Monthly Archives: November 2008

What does the call to unity stand for? Or, down to earth: where does the rubber meets the road?

Dagen reports about an article in the November issue of the Charisma magazine written by Tomas Dixon concerning Ulf Ekman’s involvement with the Catholic Church. Those who know me and the ministries that I have been involved in during the last 25 years know that I have always been an advocate of unity in the body of Christ. Since the beginning of the 80ties I have related and worked for unity across denominational and cultural borders. Even our own church (www.newlife.nu) is an example of that as people from over 40 nations from all kind of different backgrounds, cultures, ages, and languages experience “togetherness” in Christ Jesus in the centre of Stockholm.

A foundational value that has characterized our church and which I have taught from the early stages on is found in the history of the Moravian Movement (by the way, my view on what church is to be is grounded in numerous teachings and praxis from the beginning stages of the Salvation Army, the Moravian Movement, the Anabaptists and the Methodist church). The Moravian Movement declared:”In essential beliefs we have unity. In non-essential beliefs we have diversity. In all our beliefs we show charity.”

For me the teachings of Jesus as found in the New Testament become alive in this quote… It gives me hand and feet to flesh out the unity Christ called for. It helps me understand where the rubber meets the road; with other words how I can implement true unity.

I have always looked for common ground within essential beliefs among those of a Christian tradition and/or background and have made it my core value to speak and live in such way by affirming this common ground. However, if I have to live as I teach there are obvious boundaries or if you will, limitations to what I can stand for.

The Church political climate in Sweden is such that it is hard to step out of line… after many years of divisions, church-cultural and theological misunderstandings and disunity, the ones who consider themselves “Church” have gone into what I would call “survival mode”. Finally we have started to look at the “essentials” but at the same time have overemphasized the “united front outlook” which removes the differences and hot potatoes which still make us different.

I understand Ulf Ekman’s approach after having been isolated from the rest of the “Church” in Sweden in many different ways (isolation, not only because his/their former approach and teachings, but also because of the unwillingness of the rest of us to understand and embrace them).

What do I want to say? I became converted having a non-believing Roman Catholic background with my whole extended network of former friends and family still within that entity (most of them have remained without faith in Christ and the Bible). I worry when I read in the above mentioned article: In April and October evangelicals gathered in Örebro, Sweden’s evangelical center, to caution against the trend and to point out that unity to Catholics always meant, and still means, bowing to the pope. Bishop Arborelius seemed to affirm that view, saying: “We cannot bypass the personal wish of Jesus that all unity must relate to the apostle Peter,” that is to the papal office… Arborelius continued, “I think that [Ekman and others] now see the key role of the pope as a symbol of unity and the importance of the virgin Mary.”

When reading the quotes by Arborelius I react; here we do not speak about unity in regards to the “essentials” of Christian faith as I see it. These statements call me to a hold. Of course we don’t only deal with the Roman Catholic Church; in our nation we are involved with the different Orthodox churches as well which have their uncompromising views on some of these issues also!

I know it is Church Politically incorrect to even dare touch these issues. Honestly speaking, I can have fellowship with friends in the Roman Catholic Church but some of them have views on the essentials of Christian faith that I know would not be endorsed by the Pope. The fact is that if their views would become publically known by the Vatican that they might be asked to leave the church.

So where does your rubber meet the road? I told you some of my journey, what about yours?

That’s the Way I see it (not necessarily the right way!)

John

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Call me a prophet of doom – I am sad to be right!

Carlsson and Schlingmann have written about Swedish Aid policy and praxis here, here, here and here…

It wasn’t too long ago that I wrote: “is there hope for the most vulnerable citizens on planet earth?” Today’s political maneuver of the Moderate Party and our Foreign Aid minister Gunilla Carlsson to leave the minimum of 1% GPN (BNP) for Foreign Aid and to go a “steady 0.7%” foundational aid level confirms the attitude that (as I wrote in an earlier blog at the beginning of this economic crisis) we only share some of the crumbs of our tables as long as we have abundance!

Not unusual to politicians they try to describe how this new approach and praxis will actually benefit the countries, systems and people on the “receiving end” of the aid. At the same time they want to have the freedom to redefine what Aid is to be and to whom it is to be given. A potential partner is named which does not comply with the terms of traditional Aid receptors namely Russia. (This nation is to be considered because of democratic development reasons).

Another area is mentioned defending why our Aid can be reduced; “quality control”… Aid should be used in an efficient and result guaranteed way… Well, that has been the slogan of the Moderate Party all along as it has thrown itself since its ruling days in the sales (and thus the break-down) of a number of services locally (I live in Stockholm) and nationally. Do we have better, more efficient and result guaranteed services as a result of their political agenda? Some will say “Yes”, while many others will tell you have things have gotten worse.

I know that there are many examples of projects gone sour. I know that organizations (also Swedish ones) have misused the Aid given and redirected funds. I know that there are many reports that question the long-term results and lack of political, organizational, system and economic changes needed to bring about true change in a people group, geographic area or nation.

BUT, isn’t Aid also meant to soften human suffering, to bring hope to individuals and groups of people who are most vulnerable and exposed for one or another reason? As usual, the exposed and vulnerable people in our world will be the first (and often) the only true victim of the kind of politics we endorse. Somehow many of us in the West seem to be able to avoid having to live with the disastrous, life threatening consequences of a world gone mad!

In times like these when crisis occurs, also opportunity knocks at the door! At such moments we have an opportunity to show our true face… are we lead by the impulse of GREED or will we allow true humanity to motivate our thinking and actions?

Let Sweden show its real face…

That’s the Way I see it!

John

It is not the immigrants who should integrate… the church should integrate in society!

A lot can be said about McDonalds… In Sweden we have this love-hate relationship with this hamburger giant. There are voices about their products, their environmental involvement, their low-wages, their franchising, you name it and we will have something to say about it. At the same time there are a few things to be learned from this company. In an article in SVD Raymond Mankowitz, the director of communication of McDonalds said: It is not the immigrants who should integrate but the companies have to integrate into society. Quite a powerful statement! He addressed the inability of Swedish companies to integrate into the reality of the Swedish society which happens to be a multi-cultural society!

If companies have an issue in this regard… so much more has the Church in Sweden! Our middle class “Svensson churches” have a real problem to adjust to the reality of the 21st century and the society we live in… not only in regards to the questions it tries to answer and the issues it tries to address, but especially also in regards to be relevant to a multi-cultural society and context. Our churches as a whole, need to be integrated to the reality of our society… With this I DO NOT MEAN to compromise and to bring a watered down Gospel as a political correct ingredient of multiculturalism (which is very different from being multi-cultural!).

My prayer is that the 11.00 am Sunday morning segregation will be replaced by a multi-cultural in-depth integrated community of believers who celebrate the fact that Jesus broke down all the barriers between us and His heavenly Father and each other in a true spirit of togetherness!

That’s the Way I see it!

John

The Swedish attitude towards the “entrepreneurial spirit” hinders us from the planting of new churches!

I read an article in last Sunday’s SVD under the business and economy section, Linda Skugge quoted Signhild Arnegård Hansen who stated that the attitude of Swedes hinders many from becoming entrepreneurs.

I will not confuse the planting of new churches with business endeavors, but this article confirmed something that I have been fighting against for many years; the fear many Swedes have, both Christian and non-Christian alike for insecurity and instability especially in the financial area of their lives.

I have literally met hundreds of people throughout my years in Sweden who expressed to me the calling and desire to be pioneers and church planters. However, few of them have actually become involved in ministry in these areas.

There are a number of reasons for that… one of the main reasons that I see after having talked with many of them is the unwillingness to make sacrifices. Many of them would be interested to be involved in a church plant or pioneering ministry IF THEY WERE EMPLOYED!

I suspect that the overwhelming majority of our potential pioneers and entrepreneurs are brought to slumber and cuddled to death within our anti-entrepreneurial church environment and society.

Another reason for the quenching of the entrepreneurial spirit is found in the educational modes within our Bible schools and theological institutions which prepare and equip teachers and (maybe) hopefully pastors, but surely not prophets, evangelists and apostles. In these organizations and institutions little attention is given to the development of leadership and the release of entrepreneurs… If you ask me (who is?) we have a whole lot of equipping and releasing to do in the Church to catch up to the challenges of the 21st century. We have a whole lot to learn and to sacrifice if we ever want to regain the kind of pioneering spirit which exploded in tremendous missionary and church planting endeavors within our nation and beyond as found in our rich and courageous history within the Swedish churches!

That’s the Way I see it!

John van Dinther