Month: April 2007

Ray Gingerich’s visit: violent God and pacifist Jesus?

 Over the weekend, me and Nicole went to three meetings where Mennonite scholar Ray Gingerich was speaking. His most interesting and challenging talk for me was the Sunday night one at Scripture Union House, Mt Hawthorn. It was a fundraiser for the Pine Gap 6, who are facing jail for doing a ‘Citizens’ Inspection’ of the Pine Gap (US) military facility in Australia.

 His theme was ‘A violent God and a pacifist Jesus?’. Ray likes to ask a lot of questions and provoke his listeners into thinking. He has a curious mind which tends to go off on tangents he finds interesting.

His basic argument was that if Christ is the fullest revelation of God and he is pacifist, then God is pacifist too. Where the Bible suggests a violent God, we defer to our fuller understanding of God through Christ.

Ray was asked, ‘What about when the Old Testament reports God asking the Israelites to slaughter an entire town? Does that mean the writer had it wrong?’ His answer to this was round-about and a long time coming, but when it did come, it affected me a lot.

Ray referred to Yoder’s posthumous work The Jewish-Christian Schism revisited (which I haven’t read yet). In it (apparently) Yoder talks about how Jesus was in a certain stream of Judaism, one particularly influenced by the post-exilic prophets. It was these books of the OT that were at the centre of Jesus’ Bible. Add to that the fact that the canon was not yet nearly as stable as it is today for the Old Testament.

Ray’s answer presupposes that there is contradiction within the Old Testament and between it and the New Testament. These streams can’t all be right (‘a square circle’) – so we’d better decide which streams are life-giving and fit into the fullest revelation we have of God in Jesus.

 I felt simultaneously suspicious and excited at this idea. It needs a lot more talking about.

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The Radical Middle

In two weeks time, Anabaptist speaker Ray Gingerich will be speaking at Network Vineyard Church. It’s in Swanbourne, quite close to where Nicole and I are living, and so this morning we visited it.

Reading on their website, a recent Vineyard book on the history of the movement is called The Radical Middle. It talks about how Vineyard is a ‘radical middle’ between evangelicals and pentecostals. They do this by having the sound biblical foundation of evangelicals and the empowerment of the Spirt often found in the pentecostals.

In the same way, some Anabaptists see themselves as a ‘radical middle’ between protestants and catholics. Anabaptists have a high view of the Bible and lay participation (taking it further than the protestant reformers) as well as a high view of the authority of the church (taking it in a different direction than catholics).

So perhaps Network Vineyard is an appropriate home for an Anabaptist speaker.

We were impressed by the church’s commitment to community, Bible and Spirit. Indeed, perhaps God is doing something with ex-PAFers and the Vineyard church. Brad and Marina have been reading Vineyard writer John Wimber’s work and are visiting the Canning Vale church today. Teresa and Jarrod visited Network last week.

We are seeking the Spirit; perhaps they are seeking something we can offer too.

Anabaptist speaker in Perth

Jarrod McKenna sent out the following email:

Ray Gingerich is coming to Perth!

Learning from the Past for the Future of Mission: Comparing Anabaptist & Protestant approaches
Sunday Morning talk
10am 29 April 2007
where: Network Vineyard Church, Swanborne Primary Narla Rd. Swanbourne

A violent God and a pacifist Jesus?
Peacemaking in a World with Opposing Views of Power
Monday Evening talk
7.oopm 30 April 2007
Scripture Union House, 82 Matlock St. Mt. Hawthorn
To confirm contact Andrew andrew@tear.org.au
Suggested Donation: $10

Sponsored by:
The Anabaptist Association of Australia and New Zealand with TEAR and EPYC. This is something to organise your friends, families, small groups… everyone to be at. 🙂 For a link to learn about Ray Gingerich and a link to the flyer visit: http://paceebene.org/pace/blog/jarrod-mckenna/not-domination-but-resurrection-the-nonviole

PAF disbands

On Sunday 1 April we met for the last time as a church.

Over the last few months, it has become clearer that God is leading us in different directions. The Prangnells are leaving for Indonesia where Dave has a job. The Hobbys have moved to Nedlands where they want to plant a church. The Schillings want to ‘relocalise’ in their church life. Others are unsure of what’s next, but for Megan, Tim and Don, it was time to strike out in a different direction.

We invited people who have been a part of the group over the last six years to come and join us for this final meeting. And many of them came! We had twenty people in the meeting, and it felt so good to all be together again for one last time.

Each person shared what PAF has meant to them and what they see ahead for themselves. We then laid hands on them and prayed, commissioning them for what is to come next.

It was a sad time for me and Nicole. I’ve got all the usual questions – ‘does this mean we’ve failed’? ‘What could I have done differently?’ – and some answers to these questions. I think as a church we had reached a point of stagnation. The fact we came together from all over Perth meant we didn’t have the body life we believed in.

The Anabaptist connection remains, and we hope to have Perth Anabaptist network meetings. I will keep this blog going as a news relating to Anabaptism and house church in Perth.

Nedlands House Church

Nicole and I are planting a house church in Nedlands, the suburb we’re living in now. We have started a blog for it:

http://nedlandshousechurch.blogspot.com .

The blog hasn’t got much on it yet because we haven’t got much to report on yet. We’re listening, praying, discerning and seeing what God’s doing.

We want the church to be local (so we can be involved in each others’ daily lives more easily) and missional (so that we’re constantly reaching out and brining new people into the church).

If you know of anyone who lives nearby and is looking for a church, please put them in touch with us.