Monday, February 25, 2002

Jim of JH3K promised to report on the Pastor's Conference at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis. He did report on one of Carl Ellis' messages in a Sensus Plenior post, but I figured no one would ever see it, so I'm posting it here for your perusal:

Anyway, Ellis' talk: He began by discussing his idea of the "unchurchable" - essentially those people to whom the methods, statements, and attitudes of American churches mean virtually nothing. By not addressing particular concerns and speaking in the way that we do, we exclude large groups of people from, essentially, being able to relate to the church, and Ellis finds that this group, predominantly black, tends to find its concerns addressed instead by groups like the nation of islam.

His basic assertion as to why we leave this gap of "unchurchables": essentially our gospel is "inadequate". He used a matrix of what the term "righteousness" consists of, that it has a personal and social dimension, and that it addresses both godliness and justice. The American church is concerned first and foremost with personal godliness, while the concerns of unchurchables are primarily in the realm of social justice. (Social here is primarily in terms of the body of Christ as a whole, and not with the typical governmental association it usually has; he considers social Godliness, for example, to be typified by corporate worship).

His example of how social justice was worked out for a sub-dominant group from the scripture was the book of Nehemiah, and he discussed how essentially Nehemiah came in with the goal of empowering the Jews to have sufficiency and not be forced to rely on the oppressive dominant group for their livelihood - he reestablished Jewish agriculture, and he addressed tension among the Jewish people, particuarly in monetary exploitation.

He also had a matrix of Unrighteousness - in place of Godliness and Justice were Ungodliness and Oppression, individual and institutional; and again said the church primarily addresses individual ungodliness, while black people are more concerned with institutional oppression - oppression being fundamentally the combination of sinfulness and power, and any participation within an oppressive institution is implicitly then involvement in that oppression. The illustration he has here for oppression and righteousness is the story of Judah and Tamar.

Within the oppressor/oppressed relationship, Ellis said the oppressed always has a more righteous position, inherent in that oppressed groups position vis a vis the oppressor. The biggest concern he has here is that when oppression is alleviated in some way, a group typically believes it's righteousness is intrinsic, not to the position of the oppressed, but instead to their group; this can lead a formerly oppressed group to be oppressive, because it firmly believes it is righteous in and of itself and not because of the position it is in.

Unfortunately, the talk, which was fantastic, was primarily conceptual. He had one example of practical social justice (a church working to provide homeowner loans to people in areas that are redlined by banks), but otherwise it was just an introduction and though-provocation about his idea of righteousness and oppression.

Thanks Jim for being a hotdogblog correspondent...your check is in the mail.

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