Shane Hipps Leaving Mars Hill

Shane Hipps and Rob Bell: Soon neither will be at Mars Hill

My dear friend (and camp counselee, circa 1984), Shane Hipps, announced yesterday that he will be leaving Mars Hill Bible Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan, when the Board of Elders selects a new teaching pastor. Here’s part of Shane’s announcement:

I came face to face with one of the most powerful and difficult ingredients in discovering call  — the role of limits.

In this process I kept bumping up against two limits.  First, I bumped up against the decision the Elders made.  They created a role that was very different than the one I am currently in.  I had to confront the reality of an external set of limits that had been created.  This happens all the time in life.  We confront things on the outside we wish could be different.  Choices our loved ones make, illness, and economic downturns.  The Elders made a series of choices which they believe were in the best interest of this community.  In the process I was presented with new limits.

The second and far more substantial limit was internal.  Everyone of us has an interior shape and size.  Some of that is predetermined and unchangeable like our height.  It’s just how we got made and no amount of effort can change it.  Some of that inner shape is like our weight, we can actually do something to reshape it, adjust it, change it.  It’s not easy, but it is possible if we are truly called to something.

The road at Mars Hill has been tumultuous. Many parishioners left when Love Wins came out. More left when Rob Bell departed for California. The church staff has suffered through many rounds of layoffs, the latest being last week. Now Shane is leaving and, by the looks of the comments on his blog, some congregants don’t understand why.

Rob Bell had an odd arrangement with the church: in the latter years of his tenure, he didn’t lead the staff, and he had virtually no pastoral duties other than preaching (which they call “teaching”). Shane came in under that arrangement. While I can understand the Elders’ decision to move in a more conventional direction — with a pastor who does the majority of the preaching — it seems odd that this person will report to the executive director of the church. It makes you wonder: What gifted preacher would come to Mars Hill without also being able to lead the staff?

We can only assume that the Elders know the church best, and that they think this unusual arrangement will work. Many of us will be watching to see if it does.

What’s Happening in Marriage and Divorce?

Mark Regenerus looks at the number:

First, the sheer number of new marriages (i.e., weddings) has generally been decreasing, even while the population of the US continues to increase. For example, in the year 2000 there were 2.32 million new marriages in a population of 281 million persons. In 2010, however, there were 2.1 million new marriages, despite a growing population of 309 million persons.

Ergo, marriage is in retreat (and more so among the poor and working class, as data noted below will suggest), a slight uptick in 2010 notwithstanding.

read the rest: Good News and Bad News in Marriage and Divorce Statistics.

Free Money for Evolutionists

If you’re a scholarly type, and you’d like to get a project funded that will help Christians understand evolution, check this out:

A new funding opportunity for scholars and church/parachurch leaders. The BioLogos Foundation was recently awarded a large grant from The John Templeton Foundation to launch a subgrants program, Evolution and Christian Faith (ECF).  This $3.5 millionprogram will fund research and projects that address theological and philosophical concerns many Christians have about evolutionary creation.  We also invite proposals which explore how evolution as God’s tool enriches Christian faith and worship.

Grant amounts vary from $30,000 to $300,000 over 34 months. Young scholars are especially encouraged to apply. Proposals from teams—especially those which are inter-disciplinary in nature or focused on translation from the academy to the church and parachurch—are enthusiastically welcomed. We also invite proposals from well-established scholars who wish to explore a particular topic in depth (see example topics here).

We anticipate funding projects that explore consonance between evolution and Christian faith. Proposals will not be considered if they reject (or at least do not helpfully inform) historic, creedal Christianity (e.g. historical Resurrection, high view of Scripture, etc.) or if they reject the conclusions of mainstream science (e.g. old earth, common descent, etc.). Please note that this does not mean all grantees must be ardent supporters of evolutionary creation. Church leaders, for example, may be interested in exploring the ramifications for their tradition if evolution were true, even though they personally remain unsure. Also, teams may represent a variety of viewpoints.

One of the best things about the program is that ECF grantees won’t be working in separate little ivory towers.  It is important to build a collaborative network of scholars and church leaders who are interested in helping the church think about evolution in constructive ways.  To that end BioLogos will host three summer workshops for grantees to gather, share ideas, and learn together.

Time is short!  Pre-proposals are due June 15, 2012. Luckily, the application process is not too arduous: it consists mostly of a short (1,500 word) letter of intent describing the project along with a rough budget.  Successful applicants will be invited to submit full proposals at a later date.  Please direct folks to EvolutionChristianFaith.orgfor details about the program and how to apply.

Richard Beck Gets His Ass Kicked

Theoblogger Richard Beck has a beautiful post about his worship home, a small service called Freedom:

Another thing I like about Freedom: One of the church leaders and I have a running conversation (and he might have this conversation with more than just me). A few months ago he came up to me and asked, “Richard, do you know why we come to church?” “Why?” “So God can kick us in the ass.” Every week it’s a variation on that theme. “Richard, did God kick you in the ass today?”

I smile and say yes.

Read the rest: Experimental Theology: Freedom.

And if you haven’t yet read Richard’s book, Unclean, do yourself a favor and pick it up.