Christians ORTHODOXY has come to mean LIVING RIGHT PRACTICES “Ethical Orthodoxy” or “ORTHOPRAXY”
  • 53. to move INTO OUR FUTURE taking with us THE HEART OF WHAT WE ARE we need a new way of thinking about ORTHODOXY
  • 54. a way that recognizes that ORTHOPROXY & ORTHOPRAXY are just TWO DIFFERENT SHELLS for protecting the same PEARL OF GREAT PRICE RELATIONSHIP WITH JESUS CHRIST
  • 55. A Radical Paradoxical MIDDLE WAY
  • 57. Not a COMPROMISE for the sake of peace But a (paradoxical) COMPREHENSION for the sake of truth
  • 58. Getting to the Root of ORTHODOXY ORTHO (lit. “Right”) + DOXY (lit. “Praise”) = “RIGHT PRAISE” or “APPROPRIATE RESPONSE” (to the incarnate presence of God)
  • 59. a Radical Focus on the Incarnation
  • 61. WHAT IS AN APPROPRIATE RESPONSE? (to the incarnate presence of God) Awe & Wonder Overflowing Love Yearning to Worship Desire for Relationship
  • 62. Promising Principles of a New Way of Being Church Oneness in Christ Law of Love over Love of Law Transformational Living Radical Hospitality/Agape Relationships Organism over Organization Inclusive/Interdependent Community
  • 63. Oneness in Christ I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life Christ came not to Teach the Truth nor to Live the Truth but to BE the TRUTH Christ’s love is the only sufficient basis for Christian community As Christ’s adopted family we are stuck with each other (“Walton’s Mountain” Theology)
  • 64. Law of Love over Love of Law This is my commandment: that you love one another. Fundamentalists about the Law of Love Christ’s love creates community Christ’s community manifests love
  • 65. Transformational Living If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation Curbing Our Dogma Embracing Divine Mystery Emersion Into New Creation (If Christ, so what?)
  • 66. Curbing Our Dogma
  • 67. Radical Hospitality/Agape Relationships The one thing truly worthwhile is becoming God’s friend. Non-Proselytizing Evangelism Radical Hospitality Love To Tell The Story
  • 68. Organism over Organization There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. Member-Driven Vision & Mission Gifts-Based Leadership & Organization Provisional Structures & Processes
  • 69. Church as Fractal Organism Vestry Worship 5pm 11am 9am Choir Christian Educ. AdultTeen Sunday School K-6 Middle School Pre-K ? TaizeAdult ? Outreach LocalIntl ?
  • 70. Inclusive/Interdependent Community When I am lifted up… I will draw all people to myself. Community as a Centered Set Clear Focus on WHO is at the Center Boundaries few/low No Tests for Admission (Incarnational Community)
  • 71. Centered-Set Christian Community JESUS CHRIST US US US Community w/o Boundaries
  • 72. God is a circle whose center is EVERYWHERE and whose circumference is Empedocles Greek philosopher, ca 490-430 BCE
  • 74. FAITH Our faith is not in Doctrine (believing things about Christ) Our faith is not in Practice (trying to live like Christ) Our faith is in Relationship (loving the incarnate person of Christ) the Church’s one foundation
  • 75. HOPE Christ’s love transforms (the Community and the Creation) Changing hearts is Christ’s job, not ours (we set aside our need to convert others) Our job is to make Christ’s love tangible. (we welcome all unconditionally) if anyone is in Christ, there is a New Creation
  • 76. LOVE Christ’s love for us creates Christian community (everything else is secondary) We welcome and engage diversity (love where it “shouldn’t” be -- a sign of the Holy Spirit) We believe Christ’s love for us has made us a family (we are stuck with each other even when we disagree) We are Fundamentalists about the Law of Love (love God, love each other, the rest is commentary) the greatest of these
  • 77. Questions?
  • 78. Questions for Contemplation Imagine what your church would it would feel like for your church to leave behind the paradigms of Security, Certainty, and Power (Control), and move toward becoming a community based on Faith, Hope, and Love. • What is the cost of becoming a new kind of community? • What is the promise? • What is the cost of staying as you are? • What is the promise?
  • 79. So What? So what does all this look like IN PRACTICE?
  • 80. So What? It Depends On Congregational Vision & Mission On Congregational Charism & Call On Community Context
  • 81. So What? D.Y.O.D. (Do Your Own Discernment) I can’t do it for you… …but I can provide a framework
  • 82. 3-Step Discernment Process 1. Ministry Transformation Inquiry (Repeat PRN) • Review Paradoxy-Ministry Matrix. • Choose a Paradoxy Principle that calls out. • Imagine what each ministry area looks like if applied. 2. People-Gifts Inquiry (Repeat PRN) • Review People-Gifts Matrix. • Choose a Leadership Gift that calls out. • Imagine who in your congregation might have that gift. 3. People-Ministry Midrash (Repeat PRN) • Review People-Gifts Matrix & Paradoxy-Ministry Matrix. • Let the two matrices “wrestle” & see what emerges,
  • 83. An Exercise to Try • Review the Paradoxy Ministry Matrix. • Pick a Paradoxy Principle that calls out to you. • Imagine what your church’s various ministry areas would look like (how they would change) as you applied that principle. (free association is encouraged)
  • 84. Setting Sail
  • 85. Deming on Change You don’t have to change... …survival is not mandatory
  • 86. Keeping Our Balance Unrealistic Optimism balanced with Realistic Expectations
  • 87. Keeping Our Balance
  • 88. Salah al-Din and the Sparrow
  • 89. Ṣalāḥ al-Dīn, Sultan of Egypt and Syria, and leader of the fight against the armies of the Crusades, was out riding his warhorse near Jerusalem one day when he came upon a tiny little sparrow, lying in the middle of the road with its feet in the air. At first Ṣalāḥ al-Dīn thought the sparrow dead, but as he drew closer he discovered that the bird was alive and had assumed the position on purpose.
  • 90. “Little sparrow,” said Ṣalāḥ al-Dīn, “Why do you lie in the middle of the road with your feet in the air?”
  • 91. “O great and mighty Ṣalāḥ al-Dīn,” said the sparrow (since everyone knew the great Ṣalāḥ al-Dīn), “I am holding up the sky.”
  • 92. “Little sparrow,” said Ṣalāḥ al-Dīn, “Why would a tiny creature like yourself want hold up the sky?”
  • 93. “O great and mighty Ṣalāḥ al-Dīn,” said the sparrow, “I am holding up the sky because I heard it was falling.”
  • 94. “Tiny sparrow,” said Ṣalāḥ al-Dīn, now mocking the little bird, “How could one as small as you, with your spindly little legs, have any hope of holding up the sky?”
  • 95. “One does what one can,” said the sparrow, “One does what one can.”
  • 96. Closing Prayer Grant that we may maintain that middle way, not as a compromise for the sake of peace, but as a comprehension for the sake of truth; through Jesus Christ our Lord… Amen. Lesser Feasts and Fasts (TEC, 2006)
  • 97. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 License. To view a copy of this license, visit: by The Rev. Ken Howard Germantown, Maryland
  • 98. Contact Information Tele 301-704-3290 Email Web Facebook Twitter