Monday, October 16, 2006

Is Zoe Going Liberal?

From the conversation in the comments on Friday's post, it's seems that at least one person feels that the Zoe Conference is starting to lean leftward. Only by making assumptions (and "Snapshot," please correct me if I'm wrong), it would seem that a track on dealing with same-sex attractions and having Lauren Winner (a woman, an Episcopalian, and a liberal) would lend toward this thinking.

So for those of you with an opinion: Is Zoe becoming more liberal? Is it just parroting the direction of Christian culture and Emerging theology and the pitfalls that accompany that? Are those concerns overblown? Is it simply that this wing of Churches of Christ are becoming more concerned with issues of social justice, ideas that have historically been more associated with liberals? Or, as with many things, is it some middle ground between the two?

What are your thoughts?

As an aside to people who have no clue what the Zoe Group is about. It is a worship renewal group that started within Churches of Christ about 10 or 11 years ago. Every year they release a CD of music that is distributed throughout many Churches of Christ with music that is used in many worship settings. They also hold conferences with the largest in Nashville in October that focus on worship, leadership, and discipleship. The speakers for the last three years have been Brian McLaren, Leonard Sweet, and this year, Lauren Winner. It is probably the largest gathering of progressive Churches of Christ in the country, at least in the Southeast.

Posted Tuesday, October 17 9:37AM CDT.

I posted these thoughts in the comments, but I thought I'd bring them out here as well.

Do I think Zoe is going liberal? Obviously there's a problem with terminology. "Liberal" has one context in politics and one in religion.

I do not think Zoe is going religiously liberal. I see no indication that the Zoe Conference is getting to a point of denying Christ's divinity or existence, or the authority of Scripture. Now again, liberal for someone else (Mr. Piney for instance) is old hat for me, so there's always that.

Is Zoe going politically liberal? I don't think intentionally. Now, both McLaren and Winner would undoubtably fall into a more politically liberal category. I don't think that represents a desire on Zoe's part to be politically liberal; it strikes me as a desire to have popular writers and speakers from the wider Christian world, who right now are more politically liberal.

I do think something that's happening in Churches of Christ is an interest in subjects like social justice, care for the poor, engagement of homosexuality, etc, that have traditionally or at least recently been more the area of influence of political liberals. And so it could be that which is giving some people pause. I hope what happens is that those issues being less political issues and more issues of faith, where the people can agree on the mission that needs to be done. I think we can, and I'm hopeful that we will.

Thanks again for all the conversation and I hope it continues.


Justin said...

The homosexual thing was liberal??? Hmmm... I missed that. Sally didn't convince me that a person can be reoriented... maybe you can be celibate, but I just can't be convinced that people can be completely reoriented unless their homosexuality stems from abuse. Most of the gay people I know weren't abused, and had otherwise normal childhoods. And they tried their darnedest to not be gay, two of them even had sex with girls in an attempt to not be sexually attracted to boys.

And I don't think Zoe is going liberal... Social Justice and Pacifism are conservative. Not conservative in our political climate, but conservative biblically. If we want to be the early church (like our heritage claims to) we'd all be pacifists, we'd live counter cultural lifestyles, and we'd transform the world with our love an acceptance. We wouldn't be caught up in the Kingdoms of this world but we'd be purely citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven... and it would show

Amy said...

My opinion is that Zoe is one of the most relevant forums we have in the Churches of Christ.

Sure, it's liberal from a traditional CoC standpoint, but in the big scheme of things politically, it's still pretty conservative.

My take on the words "liberal" and "conservative" may be different than what you're asking here. I would define Christianity as being conservative no matter how one votes or what party one belogs to.

Sorry I missed out on that conversation. I would have enjoyed the banter.

Phil said...

I agree with you, Amy, that Zoe is definitely very much on the conservative side of things, but Snapshot (and others) seem to really feel that Zoe is going politically liberal, possibly because the reasons I stated in the post.

You're also right on the how we all define "liberal" and "conservative." In a typical postmodern fashion, what is liberal for me might be conservative for someone else.

And so, I wanted to get some conversation going about it. We'll see if some of those who think it is going liberal will join it.

Amy said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Amy said...

That one was just for you. Not trying to stir things up. :)

"Snapshot" said...

Oooo, that evil Snapshot.....

My thoughts on Zoe. It's a large gathering of people so there is bound to be a large number of political philosphies and even a larger number of beliefs on the homosexual issue that was repeatedly brought up.

I could have worn my Bush 2004 sweatshirt to the conference, but that would have been totally inappropriate. There is a time and place for everything. And this should have been a weekend to focus on worship (as it has always been in the past).

After a week of mulling this over, my conclusion about this year's Zoe experience is this.
Many people pay a premium price to attend this conference because it's known across the country for inspiring worship, beautiful singing, a wealth of inspiring ideas for worship, closeness to God and spiritual renewal. It may not seem like a premium price to some, but to my family it is. But, I've told people repeatedly over the years that it's worth every penny regardless of how high the registration fee goes. The numbers were way down this year for the Leadership and the Worship Conference and I'd be interested to know why. Could it be that the blogger chatter about all these topics among those associated with Zoe could have been the reason. I don't know, but it's a thought to consider. Many of us did not come to hear political opinions. I came to worship. I did not come to hear the topic of homosexuality be tied to almost any subject. I was not alone in this. Many people felt these same thoughts.

I just am sad to see Zoe become something of a political platform when it was, as Amy put it, "one of the most relavant forums we have in the Churches of Christ."

This year instead of leaving feeling totally pumped and eager to share the things I had learned, I felt sad and unsettled. I'll even go so far as to say I felt deceived. What I thought was to be a total experience in worship AGAIN was in many ways an experience in worship, sprinkled with political jabs and bantering. That, I've been told, if I don't agree with, then I'm just not a real citizen of heaven.

Someone said previously that they felt Laura Winner was courageous for her talk at the conference. How is it courageous to take jabs at the President of the United States in a forum devoted to worship? Sorry I just don't get that.
That would be the equivalent to me shouting "God bless Bush" at the end of some of the public prayers while at Zoe.
Wouldn't you all who disagree with me get a bit tired of that. Wouldn't you find it offensive if I did that even once?
There's nothing wrong with me praying "God bless Bush" for like I said, there is a time and place for everything.

Justin said...


I think that the issue at hand is that Zoe is trying to move away from what some people refer to as "Spiritual Masturbation" (not to be crude, just a good desciption) basically where people sing and and there's all this action but nothing is birthed from it. Musical worship, if not an extension of our lives of worship, can become idolotry itself. Look at Amos. The Israelites were having these great feasts, these great worship experiences, but they were neglecting the poor and the downtrodden and God was pissed! He said he depised their feasts and offerings, because, no matter how emotional they got, if they weren't caring for those that God cared for, then it was all in vain.

I believe that is the direction that Zoe is moving. Congregational worship should be an extension of lives devoted to Jesus. Lives that protect the innocent. Protect life, whether its a baby in an American womans womb or a child in a slum in Africa, or a terrorist in Afghanistan or Iraq. We have a calling through our Savior to love EVERYONE, not just the people that look like us, and to live at peace with EVERYONE, not just those who don't fly their places into our buildings.

I think that President Bush is probably a nice guy, as is Hillary Clinton a nice woman. I think neither of them are doing the work of Christ when they put the American people before any other people. God loves all of us equally and he doesn't want us to be violent towards our fellow man. He doesn't want us to live it up and sit around in our huge ass church buildings and have great "worship" time while there are people 15 miles away who are shivering underneath a bridge.

We are called to be in the world but not of it. We are here, but we are foreigners. We are citizens of the Kingdom of God, and there is a different order in our Kingdom. The first are last and the last are first. There is no need for violence in our Kingdom. But because our Kingdom hasn't come in full, there are bad things that still go on in the world. Our job isn't to use Kingdom of the world ways to stop it, though it might offer a temporary solution. Our job is to be the inbreaking of the Kingdom, and that doesn't involve War and Oppression. It involves sacrifice and love and it will always lead to a Cross.

I understand your point of view because I've been there. But we're always growing and Zoe is too. If numbers are down because Zoe is trying to be more Christlike, then I don't think BST, Mike Cope, or Eric Noah Wilson could care less. Its not about the numbers and its not about us. Its about others.

TCS said...

Ok, I plead ignorance on Lauren Winner. I have not read any of her writing nor did I attend the leadership portion of Look to the Hills (Zoe). So maybe I am not qualified to speak to the issue at hand. But I would point out that my guess is she was invited to speak and not told "what to say". It is interesting that she seems to have stirred up more than McLaren did.

Apparently some heard more than her make political opinions, I guess I missed that too. But I would say that surely we don't want only people that think exactly as we do to ever speak.

Now for the homosexual stuff. what was said? I just don't understand why the subject makes whatever is being discussed suddenly worthless.
Ok, I'll go to my own blog corner again.

"Snapshot" said...

Ok, Justin, your foul language has answered many questions. I won't be a part of this type of juvenile discussion.

It's not about us, numbers or others, it's about HIM.

This kind of language is why I cannot read the books by Anne Lamontt and Donald Miller. Foul language takes away any credibility.

Have fun blogging amongst yourselves. And be blessed.

Snapshot out.

Justin said...

I think its far more foul that people sit around and sing songs that make them feel good about themselves all the while making no effort to be Jesus to those that need him.

Besides, it says ass in the bible. Paul also said Shit, but the translators toned it down a bit. You know... cause he wouldn't have said that, right?

Snapshot, you talk about the arrogance of the left, but you sit around with all the answers and you refuse to answer my argument because I said ass. That's pretty arrogant don't you think? I'm too good to talk with you cause you don't conform to my standards of righteousness... hmmm

Angie said...

aaaaaaaah.... The passion of it all. Passionate conversations used to make me so uncomfortable, but not now. They make me aware of people who are going deeper and being challenged... and that God is moving. So, I'm thankful for your conversations.

It's just so hard to get to the heart of the matter, isn't it?

Probably not the best time for a shameless self promotion, but I'm setting up a "coffee shop" environment over at my blog that specifically deals with homosexuality and Christianity. Phil, you and all your bloggin' buddies are welcome to drop by.

Anonymous said...

I can't wait to see what Justin thinks in another two years. I'm an admitted blog lurker. It's been interesting to see your radical changes in a short period of time.

As someone with a little more gray on the roof, you'll be surprised by how people will be more influenced by opinions that have taken a little more time to be formed.

Justin said...


I am normally skeptical of someone who changes with the wind. The thing is, that with this, I've never even been exposed to any of this at all. I'd been a pretty hardcore Republican for all my life (as you can read in my series I'm doing right now at my blog). I knew why I believed what I believed. Then Brian McLaren, Tony Campolo, and especially Lee Camp and, well, Jesus, kinda kicked my butt.

In all honesty, with my bible study, I was never really good. I mean, I knew why I thought it was ok to worship with instruments, and why I didn't tell the baptists they were going to hell even though they hadn't been baptized, but I'd never heard anyone talk differently about discipleship (besides from a strictly moral kinda.. you know, not drinking and smoking or having sex). But the thing is, I'd never read the gospel for myself. And if anyone mentioned some of the things Jesus said, I was really good at dismissing the words, or to borrow from Derek Webb, domesticating Jesus until he looked just like me.

I've been reading and processing a lot of information over the past couple years. Will my beliefs change a little bit? I'm sure they will. But I think its fairly clear what Jesus calls us too, and there are people much smarter than I am that figured it out a long time ago... not to mention the early church who lived it in the face of massive persecution.

Phil said...

Well, dialogue is always interesting.

Snapshot, I hope you feel free to drop in and comment whenever you feel comfortable doing so. You and I probably agree on more than might think, and I'd guess that you and Justin are the same.

Justin, I really respect your passion. I think you are working through some deep deep thoughts.

Here's the next thought on this: Does it seem that Zoe is going more liberal because of the outside speakers being brought in (McLaren, Sweet, Winner for the last 3 years) or because of the theology being presented by "us" (Cope, Walling, Gill, York, etc.)?

philip said...

I did not attend any of the classes, for the conference; I only helped with the times of worship, which truly blessed me. But one thing I can mention is the reason the numbers were slightly lower this year. Many who normally travel long distances for the Nashville conference are instead attending the new conferences that are closer to them, in Lubbock (March) and Orlando (June).

With this factored in, the conference actually grew this year quite substantially from what I understand.


Amy W said...

Wow-- thanks for tipping me off to the discussion on your blog today, Phil! As a part of ZOE, maybe I can further muddy the waters!

I confess right away that I couldn't be at the Lauren Winner session (7 month-old who needs me more right now...) So, I have no clue what her statements were-- politically or spiritually. It is now on my list of things to do-- maybe Eric has an audio of the session, and I have an email in to Brandon to get the scoop.

Anyway-- during the ZOE planning session for this year's conference, Mike (Cope) wanted to invite Laura specifically because of her book, Real Sex, The Naked Truth about Chastity. And, I pretty much always agree when Mike feels passionately about something! :)

The way he explained her at the time to all of us is this: Lauren was willing to admit that promiscuity is an activity that many fall prey to-- including Christians. She sees the problem as a spiritual one-- we try to replace the emptiness/longing in our lives with the physical rather than looking toward God. This fit perfectly with our "Closer" theme-- Look to Him alone for your intimacy.

Perhaps she strayed from that message in her talks into some of her more "liberal" perspectives on the world... I am sure she was given no guidelines as to what would be "acceptable" speech (doctrine?!) at the conference.

One of the great things about the conference is that it's NOT church-- the 3 hours we spend on Sunday definition nor as a group of believers governed by elders who are responsible for overseeing things. We don't try to tell people how things should be done at their church or even in their own lives. In my opinion, we try to set the table-- offer a variety of experiences that both challenge and encourage-- and then invite people to partake of what they wish.

As far as "going liberal"-- I don't feel comfortable at all using those terms when we are discussing such a weighty matter as to where we stand before God. Heaven forbid that I am ever satisfied to define myself as spiritually liberal or conservative-- or if I ever confuse my political leanings with my faith and relationship with the Father.

I think everyone involved with this ministry is humbled each day by the fact we are so far from what God wants us to be... We are just regular folks like everyone else on the journey. We constantly want to make sure that we are moving TOWARD Him instead of AWAY from Him and His desires for the ministry.

I was just thinking this weekend about the year ZOE had "interpretative dancers" at one conference-- had to be 5 or 6 years ago! :) That was really pushing the "liberal envelope" for some, I'm sure! It was for my parents! Especially when it was followed by partaking of the Lord's Supper at tables with others like a meal-- on SATURDAY!

Perhaps those of us who are actually willing to come to something ZOE find it easier to be challenged by things related to worship practices than we are when it comes to things that pertain to theology itself-- i.e. we don't have issues with hand raising or praise teams, but don't mess with Acts 2:38. Our use of instruments in some portions of our worship sessions also gets the discussion boards going...Don't get the guy at started! :)

As a ministry, our constant prayer is that He would make it clear to us when the ZOE ministry has run its course so that we would be willing to head in another direction at His choosing. This was a particularly germane subject as we reached our 10th anniversary in 2006.

As far as the lower numbers-- I think we were a couple hundred off, although it didn't seem like it in the night sessions. I haven't confirmed the exact number with Eric. Many of our Texas folk chose not to attend this year so that they could be with us in Lubbock for our first conference there in March. We are trying to do more regional conferences so that people don't have to spend so much money on traveling all the way to Nashville. We've also added Orlando on the list for next year.

I'm also sure there were some who were frightened away by the "sex" author-- or just felt it wasn't a topic that applied to them and their needs. Sex is not something our heritage has typically dealt with in the past... that's understandable and OK.

The easy way out would be for us to pick an upbeat theme each year and have everyone gather to sing and raise the roof and talk about how frustrating it is that our churches don't sing the songs we want them to and to pat ourselves on the back because we have really figured out the way to worship which is meaningful and better than how every other generation has approached it. We could sing and sing and then all go back home feeling warm and fuzzy.

One of my favorite moments was Randy's closing talk on Saturday. It was so real and moving. Not sure how his talk, or Mike's on Friday, or Jack's Jacob's Ladder, or Dan McVey's talk on the spreading of God's Kingdom could be deemed liberal in any sense. To me they were equally inspiring and uplifting, even in the moments that I was challenged by their words.

Maybe the real issue all comes back to Lauren's political views and Sally's desire to speak honestly about same-sex attraction. Both issues are dead-on when you look at the world we find ourselves in.... Can't we address these issues in a safe place together open and honestly and maybe learn something along the way? So, Lauren is liberal-- SHOCK! She's a major author living in a secular world in an environment most of us would find as normal as being dropped off in the Sudan. Praise the Lord that she at least believes Christ died for her sins-- not to show her which button to push in an election booth.

OK-- I've said more than enough. Thanks for inviting me into the fray, Phil! Hope I don't regret it! I hate confrontation, so everyone BE NICE!!! By the way-- I don't presume to speak for the entire ZOE ministry-- just my little part of it.

I have commented more about the conference on the new ZOE blog-- check it out to keep up with what ZOE is up to in our own day-to-day lives.

Again, thanks for passing along the discussion on your blog today, Phil! We are praying for more discussions like this over there on our new blog. How awesome to build an online community where we can share and debate as family! :)

"Snapshot" said...

Against my better judgment, here I am again. Drats. I hate this.

Ok, here's the deal. Zoe had a political undertone and perhaps it was due to the stirrings of Ms. Winner, perhaps not. But it was the fact for many. Oh how I wish there weren't so many blog "lurkers" out there as one person put it and more blog commenters. (You lurkers know who you are......comment please!!!!)
I know you guys don't agree with me on this.

I've given my feed back. It obviously hasn't been well received.
As for all the talk about having the warm fuzzies. Well here's another perspective on that. Many of us attend less spiritually liberal congregations that don't have such emotional worship experiences on a regular basis. That is the part of Zoe that has attracted me for years. The ability to worship in total abandon in a great place that was safe from ridicule for wanting to be more expressive.

I've been a Zoe Cheerleader for Pete's sake because I wanted everyone I know to experience if for just a couple days, the freedom that comes from a worship experience just as this.

So I fess up. I don't want Zoe to be political, conservative or liberal. Zoe being spiritually on the liberal edge was different for me and seemed appropriate. That's the facts, simply the facts. There I've said it.

And Amy, for many of us it is church. My major "anti" CoC mom doesn't understand why I go to Zoe and says to me, "So you go to church all weekend?" My reply, "Yep and it's awesome." She just shakes her head....but not in church.

My experiences at Zoe in the past have been spring boards for ideas in worship to share with my "not so spiritually liberal" church family. Several of us would attend, be blessed and learn something new at Zoe each year. Then, we'd try to sqeeze a new idea in, with the hopes that someone would be as blessed as we were by it. Sometimes it works, sometimes not.

So there, Snapshot the horrid has spoken again. Wish I didn't feel like a kicking board right now.

Brandon Scott said...

meant to post this on this one...I'm retarded.

politics is a tricky thing. So is theology and the Christian life. There aren't many things worse than being made to feel less than---no matter what your views. I'm pretty sure that no one in least in the leadership... has that kind of heart. We want to be a place of open discussion. I hope you'll reconsider before you make assumptions about where we stand. us no matter what

"Snapshot" said...

And as a side note Justin....
Yes, you are correct, the word "ass" is used in the bible to describe an animal, not the size of someone's church building. And your term for worship that not only glorifies God but lifts up the worshipper was more out of line that I have words for.
I have never said I have the answers, all I have are my own personal studies and experiences which have formed my opinions. Which is what I thought the whole blogging discussion thing was about.
If refraining from further discussion with someone who get's disrespectful when annoyed is viewed as refusing to answer the argument, then I'm guilty as charged.

Anonymous said...

What I know about ZOE I only know from reading this post and comments. I do know Mike Cope and others involved and have great respect for them. A ZOE conference would likely not be my cup of tea but I really dislike people throwing "Liberal" and "Conservative" labels around when most of the time they don't have a clue what they are talking about.

When speaking theologically and in regard to the church, "Liberal" designates someone who denies one or more of the essential doctrines of the historic Christian faith. I know of no church of Christ preacher who does not believe in the inspiration of the Bible, the virgin birth of Christ, His diety, the resurrection, and His payment for the sins of the world on the cross.

ZOE is likely "edgy", "radical", "bold", but "liberal"? No way.

Grace and Peace,
Royce Ogle

Justin said...

We are obviously on different pages snapshot. On many many different levels.

I'm sorry I offended you with my terminology. I apologize for using ass... in many younger circles, this isn't really even considered a curse word (the same as piss and sucks have changed in meaning for my generation). But I sincerely apologize for using that word.

But as to the spiritual masturbation... I realize its crude, but "spiritual self gratification" just doesn't say exactly what I wanted to. The phrase is offensive at first reading, but its meant to be. Its meant to show how wrong it is to worship for a warm fuzzy feeling instead of as an extension of showing God's love to others, then its disgusting to God.

Blogging is about sharing opinions and thoughts etc. You are right. But, maybe you didn't mean for things to come off this way, but your criticism of zoe and its "liberalism" stinks of the same arrogance that you claim those that are politically liberal have.

For the record, until I decided to abstain from politics, I was a Libertarian. I would still be one, if it weren't for Jesus. After reading Mere Discipleship, The Myth of A Christian Nation, and other books, I've come to the conclusion that Christians shouldn't be involved in the political system because its part of the Kingdom of Men that Jesus came to show us an alternative to. Several people key to our movement, such as David Lipscomb and James Harding (two important C of C university founders) believed the same. They paid taxes, but they had an eschatology that they were citizens of the Kingdom of God and they had allegiance to no other.

Your comments came off as judgemental of those whose views are different than yours, such as myself, which is why I asked some pretty pertinant questions of you. Apparently, my words got in the way of my message and I apologize for that. I hope that you'll stick around and have discussion with us here. Like I said, I have been (appx) where you are, and its through blogs, books, and banter that I eventually came to the conclusions that I now reside at.

If you come in with an open mind, not immediately judging perceived "liberalism" (like I said, my position was the position of churches of Christ well before the current position happened) then you may of may not change your opinion. But when you come in guns a blazing at the liberals, you'll probably receive the same type of response.

That being said, I still shouldn't have responded in the way I did. I apologize.

Angie said...

Just popping in to state the obvious... It's not always possible to ascertain someone's tone of voice and demeanor when reading words on a computer screen!

One thing though... regardless of all the views, we are discussing things as brothers and sisters here... And when I read all the 'one another' passages, then look at our conversations... Well, we've missed the mark again, haven't we!

Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.

Honor one another above yourselves.

...but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Angie said...

Well, Phil... I forgot to mention this! I was at the Leadership portion of ZOE & heard Lauren Winner speak. Interesting... I can remember the remarks you guys are referencing... but only barely. They were certainly not main points... just her POV mixed in with the rest of the content.

I think we pick up on things that we've been conditioned to be hyper-sensitive about. You know what I mean? Not to diminish importance of politics at all... but hearing her Lauren's views in the mix (even stuff I'm not on board with) didn't cause me to discount the rest of what she had to say & it certainly didn't cast any sort of light on the mission of ZOE.

OK, enough of ol' Angie. Look at me... I'm new over here & already outstaying my welcome! :-)

TCS said...

let me moderate her on Phil's blog for a minute.

'snapshot' - you've made a couple of comments calling yourself "evil" and "horrid" I wanted to mention that I honestly didn't pick up any feelings like that from any of the other commenters here. I hope they were offered more 'tounge in cheek' than a feeling that you were personally attacked. If the later is the case anyone here owes you more than a blog appology.

Amy W., if you were your sister, I'd say go write a book... ;-)

Justin brings up the views of Libscomb who by the end of his life told fellow believers it was wrong to even vote. That viewpoint of course lost out at the time. The role of the Christian in the forum is long and difficult one.

I hope the discussion can continue without anyone falling into intellectual exhaustion and resulting to personal attacks.

For the record I vote and generally vote Republican, but my allegience is first to Jesus. I think that generally smaller government is better, that the government is not the answer to social problems.

For discussion on a Christian response to homosexuality I recommend going over to Angie's blog.

"Snapshot" said...

To those of you who have sent sweet emails concerned for my feelings, that is soooo sweet and very Jesus of you! This ole bird is fine.

Yes, radical, edgy and bold are great words to describe Zoe conferences.

And while I may be a minority, I am of the opinion that this year's conference had a political tone and hint of direction for the future, but I could be wrong (along with you other blog lurkers who just won't say anything!) I'd prefer politics stay out of Zoe, but that's not my call. I'll love you just the same. And it certainly won't take away the gifts I've received from the Zoe experience in the past. I've always loved hearing "an experience in worship". Because that is what it has been to me.

Didn't know I came in here with guns blazing. My goal was to answer the question posed by the blog author.

I'll pop in from time to time.

I still think it's funny you guys think Zoe is on the spiritually conservative side of things. Whew, you need to spend some time in my neck of the woods to get a real, hard core conservative view of church. In this area, you guys might as well be handling snakes and making animal sacrfices you are so spiritually "liberal".

Phil said...

Wow, I leave for a few hours and looks what happens...

I appreciate everyone's comments and thoughts here. I hope they continue for a while and dialogue can continue.

Snapshot, I also hope the "horrid" and "evil" comments were intended to be tongue in cheek as well. I certainly don't think you horrid or evil for stating your opinions. I appreciate them very much.

And as funny as it does seem, Zoe is very much theologically conservative. There are several denominations out there that don't hold to believing in Jesus literally being the Son of God or even coming in the flesh.

Justin said...


I think that's the point some have been trying to make... politically liberal and theologically liberal are two different birds.

And like I've mentioned, I think my position is more theologically conservative than the opinions now. Lipscomb and Harding's views were the main one's east of the mississippi until WW2. Then the Texas tradition (just war, america is God's nation, etc) took over the c of c landscape. Its amazing to see how those views conincided with one, the war to end all wars, and two, people in the c of c moving to the other side of the tracks.

There is a difference between conservative and pharisaical. The hard line legalistic c of c isn't conservative. Things didn't start out that way. It was "liberal" in that it was new. Legalistic is probably a better term to use.

And also, its just a scale. Because of where I am, and where Phil is, and many others who attended the conference, some of the viewpoints that are spoken aren't new to us and are relatively tame compared to the issues that we're dealing with at this time (for me, voting, non violence, inerrancy of scriptures, etc)

Its all just a scale, but we're limited by words, and even though we speak the same language, we find out in conversations like these, that some words mean different things to different people.

crittermer said...

I read through these comments last night and slept on them, and I think I'm ready to throw in a few thoughts. I attended Zoe and thought it was wonderful, but I respect the viewpoint of anyone who comes forth to say "I'm struggling with this or that." My goal is to help/pray for any of those individuals who are honest enough to say they are struggling, not to "argue them down." Now for the thoughts:

1) Snapshot is at least the third person I really respect whom I have heard say, "It's hard for me to take those emergent authors seriously (McLaren, Miller, etc.) because of their flippant view towards cussing." I'm not here to debate "who's right" on this issue because I think each of us are capable to see where the Holy Spirit is leading us in terms of what we should/should not say. What I am saying is this: Justin (and others), Snapshot is basically telling you that she would be more willing to "hear" what you would say if you would just clean up some of the language. The issue isn't so much is it right/wrong to cuss as, "do I want my audience to hear what I'm saying?" Your message about social justice, homosexuality, and living a counter-cultural life is much, much, much more important than the cussing, so you might consider dropping the cussing in order to lift up the message! I think that would be extending a wonderful grace to some of your fellow Christians, and I think Scripture really applauds that idea.

2)In my all my years of conversing and debating with people, I have yet to find a person that I "100% agree with" or "100% disagree with." I can find a point of common ground with literally anyone and likewise I can find a point of contention with pretty much anyone. The key is to make sure I don't throw out all of someone's views just because I disagree with a few of their views. In other words, don't throw the baby out with the bath water! We all have a lot to learn from people who have different views than us and I think with a little respectful dialouge we may find we are much closer than we think!

3)Attacking ideas is different than attacking people. I think it's awesome that we can bat around a few ideas, but when we start to dismiss each other as people, we've crossed the line (in my opinion.)

God bless you as you seek His will!

Phil said...

crittermer, I think you are dead on about knowing your audience. There is an audience where a cuss word would not be inappropriate. And one where it absolutely would not. And possibly one where you do it for shock value to wake some people up.

Now for my opinion... Do I think Zoe is going liberal? Obviously there's a problem with terminology. "Liberal" has one context in politics and one in religion.

I do not think Zoe is going religiously liberal. I see no indication that the Zoe Conference is getting to a point of denying Christ's divinity or existence, or the authority of Scripture. Now again, liberal for someone else (Mr. Piney for instance) is old hat for me, so there's always that.

Is Zoe going politically liberal? I don't think intentionally. Now, both McLaren and Winner would undoubtably fall into a more politically liberal category. I don't think that represents a desire on Zoe's part to be politically liberal; it strikes me as a desire to have popular writers and speakers from the wider Christian world, who right now are more politically liberal.

I do think something that's happening in Churches of Christ is an interest in subjects like social justice, care for the poor, engagement of homosexuality, etc, that have traditionally or at least recently been more the area of influence of political liberals. And so it could be that which is giving some people pause. I hope what happens is that those issues being less political issues and more issues of faith, where the people can agree on the mission that needs to be done. I think we can, and I'm hopeful that we will.

Thanks again for all the conversation and I hope it continues.

Anonymous said...

Lauren Winner's jabs at our president may have revealed her own political leanings, true. But they were hardly the point of her lectures. Nor were they so harsh that they should have distracted from the point. Beyond that, to assume that her asides reflected the political opinions of the Zoe folks is a real stretch.

I'm not too bugged by other people expressing their political opinions; I can filter out a lot of liberal politics, but that's probably got something to do with my living in California, where liberalism is a badge of honor.

I don't agree with everything Lauren Winner said, nor do I agree with everything I have read from her writing. But a lot of it is sound, and even the stuff I don't agree with is thought-provoking. Her discussion about God's hiddenness in the book of Esther was particularly helpful to me.

If helping us to hear voices from outside of our own tradition is liberal, then I'm all for it. I don't care much for labels; I'm trying to watch for the fruits of hearts given to God. And that's what I've seen from the Zoe Group.

Brandon Scott said...

Awesome word, Who can say it better than that?

I had to vent today a bit...on my own my own comment section. Thought I'd spare Phil tyhe lengthy post.

Thanks again for such open dialogue here!

Brandon Scott said... against my better judgment, Phil asked that I go on and post what I posted on my own blog comments here...

I'm really fighting the urge to post a blog based on all the blather going on over at Phil's blog. It's one of those things would be so much EASIER if we could all get in a room and talk as opposed to misreading written comments and people being able to post costic remarks and run back to their corners. It's completely annoying to me. Not to mention the part about the accusations of ZOE going political. Makes me want to sigh really deep and long...only because it feels like an exhausting discussion. (and that's my own baggage speaking.)

If..IF..being political means speaking words of encouragement to the church and each other to take better care of the poor, if it means standing up and saying...hey, we can't cast attitudes of hate--towards ANYBODY, if it means proclaiming allegiance to Jesus over all...then I'd say guilty as charged.

I could seriously, seriously go OFF about discussions I've overheard regarding Sally's class. It is about time the church stopped ignoring the very real hurts of those out there struggling with same sex attraction, sexual temptations (of any "brand"), pornography, etc. I know it's not comfortable for some to talk about. Tough tu-tus. Get over it. We don't have a choice. Ignorance on the issue breeds bigotry. And I am sick of the bad reputation we have as Christians from the people Christ has actually called us to minister to. Don't forget that Jesus did say he came for the sick...He came for the broken. I know how much I need Him in my brokenness. How can we be in touch with our own need for him...honestly...and not be convicted about others in need??

Romans 1 is pretty hard to read. It talks about how God gave people over to certain sin...and there are some "firecracker" words in there where people usually get stuck. Don't forget that Paul also mentions the faithless, those who slander, gossip, lie, etc. And...if you still didn't feel convicted by your OWN sin, he comes back to nail us on the head in Romans 2:1..."You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things."

Ultimately, we are to be salt and light in this world. I really, really believe this is our goal...each of us. I think we're each really working to get there.

Liberal...conservative...we're all talking terms that mean different things to different people. "Liberal" means more than edgy/ means to deny the deity of Christ or the power of Scripture. CofC people and others (including me) have thrown that term around trying to say progressive...however, to believe in the Word of God as an inspired book by the Holy Spirit, to believe in Jesus as the Son of God, to believe in the legitimacy of the work of the Holy Spirit today....these things are biblically conservative which means, you believe what the Word says. I know that terminology can be tricky...but for the sake of important conversations like this one, let's say exactly what it is we mean. I can guarantee you that ZOE is most definitely Biblically conservative.

I should stop there. (Inside...hearing...stop...STOP!!!) It gets me fired up in case you haven't noticed. But, I want to say one more thing...anyone who has something negative to say about Sally and her ministry will have to come through me. The church desperately needs it...needs her. If you think you would take issue with her...with her stance...with her ministry, I would encourage you to investigate. She's there to reach out to the broken. To be against that kind of ministry is to be against the call of Jesus. And, while that is obviously my own opinion, it seems like a pretty HUGE no-brainer.

(ok, ok, ok...I'm listening...I'm stopping!!)

Sorry---just really needed to vent this morning. I love you all. I really do. Thank you for bringing up these points and asking questions. I always prefer asking questions over assuming. Cause we know what happens when we assume... (and frankly, I need all the help I can get to not look like an ***)

Scott said...

I only wish I had been there.

"Snapshot" said...

I think it simply helps hearing the definitions you are working from regarding politically and spiritually liberal or conservative.
Or at least it does for me.
Now I know. I can process from that.

Amy W said...

I LOVE the internet and bloggers! :) This kind of dialogue would never have happened just a few years ago!

Brandon-- I LOVE YOU! I have to say I fell out of my seat laughing when I reached your "tough tu tu" line! :)

Keep preachin', Brother! :)
ZOE is so blessed to have your heart and passion in its leadership!

GREAT comments, too, Tim! So good to see you on conference Sunday! :)

Anonymous said...

I must disagree with Brandon's definition of Biblically literal. I agree that Zoe falls under "progressive" and not liberal, but I don't think being Biblically liberal means you necessarily deny the deity & resurrection of Christ or reject the working of the Holy Spirit. I think it means you aren't a Bible literalist.

I have freinds who do not read the Bible literally but still believe in its inspiration. I know people who have been liberated by this approach, where before the Bible was a weight around their neck, and now it is a living breathing document once again. I've heard the phrase "truer than true" used in reference to the Bible being read non-literally.

I know that may sound impossible to some, but that's the beauty of scripture. Sorry Brandon if I made your headache worse, I'm not trying to knitpick terminology, just wanted to highlight even more the fact that we all have different working definitions of these terms we're all using.


Anonymous said...

Sorry, in my first sentence I meant to say "liberal", not "literal" (which is confusing because I use both terms in my comment).


Anonymous said...

hmmmmmm..... Lurker here.

Christ is the only one that we HAVE to listen to. All the others are optional.

I'm a struggling homophobe, so I chose not to go to the Lauren Winners talks. However, the things that she said don't bother me. I don't base my emotions on man's words. (most of the time....hehe)


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