Thoughts on the “Church and Post-Christian Culture” Conference (Part 2)

missio-allianceI’m still trying to get some thoughts on paper about the recent Church and Post-Christian Culture conference, held September 19-20 at the Carlisle Brethren in Christ Church and sponsored by Missio Alliance. I hope to dedicate some time to that later this week.

Meanwhile, check out some further reflections on the event from participants and attendees.

Stay tuned for more!

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A Pietist Perspective on “Staying Christ-Centered” in Christian Higher Ed

The new edited collection by Chris Gehrz of Bethel University, to be released by InterVarsity Press in January 2015 (IVP)

The new edited collection by Chris Gehrz of Bethel University, to be released by InterVarsity Press in January 2015 (IVP)

It’s probably not too Christ-centered to admit this in a public forum, but I’m jealous of my Messiah College colleagues who attended the Christian College Consortium gathering at Wheaton College this week. I’m jealous of them because they got to spend several days discussing issues of relevance to Christian higher education (a subject I’m quite passionate about). I’m also jealous because they got to hear a great presentation from my friend Chris Gehrz, a history professor at Bethel University in Minnesota, who spoke on “Staying Christ-Centered: A Pietist Perspective.”

(Actually, I got to spend time with Chris this past weekend at the 2014 Conference on Faith and History, but conveniently forgot to chat him up about this talk!)

Fortunately, Chris has posted his remarks at his excellent blog, The Pietist Schoolman. (And it just so happens that Chris’ latest pots marks his return to regular blogging after a month-long hiatus.)

Here’s a taste of Chris’ talk:

So how would a Pietist advise a college or university seeking to stay “Christ-centered”?

1. Staying is not static: Bethel historian Virgil Olson once wrote that a Pietist ethos will always arise in response to any “superficial Christianity… that has the form of piety and lacks the power thereof.” If 17th century Pietists bemoaned how the supposedly “evangelical” churches of their day had turned the pulpit, lectern, font, and confessional into “four dumb idols,” then their 21st century descendants should be particularly attuned to the danger of the same thing happening to supposedly evangelical colleges and universities. Classrooms, chapels, dorms, and stadiums can become dumb idols too.

If nothing else, Pietism is about the process of being made new. For a Pietist university to stay Christ-centered, it must continue to find new ways to make new persons who serve a new church, taking up the mission of a God who is making all things new.

So staying is not static, or stationary. At our worst, Pietists’ centering on Christ has entailed retreat and withdrawal, turning in on ourselves and away from the world. At our best, though, Pietists have stayed centered on a Christ of movement, a Christ who invites us to “follow me” — into the missions field, into the realm of ideas, into places of poverty and suffering, and into seasons of change and disruption.

To read Chris’ comments in their entirety, click here.

Chris’ comments come from his forthcoming edited collection, The Pietist Vision of Christian Higher Education, which will be published by InterVarsity Press in early 2015 (and is now available for pre-order). I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy!

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Born-Again Brethren in Christ: Week #12 — Drafting, Cutting, Re-Drafting

writing-gifClick here for some background on this post.

This week, I added another 2,000 words to my article draft. I also cut an entire section — on the influence of Youth for Christ on the Brethren in Christ — from the manuscript. (I’m thinking I may have enough material here for a separate article on the evolution of Brethren in Christ youth ministry in the 20th century. Stay tuned.) In addition, I pared down one of the earlier sections (on the influence of NAE affiliation).

My goal for this article is 30 double-spaced pages (plus endnotes). Right now, I’m at 22 pages. And I still have most of my final section to write! It’s very likely that I’ll spend a lot of time paring down the article after I complete the first full draft.

(Thanks to John Fea for the excellent GIF featured in this post!)

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Photo Friday: Planting a Church in the Suburbs

In the early 1960s, the Brethren in Christ planted the Skyline View congregation in suburban Harrisburg, Pa., using methods gleaned from the Evangelical Church Growth movement. This photo, from the groundbreaking, depicts a formerly "plain people" in the midst of a cultural transformation. (Brethren in Christ Historical Library and Archives)

In the early 1960s, the Brethren in Christ planted the Skyline View congregation in suburban Harrisburg, Pa., using methods gleaned from the Evangelical Church Growth movement. This photo, from the groundbreaking, depicts a formerly “plain people” in the midst of a cultural transformation. (Brethren in Christ Historical Library and Archives)

Today’s Photo Friday depicts an understudied — yet vitally important — aspect of Brethren in Christ religious life in the 1960s and 1970s: the Church Growth movement.

After the jump: the Skyline View congregation as a case study in the Brethren in Christ adopting of Church Growth methodology. Continue reading

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Brooke Strayer Continues Her Historical Activism on the Brethren in Christ Peace Position

Former Messiah College student Brooke Strayer giving a presentation on the history of the Brethren in Christ peace position at the 2014 Conference on Faith and History undergraduate research conference. Yes, those are surfboards behind her -- she's presenting in the Pepperdine University Surfboard Museum!

Former Messiah College student Brooke Strayer giving a presentation on the history of the Brethren in Christ peace position at the 2014 Conference on Faith and History undergraduate research conference. Yes, those are surfboards behind her — she’s presenting in the Pepperdine University Surfboard Museum!

My former Messiah College student Brooke Strayer has been knocking it out of the park recently.

Readers of The Search for Piety and Obedience might remember Brooke from her presentation earlier this year about the history of the Brethren in Christ peace position. (I blogged about it here.) And as I wrote yesterday, she also recently presented an abridged version of her research on the same topic at a breakout session at the “Church and Post-Christian Culture” conference. Later this fall, she’ll also present as part of the What Young Historians are Thinking event sponsored by the Sider Institute at Messiah College and the Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society. (More on that event later.)

Today, I had the pleasure of hearing Brooke present her research again, as part of the undergraduate research conference of the 2014 Conference on Faith and History. (Readers will also know that I’m in Malibu, California for the next two days to participate in the main CFH conference.) I was impressed by Brooke’s presentation. She did not read her paper verbatim (she later told me she would bore herself if she read the paper word for word!) like most people do at academic conferences. Instead, she spoke with notes and even threw in some personal asides during her talk.

Brooke also answered audience questions with a lot of wisdom and poise. As my Messiah College colleague (and Brooke’s former academic advisor) John Fea commented to her after her talk, Brooke walks the fine line between historian and activist. She sees the history of the Brethren in Christ as a “usable past” for those who want to promote the peace tradition in our churches today — meaning that we can learn a lot from the good (and bad) ways that Brethren in Christ have practiced peace in the past. Yet she is clear that we cannot simply revert back to an earlier age. I think we need more “historical activists” like Brooke!

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“What Is an Evangelical?”

Over at his blog The Way of Improvement Leads Home, Messiah College professor and blogger John Fea has been uploading new videos to his Virtual Office Hours series. One of his most recent, “What is an Evangelical?” is fascinating viewing.

If you watch the post, you’ll see that Fea offers a good five-minute overview of the various ways that scholars of religion have tried to define the term “Evangelical” — a notoriously unstable category. He spends most of his time talking about the famous Bebbington quadrilateral, a popular definition of Evangelicalism developed by a British historian in his 1989 book Evangelicalism in Modern Britain. (By the way, I’ll be hearing Bebbington and several other prominent scholars speak about the 25th anniversary of this book tomorrow, at the 2014 Conference on Faith and History.) And then he talks about the many cultural markers that have come to define Evangelicalism in the 20th century.

Readers: What would you add to Fea’s definitions of Evangelicalism?

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Off to Malibu: The 2014 Meeting of the Conference on Faith and History

cfh-2014As my Messiah College colleague John Fea put it: “We historians have it rough.”

By the time readers of The Search for Piety and Obedience see this post, I’ll be halfway to Pepperdine University in sunny Malibu, California, to participate in the 2014 gathering of the Conference on Faith and History (CFH). CFH is an organization of Christian historians, and their biennial meeting always features a conference of research presentations, roundtable discussions, and plenary talks from leading Christian scholars.

This year, the conference theme is “Christian Historians and Their Publics.” For a public historian like me, it’s a great topic — one that promises intellectual stimulation and good conversation about a pertinent yet under-discussed aspect of doing history.

I have only one real obligation during the conference: participating in a Saturday morning roundtable on the topic, “The Role of Historians in Managing Institutional Change.” Pietist Schoolman Chris Gehrz (Bethel University) will moderate a discussion between myself, Mark Norris (Grace College) and Shirley Mullen (Houghton College). I’m hoping I can make a modest contribution to the conversation.

I’m excited to attend a lot of the other sessions, too — in fact, there’s so much good stuff packed into this year’s schedule that I’m sad I can attend only one session at a time! I’m particularly looking forward to a conversation about Christian public history moderated by my Messiah College colleague Jim LaGrand, and to various other panels dealing with topics of interest: American Evangelicalism, Christian faith and public memory, the history of Christian colleges and universities, and others.

My former student Brooke Strayer will be presenting at the undergraduate conference that precedes the main conference, and will be sharing the results of her research into the history of the Brethren in Christ peace position.

If you’re interested, I’ll likely be tweeting the conference @devinmzt. Maybe I’ll follow up with a blog post or two, as well.

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