Thursday, January 05, 2006


Last night I found out from Gavin that Will Willimon is in town as a keynote speaker for the Congress on Evangelism Conference that's being held here in Nashville this week. For anyone that doesn't know, being the theology stalker that I am- Will Willimon is one of my BIG heroes. There's little that I've read or heard him say that I disagree with. In fact, much of what Willimon has to say usually gets me really excited about being in ministry in today's culture.

So when Gavin said that I should come crash the conference today, although I told him I might- I knew immediately that I would.

I heard that Willimon was les than inspiring yesterday, but this morning he was bringing the house down with his subtle yet ironic sense of humor along with needle sharp prophetic words.

I have to admit that when I got there I felt a little like I was sitting in the audience of the 700 club. It was sort of bizarre. The music leader sang to inspiring prerecorded tracks that would have put any karaoke bar to shame. As he moved across the stage yelling that he "is a masterpiece in progress and SO ARE WE", I watched as the M.C. along with Willimon sat in chairs in the background slightly bobbing their heads to the tracks. I knew that I was not in Kansas anymore, at this point. (DEFINITELY WORTH THE MONEY SPENT).

In all honesty, I absolutely loved the morning!!! It was the best money that I've never spent. Crashing conferences is much fun. And Gavin made a great point as I was leaving (I only stayed to hear Willie)- had I been kicked out, it would have reflected poorly on the hospitality of a group that had gathered for evangelism. Wonderful words. Thanks be to God.

I should have a video clip up of Willimon speaking by the end of the weekend. Gavin, our new friend Jeff, and I are off to the mountains of East TN to lead worship and contemplative prayer for the Youth Ministry Institute this weekend. Shalom all!!


Zoomdaddy said...

sounds like you had fun

looking forward to the clip

jason said...

masterpiece in the hizzou! wassup!

gavin richardson said...

you had to bash the karaoke segment. that's wrong. you know you are a closet 700 club member &:~)

i hear the mountains have wi-fi.. i'm hoping the mountains have wi-fi.

Andy B. said...

That's what I want to see, a pirated Willimon video! I have this image of you sneaking a camera in to the lecture under your bow tie. ;)

Joel Thomas said...

I was not pleased with Willimon's statement that good novels can't come out of Chicago or San Francisco because their residents are too evasive. I was very, very displeased with the way Willimon impugned the character of large-city residents in broad, sweeping fashion.

On the other hand, he has some good ideas for reinvigorating the church and has properly criticized the denomination for being too bureaucratic.

St.Phransus said...

dude!!! joel!!! you were at the conference and in nashville and you didn't let me know? i would have loved to have met you face to face. bummer.

i wasn't there the first day to hear willimon speak- which is when i'm guessing he made the remarks about larger cities. his use of irony definitely goes overboard and you have to take those remarks with a grain of salt.

but his critiques on modern society and church ecclessiology is usually right on target.

i imagine if you peel the layers back on what he was speaking about in context to chicago and san francisco there might be a place for conversation. i dunno though, i didn't hear him on that one.


Joel Thomas said...

That was on his blog a few weeks back. I got in a hurry and didn't cite the source. I was not present for the seminar.

I read and re-read what Willimon wrote and came away with the same conclusion -- that he was dissing the residents of larger cities in order to claim that rural residents have deeper relationships, etc. I've lived in rural, big and in-between. I've seen good and bad qualities and opportunities in each. Maybe I don't have your "peeling" abilities.

Willimon doesn't respond to comments, that I can tell. I'm sure that is due both to time factors and his position as Bishop not wanting to get into on-line arguments.

There is much to like about him -- he usually speaks his mind. On the other hand, he isn't ALWAYS clear -- he never made himself clear on the Lake Junaluska facility. He did respond by e-mail to me that the statement put up on the North Alabama Conference's website was the Conference's and not his. I found that confusing because his Conference didn't officially meet on the matter. He seemed to be wanting to have it both ways -- that he wasn't comfortable about Junaluska but that the IRD writer had attributed to him things he wasn't responsible for, but were instead posted by the North Alabama Conference in raising objections. Unless Annual Conference approves a statement, I wouldn't think it would make it to a conference's official website without the Bishop signing on. Dean Snyder encouraged Wllimon to clarify by posting what would be officialy sent to Junaluska regarding concerns -- but I never saw it posted.

Interestingly, too, though he has been much the renegade, he was critical of the Denver 15's manner of dissent from the Discipline on homosexuality. Before he was elected Bishop, he practically accused several of the Bishops for ignorance, lack of vision, etc. That probably needed to be said, but it may have made for some awkward moments in Council meetings.

I think he has had some valid criticisms of CPE programs -- that they have become entirely too secular. From my own CPE experience, I agree. I learned much, but it could have just as easily been under the guise of social work as opposed to the pastoral.

Willimon also confuses me on affirmative action -- he has strongly supported it in secular society but objected to its application within the church setting, seemingly.

Of what I've read that he has said or written, I agree with him perhaps 75% of the time -- not bad, as I agree with myself only about 76%. ;-) He's been a good influence on the church and has taken heat from both the left and the right.

St.Phransus said...

thanks joel for the insight. i always appreciate what you have to say. my my aren't you the nightowl this evening ;-)

Wesley said...

I too was in Nashville. The man who you heard sing was not the music leader, he was a traveling musician who was singing as a guest. One of the reasons he was used is because he has exhibited incredible courage in overcoming terrible odds. The fact that he had no arms could explain the fact that he played no instruments. Your comments were cold and uncalled for.

It's too bad you didn't stay for the whole event. You would have discovered a lot of pretty wonderful people who are praying and working for revival in the church.


St.Phransus said...

sorry that i've made that impression on you wesley. i agree with you that the guest's life overall and what he has overcome may be inspiring- yes. i'd much rather hear that story.

but i'm sorry- i'm just calling it how i heard and saw it- the singing was not as good as karaoke, and the whole thing was a bit narcissistic with video clips of just him. understand me that it is one thing to overcome great odds and to share the story and inspire people- but the whole thing just seemed a bit out of place for worship. it invited us to focus on him completely and not on God which usually ought to be the focus of worship.

by now i probably sound cold and heartless and i'm sure pat robertson is conspiring something against me as we speak. so again, sorry that i offended but please know that i was critiquing the performance and not the person himself or what he has been through.


St.Phransus said...

hey wesley,
when ya gonna start blogging again?it's been almost 2 years now.

Wesley said...

It might help you to know that the morning session was not a worship service. It was a workshop session.

I will be doing more blogging, I've been recovering frrom a heart attack I had about a year and a half ago.


St.Phransus said...

sorry to hear about your heart attack. may i put your name on my morning prayer- prayer list?

please don't take what i say too seriously in these matters. but i do suppose that the "extreme cynical" side of me came out and i i painted some people with very broad strokes.

i really didn't mean it in a way that would be a personal attack or offensive.

i look forward to reading your blog once you are able to write again.