The Colossian Forum’s work was recently recognized by a brief mention in Time magazine. In her article “A Change of Heart,” author Elizabeth Dias writes that we’re working with Justin Lee and Alan Chambers to “help evangelicals warm to the gay conversation.” This comment is so brief—and so easily misunderstood—that we thought we’d take a moment to clarify why we’re so excited about our work with Justin, Alan, and many other friends on these issues.
It’s true that The Colossian Forum is heavily invested in helping the church engage difficult conversations, and questions surrounding homosexuality top most folks’ lists. The nuance that perhaps got missed is that our work isn’t about helping the church move towards a particular stance on gay marriage. Rather, we’re focused on helping the body of Christ, in community, to hold this difficult conversation in a way that builds up rather than tears down. This means that voices on the left and the right get heard and the brothers and sisters on the left and the right learn to love one another while still holding firm to their convictions. We’re firmly convinced that our differences on this issue do indeed offer an occasion, albeit a difficult one, for us to grow in the fruit of the Spirit. It’s exactly here that we learn to love each other with joy, peace, patience, and so on (Gal. 5:22-23). As we hold to our convictions—though they differ widely—we have the unique opportunity to also hold to the deep truth that in Christ “all things hold together” (Col. 1:17).
In the summer of 2014, we hosted a weeklong Colossian Forum with Christian scholars and leaders on the topic of human sexuality. Some of these leaders rarely have opportunities to speak forthrightly from their very different convictions, to listen carefully to each other, and to worship our one Lord together. As part of that event, we invited local Christians to join us for an evening of worship and conversation. Our participants continued their exchange in this public setting, without any script, but with faith overcoming their trepidation. It was far from perfect, of course, with creaky floors and glaring lights serving as backdrops to painful questions and sometimes strained responses. We’ve still got a lot to learn and more voices to include, but in the midst of it all, the Holy Spirit’s presence was evident and it was a remarkable evening. As participants worked to extend grace to one another, even while maintaining strongly opposing viewpoints, the fruit of the Spirit was on display in beautiful ways. And because of it, the audience got to see something different from the typical FOX/MSNBC bickering: brothers and sisters in Christ modeling his love across their disagreements, thereby pointing to something deeper and richer than either one side or the other could have alone.
The folks who attended the event as observers overwhelmingly described this as a positive first step, a faithful model of engaging difference as an opportunity for discipleship rather than a threat to our faith. Their experience encourages us to make footage of those evenings available as an introduction to our work. These films aren’t perfect, just like the events weren’t, but then, they’re not about us. They’re about the Holy Spirit who displayed himself in the midst of the broken yet incarnate body of Christ—the church, and we dare not hide this light under a bushel, even though it will inevitably draw fire. Despite the humble nature of the films, I think you’ll agree that they reveal the Holy Spirit doing something new, making possible a strikingly different way to engage these contentious issues, one which may help us all warm to a conversation that draws us into deeper, faithful discipleship!
I am pleased to announce the addition of Craig Schrotenboer to The Colossian Forum team. Craig joins us as Director of Operations, bringing with him extensive operational experience with Herman Miller, Davenport University, Youth For Christ, and KIDS HOPE USA. Craig’s skills and gifts are already helping TCF to become more efficient and effective as we continue to develop our capacity to serve the church.
I am pleased to welcome Andy Saur to the staff of TCF. He brings a strong professional background and deep personal interest to his role of Executive Assistant. Andy holds a bachelor’s degree in Communications from Wheaton College, and a diploma in Entertainment Business Management from Vancouver Film School. In the short time he’s been with us, he’s proven himself to be a tireless worker with an unparalleled eye for detail and a strong commitment to our mission of encouraging Christian faithfulness in the midst of difficult conversations. We’re grateful to have him on the team!
It is with sadness that I announce the upcoming departure of Brian Cole, Director of Operations. When Brian joined The Colossian Forum in July of 2012, TCF was a simple two-person organization ready to grow in complexity, scope and professionalism. Due to his professionalism, hard work and personal integrity, Brian helped TCF mature from a fledgling non-profit startup into a widely recognized and respected non-profit organization known for its high standard of excellence, solid support base and bright future.
Brian has helped shape TCF in remarkable ways, and his excellent and diligent work will be missed. As we part ways, I wish him all the best.
When we introduce folks to TCF’s work, it doesn’t take any time at all to convince them that our work for unity in the body of Christ is sorely needed. It takes a bit longer to persuade them that this is more than an idealistic dream. But as they begin to grasp that it’s actually possible to carry on difficult conversations in a way that draws us together rather than forcing us apart… well, beautiful things begin to happen.
As this vision continues to spread, we want to equip Christians to work with us for reconciliation in the midst of divisive issues. We’d of course love to host forums for any group, anywhere, who’s ready to take on this work. But we realize that often, the most effective leader will be someone in the community—someone who already knows the particular issues, the people, and the history. So, we’ve worked to develop a booklet to help leaders run their own forums (and soon, we’ll offer a forum leadership to accompany the book).
Start a New Kind of Conversation lays out a step-by-step process for setting up a forum: how to bring together the right group; how to identify and articulate a pressing issue; and how to host a fruitful and charitable conversation on a difficult topic. The process itself is relatively simple, and we hope this little book encourages Christians to engage a challenging issue with courage and grace.
If you share our vision and hope and are considering hosting a forum in your own community, we’d love to hear from you! Drop us an email or call us at (616) 328-6016, and we can talk about how you, too, can Start a New Kind of Conversation.
The Colossian Forum is pleased to announce that we have been awarded a generous grant by the Equitas Group, whose focus involves “Seeking justice for the vulnerable and oppressed as well as encouraging holistic and responsive thinking toward that end.” This grant will support our work to foster communities of sustained and hospitable dialogue, rooted in the practices of the faith. In particular, it will underwrite a project to gather church leaders and academic experts to explore holistic expressions of Christian faithfulness regarding human sexuality. As TCF learns from scholars and practitioners, we will develop resources to help equip the church to receive cultural challenges like this one not as threats that divide but as gifts by which the Holy Spirit deepens knowledge, builds community, and strengthens faith.
TCF is pleased to announce that we have been awarded a grant to continue our work to develop “.” This generous gift will help underwrite two Forum series, designed to help participants sustain difficult conversations in the context of long-term engagements. Each series will address an issue that presents unique challenges to the church; we launched the first of these in September, addressing the need for discernment in our use of emerging (and established) technologies. Our goal with these series includes equipping participants to foster these sorts of conversations in their own contexts; this grant allows us to provide support as they bring to their congregations and institutions a vision for building community, expanding knowledge, and deepening faith.
In partnership with the Kuyers Institute for Teaching and Learning, TCF is pleased to announce that we have been awarded a $200,000 grant from the John Templeton Foundation. This award will help fund programming costs for the development of training and cutting-edge online resources for science teachers. These resources will address the need for effective teaching strategies at the intersection of faith and science. Curriculum will be composed of the highest level of scientific scholarship while also addressing how science is connected to discovering and expressing Biblical virtues.
Over the course of three years, this project will develop and deploy an interactive website that will include a multi-layered bank of teaching strategies, training materials, and brief related essays. It will draw on the contributions of experienced teachers to create, evaluate, and communicate effective teaching methods. As a standalone site, it will extend the reach of the innovative websites whatiflearning.com and whatiflearning.co.uk and will be developed in a similar style.
In the upcoming months watch for updates from the team as this project moves forward. You can expect occasional previews of new material, stories from the writing team, and links to effective resources as we discover them.
The Colossian Forum is sponsoring a virtual conversation on the www.respectfulconversation.net website, hosted by TCF Senior Fellow, Harold Heie. The title of this conversation is “American Evangelicalism: Present Conditions, Future Possibilities.” This conversation will last for 7 months, with one month devoted to each of 7 pre-announced sub-topics, which will include Evangelicalism and the Broader Christian Tradition, Evangelicalism and the Modern Study of Scripture, Evangelicalism and Morality, Evangelicalism and Politics, and Evangelicalism and Higher Education. After postings by “primary contributors” on a given topic, readers will have the opportunity to submit “comments” in a moderated forum.
If you are interested, you can subscribe to receive all the postings for this conversation in your email in-box by going to “Email Subscription” on the web site.
To date, 28 Christian scholars have agreed to be primary contributors to this conversation, including Randall Balmer (Dartmouth College), Amy Black (Wheaton College), Jeannine Brown (Bethel Seminary), Peter Enns (Eastern University), John Franke (Yellowstone Theological Institute), Stanton Jones (Wheaton College), Ben Mitchell (Union University), Richard Mouw (Fuller Theological Seminary), Soong-Chan Rah (North Park Theological Seminary), Sandy Richter (Wesley Seminary), Sarah Ruden (Wesleyan University), Mark Sargent (Westmont College), Corwin Smidt (Calvin College), Theodore Williams (City Colleges of Chicago), John Wilson (Books & Culture), and Amos Yong (Regent University).
This conversation is also co-sponsored by the Center for Faith & Inquiry at Gordon College and Eastern University.
The Colossian Forum has received a $303,732, three-year grant from The BioLogos Foundation for their project, Beyond Galileo – to Chalcedon: Re-imagining the Intersection of Evolution and the Fall. This project is led by Dr. James K.A. Smith (Calvin College), Dr. William Cavanaugh (DePaul University) and Michael Gulker (President – The Colossian Forum). The Colossian Forum was one of 37 winners out of 225 applicants to the Biologos Evolution & Christian Faith grants competition.
This project gathers a multidisciplinary team of leading scholars to pursue a communal research project on evolution, the Fall, and original sin, asking a pressing question: If humanity emerged from non-human primates—as genetic, biological, and archaeological evidence seems to suggest—then what are the implications for Christian theology’s traditional account of origins, including both the origin of humanity and the origin of sin? The integrity of the church’s witness requires that it constructively address this difficult question. The team believes that cultivating an orthodox theological imagination can enable Christians to engage these tensions without giving up on confessional orthodoxy. So its confessional methodology is as central to the project as its topic.
The team embraces the church’s ancient wisdom in the Council of Chalcedon as a model and template for how to faithfully grapple with contemporary challenges. The team believes the resources for such theological imagination are carried in the liturgical heritage of the church—in the worship practices and spiritual disciplines that enact the biblical story in ways that seep into our imagination, helping Christians see creative ways forward through this challenge. Research will be shared in a culminating conference and resulting scholarly book. In addition, the fruit of the team’s research will also be “translated” and distributed for pastors, Christian educators and students through forums, web publishing, and curricula.
For more information about The Colossian Forum on Faith, Science and Culture, visit http://www.colossianforum.org.
The Biologos Foundation Announcement – http://biologos.org/blog/evolution-and-christian-faith-grantees-announced.
Contact: Brian Cole, Director of Operations