My own faith in Christ has been shaped over the years by some key events that have happened in my lifetime.

In 1985 I was a paperboy for the Hamilton Spectator.  Delivering papers on Cumberland Ave. I read about the fall of Jim Baker, Pentecostal televangelist due to adultery and extreme financial shadiness.  Each day, I read front-page news about the subsequent fights between Baker and other Christian-right leaders in the USA such as Jerry Falwell, Sr.

My evangelical rose-coloured glasses were fogged up, to say the least.

At that time, my own Pentecostal faith – so deeply rooted in a revivalist, altar-call experience began to slowly dissolve.  The happy Praise-The-Lord fridge magnets and Jim Baker-signed Bibles around the house seemed to have less resonance than they once did.  The culture of Church I grew up in felt increasingly dissonant and distant.  Altar calls seemed more-and-more a mix of good and manipulative.  I didn’t know where to go with my faith.

I was fortunate, at that time (this would be the late 1980s), to discover branches of evangelicalism that were exploring, for example, the equality of women (as people, and as leaders in the Church) and caring for God’s creation (some of these teachers coming out of Vancouver’s evangelically-oriented Regent College at the time) and that had an openness to art (as opposed to what I would call propaganda).

I stumbled into U2 – three of whom are Christians living a more nuanced faith than I had been used to thus far and (in a very different way) John Michael Talbot – a charismatic Catholic Franciscan living in a Christian community that cared for creation and had a monastic-friar basis.  I listened to a lot of Bruce Cockburn.

All of this  saved my faith.

I became an activist – essentially left the Church for several years – focusing on challenging injustice through protest and simpler-living movements.  I inched my way back into the Church – initially through the United Church, reading a mix of liberal, new agey and radical theology.  I read John Spong, Matthew Fox, Marcus Borg and others – and for a while, was taken in.

But in spite of metaphorical or ‘post-theistic’ readings of so-called Christianity –  Jesus Christ – that first love I met on my knees as a kid at a bedside and a camp ‘altar’ and through nature walks – just wouldn’t let me go. Never did.  The mystical sense of this relationship didn’t always mesh with the more ‘liberal’ sense of things I was reading about – nor did it always mesh with the sometimes stale cultures of church I was discovering in my foray into the liberal mainline.

Slowly, more ‘orthodox’ ideas and practices came back into my Christian practices – even as I developed a critique of some elements of liberal theology and cultures I could see in the mainline Churches.  I began to sing praise songs and hymns again.

Lots happened in those years:  Arrests at military bases protesting wars. Five years in the Catholic Worker with a kidnapping and a suicide. Hanging out in West Africa with the Church there for a month.  Being a worship leader and elder in a Baptist street church.  Meeting my amazing wife at a protest. The discovery of contemplative and monastic spirituality.  A visit to Taize.  Journeying through various ecclesiastical communions. I was baptized by the Baptists.  Learned sacraments from the Roman Catholics. The birth of our kids… The learning continues.

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In 2015 I was leading worship at a retreat for Anglican clergy that had a well-known liberal theologian.  As the weekend went on I realized that this speaker, who I had come to really appreciate in my post-evangelical years, was theologically and ecclesiastically bankrupt.  His theological assertions seemed as (or more) ‘fundamentalist’ and angry as anything I had met in my evangelical days.   That same weekend Marcus Borg – a noted liberal mainline theologian died and Naramata Centre – a United Church training centre known for it’s liberal theology – closed.

The last vestiges of extreme ‘liberal’ or (so-called) ‘progressive’ Christian theology died in me that weekend.    And it seemed that they were literally dying around me as well.

I’ve watched movements – especially those I feel some affinity with – New Monasticism, Contemplative Prayer, and the Emerging Church move away from radical post-evangelicalism or Catholicism and lean themselves to more mainline liberal theology and ‘interspirituality’ (a movement I’ll unpack another time) – I believe to their detriment.

As I write this, the Anglican Primates (Archbishops) are meeting in Canterbury to possibly dissolve the formal ties of the Anglican communion due to theological differences.  Closer to home the United Church is debating the limits of inclusivity and liberalism as it decides whether to reject a proudly atheist minister in Toronto.

I study at a seminary where the historical-critical methodology of the 19th century still holds hegemonic sway in Biblical studies and a mushy version of radical ecumenism holds much weight.  However, even that is changing as more open evangelicals and orthodox mainliners are being hired there for the first time in decades.  The United Church has a burgeoning movement of mostly younger Christ-centred clergy called “Cruxifusion“.

There is fragmentation, division & realignment everywhere.   I feel hope.

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Last week, I went on a retreat to a Benedictine monastery. As the ancient Latin Gregorian chant poured over me, as I fed the farm animals and walked along the ocean I began to pray through what I might be called to write here on this blog.

In this place, it came to me that there needs to be more voices that can talk about a Way, the Jesus-way – that transcends the polarities that currently plague and divide the church.  Voices that can speak into the fragmentation and schisms with love and truth.  Voices that can be open-hearted and generous, but also hold to the ancient Truths and living streams of the Christian faith, handed down through the Saints.

I think if there’s a somewhat unique voice I can bring – it’s one that seeks to hold those tensions as one who has been both evangelical and liberal and learned much from both.   I hope to be one that is rooted in the evangelical and orthodox truths of the faith, but also generous and inclusive and open-hearted in that orthodoxy-orthopraxy.

How’s that for a challenge/tension?

Too often I see evangelical movements flirting with fundamentalism or neo-Calvinism.  Too often I see post-evangelicals going the mainline liberal (aka baby boomer theology, upper-middle strata) direction – throwing out passion and rootedness in our ancient scriptures, the historic Creeds, the Gospel, the Church.

Is there a middle way?

As a Gen-X’er I feel very in the middle.  Not truly at home in the baby-boomer, Caucasian, upper-middle class, liberal dominated mainline – but also not at home in slick and produced North American suburban-influenced evangelicalism (or its more hipster derivations)- nor the neo-conservatism it tends to breed.

I hope to use this blog to explore some of the insights that I’ve come to as a (renewed) Jesus-loving, Trinitarian, Creedal post-evangelical who has reclaimed my orthodoxy — and as a post-liberal who has rejected much liberal theology but has retained my strong convictions around liberation and justice for those on the margins and who appreciates the liberal tradition for its question-asking and openness.

I know this won’t always make me friends – but I hope it can be a voice that speaks in love rather than reaction… and that we can dialogue about the stories and events that have shaped our changing faith in an unchanging God.