len on August 14th, 2014

Thus our Lady is our Mother in whom we are all enclosed and of her born, in Christ: (for she that is Mother of our Saviour is Mother of all that shall be saved in our Saviour;) and our Saviour is our Very Mother in whom we be endlessly borne, and never shall come out of Him. Plenteously and fully and sweetly was this shewed …
Showings, LVII

For in these three is all our life: Nature, Mercy, Grace: whereof we have meekness and mildness; patience and pity; and hating of sin and of wickedness,—for it belongs properly to virtue to hate sin and wickedness. And thus is Jesus our Very Mother in Nature [by virtue] of our first making; and He is our Very Mother in Grace, by taking our nature made. All the fair working, and all the sweet natural office of precious Motherhood is impropriated to the Second Person: for in Him we have this Godly Will whole and safe without end, both in Nature and in Grace, of His own proper Goodness. I understood three manners of beholding of Motherhood in God: the first is grounded in our Nature’s making; the second is taking of our nature — and there begins the Motherhood of Grace; the third is Motherhood of working,—and therein is a spreading forth by the same Grace, of length and breadth and height and of deepness without end. And all is one Love. – Showings, LIX

It strikes me as noteworthy that Jesus chose an earthly mother, but his father was given by virtue of inheritance and position. I mean that Jesus was well and truly human only by virtue of his mother. That is the classic position which evangelicals, along with many others, have held, and it is the understanding we take from a careful reading of Scripture. Mary was a virgin when she became pregnant by the Holy Spirit. Jesus chose this girl to be his mother. Joseph came along for the ride (without meaning to denigrate the importance of a caring father!) Lately I’ve been pondering the implications, and Dame Julian has helped.

It was in 1373, when Julian was just over 30 years old and living with her mother, that she received her visions. In her book she tells that she had desired 3 graces from God, including three divine wounds; true contrition, loving compassion and a longing for God. In her 30th year she became sick to the point of death. The priest came and gave her the last rites. A few days later, on the Third Sunday after Easter, May 8th, having again been visited by her priest, the pain suddenly left her and a series of wonderful ‘Revelations’ or ‘Showings’ began. It was this experience that convinced her that she had to devote her life totally to God. Read the rest of this entry »

len on August 13th, 2014

The recovery of place has significance for more than the arts; it has rich missional significance. In fact, the recovery of missio Dei is directly related to a recovery of place. Without this way of seeing, the Incarnation becomes a doctrine that we embrace with our minds while refusing to know it in practice. Charles Taylor calls this “excarnation” in A Secular Age. Compare the words of Leanne Simpson, the First Nations academic: “Colonialism and capitalism are based on extracting and assimilating. My land is seen as a resource… The act of extraction removes all of the relationships that give whatever is being extracted meaning.” (interview with Canadian indigenous elder Leanne Simpson in YES magazine. “Dancing the World Into Being.” March 5, 2013.)

It’s people like Leanne Simpson who cued me to the connection between place and post-colonial theology. And in order for us to recover a biblical view of land, and the spiritual practices associated with it, we’ll need to make another connection: that between land and covenant. Over-emphasis on the latter yields a place-space trade, where concrete place is once again abstracted into space. But the differences are profound. Walter Brueggemann writes,

“Space” means an arena of freedom, without coercion or accountability, free of pressures and void of authority. But “place” is a very different matter. Place is space which has historical meanings, where some things have happened which are now remembered … Place is indeed a protest against the unpromising pursuit of space. It is a declaration that our humanness cannot be found in escape, detachment, absence of commitment and undefined freedom. (The Land, 6)

Moreover, a post-colonial theology of place must translate the general experience of oppression into the concrete particularity of dispossession. Who are the dispossessed? It’s usually those who have no power, or those who have been marginalized because of race or religion. See this video: Broken Covenant.

len on August 4th, 2014

Back in 2009 Roger Helland I began talking about the integration of mission and spirituality: that these were never meant to be two parallel tracks, but a rhythm of life in discipleship. That book came out around 240 pages, and is aimed at college and seminary students and others doing serious theological reflection. It left room for something more integrative in execution, and more introductory.

I’ve finished the introductory volume I began working on last summer. It is 80 pages and 12,000 words, with lots of full color images. I approached the subject with an aim to integration – to move beyond abstraction and words alone – and to appeal to both artistic and structural types. The book still leans to the academic side by virtue of many footnotes! And hopefully, also by continuing to encourage rich theological reflection. Links —

Intro to a Missional Spirituality

“If we are to avoid the legalisms associated with driven activism or the disobedience associated with wimpy passivism we will need to learn how to worship God in the fulness of life. This is no mean feat and in fact requires a serious reorientation from the prevailing evangelical spirituality of quiet times in quiet places. Len has gifted us with precisely such a reorientation in this book. I am grateful.” –Alan Hirsch

Also available for Kindle. Download a sample here —

Intro Missional Spirituality

len on August 2nd, 2014


Who had heard of “missional” church prior to 1998 (the publication by the GOCN)? Now “missional” is everywhere. What really changed? Sometimes we need new language in order to see. The language of “place” recovers a lost imagination, one obscured in the legacy of Modernity where we traded “place” for “space,” the concrete for the abstract. Recovering language helps us recover an ability to enter the texture, colors and rhythms of the places we dwell. “Place – An Introduction” introduces the loss and recovery of place.

I’ve finished the introductory volume I began working on last summer. it is 80 pages and 12,000 words, with lots of full color images. I approached the subject with an aim to integration – to move beyond abstraction and words alone – and to appeal to both artistic and structural types. The book still leans to the academic side by virtue of many footnotes! And hopefully, also by continuing to encourage rich theological reflection. Links —

Intro to Theology of Place

“Len’s writing provokes thinking, stirs the imagination, and calls forth and nurtures one’s inner longings to put down roots, to invest in one’s home, neighbourhood, workplace, and city, and to join with others in welcoming and bearing witness to God’s presence and kingdom in our midst. A valuable contribution!”

Patrick Franklin, Assistant Professor of Theology and Ethics, Providence Theological Seminary.

Also available for Kindle. Download a sample here —

Intro Theology of Place

len on July 31st, 2014

In times of drastic change, it is the learners
who inherit the future.
The learned find themselves well equipped
to live in a world that no longer exists.

Eric Hoffer

“Every few hundred years in Western history, there occurs a sharp transformation. Within a few short decades, society rearranges itself—its worldview; its basic values; its social and political structure; its arts; its key institutions. Fifty years later, there is a new world. And the people born then cannot imagine the world in which their grandparents lived and into which their own parents were born. We are currently living through just such a transformation.” Peter Drucker, 1993 – See more at: http://nextreformation.com/?p=5901#sthash.3QD572rT.dpuf

See “Movements That Change the World” and “The Great Emergence

len on July 30th, 2014

Craig Bartholomew writes,

“A phenomenology of place is attractive in its receptivity to the richness of creation as it presents itself to the mind, but the problem of abstraction as the key to true knowledge continues to overshadow such an approach. Indeed the great lesson from this history of the philosophy of place in the Western tradition is the skepticism about everyday, lived experience, and the trust in abstraction to lead us to true knowledge of the world. Abstraction is hereby separated from everyday experience and trumps it in terms of knowledge.” (Where Mortals Dwell, 182)

Along similar lines, but with reference to welcoming other worldviews, Teri Merrick writes: “Until English-speaking evangelical institutions reexamine and modify the concept of objectivity permeating their speech and practice, they will continue to perpetuate the system of epistemic injustice inherited from their predecessors.” (Evangelical Postcolonial Conversations, 108)

len on July 29th, 2014

“The church growth movement’s captivity to Western, white culture yields an expression of underlying racism. Under the guise of doing what is best for evangelistic efforts, racial segregation could be justified for the sake of church growth. Couched as a church growth principle, the homogenous unit principle yields a segregation that furthers racial conflict and alienation. Blindly adhering to the .. principle, therefore, has resulted in an American evangelicalism incapable of dealing with the reality of a growing cultural pluralism and ethnic heterogeneity. De facto segregation perpetuated by the church growth movement yielded a disenfranchisement of nonwhites from the larger evangelical movement as Western, white values of success shaped American evangelicalism’s perception of success. the church growth movement served the function of furthering the defining of American evangelicalism by Western, white culture.”

The Next Evangelicalism, 98

len on July 28th, 2014

A few weeks ago I listened to a speaker on Q-Ideas who identified herself as both evangelical and feminist. But something in her presentation made me uneasy. At the time, I simply wondered aloud whether she had any real connection to women outside her own socio-economic circles. Reading Jayachitra Lalitha yesterday in “Evangelical Postcolonial Conversations,” I realized that what I was identifying was the old middle class, colonial, evangelical echo-chamber.

Jayachitra summarizes some of the history of the feminist conversation as it encountered the postcolonial discourse. She notes that three issues were identified in the early attempts:

“First, postcolonial feminists demonstrated how male-centered postcolonial discourse overlooked and underplayed gender differences and women’s concerns (held by women of both developed and developing countries); second, feminists of developing countries, in solidarity with their male counterparts, questioned male colonial tendencies of developed-world biblical scholarship; third, developing-world feminists complained that developed-world feminists had overlooked the colonial contexts of biblical texts and compromised with the colonial agenda embedded in them.”

“In such a complex methodological situation, exploring possibilities for critiquing power relations among women themselves as colonizers and colonized calls for sincere engagement… The analysis of gender intersections with respect to colonialism and patriarchy unfolds complex realities of women acting in favor of the same ideologies that they in fact attempt to fight against.” (81)

len on July 27th, 2014

“The fundamental way in which we humans respond to our cultural situation — and ultimately to God, who comes to us clothed in this situation — is by our doing and making — in other words, by our praxis and poesis (Greek for “doing” and “making”). Humans make themselves and forge their identity through their doing and their making. As Graham Ward puts this, these activities, which are related, are “expressions by which the soul may arrive at truth.” But I want to argue that, spiritually, the category of “making” is more important than “doing” (praxis). We define ourselves not by the ordinary processes of living but by the larger symbolic activities by which we “make something” of ourselves. I want to call this larger sphere of imaginative and affective making our ‘poetics.’”

William Dyrness, Poetic Theology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2011) 38

len on July 25th, 2014

During the time scholars were first recovering the notion of principalities and powers, James S. Stewart suggested in a path-breaking article still relevant today that something but vital had been lost in Christian anthropology by the reduction of the concept to mere apocalyptic imagination.

Stewart claimed first of all that the sense of a cosmic battle manifested visibly on the stage of the world events had been lost. More significant, he continued, was the loss with respect to the doctrine of the atonement. Theologies stressing only the revelatory dimension of Christ’s death have not taken seriously the New Testament focus on the demonic nature of the evil from which humankind must be redeemed. Thus, a basic component of the Christian gospel has been sidelined as extra. Stewart underlined this New Testament concentration as follows:

“The really tragic force of the dilemma of history and of the human predicament is not answered by any theology which speaks of the Cross as a revelation of love and mercy — and goes no further. But the primitive proclamation went much further. It spoke of an objective transaction which had changed the human situation and indeed the universe, the cosmos itself. It spoke of the decisive irrevocable defeat of the powers of darkness. It spoke of the Cross … as the place where three factors had met and interlocked: the design of man, the will of Jesus, the [purpose] of God… This three-fold drama can be understood only when the New Testament teaching on the invisible cosmic powers… is taken seriously and given due weight.” (194-95, 1950)

Marva Dawn, Powers, Weakness and the Tabernacling of God 8-9