Thomas, Jeremy and Jameson are three guys with whom I’ve had the pleasure of walking alongside in the preparation for their pastoral vocation. All three are in different stages of vocational discernment and development. Thomas is an undergrad; Jeremy a seminarian, and Jameson begins working on a Ph.D. in England this fall. What unites these guys and why I have named them is that they are being gripped by a new vision for the pastoral vocation. All three to varying degrees have had extensive ministry experience across the wide spectrum of the North American evangelical church. And each has discerned in the pastoral office a definitive call but also a deep struggle of fit. Over the years, and especially more recently, the pastoral office is more CEO than shepherd; more pragmatist, than thinker; more mimicry, than creative presence.
Of course there is no denying the pastor must have strong leadership gifts; she must primarily be a practitioner; and be willing to implement programs that have shown promise in developing disciples. But in this frenetically changing, connected, and complicated world in which a new generation of pastors is entering, there is great need for nimble theological discernment. There is a need for pastors who have had a mind and heart shaped by Scripture and the Christian tradition to address with generosity, kindness and pastoral sensitivity the issues facing our times. This is a time in history where the church needs to esckew pragmatism in the work of ministry, and seek discernment through prayerful community in the appropriate application of Scripture and the theological Christian tradition to the modern questions and challenges.
This is why the Center for Pastor Theologians (CPT) has captured the attention of developing church leaders like Thomas, Jeremy and Jameson. They want to take up a pattern of life in ministry training and pastoral practice that gives them the formation and resources to inform, guide and challenge the people of God to whom they have been called to serve.
I have had a long affiliation with the CPT through the pastoral fellowships that support this way of being that I’ve described. Last year the CPT started an annual pastors conference in Chicago to promote this alternative and necessary vision of the pastor. It is a meeting that invites like-minded people, like Thomas, Jeremy and Jameson, to gather together for mutual encouragement. What is more, the CPT conference always offers a rich discussion of a crucial pastoral issues facing the church. The second conference is tackling what may be the issue of our time: sexuality and gender: “Beauty, Order, and Mystery: The Christian Vision of Sexuality.”
I will be participating offering a break out session. The title of my session is “Bent Sexuality and the Pastor.”
Here’s the session’s synopsis:
In this session I will invite church leaders to consider their own story of sexual brokenness as I vulnerably share my own. The time has long since come to reject the contempt culture of shame that has kept many sexually wounded people, both in the pulpit and the pew, in shame, contempt and hiding. The presentation will problematize the oversimplified understanding of sexual sin purveyed by the evangelical church that masks the complexity of human sexuality. Reductionist and quick-fix pastoral prescriptions alongside jocular exhortations about the glory and priority of sex have done significant damage to people already deeply wounded; what is more, such commonplace approaches to the issue of sexuality in evangelical churches have isolated boys and girls and men and women, laity and pastors alike, from the safe place of vulnerability, truth and grief—the only path toward healing. It is time to tear down the illusionary idol of sexuality not outside, but inside the church. In the session, I will describe the way childhood sexual trauma warps adult sexuality. I will plead for the cultivation of church cultures of vulnerability, kindness and patience for those struggling with sin and particularly with sexual bentness.
For those interested, I will be live streaming the session on my Facebook page.