The Wild Goose Festival: My Talks

I actually didn’t give any talks, per se, at the Goose.  I was a speaker host, I sat on a panel, I moderated a panel, and led a discussion in the GeoDome.  I’m glad about this, actually, for it afforded me just the kind of dialogue in which I think I work best — that is, the more I mature as a theologian, I think I’m better at dialogue than I am at monologue.

The first was a panel on Friday, moderated by Becky Knight, on the topic of sexuality.  It was held in the GeoDome to an overflow crowd.  Along with me were Paul Fromberg, Andrew Marin, Mark Scandrette, Seth Donovan, Rachel Swan, Jay Bakker, and Becky Kuhn.  With so many panelists, we didn’t get much time individually to talk, but we each made an introductory statement, then we had a chance to respond to questions from the audience.  My opening salvo was basically this: A clergyperson acted as an agent of the government and married me, binding me in a legal contract; but that clergyperson was nowhere to be found when it came time to undo that legal contract; therefore the church should get out of the marriage business.

I would say that the consensus of the panel and the crowd is that we must make the issue of sexuality in the church be about a lot more than “what to do with ‘the gays.'”

Wild Goosers gather for a Sexuality Panel (photo by Courtney Perry)

The second panel was on the topic of “Sexuality and Justice,” and it was held in front of the largest crowd that I saw all weekend to attend something at the Coffee Shack stage.  I moderated (and chimed in), and the panelists were Paul Fromberg, Andrew Marin, and Phyllis Tickle.  I asked them each to 1) reflect on whether the issue of human sexuality is a justice issue on par with the biggies (poverty, women’s rights, human trafficking, clean water); 2) share an experience of an ecclesial practice that they’ve seen help a church deal with sexuality); and 3) offer a word of hope.

I thought this discussion was fascinating and many people in the crowd told me afterward that they really appreciated it.

Finally, I led a conversation at the GeoDome on Sunday morning.  For these discussions, we were asked to present a question to which we do not have the answer — begin with a 15-minute intro and then engage in conversation with the crowd.  I asked the question, “Why Pray?”  The dialogue that followed was, honestly, the most beautiful and life-giving part of the entire festival for me.

It seems to have touched a couple of others as well.  Jodi-Renee Adams blogged about it for Clayfire:

There were a few comments Tony made that flew at me in 3-D given the audience and the context. The first was this: “There’s lots of things [Jesus] didn’t talk about that we have opinions on, but he did talk about prayer… and he did [pray].” Here we were – sitting in the middle of a phenomenal landscape with a radical group of spiritual people, really seeking out the Divine imagination around issues like creation care and sexuality and being ready to carry those flags in the name of Christ (and for that I say, thanks be to GOD) but in that one statement, I felt like Tony captured my fear and struggle with my own faith and with the context in which I must work that faith out. [read the post]

And mothersara wrote a beautiful villanelle (poem) based on the discussion:

Someone asked me just the other day—“why pray?”
To re-align our own intent or seek to change God’s mind?
Our measure here as ever is “what does Jesus say?”

I have always reasoned praying as the faithful way
to sing along in steady tune with plans divine.
Then someone asked me recently: why pray?

[Read the post.]

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  • Tony,
    I was the guy who tried to (but failed) articulate the process perspective in regard to prayer (should have just given the mic right to Dr. Shriver!). But I’d love to get your reaction to a passage I think actually does capture the authentic Whiteheadian spirit. I think you also mentioned that you wanted to start with phenomenology, what we have access to through experience, and I think that’s a major selling point for process thought.

    “The openness of the future, both for ourselves and God, challenges us to be creators of our own experience, take responsibility for our moment to moment decisions as we seek to fulfill our role as God’s companions in the ongoing evolution of the universe… God’s creative wisdom provides each occasion with the direction necessary for its creative process and the energy to aim at the highest good for itself and others.”

    And here’s the money quote:

    “Whitehead notes that the quality and intensity of God’s influence on the world is limited by our past history, including our choices. Although God constantly aims at abundant life and the beauty of experience, God’s presentation to each occasion of its highest possibilities for self-creation, that is, its initial aim is the best for that impasse. But, if the best be bad, then the ruthlessness of God can be personified as Ate, the goddess of mischief. The chaff is burnt.” -Bruce Epperly “Process Theology: A Guide for the perplexed

    Anyway I’m in love with this idea (perhaps because I too much want to make sense of prayer and fit it to my experience) that perhaps not all things are possible, our actions really DO matter because they truly have an effect on future possibility, even divine possibility (not only our actions, but natural actions – disease, natural disasters, etc.). Perhaps God’s omnipotence, in a traditional coercive sense, is too high of a price to pay for such a view, but I certainly prefer it to absolute Sovereignty. We can still say that God is unconditionally loving because his AIM is always the best for his beloved, not in some mysterious “cancer will be good for you way” but in a real, understandable way.It is just that sometimes, because of our freedom, and perhaps God’s “Weakness” God cannot always get his way, but freedom and love are maintained. Thoughts? Does this make God too much of a “contingent being” for you?

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