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Few would argue that many challenges face The United Methodist Church. But what are the core issues and concerns, the ones that must be addressed if the church is to follow God's leading into the future? Laying aside what can be merely tweaked or adjusted, what must the UMC "reset" about itself? Lovett Weems, one of the most highly-respected interpreters of contemporary United Methodism, suggests that we start with the following: - What will happen now that the increased giving that United Methodists have enjoyed (despite declining membership numbers) has reached a plateau and begun to decline?- Why, with 34,000 congregations and $6.5 billion in annual giving, can't United Methodists add a net increase of even 1 new disciple of Jesus Christ in a given year?- Why are United Methodist clergy less concerned with reaching young adults than are laity? Why are laity unwilling to make the changes to worship and budgets required to attract these same young adults?- If the percentage of married couples with young children has declined by half since the 1950s, why is that still the group we focus on reaching?- Why are so many mid-sized churches on their way to becoming small-membership congregations?With insight, conviction, and calm resolve, Lovett Weems challenges United Methodists not only to ask these hard questions, but to face up to the difficult decisions they require of us as we continue to seek God's will for our lives together.
Do we ask too much? No, we've asked too little. Change, chaos, confusion - how can a pastor make sense of it all? The tap root of United Methodism goes deep into fertile soil - firmly planted in Scripture and enriched by the Holy Spirit. Our theology is rich and grounded into the depths of community and accountability, but the way we live out that theology is wide and deep-- both bane and blessing. United Methodists are neither blown away like chaff nor root-bound. Our calling is still to strive to be methodically faithful and alive in Spirit. This is our heritage and our vision. But will we dare to lean into the winds of change and be strengthened by the challenges we find? Only with God's help.
Anna Larson's daughter, Lauren, is confused, brokenhearted, and misguided. It's the turbulent 1960s and, feeling alienated from her mother, Lauren chooses to stay with her paternal grandmother. However, repelled by the woman's manipulative and spiteful ways, Lauren returns to her mother, the river, and the Inn at Shining Waters. There, Lauren begins to appreciate the person her mother is becoming--and she loves the river. However, romantic interests throw a wrench into the works and Lauren, jealous and angry, returns to her grandmother yet again. But as time passes, Lauren, now a mother to her own defiant teenager, faces a new crisis--one that puts the entire family at risk. "Colorful characters, entrancing setting, and a twisting yet natural plot carried me along. A lovely read. " Lyn Cote, Author of Her Abundant Joy
Rueben P. Job, author of Three Simple Rules, brings us a new insight on how to live a Christ-like life and explores the three most basic and profound questions at the center of our faith--questions that all major religions try to answer and around which there seems to be much confusion: Who is God? Who am I? Who are we together? In three brief and engaging chapters, readers will explore these questions and gain new understanding of the answers: Know that God is greater than you can imagine Believe that you are God's beloved child Be the love of Christ in the world They will also discover the greatness and goodness of God, the value of every beloved child of God, and the impact we can have in the world when we live as Jesus lived. Each chapter concludes with a simple spiritual practice to help readers remember and respond to what they have read, followed by a prayer. Now it is time for you to know, believe and become the answers. In its first paragraphs, Three Simple Questions triggered my hunger for hope. I hung on each word thereafter. By the time I finished my reading, I was filled to overflowing. I was drawn deeper by the notion of a God too small. Prayer as the place where we receive our identity was profound. I cheered with the truth that God loves all. I was intrigued by the imagery of my being a "holy chalice." The three daily practices are refreshing and engaging. In short, the read filled me with grace. --Bishop Sharon Brown Christopher
Men in our culture are experiencing various crises to which pastors and pastoral caregivers are called to respond. These crises include changing role definitions and gender expectations, as well as diminishing economic opportunities. In light of these crises, men need new foundations for self-esteem and identity and new support for changing. With their different experiences and specialties, the contributors to The Care of Men examine some crises and provide helpful ideas for caregivers in diverse situations with diverse populations of men.
John Wesley distinguished between essential doctrines on which agreement or consensus is critical and opinions about theology or church practices on which disagreement must be allowed. Though today few people join churches based on doctrinal commitments, once a person has joined a church it becomes important to know the historic teachings of that church's tradition. In Methodist Doctrine: The Essentials, Ted Campbell outlines historical doctrinal consensus in American Episcopal Methodist Churches in a comparative and ecumenical dialogue with the doctrinal inheritance of other major families of Christian tradition. In this way, the book shows both what Methodist churches historically teach in common with ecumenical Christianity and what is distinctive about the Methodist tradition in its various contemporary forms. Documents examined include The Twenty-Five Articles of Religion, The General Rules, Wesley's Standard Sermons and Explanatory Notes upon the New Testament, The Methodist Social Creed, and the Apostles' Creed.
The lifeblood of the United Methodist is passion rather than organizational neatness, entrepreneurial freedom rather than denominational restraint, and agility rather than staid institutional dependence. But if United Methodists want to change and be the church we say we want to be, what must we risk and how can we challenge current practices? At the heart of becoming a spiritual movement once again is the requirement that we develop a new understanding of connection as Christians and as United Methodists. We are currently at a time in which United Methodists are reinventing denominational connectionalism. One way of framing the issue is to distinguish between members and disciples, or consumers (those who wait for the institution to care for their needs) and citizens (those who are willing to commit themselves to and be held accountable for the whole of the community). United Methodism has nurtured generations of leaders and congregations that see themselves as consumers of the resources and attention of the denomination. The impulse toward movement is challenging spiritually purposeful leaders and congregations to risk becoming citizens who fully expect to make a difference in the lives of individuals and also in the world through an encounter with Christ.
Filled with prayers especially written to encourage women, this collection will lead them in a time of spiritual growth and closeness with God. A perfect gift.
Biblical texts create worlds of meaning and invite readers to enter them. When readers enter such textual worlds, which are strange and complex, they are confronted with theological claims. With this in mind, the purpose of the IBT series is to help serious readers in their experience of reading and interpreting by providing guides for their journeys into textual worlds. The focus of the series is not so much on the world behind the text as on the worlds created by the texts in their engagement with readers. Nowhere is the world of the biblical text stranger than in the apocalyptic literature of both the Old and New Testaments. In this volume, Stephen Cook makes the puzzling visions and symbols of the biblical apocalyptic literature intelligible to modern readers. He begins with definitions of apocalypticism and apocalyptic literature and introduces the various scholarly approaches to and issues for our understanding of the text. Cook introduces the reader to the social and historical worlds of the apocalyptic groups that gave rise to such literature and leads the reader into a better appreciation and understanding of the theological import of biblical apocalyptic literature. In the second major section of the book, Cook guides the reader through specific examples of the Bible's apocalyptic literature. He addresses both the best-known examples (the biblical books of Daniel and Revelation) and other important but lesser known examples (Zechariah and some words of Jesus and Paul).
Introduces literary, historical, and theological issues of Luke and Acts. Biblical texts create worlds of meaning, and invite readers to enter them. When readers enter such textual worlds, which are often strange and complex, they are confronted with theological claims. With this in mind, the purpose of the Interpreting Biblical Texts series is to help serious readers in their experience of reading and interpreting by providing guides for their journeys into textual worlds. The controlling perspective is expressed in the operative word of the title--interpreting. The primary focus of the series is not so much on the world behind the texts or out of which the texts have arisen as on the worlds created by the texts in their engagement with readers. In keeping with the goals of the series, this volume provides an introductory guide to readers of the New Testament books of Luke and Acts. It focuses on both the synchronic and diachronic dimensions of the literature in an effort to acquaint readers with literary, historical, and theological issues that will facilitate interpretation of these important books. F. Scott Spencer is Professor of New Testament at Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond.
The Abingdon Old Testament Commentaries provide compact, critical commentaries on the books of the Old Testament for the use of theological students and pastors. The commentaries are also useful for upper-level college or university students and for those responsible for teaching in congregational settings. In addition to providing basic information and insights into the Old Testament writings, these commentaries exemplify the tasks and procedures of careful interpretation, to assist students of the Old Testament in coming to an informed and critical engagement with the biblical texts themselves.Jeremiah has a reputation for being one of the most difficult books in the Bible to read. Despite its dense and jumbled appearance, Stulman shows that Jeremiah is far more than a random accumulation of miscellaneous materials. Jeremiah is an artistic and symbolic tapestry held together by prose seams. In the first commentary to give the prose literature such strong attention, Stulman explains how the prophetic book reenacts the dismantling of Israel's most cherished social and symbolic systems. In doing so it speaks poignantly of the horrors of war and military occupation, as well as the resultant despair and anger. Siege and deportation, however, do not signal the end for the people of God. As Jeremiah unfolds, seeds of hope begin to emerge. Such hope asserts that massive wreckage does not nullify God's love, that oppressive and murderous forces will not ultimately triumph, and that the suffering and sovereign God will sculpt new beginnings out of the ruin of fallen worlds.
The Abingdon Old Testament Commentaries series offers compact, critical commentaries on all the books of the Old Testament. In addition to providing fundamental information on and insights into Old Testament writings, these commentaries exemplify the tasks and procedures of careful, critical exegesis so as to assist students of the Old Testament in coming to an informed engagement of the biblical texts themselves. These commentaries are written with special attention to the needs and interests of theology students, but they will also be useful for students in upper-level college or university settings, as well as for pastors and other church leaders. Each volume consists of four parts: -- an introduction that addresses the key issues raised by the writing; the literary genre, structure, and character of the writing; the occasional and situational context of the writing, including its wider social and historical context; and the theological and ethical significance of the writing within these several contexts-- a commentary on the text, organized by literary units, covering literary analysis, exegetical analysis, and theological and ethical analysis-- an annotated bibliography-- a brief subject index In this volume on Deuteronomy, Brueggemann shows the significance of the Book of Deuteronomy to the shape and substance of Israel's faith in the Old Testament. Deuteronomy gave classic articulation to the main themes characteristic of Judaism, and, derivatively, of Christianity. Brueggemann emphasizes that Deuteronomy is an expression of covenant theology, whereby YHWH and Israel are pledged to exclusive loyalty and fidelity to each other; YHWH is to assure the well-being of Israel, and Israel is to live in trust and obedience to YHWH. In examining the relationship of Israel to God, Brueggemann makes suggestions on how such covenant fidelity might be lived out by believers today. "Brueggemann's commentary on the Book of Deuteronomy provides an accessible exegetical and theological understanding of a crucial biblical text. The introduction presents Deuteronomy as an expression of the radical Yahwistic alternative to the political rhetoric and ideology of the Israelite monarchy in the eighth and seventh centuries. Each section consists of an introduction, exegesis, and theological and ethical analysis of the essential elements that form the core of Deuteronomy's message to the Israelite community. The choice between 'covenant' and 'idol' that forms the crux of the text's message is further interpreted in light of the concern for covenant faithfulness as expressed in the rest of the OT and in the proclamation of the NT. Brueggemann explores how this same choice is reflected in the political and ideological voices that address the community of faith today. This commentary introduces the Book of Deuteronomy to theological students, pastors and teachers and points to the relevance of its message for those who seek to bring the alternative biblical message into the current cultural conversation."--Beverly White Cushman, Calvin College, in Religious Studies Review, Volume 29 Number 3, July 2003.
The Abingdon New Testament Commentaries series provides compact, critical commentaries on the writings of the New Testament. These commentaries are written with special attention to the needs and interests of theological students, but they will also be useful for students in upper-level college or university settings, as well as for pastors and other religious leaders. In addition to providing basic information about the New Testament texts and insights into their meanings, these commentaries are intended to exemplify the tasks and procedures of careful, critical biblical exegesis.In this volume, Donald Senior unfolds the meaning of Matthew's Gospel in its original context. The Gospel was written for an early Christian community caught in a moment of profound transition, striving to remain faithful to its Jewish heritage and facing a new and uncertain future in the Gentile world. Building on a lifetime of scholarship on this Gospel, Senior uses an array of methodologies to explore the literary, historical, and theological perspectives of Matthew in context. At the same time, he provides leads for the contemporary reader to note the interplay between Matthew's Gospel and our own time and place. In the nexus between these two worlds of experiences, the message of the Gospel comes alive and takes on new meaning.
Like widely differing siblings raised by the same parents, each letter produced by Paul has its own distinguishing character. For the historically minded critic, each letter's unique traits provide important clues for detecting the circumstances in which Paul wrote it as well as what he hoped to achieve with it. Scholars assume that by examining the content of the letter (the "answer"), they can infer the readers' situation that Paul is addressing (the "question")--a method sometimes called "mirror reading." In the case of Romans, however, both the particular traits and the overall content are so unusual that scholars continue to debate why Paul wrote precisely this letter and what he hoped to achieve by it in Rome." So begins Leander Keck's seminal work on the New Testament book of Romans. Keck asserts that because Romans is part of the New Testament, we can compare it with the other letters ascribed to Paul, as well as with what Acts reports about his message and mission. But the first readers of Romans had only this letter; they could compare it only with what they may have heard about him. While this commentary does from time to time compare Romans with what Paul had said before, it concentrates on Romans itself; what Paul says in this text should not be conflated with--nor inflated into--what he thought comprehensively, though it is essential to understand that as well. "We do not really need another major commentary [on Romans] that loses us in the minutiae of word studies, literary parallels, sociological and rhetorical hypotheses; we have such in plenty. The Abingdon series, however, by its limited size, forces the contributor to focus on the primary task of the commentator: to clarify the meaning (intended or potential) of the words of the text and to provide some basic reflection on its/their continuing significance. And that is where Keck excels." - James D. G. Dunn, Review of Biblical Literature 04/2006.
In this volume, Smith views the Fourth Gospel within several contexts in order to illuminate its specific purposes and achievements. A growing consensus of recent scholarship (including Martyn, Raymond E. Brown, Meeks) seeks the roots of this Gospel and its traditions in the coflict between Jesus' followers and opponents within Judaism. In their struggles, Jesus' followers are encouraged and strengthened by his continuing presence in the Spirit, which articulates his meaning for new situations. Although distinctive, Johannine Christianity does not develop in complete isolation from the broader Christian Gospels. Out of a fascinating, if complex, setting develops the strikingly unique statement of Christian faith, practice, and doctrine found in the Gospel of John. The purpose of this commentary is to enable the reader to comprehend that statement in historical perspective in order to appreciate its meaning and significance.
The Abingdon New Testament Commentaries series offers compact, critical commentaries on the writings of the New Testament. These commentaries are written with special attention to the needs and interests of theology students, but they will also be useful for students in upper-level college or university settings, as well as for pastors and other church leaders. In addition to providing basic information about the New Testament texts and insights into their meanings, these commentaries exemplify the tasks and procedures of careful, critical exegesis. In this volume, Robert C. Tannehill focuses on the significance of the Gospel of Luke in its final form for its original audience. Drawing on his own extensive previous work on Luke as a literary narrative as well as on recent studies of the ancient Mediterranean social world, Tannehill suggests that modern readers will find that certain features of Luke's Gospel only take on significance--or deeper significance--when matched with an appropriate historical and cultural context in the first century. "This commentary is designed to meet the needs of sophisticated nonspecialist students of the Bible. The evangelist's literary genius, frequently displayed in multivalent diction and imagery, finds in Robert Tannehill a faithful and sensitive interpreter. Social-scientific criticism, use of cultural anthropology, and frequent correction of renderings in the New Revised Standard Version appear without undue intrusiveness. This is a work well done." -Frederick W. Danker, Christ Seminary-Seminex/ Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago
In this lucid exposition, an acclaimed interpreter shows that the book of Revelation is to be read as a unified work of religious poetry aimed at extricating Christians from Roman society, in which they were living quietly and peacefully. Thompson considers connections between John's negative view of society and his social location as a wandering prophet, compares his visionary experience with that of other prophets and seers, especially in Judaism, notes similarities between the depictions of Christ and Satan in Revelation and portraits of heroes and demons in other writings of the time, and emphasizes that John's vision of heaven and the future were intended to infuse everyday Christian life with confidence in the goodness and ultimate triumph of God. "Thompson's commentary on Revelation is written in an engaging literary style and, by presenting perceptive comparisons and contrasts with both Greco-Roman and Jewish literature--canonical and non-canonical--he highlights the distinctive features of this book. He deals effectively with the rhetorical and even the epistemological dimensions, while offering an illuminating and convincing proposal for the structure and thematic development of Revelation. In short, it is a most revealing and insightful analysis of this challenging early Christian writing, as it shows how this book addresses perennial human questions about divine purpose and human destiny." --Howard Clark Kee
After years of close contact with the Johannine epistles, David Rensberger discusses the numerous puzzles--linguistic, literary, and historical--that characterize these brief texts. His comments on their theological and ethical significance illumines the meaning and interrelationship of faith and love. In short, Rensberger skillfully demonstrates that despite the Johannine epistles' existence on the periphery of the New Testament canon, they nevertheless touch on the heart of its message. Inquiry includes relationship of these epistles to the gospel of John, Christology, Dualism, Eschatology, the Church, and Salvation.
Identifying the theme of 1 Peter as how the church is to witness responsibly in a non-Christian world, Boring emphasizes the necessity of a sympathetic historical understanding of those parts of the letter that collide with modern cultural values and understandings of what Christian commitment and theology require. He gives special attention, as well, to the narrative world within which this ancient writer operated, and to the strong affirmation of ecumenism implicit in the letter's amalgamation of traditions stemming from Peter and Paul, respectively. "Through the years, Professor Boring has shown himself to be a master of technical exegesis and theology wedded to great pastoral concern. These twin talents are fittingly brought to bear on a New Testament document that shows the same union of rich theology and pastoral care. Indeed, the sober, centrist, yet moving commentary squares perfectly with the sober, centrist, yet moving document that is 1 Peter. If this commentary is a popularization, then it is a popularization of very high caliber; a tremendous amount of research and insight is made available and intelligible to a wide public. This commentary is not just a rehash of what everyone else has said on 1 Peter. The innovative appendix detailing the narrative world of 1 Peter is alone worth the price of admission. All in all, an excellent contribution to present-day literature on an often neglected book of the New Testament." --John P. Meier, The Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C.
Sleeper's lucid exposition of James restores this often neglected work to its rightful place in the Christian canon. Carefully charting the verbal structures and argument of the letter, he demonstrates that it is a coherent piece of moral teaching intended to encourage the development of Christian character, not just a collection of disparate maxims. As he guides the reader through the letter's basic themes, Sleeper is attentive to its echoes in the Old Testament, Hellenistic Jewish wisdom literature, and sayings of Jesus, as well as to its affinities with other Christian writings. Moreover, he shows that the author's understanding of God and of human nature provides a significant theological foundation for practical wisdom about the Christain moral life.
Pfitzner interprets Hebrews as a passionate appeal directed by its author to a community that is in danger of surrendering the distinctiveness of its faith. Through an examination of its structure, rhetorical devices, and arguments, he shows Hebrews to be a splendid example of extended exhoration, with a recurring pattern of formal introduction, scriptural quotation, exposition, and appplication. By seeing the message of Hebrews as a "word exhortation" (13:22) to a community in crisis, Pfitzner is able to set its distinctive Christology firmly in its original social, historical, and cultural context.
"Jouette Bassler's volume on the Pastoral Letters is a model of careful, clearly written cogent interpretation. She gives faithful attention to the problematic trees along the exegetical path, yet without losing sight of the forest. Organized by literary units but not avoiding difficult verses, Bassler's commentary keeps before the reader the unfolding history of the early Christian community from which the text emerges. It is unquestionably the best resource we have on the Pastoral Letters." -- Charles B. Cousar, Columbia Theological Seminary "Bassler's commentary has the crispness of style and no-nonsense quality about it that one has come to expect from its author. The underlying learning is evident throughout. It results in careful, critical exegesis that places the Pastorals securely in their social and historical context. All relevant issues are explained and discussed. Bassler is particularly good at referring the reader to other texts that illuminate her own, with a broad range over Jewish, Greco-Roman, and Christian texts. She presupposes the non-Pauline authorship of the Pastorals, but otherwise has no special axes to grind. As an introductory commentary for theological students, it could not be bettered." --Troels Engberg-Pedersen, Copenhagen University, Denmark
The short letter to the Colossians has played a significant role in the development of Christian thought. Its emphases on salvation as largely realized here and now, on knowledge in relation to faith, on Christ as the head of the church, on the entire cosmos and all humanity as the objects of God's work of redemption through him, and on Paul's authority--all these point in the direction of church theology at the end of the apostolic period. Christian notions of ethical responsibility between asceticism and worldliness, as well as the subordination of wives to husbands and slaves to masters, were influenced by the "household table" of Colossians 3:18-4:1. In the fourth century Colossians' Christological claims surfaced on opposite sides of the Arian controversy, which dealt with the status of the Son of God in relation to the Father/Creator and the created order. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, Colossians attracted special attention as theologians and ordinary believers have wrestled with new questions about science and religious pluralism.
The commentary demonstrates how to work through the texts of Philippians and Philemon in the light of relevant scholarship but also with the use of one's own critical judgment. While traditional exegetical questions are dealt with, contemporary theological concerns are highlighted, and there is a special effort to probe the social issues that arose in the Pauline churches. Gender roles and slavery are given particular attention as they arise in the texts. Scholarship, now enlightened by greater knowledge of the social structures and relationships of Mediterranean antiquity, is just beginning to explore questions of how women functioned in house-church communities, how early Christians dealt with the institution of slavery, and how slaves were integrated into their communities. To the extent allowed by the commentary format, these questions are given special attention in contributing to an ongoing discussion. "Osiek deftly weaves new rhetorical, social-historical, and social-scientific insights into classical historical and philological research on Philippians and Philemon. She has the special gift of discussing difficult issues in simple language and with great clarity. The result is a remarkable synthesis in which readers of all kinds will come to a deeper understanding not only of these two letters and recent scholarship on them, but of Paul and the ancient world he inhabited." --Dennis C. Duling, Canisius College "Professor Osiek's combination of meticulous scholarship, a profound grasp of the rhetorical and social dimensions of Philippians and Philemon, and her succinct yet limpid style make this commentary a remarkably accomplished and mercifully compact addition to Pauline Studies." --Philip F. Esler, Vice-Principal (Research) and Professor of Biblical Criticism in the University of St. Andrews, Scotland "Osiek's brief commentary is a model of excellent scholarship shared with clarity and with sensitivity to contemporary interpretive issues. The historical and sociological approaches in the hands of Osiek lead to insightful and important comments, for example, on issues related to women (in Philippians) and to slavery (in Philemon). Osiek presents alternative interpretations clearly and fairly and always makes her own case with grace. this is authentic biblical scholarship in the service of all God's people." --David M. Scholer, Professor of New Testament and Associate Dean for the Center for Advanced Theological Studies, Fuller Theological Seminary "Osiek succeeds in combining up-to-date scholarship on the puzzles of Philippians and Philemon along with a clear exposition of the real meaning of Paul's thought. The commentary will be of great value to both the professional and the lay reader." --Vincent Branick, Professor of Religious Studies, University of Dayton
In this volume, Pheme Perkins mines the writings from Nag Hammadi and Qumran for illuminating parallels to Ephesians, showing how a first-century audience would have heard and responded to the various parts of the letter. Under her sure guidance, contemporary readers are led to see the rhetorical power and the theological depth of this pseudonymous letter.
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