Karen Ward: Communal Theology
Karen’s chapter was fun to read because one can clearly see how important the role of community is to COTA (Church of the Apostles). In her chapter, and in the life of her church, she draws heavily on the work of Clemens Sedmak. He writes on the idea of local theology-making, specifically in his book, Doing Local Theology: A Guide for Artisans of a New Humanity. Sedmak talks about “little theologies” – theologies that arise out of people in community seeking God out in their daily lives. It’s clear that COTA is about the work of seeking after God, and amidst the many local, “little theologies” they may be creating, they are doing some great work.
When speaking of evangelism, Karen writes:
“So, ‘evangelism’ is not something we do to attract seekers; instead we simply invite others to join us and be part of what God is doing in the world around us, and to help us put God’s eschatology into practice in doing justice, loving kindness, and walking humbly with God” (171).
One thing about Karen’s church that has always interested me is their affiliation to not one, but two mainline denominations, both Lutheran and Anglican. Karen is swimming thoroughly in both mainline streams as well as the Emergent stream and she is a great example of how one can be both faithful to a historic tradition, while looking forward and not just being interested in maintaining the status quo or trying to “renew” old faith. She writes:
“‘The wisdom of past ages without a vision for the future is irrelevant, but a vision of the future ignorant of the lessons of the past is irresponsible’ (from the COTA website). The practices of those who have come before us in the faith are deep roots that support us as we grow together toward God’s future.
We value the traditions handed down to us that are of the gospel. We hold them as treasure entrusted to us for future generations. We will use them creatively to illumine the path we are walking within the emerging culture and toward the kingdom of God” (179).
I was very appreciative of her chapter, and so was very frustrated by a few of Driscoll’s comments in response to her chapter. First, he goes off on the issue of women in ministry. C’mon. After reading the chapter of the only woman contributor to this book, Mark goes off on how Karen is an “unmarried woman who is the senior and only ordained leader in her church” (184) – as if it is any of his business. Then he condemns her for not using enough scripture in her chapter:
“Karen’s chapter raises the important question of what exactly is the level of authority that Scripture holds in the church. Karen’s chapter uses only three Scripture references, an old worship song, an indie rock band, a postmodern philosopher, a church blog, a movie, an obscure theologian, and Hindu Ghandi as her authorities…she quotes the poet Rilke, saying, ‘God speaks to us…out of our own lives, no less so than God speaks to us in the canon of Holy Scripture…’ at the risk of stating the obvious, before we drop the authority of Scripture, we need a better reason than a poem from a non-Christian whose mother wanted a girl so badly that she called him Sophia and made him wear girls’ clothes until the age of five” (184).
I put this quote in just so that you all could see ridiculous some of his statements are. First and foremost, for anyone who is engaged in reaching out to today’s postmoderns, I think a chapter that uses scripture, culture, poetry, philosophy, online media and music as ways to reach out to people will be much more accepted than someone who insists on using over 174 footnotes of Bible verses.
Furthermore, Driscoll’s inane anecdote about Rilke just goes to show his homophobic tendencies and his fear of any type of masculinity that looks different from his own, uber-macho masculinity.
But, before this becomes yet another Driscoll tangent, I should end.