#GC2019 Interview Roundup (#UMC)

I’ve recently had the opportunity to be interviewed on a couple of podcasts regarding the outcomes and implications of the United Methodist Church special session of General Conference earlier this year. This post puts all the links in one place.

The first one was came on The Kuyperian Commentary and was hosted by Pastor Uri Brito. You can listen here.

The second interview came in two parts on The Pastor Theologians Podcast hosted by Todd Wilson and Zach Wagner.

I’m grateful to have had these invitations. Feel free to chime in with comments and questions. Thanks for listening.

Dr. Matt O’Reilly is pastor of Hope Hull United Methodist Church near Montgomery, AL, a fellow of the Center for Pastor Theologians, and Adjunct Professor of New Testament and Pastoral Ministry at Wesley Biblical Seminary

For more from Matt, be sure to subscribe to the Orthodoxy for Everyone YouTube Channel, listen to SermonCast, connect on Facebook, and follow @mporeilly.

Announcement: Center for Pastor Theologians Third Fellowship (@CenPasTheo)

I’m excited about the opportunity to be a part of the Center for Pastor Theologians (CPT) Third Fellowship. What is the Center for Pastor Theologians? Here’s an excerpt from the website: 

Our Identity

The CPT is an organization dedicated to assisting pastor-theologians in the study and written production of biblical and theological scholarship for the ecclesial renewal of theology and the theological renewal of the church.

Our Mission

Operating within the historic evangelical tradition, the CPT believes the contemporary bifurcation between the pastoral calling and theological formation has resulted in the loss of a distinctly ecclesial voice in orthodox theology. The CPT seeks to resurrect this voice. In an age that has rightly emphasized the relationship between social location and theological formation, our vision is to bring together a unique kind of pastor-theologian—not simply those particular pastors who desire to pursue a theologically informed parish ministry, but even more, pastors who feel called to function as writing theologians to the broader ecclesial community.

I’m looking forward to fruitful participation with other pastor-theologians. Be sure to click over and learn more about the CPT.  

Center for Pastor Theologians Announces Third Fellowship (@CenPasTheo)

I was pleased to learn that the Center for Pastor Theologians (CPT) is growing and has begun taking applications for a third fellowship. If you don’t know about CPT, it is group composed primarily of pastor scholars who are committed to writing robust theology from the context of local church ministry. You can find them on Facebook and Twitter. This is from the CPT website:
The CPT is an evangelical organization dedicated to assisting pastor-theologians in producing and studying biblical and theological scholarship for the ecclesial renewal of the theology, and the theological renewal of the church. At present, the primary mission emphasis of the CPT is the CPT Fellowships, made up of a broadly diverse and select group of pastor-theologians. Each Fellowship gathers annually for a three-day theological symposium where Fellows collaborate together on various theological projects (both personal and corporate).
The ultimate aim of the CTP is the renewal of the Christ’s Bride, through the advancement of a robust, Christ exalting ecclesial theology.
Before the modern period, theological writings were largely produced by scholars who were also serving in the trenches of daily ministry. Think Augustine, Chrysostom, Aquinas, Calvin, and, of course, Wesley. The most important theology in the history of the Church has been written by bishops and pastors. The publication of theology by academics who are not necessarily writing from an ecclesial context is a fairly recent move. That is not to say that academic theologians do not have a very important role. They certainly do! Many academic theologians produce immensely helpful scholarship that is interesting and helpful, and for that I am grateful. The point is that the rise of academic theology has come with a decrease of ecclesial theology – robust theology written by those in local church ministry settings That decrease means that there is a gaping hole in the discipline of theology. We read little serious theology written by local church pastors, and the Church is impoverished for it. The best case scenario would be rich theology written by pastors and academics. Right now there are far too few pastors writing these kinds of books. 
This is why I’m grateful for CPT. They are working to bring attention to this lack and to fill the gap by cultivating ecclesial theology – robust theology written by pastors. So, if you are interested in applying for the third fellowship, you can find the information at the CPT blog. What CPT is doing is an essential component of healthy Christianity, and I’m glad to see they are growing and making room for more pastor scholars to engage in a vocation of writing theology from the Church. That is something to celebrate.

Embracing Eschatology

J. R. Daniel Kirk posted recently on the importance of embracing the biblical vision of the future; his exhortation: Don’t give up on eschatology. He writes:

With great confidence (and financial expenditure), May 21, 2011 is declared to be the day of Jesus’ return. Or the rapture. Or whatever.

But, of course, it wasn’t.

Neither was 1994 or 1982.

When the obsession with eschatology (ideas about “the end”) produces such crazy results, it’s tempting to leave eschatology aside altogether. Let the obsessed have their little obsession while the rest of us get on with the business of real life, and real faith.

But it would be a mistake to give up on eschatology altogether.

Kirk is addressing this post to many who have simply given up on eschatology because of being overwhelmed and exasperated by some of the unusual and unbiblical eschatological constructs out there. The post struck me because it resonates with my own experience. There was a time in my own theological journey when I, like many, simply avoided eschatology. There was too much; it was too confusing; too fearful.

I soon realized, though, that a pastor who avoids eschatology won’t have much to say to the Church about our certain hope, and I finally gave myself to the study of the biblical vision of the future. What I discovered was deeply satisfying and mysteriously wonderful. I soon learned that God’s plan for his world was not one of doom, gloom, and destruction but hope, joy, and redemption. Eschatology was not a fearful thing; it was the glorious reality of Christ’s promise to come and restore all that has been tainted or damaged by sin. I fell in love with biblical eschatology, and it has even become a significant portion of my own research in New Testament. Kirk’s post is much needed and right on target.

Read the rest here.
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Image: Tom Curtis/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

A Novel Idea?

From the opening chapter of Tom Oden’s book, After Modernity…What? Agenda for Theology:
What the ancient church teachers least wished for a theology was that it would be “fresh” or “self-expressive” or an embellishment of purely private inspirations, as if these might stand as some decisive improvement” on the apostolic teaching.”
Yet from the first day I ever thought of becoming a theologian I have been earnestly taught and admonished to “think creatively” so as to make “some new contribution” to theology. Nothing at Yale was drummed into my head more firmly than that the theology I would seek would be my own, and my uniqueness would imprint it. So you can imagine that it took no small effort on my part to resist the repeated reinforcements of my best education in order to overcome the constant temptation to novelty. And you can understand how relieved I was to see such an intriguing epitaph prefigured in a dream, one that at last seems to be coming true on these pages – “to make no new contribution to theology” – Laus Deo (22).
It would seem, according to Oden, that the thing most needed by present-day theological studies is a revival of interest in the ancient and historic teaching of the Christian faith. Oden is certainly right that the task of passing on what has been handed down goes against the grain of contemporary theological studies where every graduate student is charged with making an “original contribution to knowledge” in his or her specialized discipline. My question is this: is there any wisdom for the practice of ministry in this statement from Oden? Where is the balance between finding new and effective ways to reach new people and ensuring the preservation of what we have received?

What is a Theologian?

According to James Dunn, it is someone who:
Belongs to that group of Christians who have seen it as part of their calling to articulate their faith in writing and to instruct others in their common faith, and who have devoted a considerable portion of their lives to so doing (The Theology of Paul the Apostle, 2).
And for Dunn, Paul is “the greatest Christian theologian of all time” (3, italics original).

What do you think of this definition of a theologian? Would you want to modify it in any way? How does this definition relate to the work of the pastor? Is the pastor chiefly a theologian? Or something else?

What is the Role of the Pastor?

What is the role of the pastor? This topic has garnered quite a bit of attention around the blogosphere as of late.  I first came across a post by Gavin Richardson on how congregational perception of the pastor’s role has changed over the course of church history.  Gavin suggests that the early church was marked by pastors as theologians.  And this was probably the case up into the Enlightenment period.  As the 20th century came along, the role of the pastor transitioned into being percieved as that of a Christian counselor.  Even more recently, it would seem that congregations want an entrepreneur for a pastor, someone who can build the organization.  Gavin’s conclusion is that many of us simply don’t know what role we think a pastor should have, and I think he may be on to something.
I then discovered this article by Gerald Hiestand over at First Things: On the Square.  Gerald is calling for pastors to take up, once again, the mantle of resident theologian.  He is particularly interested in seeing pastors take up this role by taking up their pens in order to theologically shape the wider church.  I indicated earlier this week that I am quite sympathetic to Gerald’s view and hope that many pastors will respond to this call.   
Just today Scot McKnight has responded to Gerald’s article with a number of important questions.  Scot’s response is sympathetic and irenic, but he seems to think pastors are probably more theological than Gerald gives them credit for.  Gerald helpfully responds in the comments to Scot’s post. 
This is an important issue that needs some extended discussion.  What do you think?  What is the role of the pastor?  Is the pastor a theologian, CEO, counselor, all of the above, or something else entirely?  How does scripture shape your understanding of the pastor’s role?