What is the Extreme Center?

I recently wrote a post about my hope that by blogging I will contributing to a middle way / extreme center theological position online. Kim left a comment asking what exactly that means. Here is a summary from our Bishop, Scott Jones, describing the extreme center in Adam Hamilton’s book, Christianity’s Family Tree: What Other Christians Believe and Why it applies to Methodism:

“In the Christian faith, there are people who are extreme right and people who are extreme left. But whether it’s clergy clothing or how our services of worship are conducted or how we read the Bible, we tend to be people of the extreme center. The extreme center means that The United Methodist Church at its best is conservative in some areas and liberal in other areas. We don’t fit a stereotype very well. For example, some denominations are good at helping nominally religious and nonreligious people enter into the Christian life. Well, that’s part of the gospel; and it’s part of what we do as United Methodists. Other denominations want to help the poor and address social issues, however they define them. Well, that’s part of the gospel; and Methodists embrace them as well. The center is a very hard position to maintain because there are always people who are sniping at you from the extremes. Sometimes it’s easier to hold an extreme position because you can be really clear and really forceful, but what you are lacking is the perspective of your brothers and sisters who disagree with you. By occupying the extreme center, we see the value of both sides and try to carve out a position, whether it involves theology or social justice, that embraces the whole gospel.”

You can find more information at Bishop Jones’ blog  – Extreme Center.

I find that there are plenty of strong voices online at polar opposites of a variety of issues both inside and outside The United Methodist Church. I hope to contribute to conversations online in a way that represents an extreme center theological position.

In what ways have you found an extreme center approach to faith to be helpful? unhelpful?

Bishop Jones Said… (3 of 4)

Another quote from Bishop Scott Jones at the Kansas East Residency Retreat:

“I am a Methodist preacher and I will go where the church sends me.”

I was struck by the plain missional approach in this statement. Being in ministry is not primarily about my goals, desires or needs. These are an important part of my life, but as a Methodist preacher, it is not my primary guidance as to where to go and how to be in ministry.

God is at work in the process of making appointments and I am committed to be able to say the same thing as Bishop Jones.

I am a Methodist pastor and I will go where the church sends me.

Bishop Jones Said… (2 of 4)

This quote from Bishop Jones came at the Kansas East Residency Retreat in response to a question about what characterizes an effective clergy person.

Effective clergy lead congregations to increasing missional effectiveness.

I really appreciated this answer. I believe it is the right answer for the renewal of the denomination and for encouraging pastors in ways that are helpful.

Bishop Jones Said… (1 of 4)

In January I had the opportunity to hear Bishop Scott Jones speak several times. It was unusual for me to have this much contact with the bishop and I want to share with you some of the things that I heard him say that have made an impact on me. Bishop Jones said…

I don’t need preachers going off crazy, doing stupid things.

This quote was in response to a question about the too common occurence of leading out of fear. Jones’ suggestion was that fear should not guide leadership, but taht sometimes fear helps temper ideas that are not going to be good. I believe that this gets played out in many different contexts – from new ministries to finance to personal boundaries.

Well played, sir. Well played.

The Methodist Movement: Revival not Survival

Today through Thursday I am at the 2009 Kansas Area Seminar for Professional Ministry this year with the theme – The Methodist Movement: Revival not Survival. You can download a PDF with more information about the event here. I am grateful for the opportunity to take time a way for renewal and learning. I will be taking notes and publishing them live in a Google Document. You can check it out throughout my time here and afterward at http://docs.google.com/Doc?id=d3ggnsj_382dkbpsqc7

I am starting out in the session with Randy Maddox and will be in session with Scott Jones tomorrow. If you have any questions that you would like for me to ask Maddox or Jones, leave them on a comment and I will try to get them in. Enjoy!