3rd year MDiv student Jev Forsberg writes about participating in the 2011 Society of Vineyard Scholars Annual Conference where he presented his paper “YHWH, Batman, Popeye, and Jerry Falwell: Questioning the Myth of Redemptive Violence.”
As a good “High Church” boy, experiencing forty minutes of intense charismatic worship bracketed by a Spirit-wielding prayer-warrior pastor/preacher slaying congregant after congregant in the Anointing of the Spirit was, shall we say, not a typical worship experience for me. Nevertheless, that is how I joyously spent my time at the 2011 Society of Vineyard Scholars Annual Conference here in Seattle, Washington.
During the Conference weekend, the celebration of the Eucharist was void of the pomp, circumstance, and vestments with which I was familiar, and was instead filled with laughter, eye-contact, and a cheese and wine buffet. Instead of singing the traditional and enduring hymns I knew by heart, we sang fresh melodies with passion, fervor, tears and dance. The setting was charming, the speakers were stirring, the symposiums were challenging, and the mood was easy. It was a spectacular weekend!
Despite my lack of familiarity with Vineyard’s distinct style of worship and liturgy, I quickly came to learn that their passion and desire to experience the Triune God was matched that weekend equally by their intellectual vigor and thirst for theological excellence.
I was given the privilege of presenting my own work in non-violence, atonement, and pop-culture, alongside scholars from Kings College, Yale School of Divinity, Princeton Theological Seminary, Fuller Seminary, and Regent University. Their level of scholarship was exceptional, and I was honored to be a part of the dialogue!
Two highlights: First, Dr. Bob Ekblad shared with us a handful of stories from his work as a Skagit County Prison Chaplain, his years in South and Central America teaching sustainable farming and assisting in the formation of grass-roots community Bible Studies, his time in France as a Th.D. student and political activist, and some of his experiences surrounding becoming an itinerant faith-healer.
And second, one of my favorite American cultural exegetes and Reformed theologians, Dr. James K. A. Smith, delivered a profound lecture inviting the Vineyard’s scholarly community to think through what a particularly Vineyard-y “charismatic epistemology” could look like (Dr. Smith’s lecture can be found here, and it is well worth the time!).
Needless to say, experiencing first-hand the blend of evangelical charisma and passion for theological creativity and excellence gave me great hopes for the future of the Vineyard Church.