Eugene Cho

my quasi-conversation with rob bell…about women

Well, I finally met Rob Bell last night and had an intense conversation with him.  Kind of.  Like indirectly.

He was in Seattle for the Seeds of Compassion event with the Dalai Lama.  I have no problem with that at all.  I would have loved to have been invited to participate but no one called my agent.  But since Rob Bell was in town, Off the Map invited him and a few other folks to speak to an intimate crowd of about 150 folks at an event hosted at the Vineyard Community Church.

Rob Bell spoke initially and eloquently for about 15-20 minutes on the thrust behind his upcoming book entitled, Jesus Wants to Save Christians.  Here’s a short but fascinating description:

There is a church not too far from us that recently added a $25 million addition to their building.  Our local newspaper ran a front-page story not too long ago about a study revealing that one in five people in our city lives in poverty.

This is a book about those two numbers. It’s a book about faith and fear, wealth and war, poverty, power, safety, terror, Bibles, bombs, and homeland insecurity,

It’s about empty empires and the truth that everybody’s a priest, it’s about oppression, occupation, and what happens when Christians support, animate and participate in the very things Jesus came to set people free from.

It’s about what it means to be a part of the church of Jesus in a world where some people fly planes into buildings while others pick up groceries in Hummers.

Ok, that’s when things got a little awkward and we had our indirect conversation.  After his chat, Rose Madrid Swetman [co-pastor at Vineyard] came up to interview/dialogue with Rob Bell about the topic of women and leadership in the church.  For the record, Rob supports women in leadership and has female elders at his church, Mars Hill [Grand Rapids].  Absolutely no relation to that Mars Hill [Seattle].

And how did she begin her interview? She reads a quote [with permission] from someone named Eugene Cho who wrote the following comment on someone’s blog about the church being a White Man’s World:

…we have to ask how are we as revolutionary followers of Jesus – who debunked the systemic structures during his life – are working, living, ministering, writing, speaking and creating to work towards that end.

Power, voice and influence are not easily pursued [and obtained]. It must be distributed and shared from those who have that very power, voice and influence. And because it is so counter-cultural, we have to be that much more intentional.

As a male, I am embarrassed at times at the manner in which we [men] directly, indirectly, or systemically oppress our sisters. While there’s a legitimate female candidate for the president of this country, there are many [in the church] who still wonder if women should be in leadership. I know that [for them] it’s a biblical issue and not intended to be a personal issue but why would women want to subject themselves to these questions again and again and again…

Rob like others must have thought, “Who the frack is Eugene Cho?”

Actually, I felt bad for Rob because I’m not sure if he had an idea what the conversation was going to be about.  He stumbled through his thoughts and words and I’m not even sure if he understood what Rose was trying to communicate to him.

Rob – for better or worse – is a Christian celebrity.  He’s a good guy and I very much dig [him] his humility.  The dude is not arrogant or self seeking like someone I know who has a self-righteous pharisaic image of himself praying on his blog banner (that’s me).  But honestly, I am amazed how globally popular and influential he is as proven by his books, NOOMA videos, packed out speaking gigs in venues like the Paramount Theater in Seattle, and even a recent write up in Time Magazine.

It was awkward because my words were quoted but I wasn’t able to dialogue with him.  If I had a chance, I think this is what I would have said:

Hey Rob.  I’m a growing fan and by the way, I like the buzz haircut.

So, this is what I’m trying to get at.

If you haven’t figured it out yet…It’s a White Man’s world.  And well, you are a White Man.  In fact, you are an especially powerful and influential White Man.  The church, unfortunately, is no different than the structures of the larger culture.  It is also dominated by White Men. While women and people of color shouldn’t create a state of dependency on the support of White Men, it is encouraging – nevertheless – to be supported by White Men including those who are visible and influential.  This would be you.

Certain people have power and sadly, the power structures are such that it tends to perpetuate the advantages of those who have power.  And while there have been advances, I know you will agree that there have been some grave injustices against women throughout the history of the church including the present day.  And while you have female elders in your church, I guess the question I want to ask is how are you actively and intentionally supporting and advocating for women through your larger ministry beyond your local church.

Why am I asking this?  Because people are listening…

Rob Bell is bluntly, one of the most visible and influential figures of Christianity in the 21st century.  He is arguably the face of the emerging Evangelical Christianity in North America.  It must be both a burden and blessing and I’m interested how he will use the platform of his visibility to distribute and share that power and influence.

For women and on a lesser level, people of color, it’s an uphill journey.  It just is.  And if you have to ask…you just don’t understand.  And on this uphill journey, it’s uplifting when those who have power can acknowledge and advocate for those on this uphill journey.

Interestingly, Mark Driscoll and Rob Bell both pastor churches called Mars Hill – as I shared earlier.  And last year, there was some crazy ruckus because Driscoll called out Rob Bell as a heretic at some sort of leadership conference.  Ahh, as the Christian Subculture World Turns.

And for the record, one of my best theological conversations – ever – was with Mark Driscoll over the issue of women in leadership nearly seven years ago over an intense but good lunch.  Driscoll has been one of the most vocal, if not the single most vocal antagonist in our generation of women in pastoral/elder leadership.  And while I know there are some great things going on with Driscoll and MH Seattle, it is stunning and alarming [depends on your perspective I guess] to see the spread of his theological influence.  And so, I guess I’m wondering who might be the other person(s) [of similar or comparable influence] who will speak passionately and prophetically in full support of women in leadership.   Why am I asking this question?  Because they have the power and influence.

What do you think?

Filed under: religion, , ,

114 Responses

  1. DH says:

    Great post Eugene. Great post.

  2. David Park says:

    nice post. way to call people out.

  3. Randall says:

    “Ahh, as the Christian Subculture World Turns.”

    …that gets my vote for funniest sentence of the month – I almost spat out my coffee!

  4. rachel says:

    thanks for this…
    your voice is certainly one that is prophetically impactful, and i’m glad that you are speaking what needs to be heard…

  5. Kacie says:

    I bet your heart skipped a beat when Ms. Swetman said your name!

  6. Kacie says:

    Ok, that sort of didn’t come across the way I meant it. I mean… you apparently had no idea you’d be brought into the interview…. I bet it was a shock to hear your name. There that’s better. :)

  7. Matt K says:

    Rob Bell: excellent teacher, very skilled and uses the video medium marvelously. A lot of young people have been enriched and inspired by his teaching. He deserves credit for that.

    He’s gotten a little flack for some of his biblical exegesis, but I won’t hold that against him because I know my own biblical study is probably also deeply flawed.

    That said, it does irk me a little bit to know that the guy makes enough money to drive around Grand Rapids in a Land Cruiser but will slam others cause they drive Hummers. It seems a little too easy for a wealthy white pastor of one church to call out the wealthy white people in another church. We all share responsibility for oppressive systems and structures, the best way to combat them is to lead by example.

  8. gaius says:

    nice post… thanks for speaking up for those who have less access to the power structure…

  9. Tyler says:

    I am one who sides with Driscoll on this (though not quite as conservative). I don’t think he is the leading voice on this though. John Piper is, because he is who has been a leading voice behind Driscoll’s learning.

    We can look to our culture and see that obviously women should have a say in everything, or we can look at 1st Timothy and question whether they should be involved in anything. Clearly, a balance must be had.

    (I’m still working on a paper on this exact subject due in 2 weeks…so I won’t bombard you with an endless comment).

    • Jonathan says:

      I highly recommend you look up David Hamilton’s thesis on this subject. Or the more easily read version he put out with Loren Cunningham, “Why Not Women”. It brings out a lot of interesting points on the cultural and linguistic background of (among other scriptures) 1st Timothy.

      • Billy Detzel says:

        I highly recommend you read the Bible. The argument for women in the pulpit is typically attributed (albeit misapplied) from Gal 3:28-There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. But the author of this text is the same author of 1 Tim 3 which is where conservative Bible believing Christians like John Piper, John MacArthur, R. C. Sproul, Mark Dever, Ligon Duncan, Voddie Baucham, Thabiti Anyabwile, Alexander Strauch, and many, many others get the straight-forward notion that women should not be elders or pastors in the church. Paul wrote both texts and the interpretation of them is clear. In Gal 3-in fact the whole book of Galatians-Paul has been belaboring salvation particularly justification by faith. When he gets to chapter he doesn’t all of sudden down-shift and start talking about leadership in the church. He ends chapter 3 by saying that when it comes to salvation we are all one in Christ. This does not contradict Paul’s own teaching on leadership in the church in 1 Tim 3:1-when he says that “if any ‘man’ aspires to the office of ‘overseer’, it is a fine work he desires to do.” Or in 1 Tim 2:12-But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet. And in verse 13 Paul by inspiration of the Holy Spirit gives the reason why-“For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve.” The reason God gives is the created order. This is not a cultural 1st Century reason but rather it is rooted and grounded in both creation and the fall according to the next verse. And it is also rooted in the trinity. In 1 Cor 11 the same author, Paul, writes that there are distinct roles within the God-head relationally. Christ submits to the Father, The Holy Spirit submits and proceeds from the Father and the Son, Christ came to do the Father’s will not His own, the Holy Spirit is sent by Christ and the Father, yet the Father submits to no one and yet all persons of the trinity are co-equally, co-eternally God. Equal in terms of value but each with different roles. It is this pattern which God gave to all mankind. This is why the husband is the head of the household and why women should not be elders or pastors of a church, not because they are second class citizens to be oppressed but because this is the nature of God and His design for creation.

        • jay says:

          Mr. Detzel,

          A little harsh there with you’re opening sentence, but I could not agree more with the content of your response as a whole. I’ve been studying this particular issue for some time now as my current church is in the process of considering to plant a new church closer to where I live. In discussions about what this new church plant might “look like”, this issue has become a topic that many of us have decided to consider more deeply than we may have in the past. My current church home takes a pretty traditional biblical stance in regard to the subject. As a Christian who entered the dialogue with vague opinions on the matter, the thing that stands out to me most as I read differing opinions on the matter is the difference in attitude that I’ve noticed between the two sides. Those on the side of the traditional view seem to have an almost apologetic attitude on the matter; going out of their way to make it clear that their stance on the matter is a matter of obedience (regardless of the popularity) rather than preference or opinion, and then laying out the evidence for the position from Scripture from beginning to end. On the other hand I’ve beed struck by the lack of humility on the other side who portray those on the more conservative side as being antagonistic to women as a gender, and who’s misunderstanding of scripture is holding women back from their calling. Those who tend to lean more to this modern view of women’s roles in Christ’s Body tend to show little consideration for the Holy Scripture as a whole, but rather strong conformity to the patterns of our secular norms and values and the culture that Scripture warns us not be be conformed by.

          My opinion, it’s hard for me to grapple with the notion that 2000 years of Christian theology has had it all wrong, but the current generation finally decoded the scripture and the truth is that we are all simply hermaphrodites in the eyes of our creator. It’s also hard for me to follow the seemingly contortionistic arguments for why what scripture clearly says isn’t really what it means or that it just isn’t really relevant in a modern context. Historic misuse of the scripture aside, God clearly has differing roles for men and women within the church, just as he does within the home. That in no way gives one gender more dignity than the other. On the contrary, by submitting our will that of the Father, we glorify Him in His truth.

          My prayer is that as modern Christians, we as often as possible take a step back and remembers that we are indeed creatures of an all mighty and infinitely glorious God, who gave us His inerrant Word. The world is full of lies, but in His Word are the answers.

  10. steve lewis says:

    I loved your contribution to the dialog last night. Surreal to have an indirect conversation like that . . . you sitting there in the balcony, with him down on stage talking to you (but really talking to Rose). If I’m not mistaken, at some point, he made reference to “the man upstairs,” but I couldn’t tell if he was talking about you, or someone else ;)

  11. Matt EHH says:

    Eugene,

    you are a warrior. I get the sense in your article/post of a line-in-the-sand kind of urgency. Not between christian conservatives and christian progressives (or whatever term–I wouldn’t like to be called either) but between a misogynistic world and the Kingdom. I’m with you. I am commited to the church sticking together through thick and thin, but I think there is enough grace that weaves churches like the Mars Hills of the world together where in the midst of our union, we can raise serious and vital issues that make that union very uncomfortable.

    Rob Bell is big time for Christians, especially the “emerging kind”. I’m a fan. But I’m not looking to him to speak to changes that need to happen regarding the oppressed and marginalized. Let the foolish shame the wise and the weak shame the strong. To me, you are in a better position to raise questions of accountablity to advocacy than a christian celebrity. Until you get big time.

  12. eugenecho says:

    kacie: i happened to run into rose right before the event started and she mentioned she was going to quote me. i was ok with it as long as it wasn’t my blogposts about me pee pee’ing sitting down and real men pissing against the wall.

    tyler: agreed. piper is very influential and for good reasons. i did say “generational” and driscoll is this generation’s proponent to male leadership imo. i’m not at all saying we should discount the scriptures. that would be umm…heretical. but driscoll tends to lean on his view of the hierarchy of the trinity and i tend to lean on the mutuality of the trinity. more can be said and folks are welcome to get into it.

    steve: yeah, it was kind of surreal. would have been nice to have a good table discussion [w/ wine] with folks.

  13. Dan W says:

    I think you need a better agent. . .

  14. Rose says:

    I would like to weigh in here for a moment. For the record Rob and I had a conversation in the afternoon about what kind of conversation I wanted to have. I don’t think anything I said to set up our talk should have come as a surprise to him. I saw Eugene before the meeting began and asked his permission to use his blog post. Had he not been there I would not have named him.

    I think Rob is a great guy. I read his books and I think he is as good as it gets for someone that has a national stage. He seriously gives me hope that needed reform can come to the evangelical tradition. I admire him and how he has led his church. It was a great pleasure to meet him.

    I was very surprised that there seemed to be a disconnect with him on the issue. While he could talk about what he was doing in his local church to give women space he couldn’t quite make the connection as to what that would mean outside of his church. At least that is how it appeared to me.

    He seemed (and he is not alone on this) to think that we should just let women come into leadership organically, home grown in our churches. I think that is one way but if that is the only way we are generations away from that becoming a reality. In the meantime we have over 15 million women (not to mention young girls) in evangelical churches that will not hear or understand that they can be anything God is calling them to be. To me this is not acceptable in the time we live. I won’t go on. I believe it will take men and women that have power and influence giving space and making room for women to be heard. Even if we have a theology of the Kingdom and we say we believe women can serve in every area of Jesus’ church, unless we challenge and work at getting the structural changes needed to give women access, nothing much has changed.

    After our session, I was talking with Rob out in the hall. While we were talking a man came up and thanked us for having the conversation. He said his wife is called to be a church planter but they are in a denomination that would never allow it. He said they were going to begin to pray and ask God for the next steps for them to begin to move toward all that God has for them.

    I said to Rob, that’s what I am talking about. When you have the mic, if you would intentionally share it with a woman, someone telling her story of what she is doing, whether it’s planting, pastoring, writing etc you are going to have women in the audience get language and permission for what’s in their heart to do.

    I still don’t know if he really connected with it.

    It is one of the main ways the power structures in the white evangelical church will change – if the white males will share power.

    Eugene thank you for your heart and wisdom and voice on an issue that is important on so many levels.
    Much peace and grace to you

    • Lee Fischer says:

      Hi Rose (and Eugene), I am so glad to have found this blog and your comment, Rose. I am an American living in Germany for many years, where the Emergent movement is relatively new. And for all my excitement for discovering Emergent in general, and others here in Germany specifically after years and years of “Emerging” alone, what is hugely frustrating, is to discover that even this “progressive” movement is still dominated by white men! Now, I love white men… I married one, it is just, that I am growing more and more allergic to seeing them, and only them behind a microphone or on a book title… or a room full of them at a leaders meeting. What makes matters worse, is that here, many think of themselves as being for women in ministry… are “politically correct.” but then go on to completely ignore us. When blog rolls feature only blogs by men, the books read and discussed are written only by men, the speakers invited are only men, etc. In fact I have been in day long meetings, where not a single woman’s name has been mentioned! (Not even their wives!). So I am totally with you on this. One of the reasons why I love Nicholas Kristof is because he does exactly this… gives the poorest and most neglected women of this world a “microphone” to tell their stories. Also why I enjoyed Obama’s, “Dreams of my Father” so much, was because he also allows the stories of so many women to speak through his own story and honors these women for the incredible and heroic role they played in his life. So, Eugene, you have made it on my Boaz list, for calling out for men to do what Rose has said… to provide a safe platform for women to tell their stories, be heard, and become agents of transformation in a world that desperately needs us to love it in word and deed!

      • Robin Owen says:

        Hi Eugene, Rose and all!

        I am a Lutheran woman pastor, and we’ve been down this road a few decades ahead of the “evangelical” church, in quotes because that’s also our label, Evangelical Lutheran–we’re the original Evangelicals! ;)

        I was 6 years old when my denomination voted to allow ordination of women more than 40 years ago. It has only been in the last decade or so that most congregations have really embraced that change. In my first call in MN, I was the first woman pastor, and in my current call in IN I am also the first woman pastor. Prior to going to seminary, I never met a female Lutheran pastor. I’ve felt strongly called to parish ministry since childhood, but it was hard to pursue that call without female role models.

        When I came to IN 10 years ago, I was the only ordained woman in our conference of 18 churches; now there are 5 of us in a conference of 16 churches. My “old white guy” colleagues were leery of me at first, until they decided I was a pastor first, then a woman. I wondered at the time if they would be offended to be told that they were pastors first, then men. ;)

        But after a few years, when it was our conference’s turn to lead worship at synod assembly (statewide annual meeting), I was really proud of them that they realized it was important for our worship leaders not to just be “old white guys”, especially since the bishop, his assistants, and most of the elected lay leaders were old white guys; as a result me and my female colleagues took the lead in worship leadership. Six years later it’s time for us to lead worship again, and our whole synod has significantly more female pastors and lay leaders, including more than half of the bishop’s staff. They are all still white, which is an area we could stand to improve in, but more of the staff as well as a few elected leaders are also younger, better reflecting the makeup of the synod as a whole.

        The leadership of the “old white guys” in making space for the rest of us is crucial. When I was beginning seminary 20 years ago, my bishop actively discouraged me and other women from following God’s leading into ordained ministry. The bishop in this synod 20 years ago was at least as unfriendly to female pastors, and in our polity the bishop’s office controls which candidates are available to congregations for call – if the bishop doesn’t support ordination of women, the resumes of otherwise qualified female pastors simply won’t be distributed to congregations in that synod. Twelve years under the leadership of a bishop who actively supported female pastors turned the climate around, and when he retired two years ago a female pastor was a serious contender to be elected as his successor.

        I’m also a big fan of Rob Bell – my first exposure to him was as the Bible study leader for our national youth gathering 9 years ago, and I’ve read his books and used his Nooma videos. He’s in a position to influence who appears with him in public forums, conferences, etc. There are brilliant women in ministry out there, but until the “old white guys” (even the young ones like Rob Bell) intentionally give them public space, the church culture won’t change. Evangelical friends, don’t let your daughters live without role models for a generation or two or three while “organic change” happens – the Holy Spirit is way ahead of you!

  15. blake says:

    concerning bells car:
    matt k
    i think rob is walking everywhere. he had a land rover, not a land cruiser.
    just to be sure, you might want to check your info before the crux of you argument hinges on suspect information.

    i say this because during one of his sermons he talked about riding a bike or walking to many of the places he went and MAY have said somewhere that he got rid of his landrover. i vaguely remember this because it stood out to me because of the numerous blog comments and posts that centered around the car he drove. perhaps he should put that information on his website. thats why i could go to all the same blogs and see if they post this new information about rob walking. dont think they would post though, wouldnt serve there cause.

    concerning women in ministry.
    tyler
    research charles talbert III article on household codes. i think driscolls exegesis is WAY suspect and misses the context of these passages completely. looking at the greek and the context of these passages, i dont see how anyone could walk away and hold his “complimentarian” view.

  16. steve says:

    Eugene,

    I have a good buddy that attends Quest and I have heard a lot of good things about you. I am glad you are inneracting with the world around and seem to have a grip on some of the things going on. After reading your post I have a few questions and thoughts.

    I have followed Rob Bell for quite some time and one thing I’ve learned about him is that I can only label him one way and that is Christian. I’m tired of all the distinctions we make. Call me extreme but I think we are missing the point when we call a guy “white man, emergent” or whatever other labels that are available. I understand labels have there place because they help us organize thoughts but at the same time when do they become destructive in the culture at large? Should we really label Rob Bell as emergent or should we refer to him as a Christian so that we can include all of our brothers who don’t walk and talk like him?

    As far as my understanding all Churches are emergent. All Churches are seeking to contextualizing there message to the world they find themselves in. I wish all this emergent label would disappear and we would call it what it is, Christian. Whatya think? Am I over the top on this one?

  17. Capt Ralph says:

    I agree, for the most part, with the encouragement you have gotten – above. I am praying for you, right now – in class – and daily, for wisdom and discernment in the days ahead. As you continue to be a “voice” and as you continue to “call out”, that your feet stay on the ground. As you willingly, or unwillingly become a “celeb”, maybe the answer is prayer – more than 3 minutes a day. Thanks.

  18. j evans says:

    Thank you, Eugene and Rose, for sharing what you have here. I pray more hear you.

    J

  19. beattieblog says:

    I’ll add my thanks to Eugene for being on stage – even if it was only in some wise words on Rose’s notes! It was good to hear that Rob had an idea of what was coming. I do think he “gets it” on a theological and somewhat relational level. But at this point, it doesn’t seem to be something he is championing on his public stage. To his credit, I did like some of what he said about making it the most normal thing possible in the church – his community talked about it, voted on it and then moved on with women in leadership as the norm. Now, he’s at that line so many visible leaders toe in his position about whether or not he will be a strong voice to those outside his community. It depends on whether or not he’s willing to incur the cost of doing that. But then again that gets back to the whole problem in the first place – that he can even make that choice. When Rose or Eugene take the stage, who they are places them on one side of the power divide whether they like it or not. Final plug for Rob: I did value his strong statement on the issue that went something like, “In the past we used to say things like, there are two different interpretations of scripture that we have to agree to disagree on. No – we should say, there are two ways of interpreting scripture here, and one of them is wrong.” I liked and appreciated that. I also really like and appreciate Rose.

  20. Leah says:

    i liked the comment about the church being the ‘White Man’s World’. i like a lot of what Rob Bell has to say, as I like a lot of what some contemporary, intelligent, ‘emergent’ authors have to say. i just wish there came a day where instead of going to a conference where someone like Bell talks about why we should have women in ministry, or a bunch of White guys talk about racial reconciliation and poverty, that these same heavy-hitters would realize THEY ARE THE ONES feeding the power disparity, THEY ARE THE ONES who could be radically supporting women and people of color in ministry by stepping aside and handing the mic to someone else, and asking the audience to listen.

    how often do evangelical men who claim to support women in ministry agree to serve as much needed mentors to women or people of color so that they can have exposure to the leadership, to what’s going on in church circles, so that they can learn? those in power are men, and if those wanting to learn are women, all too often they cannot find men willing to mentor them because they want to guard against any appearance of impropriety. as a woman, having my gender viewed as ‘dangerous’ at times is frustrating, to say the least, and honestly makes growth and mentorship opportunities in the evangelical world damn hard to come by.

    for now, all too often, i feel like the picture above, especially in evangelical circles. and if i get asked one more time by a white guy ‘why are you so upset about this women in leadership discussion’ and told that i or other women are too emotional, or told that i just need to have some grace for those who believe i don’t have a genuine call from God…seriously, all of this talk is enough to make an evangelical consider going episcopalian.

  21. J. R. Miller says:

    Wow, I did not realize how evil I was for being born white, and how my existence leads to oppression and bitterness. I cannot even begin to explain how disappointed and hurtful the post and comments are to me.

    I guess I will take the hint though and step aside from participating in the conversation on your blog so I can leave room for the women and minorities.

  22. eugenecho says:

    j.r. miller – bummed that you’ve misinterpreted this blog, my post, and my words.

    if you’re still around, let me know how you heard me call you “evil.” you’re a fellow brother in christ.

  23. Tyler says:

    jr- from a fellow white man. your comment is ridiculous. and from someone who supports male only leadership, i don’t see how you get to being offended about your race from what eugene wrote.

  24. [...] production style / quality are not embarrassing, noomas. Eugene Cho has another great and lively discussion about it on his blog that’s not worth my trying to duplicate. You can read more about the discussion between Rob [...]

  25. beattieblog says:

    JR, you gotta be kidding me.

  26. Rose says:

    Ryan,
    I agree that Rob’s line about there are two theological positions on this matter and one is just wrong was a highlight.

    I don’t think I want Rob (unless God calls him) to champion women in the sense of that is what he becomes known for…I guess I don’t understand how Rob and others talk and our passionate about God being on the side of those that are on the under belly of power and not give 10 minutes to a woman to make space for a group that has been marginalized and on the under side of the belly of power structures in the Evangelical (and other) churches. I know that Brian McLaren has stated publicly that he will no longer accept speaking engagements that do not include women. I think Brian has it right and because of it he isn’t first know for “championing the women’s cause” does that make sense?
    I admire Rob for what he has done in his church. I really do. He is a good guy.

  27. beattieblog says:

    Thanks, Rose – that totally makes sense. I realize I was using some grandiose language there with “champion”.

  28. J. R. Miller says:

    Against my better judgement, I will attempt to clarify my feelings Eugene. I regret if this degenerates into a flame war. If my answer is not sufficient, then you can contact me privately through my WP profile.

    From the original post where you say the “White Church” is “oppressing” women and where a dichotomy is made between “white pastors” vs. minority pastors, the tone was set.

    Leah’s affirming and uncontested comments begin, “i just wish there came a day where instead of going to a conference where someone like Bell talks about why we should have women in ministry, or a bunch of White guys talk about racial reconciliation and poverty, that these same heavy-hitters would realize THEY ARE THE ONES feeding the power disparity, THEY ARE THE ONES who could be radically supporting women and people of color in ministry by stepping aside and handing the mic to someone else, and asking the audience to listen.”

    Eugene, I do consider you a brother, but that does not change the hurt I feel at a post and uncontested replies which pit white against “minority” or women against men.

    You wrote yesterday about your fear that the VA Tech shooter would create a backlash against all Koreans or even your kids… yet here we are a day later characterizing “white”: leaders as part of the “white” power structure.

    Maybe that does not hurt Tyler who finds my comment and hurt “ridiculous” but maybe that is because Tyler’s story is different than mine. Or maybe it is because I see race and the Gospel differently than he. But dear brother, as long as you see me as a “white” pastor or a “white” brother, who is part of the “white” power structure then a problem exists… and that is what hurts the most. And it hurts not just me, but the Kingdom of Christ.

    The world cares about skin color, race, and sex… the Kingdom is neither male nor female, Jew or Greek, but one family and one Body under Christ. The discrimination of the past, and present, is not solved on the world’s turf. Skin color does not “oppress” people, sin does. Accusing one skin color of doing something that is part of the sin nature, a nature which cuts across all races, is the worlds solution. History shows that all races discriminte when in power. History shows that women discriminate when they are in power. Koreans discriminate. Blacks discriminate! All people do it in all human cultures. The fact that some do it in the name of Jesus should not be a surprise.

    Yet as long as you, or anyone tries to “solve” the problem of discrimination using the methods of the world then we miss the point. Discrimination is not a problem to be solved, it is a sin to be abolished through the death and resurrection life of Jesus Christ. The past cannot be corrected, it can only be forgiven. “Korean” power is not the solution to “white” power. “Woman” power is not the solution to “Male” power. These are the solutions of a World that does not know the power of Jesus Christ. And if we, the Church, simply try adopt the methods of our world, we will miss out on YHWH’s best.

    Did you say all that? No. But your post put the focus on race and gender as the problem and that lends to comments that focus on race and gender as the solution instead of Jesus.

    Ah well… I’ve probably said too much. It may just be easier to dismiss my view as misrepresenting you or my opinion as ridiculous.

    As your guest, I am sincerely sorry for causing disruption to your site Eugene.

  29. eugenecho says:

    rose: thanks for facilitiating the discussion last night. it was good. and i was really honored that you shared that quote. even indirectly, i want to be a part of that conversation.

    and i loved how your articulated this:

    I guess I don’t understand how Rob and others talk and our passionate about God being on the side of those that are on the under belly of power and not give 10 minutes to a woman to make space for a group that has been marginalized and on the under side of the belly of power structures in the Evangelical (and other) churches.

    and for the record, i want folks to know how much i appreciate rob as well. people may think i’m stalking him because i also wear chunky glasses, love the whiteboard, and work close to mars hill.

    j.r. – we shouldn’t be afraid to dialogue. there’s no flame war here. let me chew on what you wrote a little more.

    let me just say that you’re venting up the wrong tree regarding people’s “affirming and uncontested” comments. this is the internet. people are free to write and share what they want to share. i don’t know who everyone is but they have the freedom to write and unless they go overboard, i’m not going to delete , respond to, or challenge every single comment. thanks for adding to the dialogue. will respond later when i have a couple more moments but i’m sure others may want to chime in as well.

  30. Dennis says:

    Eugene,

    Why are you always causing trouble?!? Why can’t you just be a passive Asian? :)

  31. Matt K says:

    Okay, didn’t know that about Bell giving up his car. Lesson learned in taking hearsay for fact. His comments make a little more sense now. I don’t doubt he’s a good guy; just found what appeared to be some “do as i say, not as i do”. Inspiring to know he’s literally “doing the walk”.

    On white power: I think the point is particularly on target when we consider that “the Emerging church” in the US is a predominantly white middle and upper class phenomenon. If the Emerging church truly wants to live into a Kingdom vision of inverted power, then active steps should be taken to share power and invite the marginalized to the center. The “Emerging Church” phenomenon is getting a lot of attention and energy around it, but its most predominant faces are all white and male. The bigger and broader movement of the Church globally is not white and male–the fastest growing churches in the U.S. are ethnic minorities, the fastest growing churches in the world are in the 2/3rds world. So we have a small white-male minority who holds inumberable resources and who is clinging to their “center place” in the church while a majority of believers exist in the margins of socio-ethnic minority. This is a disconnect with the New Testament’s vision of an integrated church not divided by class, race, and gender (Gal 3.28).

    Being a white-male myself, I have to take this lesson to heart as on a personal level I constantly feel a bit of a “messiah-complex” when it comes to life and ministry. Perhaps the best way to live into my kingdom calling is not to take good intentions and unearned power out for a heroic charge–but instead to ask questions of my marginalized sisters and brothers and see how together we can share the servant-authority within the Kingdom of God.

  32. Leah says:

    let me just say, in the words of Matt K, that i don’t doubt Rob Bell is a good guy. I certainly have no desire or intent to say that any White male is not a good guy, or to demonize white males. for the record, i’m married to one, and i love him very much. however, if we are to speak truth in our culture, we must realize that the systemic and institutional racism and sexism that pervades our society also affects our churches. thanks to those who spoke about sharing power, something we can all do in the contexts in which we find ourselves the beneficiaries of unearned power.

    changing the power structure also means listening to the testimonies and stories of the marginalized, validating their experiences as true, and accepting one’s role as participant in the unequal power structures in our society. as a white woman, i can choose to accept unearned power in certain situations, and i can also choose to actively work against institutional and systemic racism.

    JR, as a woman, and as a minister of the gospel, i don’t feel that eugene was at all pitting women against men or whites against minorities; i feel that he was giving voice and space at the table to people who have not historically been allowed access. in doing so, i felt also that he was following in the example of Jesus, who was radically inclusive of all people in his ministry, regardless of gender, social class, or ability. if we speak of focusing on Jesus, instead of on race and gender, because of the inequalities of our society, those in power will never have to address the questions of race and gender. those who are not in power, for whom race and gender are ever present realities, will continue to live in these questions, and continue to be told that their concerns are not part of the gospel. this is how we marginalize and discriminate in the name of Christ. please know JR that i have utmost respect for you and for your ministry, and the work you are doing, and hope that we can have this kind of dialogue in a climate of respect for one another.

    thanks eugene, for starting the dialogue. i’m not sorry for commenting, but i do promise to resurrect my blog.

  33. steve lewis says:

    JR, as a fellow white guy in ministry, I think it’s important that this dialog take place. We need to be anything but defensive when concerns like these are raised. Like it or not, we have been the beneficiaries of privilege in our world, and it takes initiative on our part to set that aside. I understand that it feels like you’re being targeted for something you were born into . . . but that is exactly what women and people of other ethnic origins face constantly. I would recommend that you take the feelings of tension that this raises in you, and turn that into a grieving over how our sisters and brothers on the “under side” have been treated. You don’t have to feel guilty over being who you are as a white guy, but make a point of giving others an opportunity to speak, mainly because you’ll hear some very smart, spiritually dynamic, wise voices.

  34. Jennifer says:

    PE,

    I read your post this morning, and am jut now getting a chance to respond (and I’m in class!! shhhhh). And I’m going to respond without having read all the other comments…

    I am so personally blessed with how Quest as a church, and you personally support women in ministry. It seems like 1970’s feminism said that women could create better human rights for themselves – for women, by women. But, it doenst seem like that worked, it was just a long power struggle (and a needed one…we owe a lot of the feminists of the 70’s, but still it didnt get as far as it could…) But collaboraiton is needed to get past the stalemate.

    I am so grateful for the men I know who have decided to stand with women in their struggle – because it means that those men take on some of the pain and stigma the women face. And I know there are many men at Quest who have been strong enough to go down that path.

  35. i’m still waiting for a battle of the mars hills.

    in all seriousness, i am unsure of women head shepherds, but i don’t agree with the head pastor-teacher role completely either. it’s a complex issue, and i think if a woman wants to serve, she should serve, and if there is need for leadership that the men aren’t filling, why not?

    men need to step up in either case…

  36. Janet says:

    Eugene,
    Thanks for sharing this. I love Rob Bell as well and I’m encouraged by what he brings to the larger table of the Christian community. We don’t need him to champion our cause – the Holy Spirit will do that. But, as you said, it’s encouraging when our male brothers who are in prominent or less prominent places of leadership “acknowledge and advocate.” And so having said that, let me also thank you for your voice.

  37. stacey says:

    Awkward is an understatement. I was at the event last night, I am a female in ministry and was a bit horrified by how the “conversation” happened. and just to clarify, i had no clue what the event was going to be about, i assumed something related to compassion and the recent conference, so the women in ministry came completely out of left field. Honestly, within a few minutes of rose being on stage, I felt like she had an agenda and that she was bitter. I don’t know rose, so maybe i was reading her wrong. But I felt like it was not at all a conversation, she wanted to make a point, loud and clear. I am not passive by any means, but i don’t feel like attacking someone from the gender and race that you feel is oppressing you is the right way to start a “conversation.” I felt the approach was all wrong. It felt more like she wanted to start a fight than someone who had just come out of 4 days talking about justice and compassion. How women are treated around the world is a huge issue, but i don’t think angry voices are going to get our message across. There has to be another way.

    One thing i did find ironic is that after rose was talking to rob (aka:white men) to hand the “mic” to women, jim henderson from off the map got up there and started a new conversation about jesus, church, the seeds of compassion conference, etc…with 3 middle aged white guys. where were the women? minorities? where was rose? and from what i understand this was her church. She didn’t even make sure women had a mic in her own house. it’s confusing.

    And I don’t have things figured out. I don’t know when to stand up and fight for myself, and when to wait for others to stand up for me. or if either of those options reflect Jesus. I’m a part of a denom that supports women in min, but it’s still hard, frustrating and i often want to hit my head against a brick wall… Because for the most part our system does give the advantage to white men. So while part of it is structure, part of it is us. I feel as women we need to step up and lead, inspire, share our stories, mentor the next generation of young women, ask to speak, get educated on this issue, listen, ask questions, keep advancing the Kingdom, discover your gifts, talents, passions-get what you need then do it and let’s have tough conversations with people out who are not valuing God’s creation and His story, but let’s do it with relentless love. maybe i’m crazy…

  38. Pete Wilson says:

    Powerful Eugene. Keeping challenging us.

  39. eugenecho says:

    steve: wanted to respond to your question. you wrote:

    “I have followed Rob Bell for quite some time and one thing I’ve learned about him is that I can only label him one way and that is Christian. I’m tired of all the distinctions we make. Call me extreme but I think we are missing the point when we call a guy “white man, emergent” or whatever other labels that are available. I understand labels have there place because they help us organize thoughts but at the same time when do they become destructive in the culture at large? Should we really label Rob Bell as emergent or should we refer to him as a Christian so that we can include all of our brothers who don’t walk and talk like him?

    As far as my understanding all Churches are emergent. All Churches are seeking to contextualizing there message to the world they find themselves in. I wish all this emergent label would disappear and we would call it what it is, Christian. Whatya think? Am I over the top on this one?”

    MY THOUGHTS:
    Honestly, I really don’t know how to answer your question. It’s possible that centuries from now, folks will call this era in Christian history as the rise of the “emerging movement” or something thereabouts. I believe there is something going on that is somewhat distinctive. Not new per se, but distinctive in response to the post church culture we live in. The labels aren’t meant to be harmful but I know that they can be. I am often labeled and it doesn’t always feel great.

    But for the purposes of your question, I really don’t care what we call or are called as long as we are following, doing, and obeying the will, work, and way of Jesus Christ.

    I find it interesting that some want to abolish words like emerging but are ok with using words like “that person is a reformed Christian.” The word “emerging” for me is a very very broad word to describe the movement of being the church and living out one’s faith in a fast changing postchurch society and culture.

    But heck, what do I know.

  40. Rose says:

    Stacey,
    A few thoughts.

    “Honestly, within a few minutes of rose being on stage, I felt like she had an agenda and that she was bitter.”

    Gosh I am anything but bitter. For me the continued marginalization of women in churches is a justice issue. I had a conversation with Rob in the afternoon and we discussed my naming that white males hold the power in evangelical churches, the tradition both Rob and I are a part of. He was absolutely fine with the conversation. I told him I was going to ask him as a white male with influence how he could use his influence for the sake of women. I really didn’t try to surprise or blindside him…I fully respect Rob. I had another conversation with him after we were done and he seemed fine…we were frank about a couple of issues, he thought it went well. I trust he would have been honest with me if he thought differently.

    For me this is a conversation that needs to be public.

    “One thing i did find ironic is that after rose was talking to rob (aka:white men) to hand the “mic” to women, jim henderson from off the map got up there and started a new conversation about jesus, church, the seeds of compassion conference, etc…with 3 middle aged white guys. where were the women? minorities? where was rose? and from what i understand this was her church. She didn’t even make sure women had a mic in her own house. it’s confusing.”

    Yep I bet that was confusing. I did not plan the agenda, we were asked to host an Off the Map event. Jim Henderson planned each segment and in order to make space for women he asked me to have a conversation with Rob. If it were up to me, I would have included a woman on that panel…but it wasn’t up to me. I’m glad you noticed.

    What church do you belong to? I’m glad you are in a place that supports women in all that God created them to be.

    Eugene, thanks again for using this as a forum to discuss and dialogue hard issues.

  41. Rose says:

    One more thought on Stacey’s comment. A few years ago I was with a group of women talking with Dan Allender (President of Mars Hill Grad School) about women and the church. I said something like, its hard to talk about this issue without coming across like or being accused of having an agenda. Dan looked me square in the face and said, “you do have an agenda” to which I replied, “no I really don’t have an agenda.” His reply back, “the sooner you own that you have an agenda for biblical equality for women the more you will be able to use your voice.” He went on to say, “every time I get up to speak, I have an agenda, every public speaker does, but as a male that ‘s not what I am accused of, it doesn’t even come into play.” I realized in that moment that whenever I had the opportunity to champion the cause of women for equality, I would use my voice. I do not want to come off as bitter, passionate yes, bitter no. So once again, if that was the perception that was not my intention.
    Peace

  42. Ben says:

    much typing over a dude…. i’m sure the guy’s great, but man…. so much opinion/thought about a brother of Christ that we don’t even know personally? a celebrity Christian? not sure how that reconciles.

    i don’t know, i just couldn’t do it.

  43. DH says:

    Ben,

    We’re not talking about Christian celebrity.

    We’re discussing “the uphill journey.”

  44. [...] 11-11.30am – Check in next door at the church building with staff and Leah, one of our other pastors and the most powerful person at our church.  Stop by the basement to peek in the Moms’ Group to make sure they’re not having too much fun.  Quickly check some emails and realized the latest blogpost is kinda getting intense. [...]

  45. amy powell says:

    eugene…so cool to learn of you through rose’s blog. love your thoughts and contributions. rose is a key mentor for me as i plant a vineyard church out in menasha, wisconsin. hope to connect with you more on your passion regarding the uphill journey for woman and people of color. running the race with a limp, amy

  46. kathy says:

    Give me (and Rob) a break. There are 716 “good causes” that need to be championed by followers of Christ. One person or church can’t be a leader in all of them. I go to Mars Hill in GR and it was a big deal when the “women in leadership” thing came up. Some people even left the church, but Rob (and other white guys) stood strong. You should be thankful for his efforts. (By the way, I was against it!)

    If women in the role of leader is your main concern with this broken world, you’ve got it pretty good.

  47. SolShine7 says:

    I don’t think of Rob Bell as a celebrity. I live in Michigan and some people have no idea who he is, and that includes Christians and non-Christians. I like his Nooma videos, they’re great but he’s just a person like everyone else. I appreciate what he’s doing for the body of Christ. I’ve got no stones to throw.

    On the other hand, I do understand what you mean by it being a “white man’s world” and it would be truly encouraging and much-needed for white pastors to support womens’ rights and minorities.

  48. worinld says:

    lol @ “self-righteous pharisaic image of himself praying on his blog banner”

  49. gaius says:

    J.R. wrote
    “Or maybe it is because I see race and the Gospel differently than he. But dear brother, as long as you see me as a “white” pastor or a “white” brother, who is part of the “white” power structure then a problem exists… and that is what hurts the most. And it hurts not just me, but the Kingdom of The world cares about skin color, race, and sex… the Kingdom is neither male nor female, Jew or Greek, but one family and one Body under Christ. The discrimination of the past, and present, is not solved on the world’s turf. Skin color does not “oppress” people, sin does. Accusing one skin color of doing something that is part of the sin nature, a nature which cuts across all races, is the worlds solution. History shows that all races discriminte when in power. History shows that women discriminate when they are in power. Koreans discriminate. Blacks discriminate! All people do it in all human cultures. The fact that some do it in the name of Jesus should not be a surprise. Yet as long as you, or anyone tries to “solve” the problem of discrimination using the methods of the world then we miss the point. Discrimination is not a problem to be solved, it is a sin to be abolished through the death and resurrection life of Jesus Christ. The past cannot be corrected, it can only be forgiven. “Korean” power is not the solution to “white” power. “Woman” power is not the solution to “Male” power. These are the solutions of a World that does not know the power of Jesus Christ. And if we, the Church, simply try adopt the methods of our world, we will miss out on YHWH’s best. Did you say all that? No. But your post put the focus on race and gender as the problem and that lends to comments that focus on race and gender as the solution instead of Jesus.”

    This comment for me is pretty jarring as it takes a “just pray about it” approach to the problems of racism, sexism, and other issues that those in the minority face. This is easy to say when one belongs in the group in power or the majority (whether it be in the US, Asia, or any other continent). Using “Christian” or “biblical” principles to smooth over problems is akin to seeking justice without confrontation. This is impossible and indefensible. Unfortunately for many in the majority, it takes personal experience in being a minority to understand the crux and substance of what some of the grievances and feelings that the latter group has. This is not about “Korean power” vs. “White power” or “male power” vs. “female power.” This is about equality and being seen as how God sees us – equal, loved, and as His children.

  50. J. R. Miller says:

    Based on the comments alone, here are some of my observations.

    1. The world is great at causing division based on differences of skin and gender. The early church had its share of division based on Jewish, Gentile, and mixed-race issues. In God’s Kingdom, diversity is the root of unity. To those who think the answer to inequality is to gain power, I suggest you spend some intensive time studying the Scripture to discern if gaining power over others, or even trying to take it away from those who have it, was the answer God gave. I would suggest to you that gaining power, or sharing power, or taking power away, is not God’s way to rectify injustice. God’s way is found in giving up our power, giving up our rights (just like Jesus did), and then serving and submitting to one another. That answer is very impractical, but then again God’s ways are foolishness to the Greek mindset in which we all live.

    I live in a small community with only about 7% minority population… TOTAL. Yet interestingly enough, our young church plant has about 25% minorities. I did not generate this kind of ethnic diversity because I treated people as “minorities” I did not achieve this because I promised to share “my” white-man power. It happened because I simply love and respect everyone as a human being and child of God above all things. It happened because rather than focusing on skin, or gender, or power, I have focused on serving. To be honest, I do not have any power to even share, all I have to share is my life and I give that freely to everyone and anyone who needs it. I giving this way, I have been abused, taken advantage of, and hurt… but I still do it the only way I know how. As a result, we have a lot of poor people and single parents in our church Family. I don’t have a church in a rich place like Seattle, I don’t have hundreds of thousands of dollars to give to world causes, I don’t have money for insurance for my family. More than 10 years ago, I gave up a 6 figure career opportunity to serve others. That is what I give and share; not based on gender or skin, but based on the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ.

    This is the basis for what I write and despite the fact that a couple people here have thought me ridiculous or ignorant, I am glad for the way I live with and love others.

    2. From the world’s perspective, white, black, asian, men, women, etc have no basis for understanding each others struggle. A couple people have demonstrated this philosophy very well in their posts. For those who insist on pointing out the blatantly obvious (viz a vie.. “you don’t know my experience”) I would suggest to you that that is why we have the Holy Spirit. So while I do not know your experience, you don’t know mine either. BUT, the Holy Spirit who dwells in me does know all of our experiences and He gives us all the capacity to love and care for one another even when our experiences are radically different.

    My Father in Law is a full blooded Mexican. My mother in-law is an American Indian. My own kids are “mixed” race. I have been a foster parent for a wonderful black teenage girl. Over the past 20 years I have been in 2 historically black churches, and I served as a youth pastor for a Chinese Church. I have attended churches with men and women pastors. I have traveled all over the world serving many communities of people. My grandparents were poor and had to hunt just to survive the winters. My Dad was the first in his family, after many generations, to EVER to go to college. None of our experiences are the same and to try and define the “white” experience vs. the “minority” experience is leading us on the wrong path. And for anyone here to condescend to others because you think your experience is uniquely difficult is wrong. We are all unique and difficult journeys and each person is worthy of dignity and respect.

    3. From the world’s perspective, prayer is impractical and ineffective. I would suggest that in God’s Kingdom prayer is the most proactive and powerful thing you can do. And if anyone thinks prayer is an “easy” answer that does not transform our actions then this person does not understand the nature of true prayer to our Heavenly Father.

    4. Finally, there has been the suggestion by one or two folks that my view is based on an unwillingness, or inability, to listen to minorities Or that my view is rooted in some kind of latent”white” guilt.

    First, I am not able try to defend myself to those foolish remarks. For those unable to see the issue beyond skin color, there is nothing I can say or do that will change it.

    Second, I have no guilt based on the actions of other white people, or brown people or, men, or other Christian people. My identity is in Jesus Christ, and in him there is no condemnation. And if anyone does not know that kind of freedom, I hope you find it.

    Finally, this forum is not the best place to resolve all differences because it lacks the personal nature of face to face conversation. Eugene, if you want to host a live forum, I will show up, but barring that, I can only hope God’s grace is demonstrated in all the words to follow.

  51. [...] discussion started with Pastor Eugene’s discussion of a group conversation with Rob Bell, a thoughtful and prominent Christian in town to participate in events surrounding [...]

  52. gaius says:

    What is dangerous about J.R.’s view is that it seems to presuppose that those who would want to equalize the balance of power are not followers of Christ and belong to the “Greek mindset.” He speaks about giving up rights and submission, but this exhortation applies to all, including those in the majority. The reality of this sin-filled world is that there are power imbalances, racism, sexism, etc. Sometimes, these issues spill over into the church universal. It is clear that in many other parts of society that these power imbalances exist, whether due to history, intentional acts, or otherwise.

    J.R.’s advice, however, seems to insinuate that all that should be done is to “love,” “respect,” and “pray.” While all those actions are godly in themselves, those cannot be the only actions taken in light of injustice in the world – i.e. MLK, Gandhi. While both practiced non-violence, both did not encourage not doing anything to rectify the respective situations of their communities. Quite the opposite, both engaged in strategic confrontation to wear down those who oppressed them.

    Without action, however, what you get is maintaining of a status quo that is just plain wrong – i.e. Myanmar, Zimbabwe, N. Korea etc. J.R’s advice also negates the possibility that God does give and take away power to maintain a more just society – i.e. many times in the Old Testament. Again, I have no issue with the concepts of giving up rights, love, and respect, but an overemphasis on them can be impractical at best and at worst, damaging. Prayer is not “ineffective” or “ineffectual,” but we are also called to seek justice and love mercy in this world in a very tangible sense.

  53. [...] interviewed Rob, the recap of which has generated a lively conversation over on Eugene Cho’s blog.  Rose gave her take there, as well as on her own [...]

  54. Alan Klug says:

    The more I read comments stemming from this post, the more I become confused, and the more I get tired of people effectively being called more or less Christian. You see, if you knew the Holy Spirit, you’d agree with me, right? There must be only one lens to see this through.

    I know that I don’t live in a post-racial society, or go to an entirely post-racial church. These are realities. For one, I’m glad that we bring variety to the table. I’m proud of my brothers and sisters from different traditions, and I don’t need to have or establish racial credentials to say that. I’m glad Eugene is Korean-American, and in fact I praise God for it. I learn more about myself because he isn’t like me in many ways, and yet I’d be proud to call him a friend. We, like many others here, share the bond of faith.

    Almost down the street from Quest yesterday, WaMu had their shareholder’s meeting which produced outrage among many people who hold stock in the company. This is what happens when you are set to lose in the neighborhood of $19 billion. I happened to look at their board on their website, and out of the 12 people on it, eleven are white men. The twelfth is a white woman. Only one board member (a woman) lost their job in the scandal.

    We do live in a white man’s world. I didn’t want to believe it for a long time because I don’t like the implications of it, being both white and male. I’ve been employing my knapsack of privilege for as long as I’ve been breathing.

    If the inequality present in the world wasn’t also present in the church, this conversation wouldn’t have started, but whenever a large number of women and minorities feel that they can’t live out their callings in ministry it leaves only a few options. Either they are misinterpreting their calling and God predominantly calls white men to positions of influence within the evangelical, and specifically emergent, church movement, or some sort of injustice is present. I’d vote for injustice.

    The point isn’t to feel bad about being white and it’s not to loathe being a man. However, if we are aware that there are systems in place that foster injustice, and we feel called and compelled to fight injustice, how can we stay silent? If God gives power, why aren’t we supposed to take part in seeing that take place? When God gives, aren’t we often the feet and hands? I’m assuming God wanted equal rights for African-Americans. Was it wrong for MLK et al to gain influence and pursue power for people who were marginalized? Should people have prayed more, waited and not tried to overturn an unjust system? Certainly they were acting to a calling they had felt to combat injustice. Our sisters (and wives) who feel called to be pastors are alerting us to injustice, as are many other people who are disenfranchised from the table. Were the church perfect and not comprised of fallen people, I’m sure this wouldn’t be an issue, but it is, and we’re playing a more or less zero sum game. When in general one group holds a disproportionate amount of power, it isn’t much of a game, and I believe that those structures can serve as powers that act in opposition to the enactment of the will of God.

    Of those 12 people on WaMu’s board, there’s no reason to assume that individually any one of them is unqualified to hold their position, but taken as a whole, it raises questions about education, social classes, racism and the influence of gender. When you think of important people in any movement and the first 10 are all white and male, I’ll suggest that something systemic is occurring. Feel free to disagree.

    Once again, the problem isn’t Rob Bell, or that a pastor in Orting is white and a man. J.R. if that’s your calling, and there’s no reason to believe it isn’t, I’m happy for you. However, if a woman or person of color wanted a similar job after having a similar calling, and couldn’t have it or faced additional undue burden, then that’s a problem, that based on my casual and non-scholarly reading of scripture (even here in this preposterously rich city with no single parents and six figure jobs for everyone) and maybe I shold see what I can do to help.

  55. chad says:

    i want to read this string of responses and comment thoughtfully, insightfully and honestly and the only real observation i can make is this: there is very poor communication going on here. it would appear as if each person is saying one thing, and if not meaning another, then certainly being misconstrued by the other participants.

    obviously the issue is extremely complex. obviously we are all coming from different places. i think that, in the interest of good communication, the issues at hand need systematic explanation/expansion. and blog responses are probably not the best place for that kind of thing.

    i also think it would be wise to point out that race and gender in relationship to the institution of the church has been an ongoing conversation at Quest and many things have already been said in that conversation that i don’t believe have been mentioned here.

    that is my 2 cents.
    -chad

  56. Helen says:

    Thanks for your comments here Eugene. I was pleased to meet you on Tuesday. You phrased this perfectly:

    while you have female elders in your church, I guess the question I want to ask is how are you actively and intentionally supporting and advocating for women through your larger ministry beyond your local church.

    I’m hoping to write about the evening on my blog, if I ever get to that – I’m still writing about the Dalai Lama events I attended in the morning.

  57. stacey says:

    “God’s way is found in giving up our power, giving up our rights (just like Jesus did), and then serving and submitting to one another.”

    I think we agree with this statement, but i feel like some of our brothers who are holding the power are not even aware they are holding the power, and/or are not willing to give it up. which I think is the point rose was trying to make. talk to women and minorities in ministry. hear our stories of being belittled at dinner tables at pastors conferences, of constantly being referred to as a pastors wife, of sitting at a round table discussion on spiritual formation and the conversation turns to whether or not i should even be at the table, of being the only women in the room to sing the “female” part of a worship song (which by the way sounds more like some animal being tortured than worship when i sing…) the good thing is that i don’t have to wait in line to go to the bathroom at most pastors conferences…. :-) but overall it’s disappointing. i feel like we’re often too wrapped up in our own story to enter the story of someone else.

    rose – thank you for your insight, i’m sorry i miss read you and did not hear what you were trying to say. it’s a bit disappointing that rob knew what he was getting into and responded the way he did, that off the map dropped the ball, and that you were the interviewer instead of the interviewee. i would love to chat off-line about this more…let’s grab coffee. on the uphill journey together.

  58. Ben says:

    chad’s on target

  59. Jim says:

    Tom Freidman said ” Those in power never think about it – those without it think about it all the time”

    Rose and I have been discussing this issue for at least the past 5 years if not longer. She and I have worked together for over 20 years.

    Off The Map is comitted to advancing women leaders. We will continue to do this regardless of what people may say or think about us be it postive or negative.

    Leading change is very tricky and uneven. It is impossible to get all you want when you want it in the real world of change.

    William Wilberforce collaborated with 69 different groups on his way to ending slavery. It took him 40 years and the real reason he finally got the legislation to pass was not because his colleagues finally agreed with him, they were simply asleep at the legislative wheel one day and he got the bill passed wihtout their help.

    That’t the real world of change. it is messy and a mess. It is the wheat and the tares. It is the net of the kingdon filled with a whole lot of other crap.

    Jesus spent his first 30 years doing nothing – hows that for sitting by and letting powerful forces dominate when he apparently could have been doing something about it. Think of that God decided to sit for his first 30 years and do nada-zip – just an ordinary guy – one of the powerless.

    Once he did get started he was sort of random about who he helped and when he helped them- no strategic plan for Jesus- We give him a pass because he was God and seemed to have insider knowledge but we dont give ourselves that same pass.

    Whatever the cause of the day is – everyone who is a true follower is supposed to jump on that bandwagon or if they don’t we add them to the list of those who “just don’t get it”

    Unfortuanetly the whole thing is much messier than that – more uneven and consequently – potentially more beautiful – allowing more people to play.

    Some thoughts

  60. Jim says:

    FYI – Rose asked to be the interviewer -not the interviewee

  61. Meghan says:

    Eugene,

    Thank you for what you said and also what you hoped to say. As is evidenced in the reaction to your blog, there is much to be said, and often it seems as if “we” are all too silent, or perhaps all too defensive. Thank you for being a man who seems to care for women in your willingness to open up the possibility that failures have occurred. That recognition means a lot to me at least. I look forward to being a part of the gender and faith conversations coming up at Quest.

  62. RK says:

    J.R. While I am a Korean-American woman who grew-up in an almost all white neighborhood, often as one of the only ethnic persons in that community, in many ways I understand what your message is. As a woman and a minority who has tasted racism and sexism first-hand, I still hear you. I think there is legitimacy in your feeling hurt by some of the comments within this blog. At the same time, I also think it is healthy for us to be having this discussion, with comments by other bloggers as well as yourself.

    On the topic of women in church leadership, if a church that a woman belongs to does not permit her to become a leader though she desires to become one and feels “called” to become one, then she ought to leave that church and if need be start her own church. Why does she need to fight within that context which disallows her to be fully who she is? What is holding her to that situation. Stop whining and do something about it. We are only as helpless as we believe ourselves to be. Through God, we can do ALL things.

    As a minority and a woman, I was unhappy with the limits that I feel I faced in much of the corporate world, so I started my own business. All things are possible.

    If a minority group feels unserved by organizations of the majority group, then they can come together to create their own organizations. This has happened in U.S. immigration history over and over again. Look at the Jews, the Chinese, the Koreans…really most minority groups have come up with their own organizations. While we can keep asking those in power to do such and such to help those less powerful or priviledged then themselves, it’s like telling people to stop sinning. Rather than wait for others to help, one can take action to help oneself. We “ought” to do many things, but telling folks that they “ought” to do things usually is pretty ineffective. Eventually if a person is injustly held down long enough, they will rise up…think of all the revolutions in history.

    The truth is each of us struggle with racism, sexism, …isms infanitum to some degree; each of us discriminate to some degree. Each of us struggle with power to some degree. Historical, however, in the United States which is our context for this discussion, those of European descent have had to privilege or burden to hold positions of power and greater opportunity. In that sense the current discussion is relevant. How, then do we, when in power, choose to serve and give up “power”, or the illusion of power? How do we choose to serve others rather than ourselves? How do we encourage one another to serve.

    I do agree with JR, that true power comes from serving, as seen in Jesus’ example. We should not discount this. I think it is human nature to want to take control over a situation. Even when dealing with issues of justice, I think it is important to approach these situations with love. Easier said than done.

    We are who we are because God made us, not because we were born female, male, one race or another. Our sense of security comes from this truth, if we choose to believe it. Someone may think he/she can force another person in submission, but this is not true. One chooses into submission, perhaps, because the alternative is not worth the cost of being defiant, even in the face of injustice…still, it is one’s choice. Jesus chose to go to the cross…in that he demonstrated complete power and more importantly complete GRACE.

    Let us ourselves be gracious to one another.

  63. [...] and other Christians outside of our churches. This quote from another woman in ministry over at Eugene’s blog hits really close to home: talk to women and minorities in ministry. hear our stories of being [...]

  64. pathwayjourneys says:

    Eugene…
    The conversation is heated but it is good. In some ways it shows that we are trying to learn even how to have the conversation about women in leadership. It is difficult because for so many our only reference point is to take sides. It is complicated. I know. I am a woman and although our denomination (Covenant) welcomes women in leadership there is still a very low glass ceiling. I know I’ve bumped into it. If any one wants to be challenged and investigate more deeply God’s word and our perceptions I would recommend Dr. Sarah Sumner’s book Men and Women in the Church, Building Consensus on Christian Leadership from InterVarsity Press. I know some will recoil at a reference to a book, but I think people — both men and women will find the scholarship, the honesty, and the questions something we can wrestle with. What is at stake, really? Who we are meant to be — His Body. It is time.

    From Carol

  65. ryanbd says:

    I really like Jim and RK’s comments. It is messy. JR, I misunderstood your initial comment and took it as sarcasm. I apologize if my following comment was dismissive. Your comments remind me of Obama’s speech on race and the legitimate frustrations many whites feel when they look at their life and can’t see how they’ve been given an advantage – i.e. they’ve worked hard and made sacrifices to get where they are. I do still think we have to be honest about the default of white privilege in society. But I definitely hear what you’re saying.
    I also wanted to comment on was the idea that in God there is no Jew, no Greek, no man, no woman, etc. IMHO, we need to be careful not to read that as some kind of diversity eraser – like in the future Kingdom to come, our gender or ethnicity won’t matter. I think it’s much more nuanced then that. God created gender and ethnicity as a reflection of some part of himself. I’ve heard this verse referenced in discussions on race and gender roles before – but it’s always been by white males, never by women or non-whites. There’s a strength from God and a reflection of his kingdom to be found in diversity and creating the space for everyone to fully express their gifts. I think we need to pursue what this looks like and engage in these discussions rather than say we need to get past them. The Bible takes very seriously the issue of race, gender, and ethnicity as it comes up repeatedly throughout the old and new testaments.
    Finally, I think it’s in the book “Divided by Faith” where the authors point out a trend that tends to cause whites (particularly men) to not ‘stay at the table’ in dialogue. Essentially, it’s our tendency to take things so personally. We hear comments about “whites” and “men” and “white men” and immediately feel personally attacked. This is not helpful because it generally leads us to bolt on the conversation when we could stay and figure out how to see the critiuque as larger and more systemic. Other groups I think have a less individualistic world-view and can have these difficult conversations without it getting so personal.

  66. eugenecho says:

    jim,

    thanks. you and OTM did a great job hosting the event. i was very impressed with the energy in the entire space. and i think it was more than the wine and jalapenos i was consuming.

  67. Linda says:

    16 April 1963
    My Dear Fellow Clergymen:
    While confined here in the Birmingham city jail, I came across your recent statement calling my present activities “unwise and untimely.” Seldom do I pause to answer criticism of my work and ideas. … But since I feel that you are men of genuine good will and that your criticisms are sincerely set forth, I want to try to answer your statement in what I hope will be patient and reasonable terms. …
    One of the basic points in your statement is that the action that I and my associates have taken in Birmingham is untimely. Some have asked: “Why didn’t you give the new city administration time to act?” …
    We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct action campaign that was “well timed” in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word “Wait!” It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This “Wait” has almost always meant “Never.” We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that “justice too long delayed is justice denied.”

    We have waited for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God given rights. The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jetlike speed toward gaining political independence, but we still creep at horse and buggy pace toward [balancing women and minorities in power]. Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, “Wait [and just pray about it, just keep serving others].” But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim [http://www.homepages.indiana.edu/062102/text/memorial.html]; when you have seen hate filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters [http://www.angryasianman.com/2008/02/justice-for-mike-cho.html]; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; [when you still exist in a society where situations like http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jena_Six continue; when you are unable to travel freely, calmly, and be yourself http://www.amnestyusa.org/racial_profiling/report/airport.html%5D… when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of “nobodiness”–then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience….
    Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever. The yearning for freedom eventually manifests itself…

    Things are different now. So often the contemporary church is a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. So often it is an archdefender of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church’s silent–and often even vocal–sanction of things as they are.

    But the judgment of God is upon the church as never before. If today’s church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century. …

    Perhaps I have once again been too optimistic. Is organized religion too inextricably bound to the status quo to save our nation and the world? Perhaps I must turn my faith to the inner spiritual church, the church within the church, as the true ekklesia and the hope of the world. But again I am thankful to God that some noble souls from the ranks of organized religion have broken loose from the paralyzing chains of conformity and joined us as active partners in the struggle for freedom. … Their witness has been the spiritual salt that has preserved the true meaning of the gospel in these troubled times. They have carved a tunnel of hope through the dark mountain of disappointment. I hope the church as a whole will meet the challenge of this decisive hour.

    — Martin Luther King Jr., “Letter from Birmingham Jail” (http://www.africa.upenn.edu/Articles_Gen/Letter_Birmingham.html)
    [Inserted words & links in brackets were added by me]

  68. [...] Pastor Eugene Cho from Quest, a fellow ECC’r up in Seattle and favorite blogger of mine… dives head into a great discussion about gender, race, religion and Rob Bell (sort of) [...]

  69. Sarah says:

    I’ve been following some of your blog’s recently and on this particular subject of Rob Bell attending The Seeds of Compassion event.. I would say I am deeply saddened that a christian could even attend this event, and then not mention Jesus Christ once. Just what was his purpose for being there? Shouldn’t our whole purpose as christian’s be to share Jesus Christ and The Cross. Our whole meaning and existence permeates from this. This “reinventing and repackaging” of the christian message is from man and man only. Jesus’ gospel is not a social gospel, we don’t leave parts out as they may seem “offensive” to some, we share the whole gospel. Do people like Rob Bell because he is “unoffensive” and preaches what people want to hear? But just what would attract a non-believer to a message that sounds like everything else. If The Whole gospel isnt preached then what is so different about Christianity to a non-believer? and for the believer, isn’t it all about Christ crucified? (1 Corinthians 1:18-31) (Matthew 7: 13-14)

    http://www.apprising.org/archives/2008/04/rob_bell_avoids.html

  70. Jim says:

    Sarah

    I saw Rob preach the gospel. I heard him preach the gospel. I saw him give the good news of Jesus away to others (who seemed quite surprised that a Christian would be with them in their space).

    You must mean he didn;’t “say “the word Jesus” or “talk” about the words of Jesus.

    If that is your understanding of what preaching means – I can see why Rob would have frustrated you.

    Don’t you think that Jesus frustrated religionists in his time for the same reason?

  71. Sarah says:

    Christ does not call Christians to ‘make the world more compassionate and a better place’. Christ calls us to proclaim the Gospel message of Christ Crucified for sinners. This message is not compatible with any other religion or spirituality.

    How come other speakers had no problem talking about their religions, their religious texts and religious leaders like Buddha and Mohammed. Yet, Bell didn’t mention Jesus or what the scriptures teach. Instead, his comments faded into the one world religious spirituality that was being promoted.

    I’ve read Velvet Elvis and heard alot of what Rob Bell has to say and sadly his gospel is a watered down one. Don’t we first and foremost look to Scripture for Truth and then share those scriptures, and from there our understanding comes through Holy Spirit discernment?

    1 Titus 1:9

  72. Helen says:

    Sarah, the event was about compassion. People invited to participate who said yes indicated they care about compassion. People who said no indicated they don’t.

    Should Christians have declined to participate, indicating they don’t care about compassion? Christians are supposed to be followers and imitators of Jesus. Was Jesus compassionate? If so then shouldn’t Christians be also? And if Christians should be also, why on earth would they decline an opportunity to show the rest of the world they also care about compassion?

    It would be a sad thing if Christians indicated to the rest of the world “You all care about compassion but we don’t”.

    Do you really think that would please Jesus? Is the point of being a Christian to show the rest of the world that Christians are meaner than they are? Have you read unChristian to see what people who aren’t Christians think of Christians?

    Jesus was the friend of ‘sinners’ (non-religious people) . How did that happen? I don’t think it happened by him refusing to associate with them. That was the way of the Pharisees, not the way of Jesus.

  73. Brian says:

    Helen, before you call Sarah a Pharisee please consider that what she is saying is just the opposite of what a Pharisee would. Modern day Pharisees want a cross-less Christianity because they rely on their own righteousness, therefore there is no need for a cross. Sarah and I know that there is only one who is righteous and we need the cross. The cross is only an offense to the SELF righteous only; we sinners are on our knees thanking God for it.
    Also, the Gospel is “Good News” it is a proclamation, therefore it must be proclaimed, announced, preached; that’s the way it’s delivered.
    Pharisees are “saved” by their good works, so they actually have much more in common with Rob Bell than Sarah.

  74. Helen says:

    FYI I didn’t call Sarah a Pharisee. I simply said a characteristic of Pharisees is, not associating with people who don’t share your faith, in response to her suggestion that Rob Bell should not have participated in Seeds of Compassion.

    Is noticing a man up a tree and saying “I’m having dinner with you today” preaching the gospel? If not then why did Zacchaeus go from being lost to found just because Jesus did and said that? Maybe ‘preaching the gospel’ is not so narrowly defined as you imply.

  75. Sarah says:

    Hi Helen. I think you may be missing the point. Zacchaeus WANTED to see Jesus. I dont think the people that attended the Buddhist Seeds of Compassion event were there to focus on Jesus Christ or even some of His ethical teachings. And Rob Bell didn’t even talk about Jesus. Plus why would he call the Dalai Lama “His Holiness”?

    Be IN the world but not OF the world. Of course we have non-christian family members, friends and aquaintances, and we show compassion just like a non-believer, but the Bible clearly warns, in quite a few places, that this kind of involvement is dangerous.

    Check out 2 Cor 6: 14-18 and Romans 8:8-10

  76. Rose says:

    Sarah,
    Clearly you will see Rob or any other Jesus follower’s participation in the Seeds of Compassion inter-spiritual day as some sort of sell out to the “real” gospel. I think it might be more helpful to the cause of Christ if you were to allow yourself a more charitable attitude of “believing the best” about Rob. Where you at the event? Rob was introduced as an Evangelical Christian pastor…I don’t think anyone sitting there misunderstood that Rob has given his life to serve Jesus and to live out the Gospel of the Kingdom.

  77. eugenecho says:

    sarah: thanks for visiting and checking out the blog.

    i can’t speak for rob. i wasn’t at the event when he was on stage. and i’m not quite sure what you would have envisioned your ideal christian pastor to communicate. it was very clear that the gathering wasn’t an open discussion about faith and religion. to reduce a person’s credibility and ministry by one event in my opinion, would be very unfair but i also understand that those who are very visible like bell are subject to that kind of scrutiny.

    having said that, i wonder how Christ would have responded to this quote:

    Christ does not call Christians to ‘make the world more compassionate and a better place’. Christ calls us to proclaim the Gospel message of Christ Crucified for sinners. This message is not compatible with any other religion or spirituality.

    Clearly, Christ calls us to proclaim the Gospel message of Christ Crucified for sinners…but surely, he also calls us to live, demonstrate, and embody the good news that Jesus himself lived, taught, and demonstrated. Someone please tell me that Christ called about compassion, mercy, grace, justice, and a “better place.” Please tell me He came to restore the Shalom that God intended for Humanity and Creation. If not, it would seriously suck.

    Orthodoxy is important.
    Orthopraxis is equally important.

  78. Tyler says:

    I like you Eugene. You’re cool. I also want to point out that I didn’t even think that you were praying in your blog banner, I thought you were just thinking. I’m not that observant I suppose. Peace.

  79. Helen says:

    Someone please tell me that Christ cared about compassion, mercy, grace, justice, and a “better place.” Please tell me He came to restore the Shalom that God intended for Humanity and Creation. If not, it would seriously suck.

    Yes indeed.

  80. [...] come to mind are Rob Bell (described as the emerging face of today’s Evangelical Christianity here), Donald Miller (author), Donald Trump (why not?), John Stewart, Richard Dawkins (high-profile [...]

  81. J. R. Miller says:

    gaius, I understand how serving Jesus first can be a scary thing… especially when the pressing needs of the world are so great. It is in our nature to put works above grace, but hang in there with me and read on. I am not espousing a dichotomy between prayer and good works, only a priority of the former.

    Our church is about to begin a study of Paul;’s letter to the Galatian churches. In it, he emphasizes the danger of putting works above grace. Martin Luther has some wonderful perspective on this and I wanted to share part of it with you all. for those who are interested, I will write and speak more of this later on my blog. I do not wish to wear thin the generosity of Eugene.

    Luther describes Paul as describing two kinds of righteousness.. one from the world (active) and one from Jesus (passive). He writes…

    “This is our theology, by which we teach a precise distinction between these two kinds of righteousness, the active and the passive, so that morality and faith, works and grace, secular society and religion may not be confused. Both are necessary, but both must be kept within their limits

    Thus as long as we live here, both remain. The flesh is accused, exercised, saddened, and crushed by the active righteousness of the Law. But the spirit rules, rejoices, and is saved by passive righteousness, because it knows that it has a Lord sitting in heaven at the right hand of the Father, who has abolished the Law, sin, and death, and has trodden all evils underfoot, has led them captive and triumphed over them in Himself (Col. 2:15)…

    We see this today in the fanatical spirits and sectarians, who neither teach nor can teach anything correctly about this righteousness of grace. They have taken the words out of our mouth and out of our writings, and these only they speak and write. But the substance itself they cannot discuss, deal with, and urge, because they neither understand it nor can understand it. They cling only to the righteousness of the Law. Therefore they are and remain disciplinarians of works; nor can they rise beyond the active righteousness. Thus they remain exactly what they were under the pope. To be sure, they invent new names and new works; but the content remains the same. So it is that the Turks perform different works from the papists, and the papists perform different works from the Jews, and so forth. But although some do works that are more splendid, great, and difficult than others, the content remains the same, and only the quality is different. That is, the works Vary only in appearance and in name. For they are still works. And those who do them are not Christians; they are hirelings, whether they are called Jews, Mohammedans, papists, or sectarians…

    When I have this righteousness within me, I descend from heaven like the rain that makes the earth fertile. That is, I come forth into another kingdom, and I perform good works whenever the opportunity arises. If I am a minister of the Word, I preach, I comfort the saddened, I administer the sacraments. If I am a father, I rule my household and family, I train my children in piety and honesty. If I am a magistrate, I perform the office which I have received by divine command. If I am a servant, I faithfully tend to my master’s affairs. In short, whoever knows for sure that Christ is his righteousness not only cheerfully and gladly works in his calling but also submits himself for the sake of love to magistrates, also to their wicked laws, and to everything else in this present life—even, if need be, to burden and danger. For he knows that God wants this and that this obedience pleases Him. “

  82. J. R. Miller says:

    gaius, I understand how serving Jesus first can be a scary thing… especially when the pressing needs of the world are so great. It is in our nature to put works above grace, but hang in there with me and read on. I am not espousing a dichotomy between prayer and good works, only a priority of the former.

    Our church is about to begin a study of Paul;’s letter to the Galatian churches. In it, he emphasizes the danger of putting works above grace. Martin Luther has some wonderful perspective on this and I wanted to share part of it with you all. for those who are interested, I will write and speak more of this later on my blog. Maybe Eugene is still pondering his reply to my questions, but I do not wish to wear thin his generosity.

    Luther describes Paul as describing two kinds of righteousness.. one from the world (active) and one from Jesus (passive). He writes…

    “This is our theology, by which we teach a precise distinction between these two kinds of righteousness, the active and the passive, so that morality and faith, works and grace, secular society and religion may not be confused. Both are necessary, but both must be kept within their limits

    Thus as long as we live here, both remain. The flesh is accused, exercised, saddened, and crushed by the active righteousness of the Law. But the spirit rules, rejoices, and is saved by passive righteousness, because it knows that it has a Lord sitting in heaven at the right hand of the Father, who has abolished the Law, sin, and death, and has trodden all evils underfoot, has led them captive and triumphed over them in Himself (Col. 2:15)…

    We see this today in the fanatical spirits and sectarians, who neither teach nor can teach anything correctly about this righteousness of grace. They have taken the words out of our mouth and out of our writings, and these only they speak and write. But the substance itself they cannot discuss, deal with, and urge, because they neither understand it nor can understand it. They cling only to the righteousness of the Law. Therefore they are and remain disciplinarians of works; nor can they rise beyond the active righteousness. Thus they remain exactly what they were under the pope. To be sure, they invent new names and new works; but the content remains the same. So it is that the Turks perform different works from the papists, and the papists perform different works from the Jews, and so forth. But although some do works that are more splendid, great, and difficult than others, the content remains the same, and only the quality is different. That is, the works Vary only in appearance and in name. For they are still works. And those who do them are not Christians; they are hirelings, whether they are called Jews, Mohammedans, papists, or sectarians…

    When I have this righteousness within me, I descend from heaven like the rain that makes the earth fertile. That is, I come forth into another kingdom, and I perform good works whenever the opportunity arises. If I am a minister of the Word, I preach, I comfort the saddened, I administer the sacraments. If I am a father, I rule my household and family, I train my children in piety and honesty. If I am a magistrate, I perform the office which I have received by divine command. If I am a servant, I faithfully tend to my master’s affairs. In short, whoever knows for sure that Christ is his righteousness not only cheerfully and gladly works in his calling but also submits himself for the sake of love to magistrates, also to their wicked laws, and to everything else in this present life—even, if need be, to burden and danger. For he knows that God wants this and that this obedience pleases Him. ”

    Sarah, I am not sure exactly how you meant your comments, but I think you may find some kinship between the above quote and your earlier comments.

  83. [...] and Shame Posted on April 23, 2008 by steve lewis There have been some quite lively discussions going on in various blogs I track  lately.  Mostly over gender issues [...]

  84. RK says:

    J.R. Thank you for sharing your wisdom.

    Sarah, I imagine your concern arises out of authentic love for God’s word and truth. Peace in your journey with God and understanding of His/Her multi-faceted truth, love and wisdom.

    May we strive to love, be gracious, and live in Truth as Jesus did, does.

    Peace,

    RK

  85. [...] read something in the comments the other day over at Eugene Cho’s blog that I haven’t been able to stop thinking about. The post was in relation to the whole [...]

  86. Linda says:

    JR, I don’t see anywhere in Gaius’ comments to indicate he is “scared” to “serve Jesus first”. He didn’t seem to be advocating following the “righteousness of the Law”, nor did he seem to disagree that we should do God’s Will.
    ———-
    “J.R.’s advice, however, seems to insinuate that all that should be done is to “love,” “respect,” and “pray.” While all those actions are godly in themselves, those cannot be the only actions taken in light of injustice in the world – i.e. MLK, Gandhi. While both practiced non-violence, both did not encourage not doing anything to rectify the respective situations of their communities. Quite the opposite, both engaged in strategic confrontation to wear down those who oppressed them.

    Without action, however, what you get is maintaining of a status quo that is just plain wrong – i.e. Myanmar, Zimbabwe, N. Korea etc. J.R’s advice also negates the possibility that God does give and take away power to maintain a more just society – i.e. many times in the Old Testament. Again, I have no issue with the concepts of giving up rights, love, and respect, but an overemphasis on them can be impractical at best and at worst, damaging. Prayer is not “ineffective” or “ineffectual,” but we are also called to seek justice and love mercy in this world in a very tangible sense. ”
    ———

  87. [...] be ordained for ministry.  And to give you a little context, this is what I wrote in an earlier post about supporting women in ministry: …we have to ask how are we as revolutionary followers of Jesus – who debunked the systemic [...]

  88. J. R. Miller says:

    Eugene Cho wrote on April 16 “j.r. – we shouldn’t be afraid to dialogue. there’s no flame war here. let me chew on what you wrote a little more.”

    I have been working through a response that will soon go up on my site. It is too bad we have not been able to have a fuller conversation as you once suggested.

  89. Mark says:

    I keep seeing Rose talking about sharing the “power” and men with “power” and the church “power” structure.

    I have listened to over a hundred hours of Rob Bell’s teachings and its clear to me that he doesn’t see church as an agent of power but rather a place to serve. If you are seeking power in church then your idea of church is already broken.

    I don’t bother going to church anymore because all I saw there were greedy people seeking power.

  90. Clint says:

    Mark,
    Then be a solution. People who don’t want to worship Christ through His Body because of the “hypocrites” are a dime a dozen. So what if there are 10 times more people that wear the jersey than play the game–suck it up, play the game (love Jesus) with all your heart and bear with the many failings of those who profess faith in Him.

    Eugene,
    I may have misunderstood you about the women in church leadership. But, why do we let culture determine what we are biblically faithful to? Grace, wrath, and judgment aren’t popular either. Holding to sound (healthy) doctrine (as Paul encourages) will never be popular and it would be difficult to squeeze out an egalitarian theology from his writings as inspired by the HS.

    I don’t think Driscoll’s declaration of Bell as a heretic isn’t far off. False teachers aren’t JW’s and Mormons, they are among us. If Jesus declares himself to be the “way, truth, and the life” and that “no one comes to the Father except through Him”, I think its safe to declare heresy when a really passionate and nice guy contradicts that in the name of improving Christianity. Sometimes I think we are divisive over ridiculous things but we skip the really important things we SHOULD be divisive over.

  91. Mary says:

    Only one question, have you seen the Nooma She?

  92. Kyle Nolan says:

    note on the land cruiser: I don’t know what Rob drives, but he lives in what I’m told is a former crack house on the–i think–northwest part of GR, across the street from where one of my best friends lived for a short time. And anyone that goes to Mars can tell you that the guy is de-accumulating. I think he rotates like 2 or 3 sets of clothes, if that.

    Clint, if you happen to read this, I’m assuming you didn’t mean to use a double negative in the first sentence of your 3rd paragraph, and I do think that Driscoll was way off. I listened to the speech where he used the word “heresy” and he took things out of context regularly, as most of Bell’s critics have. He pointed out a citation to Crossan and suggested that Bell should be guilty by association, which just isn’t a legit argument. One mention of a significant scholar doesn’t mean that he accepts everything Crossan says. sometimes I wonder if the witch hunts will ever stop.

  93. I’m honestly torn about the issue. I deeply believe the desire for equality on the one hand, but also understand the desire for texually sound doctrine on the other. I also feel that what many would argue is under utilized talent is certainly paradoxical.

    I’m not sure how the racism analogy applies, but I haven’t read the Bible as a person of color, so please understand my perspective…

  94. Clint says:

    Kyle,

    Thank you for pointing out my use of a double-negative. At what point can we call someone a heretic? How far from sound doctrine do they have to stray? If Rob Bell were to come out and say that Jesus was not necessarily the only way, would that suffice? I love his philanthropic missiology. But, I’m concerned that his philanthropic missiology is not saturated with passion for the person of Christ and His work on the cross.

    Paul says this, “I determined to know nothing…except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” (1 Co 2:2) Is that the heart cry of Rob Bell? If it truly is, then he is no heretic. But, if it isn’t, we should acknowledge that there are plenty of nice, philanthropic people who are dead wrong in this world.

  95. [...] My Conversation with Rob Bell:  Had a conversation about ‘women and leadership’ with Rob Bell without actually talking to him.  Can’t believe this took place this past year. [...]

  96. [...] year, I posted two entries that may be of some interest: Ultimate Fighting Jesus and Conversation with Rob Bell [re: women in ministry] and while we’re at it, I’m re-posting the infamous 10 reasons [...]

  97. Kristine says:

    thank you. i thought i was the only one.

  98. mrwcase says:

    In all fairness, could you please post a video or transcript of Bell’s response?

  99. [...] numerous posts about the issue but here are some worth checking out: Ultimate Fighting Jesus, My Quasi-Conversation with Rob Bell, The Oldest Injustice in the World…, and Supporting Women in all Levels of [...]

  100. [...] and thought provoking conversations. Tony Jones takes issue the “Hauerwasian Mafia” and Eugene Cho questions Rob Bell’s white privilege. If you’ve got time read some of the comments on these threads as well. There’s some [...]

  101. [...] My Quasi-Conversation with Rob Bell (about women) [...]

  102. Scott M. says:

    I was listening to a sermon by Rob Bell a few weeks ago. It was really strange. It seemed really empty and hollow as if he was in a trance or reciting a poem. He ended it by playing a song by Sheryl Crow of all people. There was definitely a lack of annointing by the Holy Spirit.

    He said that Christians are the “good news”. That Christians are the “gospel”. Really? Because the last time I read my Bible, the good news was Jesus Christ and His work of atonement; that is the true gospel. His doctrine is all wrong and his interpretation of the Word does not originate from the Holy Spirit. Rob Bell (quite frankly) preaches a false gospel.

    I don’t care what people may think or say about Rob Bell personally, but he is certainly not a Christian. Maybe according to the standard of this fallen, blind world he could be, but certainly not by the standard of Jesus Christ; the only true standard that really matters.

    • Darnell says:

      Wow man, thats not very helpful. “Rob bell is certainly not a christian” is no way to treat an neighbour who doesn’t know Jesus let alone a brother who’s living his life for Jesus. The people of God have always been the good news to the world from God starting with his salvation story for the world through Abraham, “all the nations will be blessed through you” to Jesus atoning work on the cross and in his resurrection.

      The church is the witness to the world that God’s way is the way of salvation. If the church isn’t the good news, how is the world supposed to see the good news that God is redeeming creation?

  103. [...] let me go on the record and share that I like Rob. I’ve blogged about him – with praise and pushback. We’ve emailed several times. He’s shown some tweet support for One Day’s Wages. [...]

  104. Jessica says:

    “Rob Bell is bluntly, one of the most visible and influential figures of Christianity in the 21st century. He is arguably the face of the emerging Evangelical Christianity in North America.”

    God forbid. Evangelicals…no Christians really, need a pastor telling people that hell isn’t real and Jesus was a liar or telling us that “marriage” includes homosexuality (or anything else God clearly did not consider marriage for that matter.)

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The epic view from up high at Nakuru National Park,  Kenya. #latergram Attempting to be the world's greatest smartphone photographer. #kenya #africa #impala #nakuru Nakuru National Park, Kenya. Not your average neighborhood zoo. #flamingoes Kenya. Asante sana. Bwana asifiwe. So grateful for God's grace and provision. It's emotional and humbling every time we sign a check to award another grant. This is ONLY possible because of all of our generous donors and supporters.

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