Friday, October 26, 2012

Water Sundays 2013

Earlier this year, Kevin Herr ’09, a business administration graduate, shared about his experiences in Haiti as a part of the team at Water Missions International, a Christian engineering ministry that provides access to safe water and the Living Water message to people around the world. He also announced the launch of their Water Sunday initiative. Below he shares an update about all that's been accomplished through WMI since then, and what's in store for the future:

In January, we asked churches across the country to take one Sunday in March to educate their congregations about the global water crisis and to raise funds to provide safe water for people around the world. God moved—32 churches participated, and together we raised over $100,000 to bring safe water to four communities. The people of God responded and lives were changed.

Kimmi Island, in Uganda, is one of those communities impacted. 3,000 people live on Kimmi; the majority of the population is made up of fishermen. The community uses water from the lake for nearly all of its daily needs. Yet drinking this water causes devastating illnesses—typhoid, cholera, bilharzias, stomach pain and diarrhea. These ever-present illnesses affect all aspects of society.

It was wonderful to receive the pictures from the Kimmi’s celebration after the community’s new safe water system was fully installed. Thousands of people were present to participate in boat races, soccer, singing, tug-of-war, ribbon cutting and accompanying speeches. Seeing the faces of the children and knowing that, statistically speaking, by providing safe water you could save some of their lives really touches the heart.

Our vision for the 2013 Water Sunday campaign is for more than 100 churches to participate, providing access to safe water for more than 33,000 people. Churches can join in this effort by giving one Sunday between January and April 2013 to transform lives through safe water. Our desire is for church members to become something more than “transactional givers”—to become passionate participants, transformed by engaging with the call to care for the thirsty (Isaiah 58).

Water Sundays represent the active body of Christ responding to urgent physical needs. In addition, Water Sundays support our mission overseas to offer the living water of Christ to all who thirst spiritually.

To learn more about Water Sunday and to sign up, visit www.watermissions.org/watersunday. You can follow Water Missions International on Twitter @watermissions, and keep up-to-date on Water Sunday 2013 #WaterSunday.

Photo: Thanks to this past year's Water Sunday initiative, community members in Kimmi, Uganda, can share in safe, abundant drinking water.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Scriptura Sola After 500 Years

By Rebekah Connell ’15

The Conference on Faith and History, held biennially and hosted this October at Gordon College, provides a forum for scholars of Christianity and history to learn from one another. Professors, scholars and students from all over the country bring their questions and insights. The intermingling of so many levels of scholarship is a big part of what makes the CFH such a valuable experience. It was a unique privilege for Gordon students and professors to be able to attend presentations by notable historians who have widely influenced the study of history

Dr. Mark A. Noll, Francis A. McAnaney Professor of History at the University of Notre Dame, presented the conference's final lecture, entitled “Scriptura Sola after Nearly 500 Years: A Protestant Blessing or a Protestant Curse?” Scriptura sola, Latin for “by scripture alone,” refers to the belief that the Bible includes all the information necessary for a life of salvation. Noll’s talk laid out the progression of Protestants' use of scriptura sola throughout American history. As he began, Noll quipped, “After 500 years, has scriptura sola been a blessing or a curse? The answer, of course, is…yes. That’s it, thank you—end of lecture.” The audience of  iPad-clutching professors and notebook-crinkling students laughed, and settled into their seats for what they knew would be a much more thorough addressing of this challenging question.
 

Noll explored the diverse meanings that people have drawn from this concept during different time periods. He also raised difficult questions about the Protestant use of scripture, including the historical justification of slavery and outright disagreements between congregations of the same faith.
 

There is ambiguity in the definition of scriptura sola, Noll stressed; what does it mean, exactly, to follow the Bible alone? Some Christians uphold the sole use of the Bible in living the Christian life; others advocate the exploration of texts from other religions in order to better understand our own. According to Noll, the best solution is for Christians to be socially and politically engaged, infiltrating the layers of society with scriptural wisdom—a method, Noll pointed out, exemplified by our school’s founder, A. J. Gordon. Regardless of scriptura sola’s exact meaning in our world now, we know that scripture commands us to extend the love of Christ. This, Noll emphasized, is what we should pay attention to.
 

Noll’s lecture provided a triumphant conclusion to four days of vigorous discussion of the overlaps between faith and history. A true scholar of faith, he left us with questions and with a call to action.

Photo: Scholars from all over the country came together with Gordon students this month for the biennial Conference for Faith and History—pictured here in the Ken Olsen Science Center lobby.

Rebekah Connell ’15 is an English major from New York and student writer for the Office of College Communications. 
 

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Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Cultivating Deep Faith

We all experience a "moment of transition" in our faith—the page in our spiritual journey where we decide which of our ingrained beliefs we will carry into new chapters, and what we will leave behind. Monday’s Chapel speaker, Jim Belcher ’87, talked through some of the challenges this moment of transition poses to young Christians, their families and the Church as a whole.

Often, Belcher explained, the moment comes during a person’s college years—away from home, from parents and youth group, from most of the inherited aspects of her religious faith. Drawing from the research of another well-known Gordon alumnus, Notre Dame sociologist Christian Smith ’83, Belcher shared some sobering facts about how our most recent generation of college students and graduates (termed "emerging adults") fare through this critical moment. Upwards of 90 percent of emerging adults take on the social and spiritual identity of their immediate surroundings, even if it goes against the identity of their youth.

This means that many emerging adults who were raised in the Christian faith “put that [Christian] identity in a lockbox," said Belcher, once they enter into the largely faith-skeptical realm of secular higher education. They then emerge on the other side of their college years brandishing a sort of vague spirituality Smith calls Moralistic Therapeutic Deism (MTD)—God without grounding in theology or creed, accompanying a general moral, spiritual and social aimlessness.

“Can MTD be escaped?” Belcher asked. How can we instill enduring faith in ourselves and in future generations? It’s a question Belcher has been grappling with for years.

After earning degrees from Gordon College, Fuller Theological Seminary and Georgetown University, Belcher became the founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Newport Beach, California. He made his debut as a Christian voice on the national stage with the thoughtful and fair-minded Deep Church: A Third Way Beyond Emerging and Traditional, celebrated as one of Christianity Today's "best books from 2009." Now an associate professor of practical theology at Knox Theological Seminary, Belcher continues to seek a vibrant and firmly rooted faith in his work as a pastor, teacher and scholar.

And as Belcher explained in his Chapel message Monday morning, the firm, sustaining root of the Church is in the enduring story of Christ. Drawing a comparison to Lucy’s discovery of the magic of the “Spell for the Refreshment of the Spirit” in C. S. Lewis’s The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Belcher reiterated that “once you have been gripped by that story [of Christ], you will want to hear it over and over again.”

It is the timeless power of the Christian narrative that ultimately resists the casual draw of Moralistic Therapeutic Deism, and which creates a culture of bold Christian leaders ready to live out that narrative in the world. “I’m thankful that I was able to get exposure to that kind of story here at Gordon, 25 years ago,” said Belcher.

Belcher is currently working on a follow-up to Deep Church, titled In Search of Deep Faith.

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