Panel Moderator: Jack Jenkins

In advance of the Massachusetts Council of Churches Annual Meeting on Saturday April 28 at the Wellesley Hills Congregational Church we’re highlighting the amazing folks who will lead us. You can register “Christian Unity in the Digital Age” here: http://www.eventbrite.com/event/2934937477

Today, we’re featuring our panel moderator, Jack Jenkins. Jack will interview our amazing panel with the Rev. Keith Anderson, Pastor of the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer, Woburn, Domenico Bettinelli, Jr.,Creative Director of the Pilot New Media Group for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, and the Rev. Dr. Victoria Weinstein, otherwise known as PeaceBang.

As with many things online, I ‘met’ Jack through his writing before I met him in person. Jack has worked as a reporter and blogger for the excellent Religion News Service. Each morning, I read RNS’s religion news round-up,  as part of my practice of curating new Facebook posts for the Massachusetts Council of Churches. Unbeknownst to me, Jack was on the other end of many of those emails. When we put together this amazing panel for the MCC’s annual meeting, I reached out to colleagues to find someone capable of asking deep, informed theological questions to our panelists. My dear colleague the Rev. Steph Spellers, Episcopal Priest and Lead Organizer for The Crossing, recommended Jack. Steph also edited our panelist Rev. Keith Anderson’s new book with Dr. Elizabeth Drescher, Click 2 Save: The Digital Ministry Bibleso she knows of what she speaks. I was thrilled to finally meet with Jack in person and impressed with his knowledge of this new area for the Church. He is doing some great thinking and organizing around a church online.  Read more of Jack’s blog to find out more. I am grateful that Jack has agreed to frame our conversation. Join us on Saturday 4/28 to hear Jack moderate our excellent panel and share his experience with all of us. Register here: http://www.eventbrite.com/event/2934937477

 Jack Jenkins

http://jackjenkins.wordpress.com/

Twitter: @jackmjenkins

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/jack.jenkins

YouTube Channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/imakjak

Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jackjenkins/

Instagram: jackjenkins

Short bio

Jack Jenkins is pursuing a Masters of Divinity at Harvard Divinity School, where he focuses on the intersection of religion, politics, and media. Before attending graduate school, Jack worked in politics for two years as a Field Organizer and Regional Field Director for Barack Obama’s campaign for President. Jack’s passion for religion and media has led to his participation various projects, including directing “The Church is ALIVE,” an online experiment/community that, among other things, utilized collaborative
blogging and social/new media methods to successfully fundraise with the “charity:water” group to build a freshwater well in Africa. He also sits on the leadership team of “A Church Online” (working title), an online church experiment recently launched by the former Moderator of the PC(USA).

Jack is currently pursuing ordination with the PC(USA), where he serves as a member of that denomination’s national-level General Assembly Nominating Committee. He is also a reporter and blogger for the Religion News Service, and plays harmonica and ukulele when he’s feeling inspired.

43 Miles: On Lauren Winner, Sexuality, and Church Division

43 miles. That is the distance between Andover Newton Theological School and Gordon Conwell Theological School. On the same day in June 2008, both schools had scheduled public forums to discuss sexuality and sexual ethics. Andover Newton partnered with Hebrew College and the Boston Theological Institute to hold a conference entitled “Covenant, Community and Sexuality.” Gordon Conwell invited Lauren Winner to read and teach from her book “Real Sex: The Naked Truth about Chastity.” 

The Andover Newton conference had panelists, including evangelicals, from a wide range of traditions discussing how their churches were grappling with questions about who could be ordained and who could be married. They discussed the divisions between the various traditions and more importantly, within each tradition. I sat in the audience and heard “Presbyterians for Renewal” debate with “More Light” Presbyterians. It was painful to watch. I left Newton saddened by the divisions of the Church over these very important issues of compassion, justice, and tradition, but grateful for the people who were willing to have these conversations in front of their ecumenical and inter-religious partners. I drove 43 miles north to South Hamilton in silence, trying to absorb what I had just heard.

I arrived at Gordon Conwell in time to hear Lauren Winner speak on her book about chastity. She is a compelling teacher- charming, faithful, witty, and kind. She was unabashed in her critique of the ways evangelical sub-culture warps a God-given, robust sexuality, especially for women. Yet, Winner argued for a reclaiming of chastity within the bounds of heterosexual marriage. As much as I can recall from the Gordon Conwell lecture and the Q&A that followed, the schism-inducing topics of same-sex relationships and the reality of LGBTQ people in the Church never came up.

The distance was too much for me that day. Each conversation felt like it was happening without the other; one almost entirely about institutions, the other almost entirely about personal sexual ethics. In Newton, we wrestled with sexuality in the Church; in South Hamilton, we wrestled with chastity in personal lives. They were both important conversations and I am grateful that both schools were willing to create the space to host them. I long for the day when we can have these conversations together. Most days I can live with this cultural commute across the Church, from the mainline to the evangelical and back again. God called me into this ecumenical ministry of reconciliation. Most days, I can travel the distance. Truly, all the baptized are called into the ecumenical ministry of healing the divisions of the broken Body of Christ. But that day, my own body couldn’t bear the commute-43 miles was just too far to travel.

Lauren Winner has a new book out entitled “Still: Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis.” Much has changed in her life since that 2008 lecture. From Yonat Shimron’s excellent Religion News Service article:

Winner followed up with two more popular releases: “Mudhouse Sabbath,” about the Jewish spiritual practices she missed after her conversion, and “Real Sex: The Naked Truth about Chastity,” in which she argued that biblically sanctioned sexual relations are only those confined to marriage.

 

Winner said she no longer feels comfortable doling out advice on sexual ethics. Nor does she want to talk about her marriage or any other subsequent relationships. The couple were married six years and split up in 2009.

I’ve admired Winner’s ministry from afar. She is a historian whose memoir “Girl Meets God” crossed over from Christian bookstores to popular culture. She is a Jewish convert to Christianity who longs for the spiritual practices of her earlier years. She is unabashedly Anglican and yet conversant in evangelical culture. I admire her ability to reconcile seemingly divided communities in her own life and writing. And for all the sadness I felt at that 2008 lecture, I am grateful for a public Christian thinker can acknowledge  her changed perspective. I am grateful for a writer who is willing to share her own struggles to reconcile her belief in God with a very real crisis of faith.

I bought a copy of “Still: Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis.” I will read it as I go away on vacation this week. It is good to find more real and literary companions to travel across the divide.