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

len on July 23rd, 2014


“In this thoughtful and interesting work, Leonard explores the importance of place, locality and presence to the Christian faith. In an age when we see the rise of the network to the demise of geographic location contemporary expressions of the neighborhood can feel like co-habilitating strangers. This book creatively explores the place of Christianity to be counter-cultural, to recover the importance of the sacred in the local.”

Ian Mobsby, Writer, teacher and Anglican Minister and leader of the Moot Community, a New Monastic Community in Central London UK.

No Home Like Place is a walk through dense woods, theologically and poetically, guiding the reader into contemplation and reflection. And it’s a thin place, offering a spacious venue for astonishment and encounter. To find someone rebuilding place after the great postmodern deconstruction is beautiful. This book offers itself as a worthy companion for miles to come.

Brad Jersak, PhD. Author: Her Gates Will Never Be Shut. Westminster Theological College

There are many of us in places far and wide, practitioners seeking to live God’s call to the neighbourhood. We are committed to the most local expressions of discipleship because we have a gut sense that place matters to God and to the nature of Christian mission. What Len provides in this book a wonderful resource to those of us committed to the neighbourhood, a cogent, carefully researched and sensitively written theology of place that will sustain and strengthen our commitments.

Simon Carey Holt, Author: God Next Door: Spirituality and Mission in the Neighbourhood

In a society in which families are spread out across the continent, and suburban shopping malls from Vancouver to Halifax to Phoenix all seek to sell us the same goods from the same chain stores, Len invites us to think deeply about “place”: about being located and rooted. Hjalmarson draws an extraordinary range of sources into conversation, which in turn provides the reader with a marvelous array of writers and poets to explore. His closing chapter, “Re-placing the World through the Arts,” does not so much end as invite us into the terrain of imagination and possibility.”

Jamie Howison, Priest and pastor, St. Benedict’s Table.
Author, God’s Mind in That Music

“Deep down, all humans are homesick for a place they have never been. It’s the post-Eden trauma: Man searching for the one place that God hangs out. But that particular search can only be found where heaven colonizes Earth. That’s the big idea of Jesus: the Kingdom as God’s uncontested rule comes to a place near you. I call these places Kingdom Colonies, Gardens of God that will increasingly emerge as people stop ‘doing the church thing’ and start to model what the whole world has been waiting for far too long…”

Wolfgang Simson, Coach and Innovator. Author, The Starfish Manifesto, and Houses That Change the World.

No Home Like Place is now available with The Urban Loft Publishers.


Download a sample Theology of Place – Introduction2014

len on July 22nd, 2014

booksWho 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 concept and why it’s important. At the end of this post I’ll share links to some videos connected to the most recent books on neighbouring.

Some time ago I uploaded an image of the best books on “place” currently available. These are the ones I have, and there are related books that deserve mention, like Simon Carey Holt, God Next Door (Acorn Press, 2007). So let me walk through this stack. I’ve cracked each of them, read most of them, but also a disclaimer: I don’t have a degree in philosophy, human geography, phenomenology or culture :) In alphabetical order:

Bachelard, The Poetics of Space. 1951. 241 pp.

Bachelard applies the method of phenomenology to architecture basing his analysis not on purported origins (as in Enlightenment thinking) but on lived experience of architecture. He considers spatial types such as the attic, the cellar, drawers and the like. He implicitly urges architects to base their work on the experiences it will engender rather than on abstract rationales. Bachelard is concerned with the architecture of the imagination. Read the rest of this entry »

len on July 19th, 2014

genderMy friend Dave Fitch writes,

“The NT church is not about whether women should be “over” men or men “over” women. It is about eliminating the “over” entirely. It is about abolishing the politics of anybody being over anybody and instead we all come together mutually under one Lord where the organization of authority is centered in the recognition of the charismatic gifts of the Holy Spirit at work regularly in the body of Christ under the one head – Lord Jesus Christ This is the new community created in Christ, a foretaste of the Kingdom.

“Too often however the complimentarian/egalitarian logic thwarts this dynamic. “Complementarian” approaches to leadership keeps hierarchy (and thereby patriarchy) in place. “Egalitarian” approaches to leadership often (unintentionally) become the means to ensconce “male dominant” ways/structures of leadership and then invite women into them…”

Dave suggests that what is greatly needed is an exploration of the New Testament view of women and men in leadership in light of –

** the Kingdom
** the gifts of the Holy Spirit in the Church
** the already/but not yet eschatology of Scripture.

Dave has really pushed this conversation over the past few years, going back in fact to around 2006 IIRC. You can always hear his heart coming through — his heart to follow Jesus without compromise, and to encourage others to do the same, regardless of gender, and in light of the very things he lists above.

From my own listening to the pain, and passion and vision, of Christian women who have endured in the church, with great patience and grace, under patriarchal systems it’s important that we also acknowledge the subtle dynamic of theological frameworks, grounded in faulty and transparent cultural assumptions. Those assumptions, and the distortions they produce in theological frameworks, have to be confronted in the spirit of mercy and truth, at the same time as we attempt to approach the Scripture afresh.

Moreover, that work, both negatively and positively — the deconstruction of existing systems and creative engagement of the text — should be led by women, with men working alongside. Women need to set the pace and the agenda: they need to be given that power also. It’s always very risky for those who have held the reigns to lead any oppressed people to freedom: it can subtly reinforce the stance of “you really need us to help you” – the existing power dynamic we are attempting to subvert. And the voices of those who have experienced prejudice need to be heard as we work together. There are nuances to the conversation that we will otherwise miss, and thus richer opportunities for healing and growth.

I don’t think dave excludes any of this: I just want to make it explicit. So while it’s a somewhat different category, I want to extend his list. An exploration of the New Testament will have to be paired with an exploration of tradition and cultural liturgies, the deconstructive side of the work.

len on July 17th, 2014

“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 belongeth 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 dearworthy 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 beginneth the Motherhood of Grace; the third is Motherhood of working,—and therein is a forthspreading by the same Grace, of length and breadth and height and of deepness without end. And all is one Love.”

Showings, LIX

len on July 15th, 2014

In an interview at Comment, Jonathan Bradford describes key values at ICCF:


“We believe strongly in our responsibility to respect the Johnson and Hernandez families. God has thought enough of them to create them in His image. He wants good for them. He wants opportunity and hope and flourishing and nurture. He wants shalom. He wanted shalom for my wife and I when we were married forty-two years ago. We had various ways that helped us achieve that, a college degree, supportive parents, and so forth. The Johnsons and the Hernandez families may not have that.

“Respecting these families that God sends our way means not holding wrongs against them, just as we read in 2 Corinthians 5: “The old is gone and new has come.” God’s care extends far beyond my heart and to every area of my activity, all of my being as a citizen in His Kingdom and in the city. Respecting the family, not holding the wrong turns against them, communicating hope and optimism is an extremely important thing.


“How do we respect? By expecting the pursuit of opportunity. That might sound like just a little clever turn of a phrase but, hey, you know what? If you regard the Hernandez and Johnson families as perfectly capable—as wanting good for themselves, as reaching for something more—for stability that has eluded them. We want to say to them: here is your chance to learn, to grow. “Mr. Johnson, Mrs. Johnson, what have you aspired to achieve?” Inevitably, we’re going to hear a financial roadblock. They’re going to say, “Yeah. I wanted to take that course at community college so I could qualify for a raise at work but I could never get the $300 tuition together.” “Well, sure, Mr. Johnson because you’re spending 55% of your income on inadequate, unsafe housing and there’s no reason why you should have to continue to do that.”

“When Mr. Johnson can go from spending $850 to spending $550, Mr. Johnson has a $300 a month raise. That’s $3,600 post-tax cash stays in his pocket. What, Mr. Johnson, can you do with $3,600? Will you take that class at the community college? Will you address the health issue you’ve been denying, ducking? On and on, the pursuit of opportunity.

“The final word, the final value that is, to my way of thinking as powerful, as important, as central as anything: that is simply beauty.