Harvard’s “Finding Our Way Forward”

 “Finding Our Way Forward” is the name of a two day conference held by the Harvard Divinity School in December of 2007. I’m using it for my first blog listing (after the previous one, which I now have as my “About” page.)

The initial reason for making it first is that they have three speakers at their event, and all three are included in my list of Net Prophets. Harvard has, in effect, anointed them prophets by inviting them to share their ideas on the future of the Church. So this first set of four videos introduces you to three “major prophets” of our present day.

The second reason for beginning with this conference is that the number of times it has been viewed is surprisingly few. The third segment, for instance, had only been seen by nine persons before me. Closer scrutiny, though, shows me the fault lies with the divinity school. Though the conference was held in 2007, it was not posted until late May of this year 2014. 

The third reason is my conviction that the topic is a central one today, given the decline of the church in the West: Europe, North America, and in other English speaking countries. For this reason I will not be covering other listings as detailed as I am this one.

Harvard Conference on the Progressive Church Dec 6-7, 2007 4 parts
Finding Our Way Forward
with Marcus Borg, Brian McLaren, Diana Butler Bass

Part 1 Opening Panel  with all three 1:29:52

Part 2  Brian McLaren and Diana Butler Bass  2:00:42

Part 3 Marcus Borg   56:07

Part 4  with all three 1:40:03

Part 1 

Brian McLaren said “Finding Our Way” forward implied that we are lost and laid out eight elements in which we are lost:

1 Religious Right: in retreat so new day for evangelicals.
2 Mainline churches: have lost their privileged status.
3 Among Roman Catholics: a widespread fear- clergy abuse, hierarchy’s cover-up, and Vatical II aborted.
4 Secular world awakened: Faith in Secular City perceived to be a failure.
5 America: aware of loss in no longer being the only one on the block.
6 The West: despair over the shift in way we think.
7 Global South: struggles in finding positive way after end of colonialism.
8 Global: struggle with depletion of the planet.

Marcus Borg: A new form of Christianity is being born in North America.
1 More about centering in God than in believing.
2 More about this life than the after life.
3 More about a way or path of transformation than about sin. guilt, forgiveness.
4 More about religious meaning of language than a literal, factual meaning of language
5 Tends to be more political progressive than politically conservative or indifferent.

Diana Butler Bass: prepared to focus on congregations from her study of 50 vital mainline churches covered in her “Christianity for the Rest of Us”. In preparation for this, she as a historian, selected three time pictures of the state of the churches in the last 40-50 years.
1 1954: the time of the high water mark of the churches. It was the height of the power and privilege of the church.
2 1976: Evangelicalism comes to the fore, time of Liberation Theology, every denomination brought out new hymnals and prayer books, women ordained. Energizing time.
3. Present moment.

Part 2 Brian McLaren: Three world coexisting on the planet.
1 Pre-modern or non-modern world.
2 Modern world.
3 Post modern or Emerging world.

Between 1 and 2 Christianity (and Islam) exploding.
In 2 a steady, modern world, Christianity is declining.
Where people are entering 3 Christianity is practically non-existent. No one has translated the faith to Post modern thought forms. Two responses to modern atheism.

Changing the substance of our faith:
1 What is theology: timeless propositions from Text? An ongoing creative enterprise? C S Lewis’s poem “A footnote to all prayer.”
2 Nature of the church: Not primarily saving individual souls for heaven, but making disciples for the Kingdom of God. Congregation is the place for making change agents.
3 Eschatology: what would it look like to be a church that does not see itself as preparing for the destruction of our space-time universe? Change from a religion that makes changes in the first 3 hard to deal with.
4. New reason for reading the Bible. Foundationalism vs post-foundationalism.

Diana Butler Bass: Mainline problem is less theological, more structural/organizational. Our structures inhibit change. Four steps in looking at organizations that are not succeeding.

Example of managed change: video of Church of the Epiphany, Wash D C. The difference is not in programs but in practices.

Part 3 Marcus Borg: Major changes underway in emerging congregations, which are communities of transformation. Needs
1 Adult Christian Re-education: About the most vital task for church today.
A. For present members living out past realities. Need re-education.
B. For new Christians coming into the church as adults. Don’t know Bible or tradition.
2. This education needs to be about the big topics:
A. Word God.
B. Bible content.
C. Jesus
D. Prayer
E. Christian life.

Part 4 Dialogue plus Q and As.