A Universalist Lutheran jurisdiction

Add to the collection of universalist-theology jurisdictions the General Lutherans.

They’re not big (who is?) but claim ministers and ministries in several countries; that’s worth noting. Their polity is congregationalist and they “subcontract” their institutional endorsements through the The Coalition of Spirit-filled Churches, which is one of the go-to endorsers.  Nothing so strange there. They are social conservatives, and even more distinctively, a poor church: it has “no salaried employees, bank accounts, or cash assets.” That’s different, and should temper your expectations. But they do have a free-of-charge training program and a PDF magazine.

Their dean and General Minister, James Clifton, has been in the para-Universalist-sphere for years, so I don’t thinking I’m getting his theology wrong.

I hesitated to post the link, but not because of their traditionalist morality towards (or should I say, against) LGBT people; after all, I take a big tent approach to Universalism. But because when you browse there, you will be audio attacked with Judy Collins singing “Amazing Grace.” Be warned.

Two new Universalist books

We are in a silver age of Universalist Christian writing: new works and reprints, for popular and academic readers and from across the confessional spectrum. I’ll be posting book notices, partly to spread the word and partly to keep a record for myself. (I sometimes forget where I see books.)

Here are two that came on the radar:

With this article, I open the category Universalist literature.

The perfect ordination

I’ve been thinking about my own ordination lately, though from the excitement that day I don’t remember all that much about it. Specific episodes, such as the laying on of hands, but not a complete narrative of the day. (The same is true of my wedding.)

I do remember other people’s, and usually it’s because they were long, self-indulgent, or both. What might have made them better? (This, of course, applies to the free churches, where ordinations are held in the local church and usually one at a time.)

A better ordination is not primarily about taste, though I think there’s something to be said about a more conservative approach, which at least can be appreciated ironically. Being too novel or eccentric in such a ceremony is like putting salt in soup: you can add more (or not), but not take it out once added.

My rubric: the ordination is about the order of the ministry, not the particular ordinand. You, the ordinand, are entering a stream that has carried the pastoral ministry of the church for centuries. That should give you a chill. You will meet challenges, joys, temptations, horrors and accomplishments. Don’t try to go it alone; as a sign of this, don’t make the ordination about you.

A few practical thoughts. Seek first a good and experienced marshal (master of ceremonies) to keep the proceedings in order. Rely on more experienced ministers for your ordination; you will need them later as colleagues. That goes double for local ministers. Again, the ordination should not be long, because if it’s too long that’s all that people will talk about; I think 75 minutes is about right. If you are called to your first church, wait to be ordained there and not at your home or internship church; this is an old tradition too often lost these days (I’m talking to the Unitarian Universalists now) but it’s one of the few ways that small churches (who often call first-timers) celebrate their place in the communion of churches.

How green is your website? Browsing habits?

Is reading this article helping or hurting the environment?

Reducing human imprints on the climate are going to take changes large and small. I’m not too hopeful we will find a workable solution.  Governments who impose one will be voted out, and voluntary measures will appeal to a few, even if that means millions, and to meaningful risks the “sucker factor.” Involuntary measures, whether through environmental, economic or democratic collapse are terrifying. By the time we move it may be too late; it may be too late now.

But if there is an answer, it will probably be one cobbled together. That’s why I don’t overlook legislative changes (where they can happen) or undermine personal choices: we will need them all. I’m a vegetarian with no children and no car. My last long-distance trip was by rail. I wash my relatively small wardrobe in a low-water washer. Yet I know that demand-driven economy I live in is intensely energy intensive. I’m sure I have more clothes that most people in the world, and that washer didn’t spout out of the earth. Apples and broccoli are good, but they are produced, preserved and transported at huge energy cost. My green beans are better traveled than I am. The better choice us rarely the easy choice, so it takes work. And there is one sector that seems ready for conservation attention: internet use.

Using the internet uses an immense amount of electricity, from the servers that store and share files, to the electrical use for devices to the energy embedded in making them. Storing and distributing ever larger amount of data — websites but mainly on-demand video and audio — means that our internet use will require more power. If that power comes from unsustainable sources, it contributes that more to greenhouse gas production and climate change.

So, make your computers and phones last as long as possible, build and use lighter websites (that’s a long term fix; one I’ve begun with my side projects like universalistchristian.org) and cut back on streaming video.

Gauthier Roussilhe writes on this subject, making the case for a lighter internet and more prudent use, and offering concrete suggestions.  Or go to his work at The Shift Project (“Lean ICT: Towards digital sobriety”: Our new report on the environmental impact of ICT) if you want to dive in now.

 

Decline of Universalism: posted works about polity and administration

To continue the preparation towards considering the pre-war decline of Universalism and how Universalists responded to it. Last time, I looked at documents I’d already published about ecumenical overtures; this time, works related to polity and administration.

I need more from the Thirties, and the documents I found a few months ago will help fill the gap.

While slightly post-war:

I think I need to look at the scope of programs and budgets soon.

Twenty years ordained

If you will excuse a moment for me to reflect on my ordination, which took place twenty years ago today with the Canon Universalist Church, Canon, Georgia.

Receiving right hand of fellowship
Receiving right hand of fellowship from the Rev. Roy Reynolds

I’ve spent more of that time out of pastoral ministry than in it, but I have never forgotten the vow I made. I try to fulfill those vows through preaching, writing (here mostly) and prayer.

My heartfelt thanks to those who have supported me over the years; some are still living, others have gone before us.

To read and review: Allin’s Christ Triumphant

The moment I saw Thomas Allin’s Christ Triumphant: Universalism Asserted as the Hope of the Gospel on the Authority of Reason, the Fathers, and Holy Scripture, I knew I needed to read it.

I got my copy — a reviewer’s copy, free of charge from the publisher, to be clear; thank you — last night and will update you as soon as I have reached a convenient stopping point. My keenness and my glacial reading pace will be at war with one another.

Continue reading “To read and review: Allin’s Christ Triumphant”

“Gadfly Papers” discussion continues

I suppose it’s a bit obvious to say that “Gadfly Papers” discussion continues because it never ended. But I intend to write here about commentary that is both constructive and public. I have a particular point of view, but I don’t think that keeps me from giving opponents a fair hearing; neither does it oblige me to dignify manipulative rhetoric. Facebook is such shifting sand that there’s little point linking to something. When I find something that passes muster, I may link to it.

I put Dan Harper, Unitarian Universalist minister and writer, into that category. He wrote about The Gadfly Papers, and in reference to my analysis recently. (I’m just now seeing it.) I think he confuses my analysis of Todd Eklof’s work with disapproval, but the distinction isn’t fatal. Yes, I wish the book were better written, but Eklof wrote when others wouldn’t, and that makes it the best of its kind to date.

But we’re past the book itself. Institutionally, the issues have exposed deep fault lines, and whether Eklof’s intent or an incidental development, that’s the real story.

Looking back on my ordination order of service

Twenty years ago, on the nineteeth of September, the Canon Universalist Church ordained me to the Ministry of the Gospel.

I’m feeling a little nostalgic about it. Here is the order of service; I made it into a web page which I think was still something of a novelty back then.

The file has remained unchanged (and readable) all these years, though cleaned up for publication here.

Service of Ordination and Installation of William Scott Wells
Sunday, September 19, 1999
Three o’clock p.m.
Continue reading “Looking back on my ordination order of service”

Documents I’ve already posted about the decline of Universalism: ecumenical options

Following up on the request I posted on September 13, I thought I’d collect up the documents from that era that I’ve already posted over the years. These are not all doom and gloom. If fact, Universalists were optimistic, earnest or a least put on a brave face. First, ecumenical actions.

Back in 2006, I posted several documents about the overtures towards a working relationship with either the Congregationalists, the Unitarians or perhaps both. I’ve posted these below.

Was there an interest in the Christian Connection (O’Kelleyites) prior to 1931, with the Congregational-Christian merger? That merger is how the 1920s merger dance seems to have ended. Might be a fun bit of research. For someone else.

And a loose (but now wholly incomplete thought) following up on those: UCC getting the Universalists anyway