KB Categories Archives: AFFN

2016 AFFN Convocation: Webber Book Roundtable

Video-IconVideo Content: The Final Session of our 2016 AFFN Convocation was a regularly-recurring feature of our annual gatherings: a focused discussion of one of Robert Webber’s books or another author’s work related to ancient-future faith, or of some aspect of ancient-future orthopraxy. Again this year, Dr. Ellen Koehler chaired and commented on the panel discussion, this time on Webber’s Ancient-Future Evangelism: Making Your Church a Faith-Forming Community. In this second book in the Ancient-Future Faith series (published in 2003), Bob addressed the question: How can our evangelism produce not only converts, but disciples who grow in faith and become active members of the church? In other words, how does mission look and function when the goal is not just breadth of numbers, but depth of maturity? Looking to the ancient church, Bob notes that evangelism and discipleship were not seen as separate activities or callings, but rather were integrally related, expressed and realized in a long-term, holistic process – a life-long journey that involved the whole Christian community. And he argues passionately that a recovery of the ancient ways provides the answers to the longings and conditions of the post-modern world.

Panelists for this lively and intriguing roundtable included Dr. James Hart (DWS, President of the Institute for Worship Studies), Dr. Nancy Nethercott (DWS, Co-Director of the IWS GROW Center, and TEAM missionary in Japan since 1987), Dr. Jonathan Nelms (DWS, pastor of Covenant Church in Cookeville, TN), and Ellen Koehler (Ph. D. in history, Director of Music and Liturgy at Epiclesis, Sacramento, and AFFN Board Member). Each of the panelists spoke to these questions from their own, diverse experiences and views. Jim spoke to the connection between mission and the growth of each of us in Christ-likeness, in essence godliness, as members of His body in the world. Nancy shared the implications and similarities of these responsibilities within the context of international evangelism. Jonathan encouraged and challenged us with experiences of his own congregation engaging in the needs of the Cookeville community in an ongoing way. And Ellen shared from the discipleship process at Epiclesis as an intentional implementation of the ancient understanding of evangelism and discipleship, what Webber calls a “Journey to Jesus.” The following discussion and comment period continued the exploration of these and other issues raised in Ancient-Future Evangelism.

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Dr. Carla Waterman: Exile, Imagination and the God of Steadfast Love

Video-IconVideo Content: At June, 2016’s annual AFFN Convocation, Network member Dr. Carla Waterman presented a memorably rich teaching entitled, “Exile, Imagination and the God of Steadfast Love.”

The presentation, she said, had grown out of her current interest in understanding psalms of lament as prayers of hope. With a focus on the psalms of the Sons of Korah, in particular Psalms 42 and 43, Carla asked us to bear in mind these questions: Who were the Sons of Korah? And why do their psalms bear the repeated motif, “the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases”? The answers she provided and the discussion that followed reveal just how meaningfully this message fits into and ministers to the needs of today, both to individuals and to the culture at large.

Carla was a founding faculty member of the Institute for Worship Studies, and also has taught at Wheaton College and Northern Seminary.

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A Call to Worship

Chris Alford:

logo_mark_320Many of you have been called to call people to worship. It happens, in one form or another, each week. But I want to introduce you to another call to worship— one that you might not have heard about.

Before the death of my dear mentor and friend, Robert E. Webber spent a good portion of his last year working collaboratively with over 300 theologians and other leaders to craft A Call to an Ancient-Evangelical Future. The Call continues some themes from and expands upon the influential and widely circulated “Chicago Call” of 1977, and sets forth a vision for an Ancient-Future faith in a postmodern world.

The theologians and pastors who participated in putting the document together represented a broad diversity of ethnicity and denominational affiliation. The Call’s listing of theological editors and members of the board of reference is remarkable in its depth, but most encouraging to me is that hundreds of pastors, theologians, and lay persons across the U. S., Canada, and the world continue to sign The Call, lending voice to its concerns and affirming its truths. The Call is comprised of six sections, plus a prologue and epilogue, focusing on the gospel narrative in the context of the church: 1. On the Primacy of the Biblical Narrative; 2. On the Church, the Continuation of God’s Narrative; 3. On the Church’s Theological Reflection on God’s Narrative; 4. On Church’s Worship as Telling and Enacting God’s Narrative; 5. On Spiritual Formation in the Church as Embodiment of God’s Narrative; and 6. On the Church’s Embodied Life in the World.

That Bob helped to craft such a call is not unusual, for he spent the whole of his professional life calling the church to continual reform and, most especially, encouraging leaders and laity alike to drink from the refreshing well of ancient truth. That The Call comes at a time of great change in the world and in the church, and that it also came just before Bob’s passing, gives it a kind of weight that, at least for me, makes it especially compelling to examine.

So compelling, actually, that we made it the core component of the Ancient-Future Faith Network (AFFN). The Network’s purpose is to foster the worship of our Triune God; to build and promote a network and association of like-minded individuals and churches; to organize and provide Ancient-Future resources and training; to promote the 2006 “Call to an Ancient-Evangelical Future” championed by Robert Webber; and more generally to promote and encourage the knowledge and practice of Ancient-Future theology, worship, spirituality, and ecclesiology.

As the Network prepares for its fifth annual gathering next month in Jacksonville, Florida, we have a special task force focused on reworking The Call into every day, layman’s language. We want to communicate effectively the contents of The Call to the average person in the pew, as it were, and I will be sure to report back to you on those efforts. The task force will report on their progress at the June meeting and the resulting material will eventually be available on the website of the AFFN.

In the meantime, I’d love you to take some time to consider carefully the portion of The Call that addresses corporate worship:

4. On the Church’s Worship as Telling and Enacting God’s Narrative

We call for public worship that sings, preaches and enacts God’s story. We call for a renewed consideration of how God ministers to us in baptism, Eucharist, confession, the laying on of hands, marriage, healing and through the charisms of the Spirit, for these actions shape our lives and signify the meaning of the world.

Thus, we call Evangelicals to turn away from forms of worship that focus on God as a mere object of the intellect, or that assert the self as the source of worship. Such worship has resulted in lecture-oriented, music-driven, performance-centered and program-controlled models that do not adequately proclaim God’s cosmic redemption. Therefore, we call Evangelicals to recover the historic substance of worship of Word and Table and to attend to the Christian year, which marks time according to God’s saving acts.

My hope is that you and your church, especially those whose joyful task it is to craft corporate worship, will take some intentional time to reflect deeply on The Call. Ask difficult questions: What does worship really look like that “enacts God’s story”? How might our worship change, if at all, if we focused on the ministries of worship and their ability to “shape our lives and signify meaning to the world”? And maybe some of the hardest questions of all: Is our worship “lecture-oriented, music-driven, performance-centered and program-controlled”? Have we neglected the Table? If we’re not allowing God’s mighty deeds and saving acts order and mark our time, then what have we allowed to do so?

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Visiting Robert Webber’s Gravesite

WebberGraveStoneVideo-IconVideo Content: Chris Alford and Carl Peters took a few minutes during a recent trip to Sawyer, Michigan, to visit Robert Webber’s gravesite. They were in town on AFFN business to help fellow board member Joanne Webber sort through a treasure trove of Bob’s materials, many of which will be available here on the Ancient-Future Faith Network site, both presently in The Abbey and in a brand-new store (coming in fall, 2015).

They took along a video camera to capture the brief visit and give interested folks a chance to see the final resting place of Bob’s remains. It’s a beautiful spot, and the inscription on his tombstone is just what you’d expect.


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Unpacking Robert Webber

CarlPetersChrisAlfordMicrophone (2)Audio Content: AFFN Board Member Dr. Carl Peters recently accompanied Chris Alford on a trip to see Joanne Webber at her Bethany Beach home in Sawyer, Michigan. She had invited the pair to unpack and reorganize a storage unit full of the late Robert E. Webber’s books and resources. Joanne (also a fellow AFFN board member) had not especially been looking forward to what was a daunting task, but the result was a catalog and inventory of a host of treasures that will soon be available on the Ancient-Future Faith Network website.

Some of the items will be exclusive to the AFFN, and there are plans to digitize and make available audio-visual resources that have not been seen or heard in many years. Look for those items in the AFFN store and Knowledge Base (coming fall, 2015), and also available to Contributing Members in The Abbey.

One more note: Along the way, Chris and Carl took some time to do a videotape interview of Joanne and briefly stopped by Bob’s final resting place just down the road from their home. Look for the interview with Joanne coming soon. It was a great week on the shores of Lake Michigan (And though the fellows hear that the weather was nice while they were there, they only saw the inside of a storage locker).

Click the play button below to hear the interview Chris did with Carl for the Ancient-Future Faith Radio program about their week in Sawyer titled “Unpacking Robert Webber:”

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The Sojourn Church: An Ancient-Future Church

Chris Alford: AFFN Contributing Member and church planter Jon Aamodt shares his thoughts on how Sojourn Church in Portland, Oregon, is Ancient-Future. Look through Jon’s materials here, and later you can also listen to an interview with Jon by clicking here.


1 Corinthians 12:27: Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.

ChristAtTableGlassChristocentric and Incarnational: Emphasizing relationship and identification in Christ.  It is through identification with Christ (Gal 2:20) that the church will fulfill its mission: “To BE the ministry and presence of Christ in the world.”

The Incarnational Church emphasizes embodying the spirituality, ministry, and mission of Christ; as revealed in scripture and in the life of the historic Christian church.

Incarnational Ministry To embody ALL of the ministry of Jesus that is described in the Gospels and the book of Acts- through the power of the Holy Spirit.  This will include holistically expressing the Charismatic, Contemplative, Evangelical, Justice, and Sacramental dimensions of the Gospel that were present in the life and ministry of Jesus.

Community – To live out the Gospel by embodying the presence and ministry of Jesus Christ in spiritual community.  This is more than church on Sundays, or even home groups during the week.  This entails a deeper sharing of life with each other and an opening of our homes and lives to those outside our communities of faith (church).  Post Christian people often seek answers to the profound questions of life through community relationships.

Mission and JourneyTo imitate Jesus and his community of followers by going out to the people; rather than merely inviting people to come into our church buildings. We are missionaries to the people of our culture.   As a missional community of Christ’s followers, we are on a journey where we share the timeless truth and transforming power of the Gospel.  This sharing of the Gospel happens as we live out our lives in Christ, and as our lives naturally intersect with the lives of those outside the body of Christ.

Outreach and Hospitality- As a missional community of Christ’s followers, we emphasis hospitality as a priority for evangelistic efforts.  Thus, we are to invite people into our activities, hobbies, homes, lives, ministry, work, and worship.  As the non-churched naturally intersect with our lives; they will be able feel, hear, see, and touch the authentic reality of Jesus Christ in the life of a Christian community

Experience and Spirituality The Incarnational Church emphasizes living in the intimacy of Christ’s love and grace. It is through Spirit filled intimacy with Christ that the church will experience the fruits holiness and good works.   We seek to abide in Christ’s love by intentionally utilizing scriptural and historical Christian spiritual practices to help renew our hearts and minds with the saving and transforming power of God’s love.  Also, many of the people of post Christian culture will never come into the life of the Church merely through persuasive arguments or felt need programs.  Many people must have their hearts touched through Spirit filled experience; before their minds will accede to the lordship of Jesus Christ.

Re-open Ancient Christian Spiritual Wells– We seek to re-open the ancient wells of the Holy Spirit’s work in the Church, and use the best ministry and worship practices of the Body of Christ throughout the centuries.

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Ancient-Future in Portland

Microphone (2)Audio Content: Join Chris Alford for an interview with AFFN Contributing Member Jon Aamodt as they talk about Sojourn, an Ancient-Future church start in Portland, Oregon. The founding pastor of the church, Jon also shares his thoughts about what makes Sojourn Ancient-Future, what Millennials in Portland seem to be looking for, and the value of the Ancient-Future Faith Network.


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AFFN Annual Convocation 2015

Ellen Koehler:

2015ConvocationBannerThe fourth annual convocation of the Ancient-Future Faith Network was held on the campus of Trinity School for Ministry in Ambridge, Pennsylvania, on June 2-3, 2015. (Find a convocation schedule by clicking here). As always, it was a time of inspiration and renewal, of theological and practical insights, of friendships new and old, of networking, but foremost of joining with like-minded believers who gather to “sing, pray, tell, and enact the whole story of God.”

The convocation formally began on Tuesday morning, as we joined with the Trinity campus community for morning prayer at 8:30. Our sessions then began at 9:15 with gathering worship of antiphonal Psalm readings, hymns and songs. Chris followed this with words of welcome and a time of introductions and getting to know one another.

Sean-Matthew-OBrien-e1423176952592Over the course of the two-day gathering, there were four one-hour presentations from Network members. On Tuesday morning, we heard from Sean Matthew O’Brien, the lead pastor of a church plant just about to launch in Cleveland, Ohio.  Sean shared that reading all of Bob Webber’s books, in chronological order, discipled and mentored him in his studies at Dallas Theological Seminary. This led him to develop an understanding and strategy for church planting based in ancient-future principles, and resulted in his masters’ thesis, “The Sprouting Root: An Ancient-Future Model of Church Planting for Columbus, Ohio.” (The venue has, obviously, shifted from Columbus to Cleveland). In contrast to earlier church plant models – the preaching-emphasis standard of the 1960s, the “seeker church” model which followed, the “missional church” and the “emergent church” models – this vision is being realized in “The Church in the Round,” which in its architecture and liturgical practice follows the practices of the ancient church but is also intentionally oriented to the present and future.

Microphone (2)Audio Content: For an Ancient-Future Faith radio interview with Sean, please click here.

LDeamIn our first Tuesday afternoon session, Lisa Deam led us in an interactive workshop titled, “The Monstrous, Marvelous Middle Ages: Lessons in Faith from an In-Between Era.” Based in her work on medieval maps, Lisa explored the questions, “What do  these teach us about faith and God’s story?” and “How can I find God in my world?” Over the course of the hour, we saw that in medieval culture God was everywhere, visible, present. His cosmic story was available and understandable, even in their geographic depictions of the world – most strikingly evident in that, in maps of the period Jerusalem with a depiction of the crucifixion is at the center, and an image of the triumphantly reigning Christ in the heavenly Jerusalem is always present. Drawing our own maps of our spiritual journeys gave these “lessons in faith” a timeless application.

Microphone (2)Audio Content: Find an Ancient-Future Faith radio interview with Lisa by clicking here.

DMWEB1Following our foray into the middle ages, Duane W. H. Arnold and Michael Glen Bell shared their story of how God brought back together these two old friends as musical partners after thirty years of separate ministries. Their ministry, “The Project,” is – in their words – intentionally counter-cultural: It brings together ancient theology and texts with new music and film. Duane and Michael shared with us songs from their first CD, “The Project: Martyrs’ Prayers.” As our final session of this first day of the convocation, we joined with the Trinity community for evening prayer, which Duane and Michael led with a narrative of spiritual seeking and songs, from their current project (“Mystic Chapel”), composed to selected texts from the Easter Vigil of St. John Chrysostom.

Microphone (2)Audio Content: Listen to an interview with Duane Arnold about Ancient-Future Faith and his work on “The Project” by clicking here.

OuidaAFFN2015In our final member presentation on Wednesday morning, Ouida Harding shared her story, in word and song, of God’s leading her into a life of music ministry and encouragement. Her current ministry emphasis, based on her doctoral thesis completed at the Institute for Worship Studies, involves developing a curriculum and ordination process for music ministers within the African-American church. Her message to persons who assist in the leadership of worship is weighty: they are responsible for messages through music and the sacred arts that serve as a bridge that help transition people from a focus on temporal concerns to a focus on the God of the universe.

Microphone (2)Audio Content: Here’s an interview with Ouida about her work in the Black church in New York: Click here.

bio_coleAFFN Board member Bill Cole led us in two hands-on sessions that were both practical and visionary. After a brief recap of the history of the Network, on Tuesday afternoon Bill presented an acronym to easily visualize broad categories for moving forward, based on the word “Leaders” – Lead; Encourage; Assist; Develop; Equip; Renewal; and Spirit-led initiatives. On Wednesday morning, through brain-storming and spirited, energetic discussion we envisioned how these categories might take on form and substance. Here is just a sampling of the many ideas and suggestions: regional shepherds and mentors; new resources and media on the website; increased use of social media; frequent regional gatherings and workshops; missional activities; increasing involvement of organizations as well as individual members. (Look for more on these developments in the coming weeks and months.)

Microphone (2)Audio Content: For an Ancient-Future Faith radio interview with Bill recapping the 2015 gathering, please click here.

RoundTableCollageThis year we inaugurated what will be an ongoing feature of the convocations, a focused discussion of one of Bob’s books or another author’s work related to ancient-future faith, or of some aspect of ancient-future orthopraxy. To begin this series, Ellen Koehler (top left) chaired and commented on a panel discussion of Bob’s last published book, Who Gets to Narrate the World? Contending for the Christian Story in an Age of Rivals (2008). In this posthumously published work, Bob argues that the Western Church is endangered by two main contending narratives in the early twenty-first century: the “threat of radical Islam,” and the narrative of American individualism, which has seeped into the church in the form of cultural accommodation, narcissism, and a nod to secularism and “new age spirituality.” The panelists included Dr. Joel Scandrett (director of the Robert E. Webber Center for an Ancient Evangelical Future) (bottom right), Dr. Duane W. H. Arnold (center), John Burtka (top right), and Robert Brown (bottom left). Each of the panelists alluded in one way or another to the brevity of the book and the significance of it being the last published. They all generally agreed with Bob’s assessment that the western church is in great danger, though not all were in complete agreement with his assessment of the nature and degree of the threat of radical Islam to the West.

Joel spoke from his experience of having been Bob’s editor at InterVarsity Press. He first related some of their discussions and decisions about the book, then focused his remarks on the ways in which he sees that the church can “narrate the world” according to God’s story. Duane emphasized Bob’s prophetic voice in Who Gets to Narrate the World?, finding an echo in a line from Yeats’ classic poem (“The Second Coming”), “the center cannot hold.” In Duane’s view, Bob’s analysis transcends geopolitical and theological confrontations to provide an exploration of a Christian community and theology that is “adrift” from the cosmic, redemptive narrative to which it was formerly moored and which is necessary to counter any contending narratives.

Like Joel, John began his remarks with a personal perspective. Having spent time studying at a seminary in southern France, John has seen firsthand the challenges and cultural accommodation Bob describes, and has experienced the efficacy of Bob’s “prescriptions”: participation in the liturgy, Eucharist, and traditions of the church. After a brief summary of “The Call to an Ancient Evangelical Future,” John focused on how an embodied ancient-future spirituality might be lived out in the world, and closed with suggested applications of these issues for millennials.

Finally, Robert invited us to engage with some of the other underlying themes of the book. In his view, these include comparisons and distinctions between the western church and western culture; the limits of rationality; and the nature of human and religious freedom.

All of the panelists stressed the centrality of God’s cosmic story, and the importance of a return to knowing and living God’s narrative. Not surprisingly, there followed lively discussion, questions, and comments. One highlight was hearing Joanne Webber’s remembrances of the context and Bob’s conversations with her while he was writing the book.


(l-r: Michael Glen Bell, Joanne Webber, Bill Cole, Kristy Cole)

In her closing comments, Ellen focused on the title question: Who gets to narrate the world? As Bob emphasized, secular narratives will always fail because they have no answer or solution to the despair of a world without God. So what does this question mean – to Bob, to us? For Bob, he knew this was likely his last word of exhortation and admonition to the church he had loved so well. How do we narrate the fullness of God’s cosmic story as we go about our daily lives? Bob did not intend to provide a how-to manual: do this and this and this. But he does give an example, in some detail in this book and much detail in others, of how the ancient church lived out God’s story, through worship and the liturgy, and in their daily lives and missional activities – an example we ought to emulate. God is the author of His story, and as His letters (2 Cor 3:3) we live out His story and narrate the world in His name, and in that way contend for the primacy of His story in the face of rivals. By the end of the convocation, it was clear that the thread woven through each of the sessions was that of narrating the world with God’s story, through our lives, teaching, and ministries. For, as Bob Webber said, “There is no story, no philosophy, no religion, no ideology in all of heaven and earth that is a more profound narrative of the world…. What I am asking of us all is to think through what it means to proclaim, ‘Jesus is Lord’” (36, 70).

After a final brief time of discussion and feedback, we closed our annual gathering with a service of four-fold worship – Gathering, Word, Table, and Sending.

And we are excitedly looking forward to our next annual convocation in Jacksonville, Florida, in June, 2016.

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Network Vision

Microphone (2)Audio Content: AFFN Board member Bill Cole talked with Chris Alford about the ongoing mission and vision of the Network, plus provided a recap of the recent fourth annual gathering at the Robert E. Webber Center for an Ancient-Evangelical Future in Ambridge, Pennsylvania. One of Bill’s role at the annual meeting was to lead a “Spirit Storm” session where we sought the input of network members of where we are– and where we’re going!

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Congratulations, Lisa Deam

LisaDeamBookRelease3Chris Alford:

Congratulations to AFFN Contributing Member Lisa Deam on the release of her latest book, A World Transformed (Cascade Books).

From the promotional materials: “On the edge of medieval maps, monsters roam. In the west, pilgrims take well-traveled roads to Rome and Compostela. In the east, Old Testament history unfolds. And at the center, in the city of Jerusalem, Jesus saves the world.

“A World Transformed invites the reader on an incredible journey through medieval maps. Be prepared to encounter a strange new world: nothing on these maps looks familiar to eyes normally glued to MapQuest or GPS screens. Yet author Lisa Deam shows that these fanciful maps are surprisingly useful if explored through the eyes of faith. Just as the maps engaged the theological imagination of the Christian Middle Ages, so they can engage and enliven our own. Their grace-filled geography helps us to plot, dream, and pray our way through our journey of faith. Join Lisa as she unlocks the secrets of medieval maps for spiritual seekers of the modern era.”

Lisa will discuss her newest work at the annual gathering of the AFFN in Ambridge, PA, June, 2015.

Blessings, Lisa, on the launch of your latest!

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