Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Wild Goose chasing

Let's be this day and age we don't take much time to get to know one another.  There are lots of things that draw us away from meaningful dialogue about faith let alone deep Christian friendships.  Family, work, technology, exhaustion all take their toll and cause us to skim the surface and avoid getting too close.  That's a shame, because I don't think we can practice one of the chief maxims of Wesley's General Rules, "watching over one another in Christian love," without the kind of vulnerability that comes from knowing one another as brothers and sisters in Christ.  If we are unable to speak about the deepest longings of our heart or express our doubts and fears we are not truly in community (or communion) with one another.
by the coffee barn - at the Wild Goose Festival 2011

Often times, to expedite the initial pleasantries of getting to know someone we label ourselves as a means of introduction.  I am a single (read that divorced) mom of 4, a Christian, Trinitarian, Wesleyan and borderline contemplative.  I am also an Evangelical who leans toward the Emergence Church movement.  The problem with labels is that they come with baggage.  Once we proclaim ourselves as something or someone that is loaded with politically charged images we invite all sorts of scrutiny and scorn - shutting down the avenue to open dialogue and authentic sharing - geesh!

This is why recent post from more traditional conservative evangelical groups about the recent Wild Goose Festival are problematic.  I attended the Wild Goose Festival last week.  I did not go as a United Methodist, or even as a pastor, but as someone who is part of the Christian faith.  I first heard of the Wild Goose Festival from Brian McLaren during a conversation with our Eastern Iowa Emergent Cohort.  Brian invited us to come to North Carolina and be part of something new and exciting coming to the United States.

Modeled after the UK's Greenbelt Festival, the Wild Goose Festival was a 4 day event in the hills of north central North Carolina.  Nationally known speakers were on hand to interact in an open air venue that allowed for some interesting, and frankly exciting dialogue.  There were also a number of bands, great food, camping (for those who were up for camping in the 90 degree temperatures) and times of daily prayer and praise.

Mark Tooley, a fellow United Methodist who is the president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy wrote: “Much of what ‘Wild Goose’ features is not new or novel but old-fashioned liberal causes, freshly repackaged for young evangelicals. Most Religious Left groups that advocated leftist policies in past generations are now in severe decline, and their activists are now targeting evangelical youth  Influenced by gnostic beliefs that Christianity has repeatedly rejected, many ‘Wild Goose’ voices flatter themselves with fanciful dreams of sophistication and praise from secular elites. Their 1960s-style hoopla is supposedly updated for the 21st century. But ultimately this featherless old Wild Goose won’t fly.”

I was there for all 4 days and that's not what I experienced.  I don't think Tooley really attended Wild Goose for himself, and frankly, unless he was willing to be open to the moving of the Holy Spirit, I am not sure he would have gotten much out of it.  What I did find is a group of folks who love God and deeply care about God's beloved children, so much so that there was room to work things out in the words of John Wesley, "in fear and trembling."

What I saw was an exciting and varied list of speakers from all sorts of backgrounds and denominations fully accessible to those who attended.  Never was dialogue censored, nor questions shot down.  What I saw was people sharing ideas and ideals, dreaming big dreams and casting a vision for the future, a vision that may appear idealistic, yet living into orthodox Christian faith based on scripture.   If old fashioned liberal causes include balm for our broken and hurting world, encouragement for life's journey and a call to living intentionally as people who feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the imprisoned and provide cold water to the thirsty (see Matthew 25:31-46), well then - I guess that's what I saw.

Were some of my more conservative sensibilities challenged, of course they were.  But we only stretch and grow when we enter into open and intentional dialogue with folks, not lurk around on the fringes or come to a place such as the Wild Goose Festival with an agenda that is inflexible or full of fear and anger.

I will post later about some of the ways that I was stretched...let it suffice to say that the Wild Goose Festival gave me nourishment for the journey so that I may live more authentically into the call that our Triune God has placed on my life - to share the love of God with others and walk alongside my sisters and brothers so that we may be a part of the solution to some of the challenges our world is facing.  If this means that I am a liberal or progressive, so be it...but I think it means I am just a beloved child of God working things out in fear and trembling, just like everyone else.

Peace, love in Christ,


  1. Looking forward to the follow up posts.

  2. If old fashioned liberal causes include balm for our broken and hurting world, encouragement for life's journey and a call to living intentionally as people who feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the imprisoned and provide cold water to the thirsty (see Matthew 25:31-46), well then - I guess that's what I saw.

    You just admitted that what Tooley said is true. Not everybody agrees that the standard liberal agenda is the way to help the poor.

    Was anybody promoting school choice, for example?

    Did anybody suggest that public sector unions ought to make sacrifices for the common good?

    Believing that concern for the poor is identical with a liberal/left agenda is the mark of politically liberal religion.

  3. John McAdams,

    What I saw and heard was an invitation to care deeply enough to embrace issues that speak to you, whether that's school choice, unions, or more sidewalks - please read my more recent post for more thoughts about activism.

    Thank you for the good questions,

  4. When did being "fixed as the sun" (in Wesley's words) on core theological orthodoxy about such matters as biblical authority and the universality of sin and consequent need of redemption through Christ's blood become a vice to be dismissed as "inflexible or full of fear and anger" and "lurk[ing] around on the fringes"? I fail to see how your making such a straw-man argument fits with your expressed desire to seek to authentically know brothers and sisters in Christ without just falling back on comfortable stereotypes of the Other. And aren't there some basic beliefs that others should have to share (like rejecting the humanistic Christology of outspoken UMC bishop Joe Sprague) that people should have to share before they can be accurately described as "brothers and sisters in Christ"? Or is that phrase simply nice-sounding but ultimately meaningless?

  5. John,

    I guess I begin with a wide view, Consider our United Methodist practice of Holy Communion. We have an open table inviting all who love God and repent of their sins to come forward and receive the Body and Blood of Christ. It is not I who decides if those receiving have repented enough or love God enough. I trust that the Holy Spirit will convict and move in the hearts and minds of those receiving, which is why we say Eucharist is a Holy Mystery.

    In a way the open table (just as my embracing of all people as God's children and therefore brothers and sisters) then gives me a starting point to walk alongside someone, if they so desire, to share basic Orthodox beliefs, to talk about "Biblical authority and the universality of sin and the consequent need of redemption through Christ's blood." I believe all of these are essential if we are to grow in sanctification, by the grace of God. But we need a starting point and I prefer to do this casting a wide net based on love (Wesley called this Prevenient Grace, God loving us before we even knew we needed God's mercy and grace)

    To dive into these sorts of discussions we need to remember how Wesley did it - through classes and bands. Through intentional community building and disciple making. This is something that the United Methodist church has forgotten over the past 160 years or so, and something we must reclaim.

    Peace, Deborah

  6. Loved it Deb! Looking forward to hearing more. Really wish I could have gone.

  7. Thanks for these thoughts and reflections, Rev. Wise! And for the gracious way you are responding to the commenters here on your blog. Grace and peace to you!

  8. I was at Wild Goose and came away a changed and hopeful person. What I loved most about Wild Goose was that it was a safe place for dialog - something that is all too rare in church settings. Thanks for sharing.

  9. thanks Steve and Cherie,

    it is my prayer that this is a safe place to engage in conversation with others. Thanks for joining in!


  10. Deborah, I think we could potentially have GREAT dialogue! I too think we shy away from deep relationships...true community. I often get "accused" of being too deep. But, it's's the Holy Spirit and I love the way He relates to me! Also, I LOVE your line..."I am also an Evangelical who leans toward the Emergence Church movement." I have found myself on both sides of this "fence/divide(what I believe it can truly be)" and see beautiful people/hearts on both sides. I don't really want to choose a side...had a friend tell me recently that I don't have to! Jesus was rejected too...I think He understands not fitting in or being accepted in ANY group! Anyway, I believe I do tend to lean towards Emergent...I just don't like the massive bashing that takes place both directions. Makes me sad. Great post!