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Archive for August, 2009

This summer, as a featured outreach program of Spiritual Directors International, more work on the inter-faith bridge was accomplished…

Bridges to Understanding: Multifaith and Interfaith Spiritual Direction
July 20-24, 2009
Saint Michael’s College, Colchester, Vermont, USA
[http://www.sdiworld.org/events/spiritual-directors-international-outreach/
bridges-to-understanding.html]

Program
As descendants of Abraham, people who walk Jewish, Christian, and Islamic spiritual paths are challenged to develop a greater understanding of one another, and cultivate dialogues that can lead to new and deeper perspective on one’s own religious tradition. Bridges to Understanding is a unique opportunity to engage with leaders who have extensive experience in Interfaith spiritual formation. You will not only learn about the wisdom that lies at the roots of Abrahamic spiritual traditions, but also explore the practical applications this provides for ministry and service.

The week-long experiential workshop is suitable for spiritual directors, pastoral counselors, ministers, chaplains, educators, spiritual seekers and those engaged in authentic efforts to support spiritual development and formation within their faith tradition and with people from other traditions.

The presenters included spiritual directors from different backgrounds, (SDI, Catholic, Sufi, Rabbinic).

See speakers’ bios here:

Summer 2009 Workshop
Graduate Theology and Pastoral Ministry
Saint Michael’s College
[http://www.smcvt.edu/graduate/programs/gth/summerworkshop.asp]

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Talk about a muddy swamp mixture of religion…

It was hailed as The Emerging Church: First-Ever Catholic-Emergent Conference (see here):

Friday March 20, 2009 – Sunday March 22, 2009 from 8:00pm – 11:00pm
Center for Action and Contemplation
P.O. Box 12464
Albuquerque, New Mexico 87195 Get Directions
The Center for Action and Contemplation (CAC) in Albuquerque, New Mexico, will be hosting the first-ever Catholic-Emergent conference, March 20-22, 2009.

According to the CAC, “The conversation about the emerging church has been attracting a broad array of Christians — progressive Evangelicals and mainline Protestants along with some Roman Catholics — but this will be the first gathering to be planned and hosted by a team of Catholic and Protestant leaders working together for the good of the church at large. There will also be a post-conference for those who want to develop vehicles for deepening and sustaining the emerging energy for Gospel-centered justice, contemplation, and community.”

And that’s not all who was involved in the convergence frappe:

Mennonite pastor presides at mass worship
by Gordon Houser

NEWTON, Kan.—Anita Amstutz, pastor of Albuquerque (N.M.) Mennonite Church, presided at the closing worship of the March 20-22 conference “The Emerging Church: Conversations, Convergence and Action,” sponsored by the Center for Action and Contemplation (CAC) in Albuquerque. Almost 1,000 people attended the conference, which included speakers Brian McLaren, Phyllis Tickle and Shane Claiborne. About 25 Mennonites attended. (…)

For more, click here:

http://www.themennonite.org/issues/12-8/articles/Mennonite_pastor_presides_at_mass_worship

– – – – – – – – – –

Read what Phyllis Tickle teaches:

CHRISTIANITY 21 AND ALLEGED INNOVATIVE VOICES IN THE FAITH: PHYLLIS TICKLE
http://apprising.org/2009/05/christianity-21-and-alleged-innovative-voices-in-the-faith-phyllis-tickle/

Read more about the Phyllis Tickle and the Convergence here:

PHYLLIS TICKLE AND THE GREAT EMERGENCE TO INFECT CANADA
http://apprising.org/2009/07/phyllis-tickle-and-the-great-emergence-to-infect-canada/

Read about the muddy spirituality of Brian McLaren here:

Brian McLaren – New Age/Mystic/Contemplative
http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/brianmclaren.htm

Read about Richard Rohr here:

RICHARD ROHR: FOUR PHASES OF EMERGENCE CHRISTIANTY
http://apprising.org/2009/03/richard-rohr-four-phases-of-emergence-christianty/

And here:

Mystic Madness
http://www.apostasyalert.org/REFLECTIONS/mystic.htm

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Are the US Mennonite Brethren promoting the controversial book called The Shack?

The following is from a recent (June) Christian Leader Magazine article:

Reading “The Shack”
A bestseller prompts us to rethink God
http://www.usmb.org/reading-the-shack

“…Since I had time, I began to read and found the book hard to put down. Later that week I found a local Christian bookstore that had a table piled high with copies and bought several to take back home with me. Yes, in one sense the book is controversial. During my first reading I came to sections where I would say, “Oh-oh, some people aren’t going to like this!” I’ve decided this book is not for people who have all their theological ducks in a certain order and therefore are not open to being challenged by new ways of thinking about God.

For example, some people object to God being portrayed as a black woman. When asked why he did this, Young says that he wants people to reconsider their preconceptions of God. It certainly made me do that. Now sometimes when I think of God, the image of Ethel Waters comes to mind, and I remember her singing, “His eye is on the sparrow, and I know he cares for me,” at a Billy Graham crusade.

At another level, I keep wondering why so many people find the book to be so helpful. Obviously it strikes a chord, a deep need, for many. I’ve read The Shack several times. Each time it gives me a new understanding of how God the Father, Jesus the Son and the Holy Spirit work together in helping us get through the tough times in our lives. It is reassuring to know that we have such a caring and loving support system available to us at all times. It is comforting to know that when we experience darkness, there is light at the end of the tunnel.

When asked what the shack in the story represents, Young answers: “It is a metaphor, really, for the decrepit house of the soul that we build over time. It’s where we hide our pain, our lostness, our secrets and our addictions. Our lies are the fabric that holds the house together and we decorate it with the façade that we want other people to see.”
The book brings the message that God loves us in spite of our shortcomings and failures. God cares for and invites us to come into his presence to experience the power of his forgiveness, healing and restoration. Maybe that’s why the book is so popular.”

[It has been noted that many of the comments and opinions below this review on the USMB website are more biblical than the ones expressed in the article.]

Don’t we already know from reading the Bible that our bodies are just shells and that our human nature is to hide our sin, since the beginning of time? Isn’t every thing we need to learn about how to come into God’s presence and experience the power of his forgiveness, healing and restoration – already in the Bible? Do we need a ‘fictional’ book to ‘rethink’ God? Does the USMB understand that the author of this book, although he denies it, embraces universal reconciliation and has denied the penal substitutionary atonement of the cross? In this favorable review is the USMB, in essence, saying that this muddy gospel in The Shack is acceptable? If it’s not, have they made that clear anywhere else?

Here are some helpful articles to further shed light on the doctrines of darkness found in The Shack:

The Shack Author Joins the Ranks of Those Who Deny Substitutionary Atonement

http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/index.php?p=1405&more=1&c=1

Guest Contributor: Dr. James DeYoung Revisiting The Shack & Universal Reconciliation

http://gospeldriven.wordpress.com/2009/01/15/guest-contributor-dr-james-deyoung-revisiting-the-shack-universal-reconciliation/

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The MB Herald recently recognized the issue of mental health in an article entitled “When mental illness arrives in the pews.” The article was about a new ministry for those with mental illness that was going to be offered at Evergreen Heights Christian Fellowship in Simcoe, Ontario.

Starting in fall 2008, the Evergreen group meets once a week. They are using Peter Scazzero’s Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, to guide and direct their discussion. Another resource they find useful is a mental health self-help program called The Living Room, which is also being used by Highland (MB) Community Church in Abbotsford, B.C.

The word is out – when mental illness arrives in the pews of MB churches, church leaders and volunteers are finding ways to provide the support that is needed. Places like Evergreen Heights are leading the way.—SC

Evergreen Heights responds to mental illness
(http://www.mbconf.ca/home/products_and_services/resources/
publications/mb_herald/mb_herald_april_2009/people_and_events/
evergreen_heighs_responds_to_mental_illness/)

Evergreen Heights Christian Fellowship (www.evergreenheights.org), a Mennonite Brethren Church, is also a Purpose Driven church. Not only are they leading the way by ministering to those with mental illness, which is admirable, they are unfortunately doing so the contemplative way by using Peter Scazzero’s Emotionally Healthy Spirituality. Sadly, this is not based on biblical counseling methods, but rather on contemplative interfaith methods. As has been revealed here, it also draws from many different streams of spirituality.

To begin with, the mental health self-help program they are using called The Living Room (www.livingroomsupport.org) is also used by another Mennonite Brethren church in British Columbia called Highland Community Church (highlandcommunitychurch.blogspot.com). (This church incidentally links to several contemplative ministries as well, for example: cathyhardy.blogspot.com and http://www.soulstream.org.)

Another issue of concern is the fact that The Living Room links itself to interfaith organizations, such as NAMI Faithnet, Pathways to Promise: Interfaith Ministries & Mental Illness (www.pathways2promise.org/) and Mental Health Ministries. The latter (found @ http://www.mentalhealthministries.net) has the following description on their website:

The focus is on spirituality and mental illness rather than a particular faith tradition. A distinction is made between spirituality and religion. Spirituality springs from a belief system that gives meaning to our lives. It grows out of our experience rather than doctrine. Religion, on the other hand, refers to a faith community grounded in a set of beliefs, practices and a shared history such as churches, mosques, temples, etc.
-www.mentalhealthministries.net

Jesus said, “If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.” (John 7:37,38)

How can His bride, the Church, be leading the mentally ill to the pure living water found only through Christ, if they are also encouraging them to drink from the muddy streams of self-help and contemplative spiritual disciplines and Roman Catholic mysticism, in a mixture of spirituality campatible with other faiths?

Would a good shepherd lead his sick and thirsty sheep to muddy water?

Update: For more up to date reviews of the MB Herald, see Menno-lite.

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In the spring of 2009, a spiritual formation course was offered at Associated Canadian Theological Schools taught by Vange Thiessen [ACTS Seminaries of Trinity Western University (http://www.acts.twu.ca/)%5D .

See PDF here:
PTH 511 – Spiritual Formation Spring Semester 2009
http://www.actsseminaries.com/apages/admin/SyllabusFiles/PTH%20511.pdf

During this course, students were encouraged to examine a wide range of spiritual disciplines as they reflected on “the sacred in one’s life.” The goal and objective of this course was to integrate its resources into personal and professional practice, and was described as being based on biblical principles.

However, upon closer review, it quickly becomes apparent that this course was actually drawing from the spirituality of some very different (and very muddy) streams.

The required reading for this course included The Sacred Way by Tony Jones, and Spiritual Classics by Richard Foster (as recommended reading). Students were expected to participate in all classes and exercises. The activity suggestions that students were encouraged to attend included a Taize service, a Catholic church, a Sikh Temple event, or a First Nations Sweat Lodge event. Other options were 4-5 spiritual direction sessions with a spiritual director or a spiritual retreat. In the end, students were to reflect and write a paper on and how their thinking and practice regarding contemplative spirituality and spiritual formation had been transformed.

While these activities appear to be somewhat optional, other concepts which the students were introduced to in this course included the contemplative approaches of silence, solitude and sacred reading, the Ignatian Examen, the Daily Office, the Labyrinth, Stations of the Cross, and Pilgrimages.

The spiritual roots of these concepts are not based on biblical principals, as the course description implies, but rather on exploring the muddy streams of ancient mystical spirituality and other religions, including shamanism. What kind of water is this Bible seminary giving its students to drink? Is this the pure and living water that comes from Jesus Christ in the Word of God?

Note: To further muddy the water, the MBBS programs and courses are integrated with ACTS.
http://www.mbseminary.edu/langley/

The Daily Examen on the Trinity Western University website may be viewed here:
http://www.twu.ca/life/career/lifecalling/examen.html

Also see:
WHO IS IGNATIUS OF LOYOLA?
http://apprising.org/2008/12/who-is-ignatius-of-loyola/

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