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In this six minute video, Fr. Jim Martin, associate editor of America magazine and author of My Life with the Saints (2006), introduces the form of prayer known as lectio divina. I've used this method privately as well as in groups. Of course, some Adventists would reject this outright just because of the Jesuit connection. On the other hand, I used to study the Bible with some young conservative Adventists who used essentially this same highly subjective method, just without the Latin name.
Have you ever used lectio divina? What method of Bible Study do you practice these days?
Last week I posted a new study on sexuality and seminaries. It garnered some interesting conversation.
But, I think that the nadir for me was when one commentator crowed about not being refuted yet here. . .as if this site contains the evidence of the world. If one is right on this site, does that mean anything?
Is our job as human conversation partners to merely throw out opinions and facts and wait for someone to try to change our mind? In some ways this treats the Spectrum community as their own personal research assistants - a human wikipedia for the man too lazy to search.
I've always admired the persons who take their opinions out into the world of contrary evidence, even Google-ing against their own idea, source, or stat rather than asking everyone else to check it for them. One of the indicators of a poor blog is when truth becomes bounded by what an opponent fails to bring to the table. That's discussing deadening solipsism. I really appreciate that most of our community members look outward; we all improve as a result.
Speaking of outward focus (and knowledge-based insight into religion), Martin Marty also commented on last week's sexuality study.
Did you know that there is a Religious Institute on Sexual Morality, Justice and Healing? Last Thursday, January 8, the Institute, together with Union Theological Seminary in New York, issued a fifty-two page report, which is a call for North American Theological Seminaries to offer more courses and programs to help prepare ministers, rabbis, priests, and other religious professionals to address issues of sexuality better than they now do.
Through the years I have met with leaders and constituents of the Association of Theological Schools; I have some awareness of how many pressures are on them to add teaching personnel, field-work opportunities, and courses to deal with every kind of ethical and cultural issue of the day: pop culture, science-and-theology, war and peace, dealing with technology, and many more. All this at a time when the schools are under serious budgetary constraints. Seasoned leaders are cautioned against curricular faddism and are conscientious about sustaining integrity in biblical, theological, historical, and practical basics. So they tend to wince or groan when asked to do more and offer more for and with future ministers
But the Institute people do make a good case to be taken seriously in this report. Their two-year study finds that more than ninety percent of the thirty-six leading seminaries surveyed do not require full-semester, sexuality-based courses for graduation, and two-thirds do not offer a course in sexuality issues for religious professionals. A generational issue is involved. Mention, for example, the churches' controversy over same-sex marriage, and in most denominations seniors will observe that it's not much of an issue for the younger generations. They've generally approved it and want to move on to issues they consider more urgent. But for the next thirty years ministers will be dealing with church and synagogue issues where it is still the hottest-button kind of issue, and they need to understand the pros and cons.
As I picture it, the Institute's concern that more seminaries deal with lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender studies in a major way will not get a hearing in denominations where there are strictures against positive dealings with church and synagogue members in LGBT camps. Yet it is hard to get around the observation that, overall, sexual issues -- be they biological, theological, or moral - are the most controversial subjects in religion today. For a discussion group on the Trinity or Pelagianism (if you could get one together), you would rent a classroom. For sex and gender debates, you would crowd the field house, because everyone knows that the subject will quicken passions, lead to walk-outs, and give the press much to disseminate.
In this half-century, like it or not, understandings of human sexuality combined with issues of authority - who decides about practices? - concern every body from Mennonites to Greek Orthodox. Clerical abuse scandals have undercut trust relations in parishes and denominations. The press, understandably, "eats this up," knowing how little anyone knows about how to handle sexual themes and incidents and how hungry elements in the public are for stories about ethical lapses in matters sexual. The Institute's report may not please everyone, but it is an important wake-up call.
As we start out a new year of conversations, I think that Martin Marty provides an inspiring model for approaching contemporary issues, and not just on this site.
I think time is ripe for Adventists to start law schools, and I think La Sierra is probably the best place for it. I’ve heard through the grapevine that La Sierra has been interested in it, but I don’t know for sure if they are. My perception is that La Sierra’s location, strong business school, dynamic emphasis on social justice issues, and institutional strength make it an ideal candidate among Adventist colleges and universities to start a law school.
But one might ask - why?
I say, Adventists need to have a law school - a good one - because of our sanctuary message and religious liberty convictions. Just as the message of health and wholeness has led the church to establish medical schools - first in Battle Creek/Chicago, and now in Loma Linda and Montemorelos, Mexico - the sanctuary message and its pregnant meaning for us today ought to awaken Adventists to the possibilities that law schools have for advancing the historic Adventist commitment to the sanctuary and religious liberty.
At the heart of the sanctuary message, we find the ideals of peace, justice, reconciliation, dispute resolution, and search for the truth. Investigative judgment is about acquitting and restoring the innocent. I think Adventists, if we’re truly serious about the sanctuary message, ought to operate law schools, legal aid centers, dispute resolution programs, and peace societies as much as we do in the health arena.
At the heart of our religious liberty teaching lies the cherished values of freedom, respect and upholding of minority rights. Adventists ought to cultivate that by instilling these values through legal training and advocacy programs that champion the right to worship freely and express one’s convictions without hindrance.
Some may argue that the fields of law, government, and public policy is so tainted and worldly that Adventists should not be so directly engage in them. And these concerns are legitimate. But I think the same concerns exist in many other areas, especially in healthcare. In fact, law and medicine, especially in the U.S., are very similar in that both "industries" are mired in great systemic problems, yet both are so needed and both, through deeply flawed means, still accomplish restoration to a great measure.
There is really no reason for Adventists to shy away from law, public policy and social advocacy. In fact, as I’ve said above, our fundamental theological concerns compel us to be engaged leaders in these fields. Toward that end, a law school is necessary. Perhaps at La Sierra, perhaps not. Wherever it may be, I hope it happens soon - as a powerful testimony to and of Christ the Advocate and Intercessor.
After all, isn’t the remnant a group of "commandment"-keeping, "testimony"-bearing messengers to the world who proclaim that the hour of God’s "judgment" has come?
Originally posted on Progressive Adventism.
Steffens Family singing "Jesus Is Coming Again" on 3ABN June 2008.
A conversation between Janet D. Stemwedel, Ph. D. and Dr. Peter Lipson M. D. about the power relationships of health care providers and patients.
What are the contemporary issues in the ethics and economics of medicine? For example, should a provider refrain from providing care if she/he finds your behavior/lifestyle immortal? Why do these objections disproportionately come up on issues of women's health?
Dicussed (click the time to go directly to that topic):
I thought I was all done with my "Adventist mini series," but guess what? I'm not. I have one more thing to say. The last post of this series was my list of the seven things I didn't like about Adventism. It corresponded with an earlier one of 7 things I liked about Adventism.
But, I realize there is an eighth thing I REALLY don't like. That is dishonesty. Whenever SDA's hold meetings to get more members (evangelistic meetings???), they usually do so by blitzing an area with junk mail advertising the meeting. Needless to say, the response is low. However, they send out so much junk mail that they are sure to get several folks.
Whenever possible, Adventists hold meetings in a conference center, civic center, hotel, etc. Small towns do hold meetings in churches. However, when it can be avoided, it is. Neutral places are preferred.
The trend when I left (about 11 years ago) was to have a satellite link-up and hold many meetings in different locations simultaneously. Usually they call them "Prophecy Seminars" or something of the sort. You can often recognize an SDA event because the advertisement will include a whole bunch of eye catching sensationalism, often in the nature of pictures.
They also have door-to-door sales folks (called literature evangelists in SDA circles) that sell books like The Great Controversy or Desire of Ages. These books were written by Ellen White over a century ago. They are very Victorian in style (read wordy), and are sometimes sold under other titles or other pen names (often her maiden name). There are many, many EGW books for sale. Modern (and I might add very useful) books on diet and health are often also sold. All of them (at least 10 years ago) sell, usually in sets, for hundreds of bucks. They can usually be bought at an Adventist Book Center in paperback for about $5 per book.
The thing is, in neither the seminars, nor the book dealing is the "consumer" told they are dealing with Adventists. The plan is to "hook" folks through a prophecy seminar or book and THEN disclose that the dispensers of information are SDA's. This is done because SDA's (at least the leadership) believe this mild "deception by silence" is necessary to prevent bias from shrinking the convert pool.
I always wondered, If there is nothing to hide, why hide it? I was never ashamed of being an SDA. I left for other reasons. Adventists seem to be shooting themselves in the foot-- even as they try to live down the title cult.
I have written about the things I liked about Adventism. One might wonder, Whatever inspired you to leave? You seem to have so many good things to say about the church, why would you quit it? It wasn't easy. There are two reasons for that. First, to leave is to be an apostate. Both my wife and I had been employees of the denomination. I had served as elder in three different congregations. Although not an ordained SDA minister, I had preached a considerable amount. In short, we worried about hurting friends. Second, we had to plan our leaving when we made a move to a different state. Like all fundamentalists, SDA's can't take no for an answer. They would never have left us alone.
In my last posting (1/4), I listed my 7 favorite things about the SDA Church. In keeping with that pattern, I will list the 7 aspects of Adventism I like(d) the least below.
So, if you have read the three posts concerning Adventism, what do I really think of it all? The SDA Church came along at a point in my life some years after I had abandoned fundamentalism. I was seeking community. It provided that. It provided a place, for a while, where I was nurtured as in the old days. But, a point came that I was going to have to leave or buy into the fundamentalist approach. I have many friends in the SDA Church still trying to "hang in there" in the face of a fundamentalist theology and an authoritarian regime. I just couldn't.
James Alexander is an education professor at a small liberal arts college. He is also a minister.
To read the story of his abandonment of fundamentalism and why he finds it intellectually and morally bankrupt, visit his book web site: www.therecoveringfundamentalist.com.
This was sent over by a friend and I'm curious how we train our ministers to address sexuality issues.
CHICAGO, January 8, 2009 – United States seminaries and rabbinical schools are failing to prepare the next generation of clergy with the training they need to address sexuality issues in ministry, according to a study released today by the Religious Institute on Sexual Morality, Justice, and Healing and Union Theological Seminary.
The study, titled Sex and the Seminary: Preparing Ministers for Sexual Health and Justice, reports that sexuality courses are largely absent from most seminary curricula and degree requirements. At most institutions, students can graduate without studying sexual ethics or taking a single sexuality-based course.
“With so many congregations embroiled in controversy over sexual orientation issues, or struggling to address teenage sexuality, or concerned about sexual abuse, there is an urgent need for ordained clergy who understand the connections between religion and sexuality,” said the Rev. Debra W. Haffner, director of the Religious Institute. “Seminaries must do more to prepare students to minister to their congregants and be effective advocates for sexual health and justice.”
Sex and the Seminary is based on a survey of 36 leading seminaries and rabbinical schools of diverse size and geographic location, representing a range of Christian, Jewish and Unitarian Universalist traditions. Each institution was evaluated on criteria for a sexually healthy and responsible seminary. These criteria measure sexuality content in the curriculum; institutional commitment to sexuality and gender equity (e.g., the existence of anti-discrimination, sexual harassment and full inclusion policies); and advocacy and support for sexuality-related issues. The criteria were developed by an advisory group of seminary deans, faculty and clergy with expertise in sexuality. The survey and final report were authored by Dr. Kate Ott, associate director of the Religious Institute.
The survey revealed that:
The study also noted a “stained glass ceiling” in seminaries and a lack of policies on full inclusion of women and gay, lesbian and transgender persons. Two-thirds of the seminaries surveyed have fewer than 40% women serving in faculty, senior administrative and trustee positions, in contrast to student populations that are frequently more than 50% women.
“Religious leaders have a unique opportunity, and moral obligation, to help congregations and communities wrestle with the complexities of sexual health and justice,” said Rev. Dr. Serene Jones, president of Union Theological Seminary in New York. “Is there any subject more important and more on-the-ground crucial than sexual health and human flourishing? This study challenges all of us who are charged with ministerial formation to look closely at the institutional environment we create to prepare our students to be active and informed – and hence to effect people from the pulpit and in the public square.”
Sex and the Seminary recommends that seminaries and religious denominations develop and require competencies in sexuality for ordination to ministry. Most denominations currently do not require ministerial candidates to be competent in sexual health and education beyond sexual harassment prevention, the study noted.
The study also recommends that the Association of Theological Schools, the accrediting body for U.S. seminaries, integrate sexuality education into its standards for ministerial formation. It calls on seminaries to strengthen their curricular offerings and inclusion policies, invest in faculty development and continuing education, and pursue collaboration with other institutions and advocacy groups to expand educational opportunities for seminarians regarding sexuality issues.
The Religious Institute will send copies of the Sex and the Seminary report to every seminary and rabbinical school in the U.S. The report is available online at http://www.religiousinstitute.org/SeminaryReport.html.
The Religious Institute on Sexual Morality, Justice, and Healing, based in Westport, CT, is a nonprofit, multifaith organization dedicated to advocating for sexual health, education and justice in faith communities and society. More than 4,400 clergy, seminary presidents and deans, religious scholars and other religious leaders representing more than 50 faith traditions are part of the Religious Institute’s national network.
Union Theological Seminary, founded in 1836, is an independent, ecumenical graduate school of theology with the mission to educate men and women for ministries in the Christian faith, service in contemporary society and study of the great issues of our time. Located in New York City--where the local and the global intersect daily--the Seminary believes that the city remains a critical training ground for facing such issues.