I can’t believe this is my sixth quarter of studies! I am almost exactly halfway done with my course work. I am just about finished with my 3rd tutorial (on theology of church and culture) and completed my 4,000 pages of reading for the class about 1.5 weeks ago. This past week I’ve been working on reviewing my notes and trying to figure out some kind of thesis and outline for the paper. So far I am still pretty dry on inspiration so I am going to turn to a more simple model of paper and do a summary of three thinkers and their insights into church and/or culture: James Wm. McClendon, John Howard Yoder and Slavoj Zizek. The basic point of my paper will be to mine the best of their works in a way that allows me make comparisons and map out how their work can be used for dealing with the questions for the topic at hand.
Something I’ve been looking into is how Friends have thought about missions in the last 100 years. Who are our mission theologians? And how has our engagement with culture been shaped (or not shaped) by the thinking of missiologists, sociologists and culture theorists in this past century? So far I’ve discovered Elton Trueblood’s very limited work in this area, “The Validity of Christian Mission,” which is in some ways useful for getting a picture of where some Friends were in the 60’s and shows his gift for penning the pithy. Yet, it also represents a modernist view of culture, where some cultures, namely our Western one is superior to others. The other, more hopeful mission theologian, is Everett Cattell. Cattell has not only written on missiology but was himself a missionary. I like Cattell for a number of reasons: a) he was the president of my alma mater, b) he falls in line with Carole Spencer’s holiness version of Quakerism, a Quakerism that is both mystical and activist and c) Cattell’s reputation among a variety of Quaker branches is well-known and respected. I also have an old copy of Quaker Religious Thought journal where he wrote about his concern for the future of the Friends Church, a concern I share. That said, I need to do a lot more digging before I actually know where he lands on all the issues. But I am hopeful that I will find some aspects I can pick up on and carry forward in my own work.
Next week I begin a two week intensive with Ryan Bolger on “Paradigms of the Church,” which is a methods course on researching and surveying ways of being the church in our contemporary context. Along with this class, I am a teacher’s aid for Bolger’s “Mission in Contemporary Culture,” a class where we deal with culture theory and the church’s mission. So I’ve had to cut my hours down at the bookstore in order to keep up with the rest of my work, so after this week I’ll just be on-call, dropping my hours should help buy me enough time to get my other work done. After I finish this class and my paper, I will be exactly halfway done with all my coursework (probably a 1.5 years more), then I’ll move onto writing. And the Lord only knows how long that will take!