Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Dead or alive: The Unbound Church Conference? Update

See update at the bottom:

Jack Haberer of the Presbyterian Outlook has a small news item up entitled, “Church gets call of Lazarus.” It is about a Presbyterian “Church Unbound conference.” It is evidently meant as a way of releasing the church from its apostolic foundations. I say this because of the speakers and the fact that, as Haberer puts it:

Worship leaders Liz Kaznak and Jud Hendricks, both pastors from Louisville, Ky., explained that it was time to bury the church — the church we have known. Like Lazarus, the church can be unbound only after it gets resurrected. And it can be resurrected only after it dies. So a black cave on the stage awaited the presentation of conferees’ burial of the dead church, the “entity” that had wounded them, had killed their hopes, had transacted and promoted death. The cave also invited attendees to present their fears, such as the fear of “all things new,” and the fear of losing one’s privileges or confronting one’s prejudices, that would need to die and be buried there.

I wrote a blog posting on Jud Hendrixs two years ago. The name of it was Something mystical this way comes: A new syncretism in the Presbyterian Church USA. It should probably have been titled “Something New Age this way comes.” Here are some quotes from Hendrixs taken from the posting. The first one is about Jesus discovering who he is!

Something about Jesus wakes and he becomes the Christ. The metaphor of becoming enlightened or becoming into his own and at this point he somehow realizes who he is, the beloved, and he is united with God, all of creation and all of men.

And a quote from a sermon on the baptism of Jesus:
A person wakes up, Jesus a human person … wakes up to the reality that all is sacred, that he is God … He somehow becomes the channel for truth and grace… somehow with this new moment there is a new potential for the human experience.” … “There is new opportunity for all of history for us to wake up and realize who we are … we are god present in time and space.

So perhaps we are suppose to bury the biblical truth that Jesus Christ is the unique Son of the Father. That he alone is eternally one with the Father and the Holy Spirit. We are the adopted sons and daughters of God, bought by the precious blood of Jesus Christ.

Many, but not all, of the other speakers are those who are helping in the attempt to change our ordination standards, such as Margaret Aymer. And the emergent movement was certainly represented with Brian McLaren as guest.

There is a real image of death here. It is not a death that rises in resurrection but a death that grows into a great stench. And it is a death that causes sorrow, not a sorrow unto repentance because the members are looking for ways to bury what the Bible and the Church has always upheld. The church can only be bound by disbelief, heresy and rejection of her Lord.

When we open the door, even a crack, to one kind of darkness all other wretchedness follows because the father of lies encourages more lies.

Jud Hendrixs once e-mailed me about my posting; he wrote: “You have not miss quoted me or miss represented my views. But what good comes of your public critique. I am not going to change what I believe or how I practice my faith because you or others disagree. I do not see the "good" in this type of critical engagement.”

He is right, in a sense; my writing will not change his or any other person’s views. But it is a warning to the church that you cannot mix light with darkness. If the Church is to be unbound it will be in faithful submission to the Lord of the Church, Jesus Christ. And it will mean submission to the authority of his word the Bible.

Update: There has been a misunderstanding: I didn’t mean to say that Jack Haberer said that the conference was a way of releasing the church from its apostolic foundations. If that is what my readers think I said I am sorry. Rather, I meant that Jud Hendrixs, who explained that the church needed to die and be resurrected and put up the display to be used, might will have meant that. I say that because he believes Jesus’ only realized he was God through enlightenment and that it is possible for humanity to become gods in the same way. I also say that because many leaders at the conference want to change our ordination standards.


Beloved Spear said...

This one is a bit difficult. On the one hand, there are clearly "new" things that are way off limits. We can reject something "new" if it clearly destroys the essence of the Gospel, if it harms our love of God and neighbor, and moves us away from following Christ to seeking ourselves and our own interests.

On the other...there is much in the church that does need to die. Privilege and prejudice do need to be abandoned. Pouring our energy into forms and structures that no longer work only impedes our ability to articulate the Gospel.

Your description of the stench, for some reason, calls to mind Martha's response to Christ in John 11:38-40. It may not be as you fear.

Viola Larson said...

Beloved Spear,

Any racial prejudice and most privilege do need to die. Some privileges are fine-I am the only one who gets the privilege of making love to my husband: ) And there are other privileges like that. but that is besides the point.

When someone sees Jesus as someone who realized he was God through enlightenment and that we also have that possibility they can do great harm to the sheep. And in the end it will harm our love of God and neighbor. If we accept that belief we will not understand who God really is or what Jesus Christ did for us on the cross. I could go on but in a comment section I think that is enough.
And I do thank you for your response.

JackHaberer said...


That which you fear did not come upon us.

Regardless of the past exchange between you and Jud, the worship at the 2010 Church Unbound Conference, like that of the inaugural 2008 conference, was powerful, transformative, and thoroughly orthodox.

It did make more use of symbols and metaphors, but considering Jesus’ teaching techniques and the historic churches’ use of similar symbols and metaphors, we felt we stood in good company.

That worship did indeed call us to die: personally and corporately, just as Jesus called us to take up our crosses and die, and just as the Apostle Paul called us to die to self. It reminded me of the many books written by leaders of the Keswick Movement such as Oswald Chambers and Andrew Murray. And yes, it called us to place the church at the foot of the cross, acknowledging the many ways that the church that has nurtured us has also hurt us and others, shunned us and others, damaged many, and more than anything else, failed to fulfill its calling to be a provisional demonstration of the kingdom of God to the world.

I found the worship leadership of Jud Hendricks, Liz Kaznak and about a dozen other Presbyterian pastors, elders and others working with them to be theologically orthodox, spiritually impactful, and personally transformative. Indeed, contrary to your sweeping judgment pronounced without having been in attendance, the 200 Christians who actually attended and worshiped together over four days’ time, were called by the worship leaders to an extended time of fearless self-examination, naming idols and issues in our lives that are standing in the way of an authentic, pure walk with God, confessing them as sin, repenting of them, and – metaphorically – burying them. We also were assured of Christ’s salvific death and resurrection, and invited – metaphorically – to walk through a cave/tunnel, emerging on the other side to life in the fullness of resurrection victory.

We could well attest with the Apostle, “Death has been swallowed up in victory.’ Where, O death, is your sting? Where, O death, is your victory? … But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Jack Haberer

Viola Larson said...

Thanks for being brave enough to comment on my blog.

I love symbols and metaphors. I have nothing against them. I use them all the time and see them constantly in movies, books, etc. For instance in the movie “The Spitfire Grill,” the main character, a young woman, is a partial symbol of Christ. And in that movie even the trees are healed.

But it is often what each individual puts into the metaphor of his making that counts. For instance Eugene Peterson uses Nero Wolfe (In the mystery series) as a metaphor for the church. You will have to read his book about spiritual writing-I can’t remember the title.

My point is- God was there for you in the conference, but I know what Jud Hendrixs teaches about Jesus. (It isn't just his and my history-it is what he believes.) I’m fairly certain he didn’t change his beliefs for the conference.

But it is quite possible that he did not stress his beliefs about Jesus. And possible that others who are pushing this denomination to lower our ordination standards did not say so as they taught and preached. But what were they thinking as they went through the tunnel and thought of what they wanted to bury. I don’t think I could have participated in that service.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for courageously standing up for the truth. I know that I can always count on you for orthodox, accurate, and faithful reporting on events - especially those within our once faithful, but now failing PCUSA. I admire your courage in confronting what Mr. Haberer has said. Ever since he took over the Editorship of The Outlook, it has moved from the middle to the left. One cannot always count on fair and balanced reporting now from the publication. Please continue doing what you are doing. People listen to your opinion, and they know that they can trust it.
Patricia Slomanski

Viola Larson said...

Hi Patricia Slomanski,

Thank you for commenting. I do try to be orthodox and faithful; I also want to be fair.

Jack Haberer considers himself to be an Evangelical and moderate. I have no reason to believe he is not. When I write I try as much as possible to be correct and honest, Sometimes due to poor writing or just plain mistakes,I don't live up to my own standards.

What I wrote about Jud Hendrixs is true, he has confirmed it himself. If you notice I said nothing about Liz Kaznak becuse I have not read anything she has written or listened to any thing she has said.

I also know it to be true that others in the conference advocate for the ordination of LGBTs. That is the problem as I see it. I also know that many in the emergent movement are moving away from biblical Christianity.