Tonight I'm getting ready for tomorrow. What else would you do on a Saturday night? In the morning we'll be saying goodbye to family that has been visiting the last few days and I'll be going to church. Later in day I'm hosting a house party for a candidate running for local office and then teaching a class in the evening.
Living the Questions is the course I'm teaching. We have about fifteen or so participants from Portland's First United Methodist Church and Portland's First Congregational United Church of Christ. The class is billed as a "progressive alternative for Christian invitation, initiation, and spiritual formation."
So much of the Christian education material out there is less Christian education and more Religious Right indoctrination. Critics would charge Living the Questions with being indoctrination for the religious left but I know for a fact that the members of our class are diverse in their theologies and politics. I make a point of telling participants that no one expects you to walk away after each session agreeing with every idea or notion expressed during one of our sessions.
What the course attempts to do is offer a theological world view free of the dogmatic theologies so prevalent in churches today and to allow questions and conversation about the Christian faith to flourish over a 13-week period. Two United Methodist pastors developed the course and it draws from the works of religious scholars and church activists such as Stephen Patterson (my NT professor) Marcus Borg, John Dominic Crossan, Nancy Ammerman, Minerva Carcaño, and Tex Sample.
Sessions are spent discussing how the Bible was formed and who wrote it, what it means to think theologically, how do we respond to the Prophets of the Hebrew Scriptures as Christians, and how do we understand our faith in this new century.
This is the second time I have taught this course. During the fall last year I used this same material at St. John United Church of Christ in Manchester, Missouri (just outside St. Louis). Participants in that session where much more theologically traditional then the group I'm working with now and some of the material brought forth in the class directly challenged their understandings of faith. But we stuck through it and learned from one another.
If you want a good in-depth series to offer members of your congregation a glimpse into the theological debates that consume seminary campuses within the mainline tradition this is the program to put forward.