Archive for July, 2013

From the Areopagus to Alphacrusis: Down Under Renewal

Monday, July 15th, 2013 by Amos Yong

Australian flag continentalMy first visit to the continent of Australia was a memorable one. It included preaching at the Wesley International Congregation in the Central Business District (CBD) of Sydney (underneath the Westfield mall and the Sydney Tower) to a pan-Asian/multicultural, youthful, and charismatic congregation, and being hosted by Alphacrusis College in the Sydney suburbs for an Empowered 21 scholars’ consultation on Asian Pentecostalism and then a two-day conference on “Pentecostal Theology & the Marketplace.” I also got to visit my auntie (my mother’s sister) who I had not seen in over forty years: she had come to Sydney from Malaysia as a teenager in a nursing program in the early 1970s (when Australia had a shortage of nurses and sponsored them in from around the Pacific Rim), and my family emigrated from Malaysia shortly thereafter to the USA. The initial forces of globalization had taken her southeast and me and my family to America. Migration for us both at that time seemed to have taken us to the ends of the earth, although my trip Down Under this time around can be seen also as going from one end to another. Read the rest of this entry »

Reflections from the Other Side of Adoption

Thursday, July 11th, 2013 by Dale M. Coulter

Hands make heart shape

There is a growing trend among Christians to adopt either through international adoptions or in the U.S. The reasons for these adoptions are as various and personal as the adoptive couples who venture into such uncharted terrain. I will not venture to guess all those reasons here, but I have been doing some thinking lately about my own identity as an adopted child that I hope will help adoptive parents.

 

Recently, I went over again with my adoptive parents the circumstances surrounding my birth. My initial questions were obvious: what can you tell me about my birth parents? They were questions about identity. Everything my adoptive parents told me they learned from the lawyer who handled the adoption. As my mom put it, “he just read down a list of information about the birth mother and father.” Neither she nor my adoptive father asked any additional questions because they wanted to follow the law, which at the time in Florida maintained a strict separation between birth parents and adoptive parents.

 

I learned that my birth mother was a 22-year old single woman from the northeast of the U.S. who flew down to Florida to have her baby. My adoptive dad told me that his mother went by the hospital room where my birth mother was staying and peaked in just to take a look. Her only comment was that my birth mother was “good lookin’.” In addition, they told me that my birth father was Puerto Rican. Most of this information I already knew, since it was so sparse, but I needed to hear it again and, more importantly, I needed to know its source. To their credit, my adoptive parents have never withheld any information from me about my past. They just know so little that it’s like passing a few crumbs to a starving person.

 

What we need to remember about adoptions is that they are interventions brought on by emergency situations. They may be normal, but they should not be the norm. The norm should always be that children are raised by both biological parents. Even in writing this blog, I wrestle with exactly how to refer to my two sets of parents. While it’s accurate to identify my adoptive parents as “adoptive,” it seems strange to me because I consider them to be my parents. They loved me, raised me, and continue to support me in more ways than I could ever deserve. They are the tangible manifestation of divine grace in my life. And yet, they are NOT my biological parents.

 

So, I live with the tension of having “two mommies” and “two daddies,” even though I know one set and I may never meet the second set. This tension is reflected in having to use adjectives to describe my relationships: adoptive, biological. I should simply be able to say, “my mom” or “my dad,” but that will never be possible. Has this forever warped my life? No. It is always present, however. And, for those adoptive parents who may read this and run to their children to ask them how they feel about these things, I need to say, “Don’t do it!” It has only been since I had my own children that I have even begun to contemplate these issues. If my adoptive parents had asked me what I thought about them or my adoption during adolescence or even in college, I would have said that I didn’t think much about it at all.

 

I can only say that there was a moment when a hunger was unleashed to know more, to figure out what happened. I am still not certain what to do with this hunger, but I know that I cannot deny it. It reminds me that there are severed relationships that should never have been severed.

 

For this reason, I know that my own adoption is not the way it’s supposed to be. This is not to denigrate my adoptive parents or to somehow say that they were not gifts of grace to me. It is to recognize that grace is always about an emergency intervention into a situation that has turned out differently than it should have.

 

Let’s never forget that adoptions are responses to a 911 call that is made and yet not made. It is not made because the child cannot make it and the birth parents are not even sure it should be made. Yet the call goes forth due to the circumstances that dictate its necessity. This brings me to my final thought for this blog: make sure in your desire to adopt that the circumstances dictate its necessity. Don’t create an emergency situation to satisfy your own longing for a child. When you do, you play God and turn the child into a commodity. We have enough people trying to play God these days. I’ll have more in the coming days.

From Azotus to Auckland: Renewal at the Bottom of the Earth?

Wednesday, July 10th, 2013 by Amos Yong

KiwiAs Philip found himself transported suddenly from the Gaza road to Azotus (Acts 8:40), so also I went to sleep on an airplane out of LAX & awoke in Auckland last weekend. I was here for the “Theology, Disability & the People of God” conference sponsored by Laidlaw and Carey Baptist Colleges, but also preached at Titirangi Baptist Church and then spent half a day meeting with pentecostal scholars, pastors, and leaders here in New Zealand’s largest city. My hosts, Andrew Picard and Myk Habets at Carey and Graeme and Linda Flett and Fiona Sherwin at Laidlaw (among many others), were wonderful blessings, all on top of an already incredibly rich conference. But what about global renewal close to the bottom of the world?

Two major trends emerged for me in discussing the state of renewal here in Kiwi-land. First, the charismatic movement which arrived in the late 1960s has permeated much of the church. It is fair to say that there has been a widespread pentecostalization and charismatization of the churches in the last forty plus years, so much so that there are as many bapticostals and baptismatics – for instance (my nomenclature) – as any other type of Christian. One might even talk about a “Hillsong-ization” of the churches, given the adoption of its music and worship genres in many churches on both islands. On the other hand, the palpable presence of megachurches like Hillsong, particularly through the telecommunicative and other exchange networks of globe-trotting apostles, evangelists, and other “superstar” pastors and preachers, has also brought about a homogenization of renewal in this part of the world. So on the one hand, there is a proliferation of renewal among the different churches, but on the other, there is a growing standardization of these streams according to a few megachurch templates.

Yet I also think there is a wild card that might provide a prophetic edge for Kiwi renewalists to lead global renewal from the bottom of the world, and that relates to if and how the hearts of Maori New Zealanders can be revitalized by the Holy Spirit. The Maori initially became Christians with the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840 which gave the indigenous islanders rights as British subjects; however, over the next century, more than 90% of Maori abandoned their Christian faith in large part because of what they felt were breaches of the Treaty by the European settlers. The issues remain hotly contested, even today. However, the fact is that the Maori constitute up to 15% of the Kiwi population and may be in the best position of any indigenous or native groups around the world to not only make a substantive contribution to their own future, but also work toward the common good of their country.

Although I am neither a prophet nor the son of one (cf. Amos 7:14), I would not be surprised if it is but a matter of time before the Maori embrace some form of renewal Christian expression, in part because of the depth of their spirituality. When that happens, they will further transform the religious landscape of New Zealand and, perhaps more importantly, rejuvenate Kiwi Christianity so it can become a prophetic exemplar of a post-Western and post-secular way of Jesus as Messiah for the middle of the 21st century. If renewal continues to expand within and across the majority world, why might it not also be reinvigorated by Spirit-filled Maori at the bottom of the earth?

My friends at Laidlaw and Carey are alert to the possibilities and also working hard along many challenging fronts; but perhaps the Spirit of God has some surprises left even here in a thoroughly secular New Zealand – would it be unimaginable if such unfolded along some of the lines intuited above?

Renewal and Cancer: Together with God

Saturday, July 6th, 2013 by Wolfgang Vondey

healing_of_the_blind_manIn December 2010, Larisa Ard Jenkins, wife of Skip Jenkins and mother of four, was diagnosed with a rare, untreatable cancer (neuroendocrine). Surgery removed her kidney, and the doctors reported it had spread into her spine, liver, shoulder, and leg. For over 2.5 years she has been under treatment by a cancer specialist that has worked one-to-one with her using multiple methods to defeat this cancer. Under his care, she has already out-lived the prognoses of this cancer. He has suggested a new treatment that has been found successful. However, this treatment is not covered by insurance and would require her to travel away from home for at least a month. The cost of the treatments, and the expenses for her to travel and stay away from home is not possible for the family to afford after the 2.5 years of treatments, special diets, and supplements. Larisa’s last scan showed that without a successful method of treatment, the tumors will continue to increase and grow. How can God bring renewal to her life? Not without others. Read the rest of this entry »

The International Church of the Foursquare Gospel & Global Renewal

Friday, July 5th, 2013 by Amos Yong

foursquareDuring the last weekend of June, through the invitation of A. J. Swoboda, author of the forthcoming Tongues & Trees: Toward a Pentecostal Ecology Theology in the JPT Supplement Series (announced for April 2013, but it is late!), I had the privilege of hanging out with the vanguard of the Foursquare gospellers in the Pacific Northwest (PNW) area. Preaching at Faith Center in Eugene Oregon (for sermon, click here) and at Theophilus Church in the Hawthorne district of southeast Portland, and then engaging with three dozen of the denomination’s ministers from the North Pacific (Oregon and Alaska) and Northwest (Washington & Northern Idaho) districts was a real treat. Although not one of the larger classical pentecostal denominations in North America, it is strongest in the PNW region, with hundreds of churches across Washington, Oregon, Alaska, and Northern Idaho. How can this be? Read the rest of this entry »

Christian Witness in a Pluralistic World: Renewing Christian Faith

Monday, July 1st, 2013 by Amos Yong

faithThere is no doubt that Christian faith is exclusively in Jesus Christ. Jesus himself said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6, NRSV), and the apostles also declared, “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Jews might anticipate a messianic deliverer who will reunite the people of God with Yahweh, but they do not hold, as Christians do, that Jesus is that Messiah. Muslims respect Jesus as a prophet but both subordinate his message to that of Muhammad’s and do not understand his claim, “The Father and I are one” (John 10:30), in a similar manner as Christians. In other words, Christians make unique and exclusive claims about Jesus as savior and revealer of the Father.

But Christians are not the only ones with unique and exclusive claims. In fact, all religious traditions, by virtue of the fact that they are what they are and not something else, have such claims. Some might even follow up on such claims with concomitant actions in ways that put Christians to shame. The apostle James agrees that, “faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead” (2:17). Read the rest of this entry »