Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Welcome and Introduction

Dear Friends,

We at Christ UMC are so glad you're here! We've designed this blog to be a place where you can stop by during the week to connect with our church family and other Methodists. God Talk is a safe place to think over matters of faith and life. Whether or not you are a Christian, whether or not you are Methodist, we welcome you here.

Please take a look around. There's a post about how and why we talk about God, to familiarize you with how Christians approach the idea of God. We encourage you to comment on posts with your thoughts and questions. Please be mindful of your interactions with everyone here, so that we treat each other the way we'd like to be treated face-to-face. General guidelines for conduct are found here.

There will be a few contributors to this blog. First is the Rev. Dr. Jane Jacques, a Deacon in the United Methodist Church and professor at Ashland Theological Seminary. To me, she goes by Mom.

Then there's me. I am a member of the Christ UMC Diaspora living in Cambridge, MA. I came here to get my M.Div. at the Boston University School of Theology, which I earned in May 2010. I'm still here while my husband studies pre-health, and I work as a customer service representative. Since I was 18, I have been a candidate for ministry in the United Methodist Church. Christ UMC started me on that journey by approving me as a candidate for ministry even though I was only 18. Now I am a certified candidate working toward provisional membership in the East Ohio Conference. My local church involvement is with Harvard-Epworth UMC, which is full of dynamic, generous, welcoming, loving people who truly care about all those in their community. My favorite things to do at church are Cancel Choir, Young Adult Group, our outdoor ministry with my homeless neighbors in Cambridge, and United Methodist Women.

During the week, I sing with the Back Bay Chorale and hang out with friends and family. My husband and I have a pet: our tropical fish, Fizzy. We like to go letterboxing together, watch cartoons, play board games with friends, and follow our favorite comic books. I love to learn about all the world's cultures, especially their food and dance traditions.

I look forward to getting to know you, and to sharing this space for reflection and growth with you!

God's Peace,

Saturday, January 15, 2011

God Talk: Why Do It?

Talking about God is important.  We don’t have to read very far in Genesis, the first book of the Hebrew scripture and the Christian Bible, before we see that humans, who were created to be in relationship with God and with each other, can benefit in both of those relationships by conferencing a little bit on what relationship with God should look like.  Consider, for example, how differently events might have gone if Eve and Adam or Cain and Able had talked things out.  God talk is the plan that God gave the Hebrews when they asked how to form their children in faith. (You can see that in Deuteronomy Chapter 6.)  It still works that way, as studies in faith formation show us that God talk in families is the strongest predictor for success in passing faith to children.  We can do God talk in families of choice, as well.  Church is that kind of a family; so is an internet forum. 

Discussion in this space will focus on considering who God is.  What is God like?  Over the next year, we will read some of what A.W. Tozer had to say about God from his book, The Attributes of God: A Journey into the Father’s Heart 1 and reflect on it together.  Tozer was a well known preacher and author who believed we can know what God is like, and that it is important that we do.  “History shows,” he wrote, “that no tribe or nation has ever risen morally above its religion. . . .  Christianity at any given time is strong or weak depending upon her concept of God. . . . Our religion is little because our god is little.  Our religion is weak because our god is weak. Our religion is ignoble because the god we serve is ignoble.  We do not see God as [God] is.” 2

Writing as he did, in the mid-twentieth century, Tozer did not concern himself with using gender inclusive language for God.  The portions that we share here from his work will be presented as he originally wrote them.  In our time we should be conscious that our use of language has changed.  We recognize that apart from the incarnation of God in Jesus Christ, God does not have gender.  You can change Tozer’s gendered language for God as you read, just as I did, above.  As you read, consider, also, how you could update any exclusively male language for humans that you may see in his work.  The truth he shares is timeless; the way we express it can and should change to reflect our expanding awareness of the value of persons. 

Attention to the value of persons brings us to one final consideration: rules for participation in this discussion.  We will keep our approach to communication considerate and respectful toward other participants.  God talk is a friendly discussion.  “God,” Tozer writes, “is kindhearted, gracious, good-natured and benevolent in intention.   And let us remember that God is cordial.”  We can’t do better than to follow God’s example.  Entries that violate common courtesy will be deleted.  Basically, if you’re not baiting, or bashing others’ views, you’ll be OK. But just to be clear, you should read the details concerning respectful discussion in the footnotes. 3    

That said, let’s get started.  We’re going to begin with an excerpt from Tozer’s chapter on God’s goodness.  Read, reflect, and feel free to respond.

          A local church will only be as great as its conception of God.  An individual Christian will be a success or a failure depending on what he or she thinks of God.  It is critically important that we have a knowledge of the Holy One, that we know what God is like. Of course we can know from the Scriptures – that’s where we go to get our information.   We can know some of it from nature too: “The heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament showeth his handiwork” (Psalm 19:1).  But while the pen of nature writes without too much clarity, the Word of God is very, very clear.
          It is very important that we know that God is good.  We read that God is good and doeth good that that His lovingkindness is over all His works. . .  God is not only infinitely good, He is perfectly good.  God is never partway  anything!  When I say that God is kindhearted, I mean that He is perfectly so.  I do not mean that there are ever times when God isn’t feeling good and isn’t kind.  . . .  I joyously announce to you that what God is, He is immutably.  God never changes. What God was, God is.  What God is and was, God will be.4 

Think on these things, and share your thoughts.  Then watch this space.

The God Talk forum is created by Dr. Jane Jacques.  Jane is an ordained deacon and teaches as an adjunct professor of spiritual formation at Ashland Theological Seminary, Ashland, Ohio.        

1   Reprinted from The Attributes of God Volume 1 by A.W. Tozer, copyright © 1997 by Zur Ltd. Used by permission of WingSpread Publishers, a division of Zur Ltd., 800.884.4571.  The book is available for purchase at Just click on Manufacturers, then WingSpread Publishers to see a list of books. This site is for churches to purchase things; is for individuals to purchase.
2   Tozer, 40-41.
3 The Core Rules of Netiquette are excerpted from the book Netiquette by Virginia Shea. Click on each rule for elaboration.

4 Tozer 41- 44.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Guidelines for Participation in God Talk

When you comment on the God Talk blog, you agree to the following guidelines. Please read this post thoroughly before using this Website.

First off, let's cover Typical netiquette rules: 

1. No shouting (usually shown by ALL CAPS).
2. No rants.
3. Don’t take offence at how people respond; don’t give offense by the things that you say to others. Remember that without the inflections and facial expressions that we employ in face to face conversations, communication is not always clear. We may need to ask for clarification, and will need to be patient in providing it.
4. Don’t worry a lot about spelling, grammar and punctuation, but remember that producing messages that are readable and understandable is part of good communication. Some of us are better at writing than others, but we all have good thoughts to share. We all mentally correct for our errors when we’re typing, and so we may not see them at the time. We will probably all be grateful to have grace extended to us when we err, and so we need to readily extend grace to others as well. 

And now, some Biblically-based guidelines for online interaction from the folks at Sojourners:

We will strive to create safe and sacred spaces for common prayer and community discussion as we come together to seek God's will for our nation and our world.

1.) We believe Jesus' teaching that "Blessed are those who make peace" (Matthew 5:9). We acknowledge that most of us have been guilty of violence in our hearts and with our tongues. We hold ourselves to the higher standard to which Christ called us: to refrain from not only physical violence but violence of the heart and tongue. "Do not commit murder. Anyone who murders will be judged for it," and "Do not be angry with your brother or sister" (Mathew 5:22-23).

2.) We commit that our dialogue with each other will reflect the spirit of the Scriptures, which tell us, in relating to each other, to be "quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry" (James 1:19).

3.) We believe that each of us, and our fellow human beings, are created in the image of God. This belief should be reflected in the honor and respect we show to each other, particularly in how we speak. "With the tongue we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse those who are made in the likeness of God....this ought not to be so" (James 3:9,10).

4.) We pledge that when we disagree, we will do so respectfully, without falsely impugning the other's motives, attacking the other's character, or questioning the other's faith. We will be mindful of our language, being neither arrogant nor boastful in our beliefs as we strive to "be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love" (Ephesians 4:2).

5.) We recognize that we cannot function together as citizens of the same community, whether local or national, unless we are mindful of how we treat each other. Each of us must therefore "put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body" (Ephesians 4:25).

These points outline how Christians are to treat each other on the Internet and face-to-face. Anyone who participates in this discussion, needs to respect our community guidelines when reading and posting comments. Comments that do not abide by these guidelines or contain inappropriate content will be removed by the blog administrators. If you do not agree to all the terms and conditions of this agreement, then you may not access the Website.

I know all this sounds very formal, but clear guidelines for behavior are an important part of making this a safe space for all to explore spirituality. This is a safe space for all people, and a large part of that safety comes from knowing we won't be attacked for any of our thoughts or questions. Part of our welcome to one another in this cyber-space is creating safety for all who come here, and this is a responsibility for all of us.