We’re thrilled to announce that The Colossian Forum, along with our partners at Kuyers Institute for Christian Teaching and Learning, received a grant from the John Templeton Foundation to support the next phase of the FAST (Faith and Science Teaching) Project.
FAST is a resource to equip high school teachers to engage big questions around faith and science with both confidence and creativity, with the goal of changing the way young people consider these big questions, thereby opening the way for humble inquiry and faithful pursuit of both intellectual and spiritual virtue.
The first phase of FAST will conclude this September with the launch of the FAST website. This phase centered around developing alternative and fruitful ways of integrating education at the intersection of faith and science through creation of a web-based curricular resource and training for teachers of science and religion.
FAST’s second phase (which this new grant makes possible) will:
- Nearly double the number of activities provided on the FAST website
- Produce two short films that creatively illustrate the FAST approach to teaching
- Embed FAST into a high school, creating a model to inspire other institutions
Our goal is that the FAST website will become a trusted source for high quality, creative, and integrated teaching materials that foster discipleship in the context of scientific inquiry. We couldn’t undertake this project without the support of partners like the John Templeton Foundation or without your gifts and prayers as we seek to invite young people to engage potentially thorny topics (like the intersection of faith and science) as occasions to build Christian communities that actually look Christian.
My time at The Colossian Forum is coming to an end, and I invite you to pause with me, grieve what no longer is, celebrate what God has done over the past few years, and look expectantly to the future.
For me, working at The Colossian Forum has been an incubation space where I have been graced with a freedom to try new things, learn, and experience vulnerable community. Catching our vision for a transformed and renewed Church has provided me a new perspective that I will continue to carry with me: where conflict is opportunity, disciples are made in community, and the importance of spiritual disciplines in the path toward reconciliation.
The practice of praying with my co-workers each morning is one way I have experienced grace and gratitude–gifts that have formed me into the kind of co-worker and wife that is more patient and less fearful.
TCF, thank you for all the ways you’ve poured into me and given me new ways to use my gifts to serve others. Leaving this family is like being in a space between stories, as most seasons of change are. Despite the discomfort of this current space in my life, I’m hopeful that the Lord’s plans for myself and The Colossian Forum’s future will unfold with a sense of joy and awe at His incomprehensible love.
I leave you with these two quotes:
“So please, if you are in the sacred space between stories, allow yourself to be there. It is frightening to lose the old structures of security, but you will find that even as you might lose things that were unthinkable to lose, you will be okay. There is a kind of grace that protects us in the space between stories.”
“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?”
Jeanna Boase served as our administrative assistant here at The Colossian Forum for over three years. She is finishing her MA counseling degree from Grand Rapids Theological Seminary and will be taking a full-time course load this summer. We look forward to seeing what doors open this fall as she wraps up her final class. God’s blessing to you in this new adventure, Jeanna; you will be missed!
We have three small but noteworthy items to share in the life of The Colossian Forum:
2015 Annual Report
The Colossian Forum had a busy and fruitful 2015, and you can read about it in our annual report. We’re entering a season of growth and are so grateful to God and to all of you, our partners, to carry forward the message that all things hold together in Christ (Colossians 1:17).
Chris Brewer named Calvin Institute of Christian Worship Visiting Scholar
Chris, our manager of church partner development at TCF, was named a visiting scholar for the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship in Grand Rapids. While a visiting scholar, he plans to explore how divisive issues in Christian communities might be addressed in and through the worship practices of the church. Congrats, Chris!
The Gathering Place webinar
Earlier this week, Michael Gulker presented a webinar on “Conflict as Opportunity” for The Gathering Place, a ministry of the Mennonite church for youth leaders. You can watch the webinar here as Michael unpacks learning to fight like Jesus in the age of Donald Trump.
Our winter 2016 newsletter is hot off the presses. Read about our Colossian Way pilots, dig deeper into why we dig into divisive issues, and some other updates about what’s going on in our fifth anniversary year.
Want to receive our newsletter? Let us know and we’ll add you to the list.
We’re thrilled to introduce you to the brand new website for The Colossian Way! You can visit it at www.colossianway.org and read more about wicked problems and Christian virtues, and see how they fit together. There’s a fantastic video for you to watch (and share, if you’re so inclined), plus stories from the groups piloting The Colossian Way in their churches and schools.
We invited ten groups to pilot The Colossian Way, a series of curricula that enables small groups in churches and schools to face into a divisive topic like origins or sexuality in an effort to move beyond diversity, holding truth and love together.
More specifically, the goals of the curriculum are to:
- Pursue truth by engaging difficult problems
- Practice loving God and neighbor amidst difficulties
- Witness the body of Christ held together
The pilot groups include: All Soul Church (Knoxville, TN); Calvary Christian Reformed Church (Wyoming, MI); Campus Edge Fellowship (East Lansing, MI); Fellowship Reformed Church (Holland, MI); First Baptist Church (Jackson, TN); First United Methodist Church (Mechanicsburg, PA); Front Range Christian School (Littleton, CO); Pillar Church (Holland, MI); Sherman Street Church (Grand Rapids, MI); and Southside Vineyard (Wyoming, MI).
Over the course of the next five months, you can read their stories at www.colossianway.org.
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
This past weekend, our dear friend and colleague Craig Schrotenboer’s youngest daughter Chelsea Overbeeke unexpectedly passed away. Chelsea suffered a sudden brain hemorrhage last Thursday and died early Sunday morning. She is survived by her husband Anthony in Bozeman, Montana.
Our hearts ache for Craig, his wife Sherry, and for the entire Schrotenboer and Overbeeke families as they mourn Chelsea. Please join us in praying for Christ’s peace to envelop this dear family as they are filled with sadness. Pray for wisdom and compassion as they seek the grace and strength to move forward and adjust to this new reality.
Funeral arrangements are pending. If you’d like to send your condolences to Craig and the Schrotenboer family, please address it to Craig Schrotenboer at The Colossian Forum, 940 Monroe Ave. NW, Suite 140, Grand Rapids, MI, 49503.
Click article to enlarge or download here.
ECFA accreditation is based on the ECFA Seven Standards of Responsible Stewardship™, including financial accountability, transparency, sound board governance and ethical fundraising.
The Colossian Forum joins a growing number of Christ-centered churches and ministries across America, supported by over 27 million donors that have earned the right to display the ECFA seal. When an organization is accredited by ECFA, it demonstrates its willingness to follow the model of biblical accountability.
“We are pleased to accredit a ministry committed to facilitate dialogue on divisive topics and approach differing perspectives as opportunities to build community, expand knowledge, and deepen faith,” said Dan Busby, president of ECFA.
To read the full article, click here.
TCF invites you to prayerfully consider investing in our programs through a donation.
We are pleased to announce a generous grant from the John Templeton Foundation to support the development of a TCF program for congregations.
In this specific project, TCF will work to design and pilot a church-based program that invites congregations to grow together in Christlikeness by pressing into divisive issues surrounding questions of faith and science. Thanks to this grant, TCF has been afforded the unique opportunity to respond to the church’s cry for sound curricula, effective training, and supportive relationships to engage areas of conflict between Christians in the context of their local church.
Our goals for the program include helping congregations:
- Build a capacity for receiving divisive issues as opportunities for discipleship;
- Understand the importance of the issues and landscape of the conflict; and
- Grow genuine community among participants who hold strong positions on all sides of the issues.
With the support of the John Templeton Foundation, this program will result in a group of churches capable of engaging difficult issues of faith and science in ways that increase virtue, promote discipleship, and encourage living out the Great Commandment (Matt. 22:34-40) and Great Commission (Matt. 28:16-20).
Click article to enlarge or download here.
We are pleased to announce that Chris Brewer has joined TCF as Manager of Church Partner Development. He will provide leadership for our church-based program, developing resources and supporting congregations in their work to engage conflict as an opportunity for discipleship across generations.
After completing an MA in Historical Theology at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary, and serving in a church just north of Philadelphia, Christopher completed an MDiv at GRTS while working as a Marketing Manager for Universal Forest Products, Inc. Chris, his wife Rachel and their two boys then moved to St. Andrews, Scotland where they have lived for three years while he pursued a PhD in Divinity at St. Mary’s College, University of St. Andrews.
The editor of Art that Tells the Story (2011), Christopher has more recently published on the Irish-Catholic philosopher William Desmond, and is currently editing a critical edition of Howard E. Root’s previously unpublished 1972 Bampton Lectures, writing his first book – Understanding Natural Theology – for Zondervan Academic, and co-editing two volumes of David Brown’s essays for Ashgate.
Please pray with us for Chris and Rachel as they say their farewells in Scotland and move their family back to Grand Rapids. We look forward to welcoming him to the office in early May!
We are pleased to announce that The Colossian Forum has received a grant from Templeton Religion Trust in support of our work to link the creative resources of the academy to the discipleship needs of the church. This project aims to reconnect the practices of scholarship with the practices of Christian discipleship, reforming the Christian moral and intellectual imagination by cultivating communities of virtue.
Over the lifetime of the grant, TCF will explore how the academy’s creative and intellectual resources might be reconnected to the spiritually formative practices of the church’s worship and discipleship. We will draw on our established relationships with a network of Christian academic institutions and scholars to develop sound curricula, effective training, and supportive relationships between the academy and the church. Our goal is to equip Christians in all walks of life to engage divisive issues at the intersection of faith and science as adaptive, morally formative challenges, rekindling a distinctively Christian moral and intellectual imagination.
We are pleased to announce that The Colossian Forum has just received a generous grant from the Equitas Group, whose mission is “Seeking justice for the vulnerable and oppressed as well as encouraging holistic and responsive thinking toward that end.” This grant will help underwrite a new curriculum series for churches, equipping Christians to engage potentially divisive conversations about sexuality in a way that fosters discipleship. This project will continue the work that was begun in the summer of 2014 at a TCF colloquium on the topic, also funded by Equitas.
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.