Conciliar Post NewsRound Table

Here We Raise Our Ebenezer: Conciliar Post After One Year

In honor of Conciliar Post’s one year anniversary, we asked the editorial team to reflect on the past year. You can read Managing Editor Jacob Prahlow’s reflections in his post “How Now Shall We Speak?“. Here is what some other members of the Conciliar Post team had to say:

Jody Byrkett New PhotoJody Byrkett

Senior Editor

Fleeting as days are, it is a bit strange to find that three hundred and sixty-five of them can feel both long and short. I remember the excitement and anticipation I felt when asked to join the team of writers launching Conciliar Post. Here was a vision cast before us of creating a place where ideas could be discussed from various church traditions, knitting together the Body of Christ, rather than fracturing it, as so often happens. We talked of a place where we could hammer out ideas without thwacking individuals or making erroneous generalisations about other denominations.

I’m not sold on the idea that one can create community—I think one has to choose to be involved in whatever community they find themselves in—but I have seen a community form around Round Table discussions, comments on articles, and real-life discussions amongst various authors. I see these things breathing life into those who spend time at Conciliar Post.

The last year has been a sort of pile of stones to raise a memorial in my life. The ‘stones of help’ have come in variegated forms: learning to engage other viewpoints with grace; writing when I felt like there was nothing in me; seeking to pin down the thoughts flittering through my heart, making them coherent; being more creative than I felt like I could be; learning more about the English language and grammar structure; and loving people as much as I love Truth. It is a wide variety of practical things to learn, much like the variety I find in the individuals with whom I write and discuss beliefs. Differences in people, ideas, and skills can be good. After all, Truth covers a wide spectrum—from theology and philosophy to the arts, sciences, economics, and the way we invest our time.

I am grateful for the encouragement and honing my writing has received from the Conciliar Post community in the last twelvemonth. I am strengthened in my faith and in my love for others through the conversations we have here. And I am challenged to live the things I believe iconically—through the bread and wine of the Eucharist feeding my soul, to realising that every day is a sort of new birth into this world. Will I choose to love and reflect Jesus each day? When I see that others can and do, it gives me courage to ask that I might do the same. When I see that others fail and are given mercy rather than punishment, it gives me hope that I might be raised up to life and love again. It reminds me that though we don’t always agree about Scripture or the nature of God, we know that we all need a Saviour and that He alone is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

Laura Norris

Senior Editor

Perhaps one of the most valuable insights I have gained in my first year of editing for Conciliar Post is an understanding of truly how diverse the Christian faith, especially in America, truly is in their belief and practices. One would expect that a Methodist-turned-Lutheran-turned Catholic who studied theology at Lutheran and Catholic institutions would be well aware of theological diversity. Intellectually, I was aware; personally, I was not. The gap between my former brand of LCMS Lutheranism and Catholicism spans not very far: a few issues regarding evolution, the infallibility of the papacy, and narratives of Church history. In my studies, I was so submerged in the theological currents of the late patristics and the late Middle Ages that I had almost a blind eye to 21st century American Christianity.

Conciliar Post quickly remedied that blindness. I edited for and read authors from all denominations. Calvinism quickly became not an archaic set of documents to be analyzed, but a group of people with genuine convictions, firm faith, and a deep love for God’s Word. I marveled at the wonderful presence of Eastern Orthodoxy, even stronger and more faithful in America than I had imagined. Through Conciliar Post, I encountered authors and people from numerous denominations. Yet despite differences in our names and some distinctions in belief and practice, I realized that we were really not that disparate in our faith. There are more similarities between Catholics and Calvinists, Orthodox and Methodist, Lutheran and Pentecostal, than the objective study of Christian theology can lead us to believe. At the heart of it, even if we differ on the veneration of Mary, the primacy of Scripture, or the role of women in the church, we still all worship the Holy Trinity and believe God has revealed Himself to us through the Holy Scripture and the salvific death of Christ on the cross.

Jeff-ReidJeff Reid

Senior Editor

As some of you probably have heard, it is a recommended practice to regularly take time to pause and reflect on life: where you have been and whether you are headed in the direction you’d like to be heading. A practice that’s good enough for life probably has some applicability to a blog. Having spent a year working on Conciliar Post, it’s worth taking a moment and giving it this grand review.

While there is probably more that could be said, I’d like to highlight two specific facts that have jumped out to me during my reflections regarding the blog. On a personal note, I know that this past year has challenged me to be a bit more dogmatic in my theological stances. Ironic, yes. True, also yes. The fact is, dialogue doesn’t happen unless everyone is willing to talk. By nature, I tend to shy away from disagreements unless there is no possible way to avoid them coming up. Watching my fellow authors wrestle through various issues has been a challenge to “get some skin in the game.” It’ll hurt being shown that I’m wrong (or, at least am not right for the right reasons), but that is far preferable to continuing with errant understandings of God’s Word.

On more of a group note, it has been interesting to notice what kinds of discussions frequent this site. Specifically, we have noticed a trend where our Orthodox and Roman Catholic authors tend to be more likely to write about specific points of dogma, as compared to our Protestant authors. There are some exceptions, and next year this time the trend could shift. After all, the numbers are static while people are dynamic. At the same time, I think it is an interesting fact to consider, mainly as a rather unscientific look at the state of the Church today. I at least wonder whether the lower percentage of dogmatically Protestant posts indicates that many evangelical protestants do not find it as important to be familiar with the dogmatic points of their theology nor to pass this understanding along to others. At the same time, I also find it as a challenge to keep digging into my theology, in part to be able to contribute more to the discussions taking place here at Conciliar Post.

In the end though, the important thing is not which voices are being heard more clearly, nor is it how nice the people are to whom those voices belong. No, the important thing is to be drawn closer to Christ and by beholding him to be changed further into his image. To the degree that our articles drive us and our readers back to the Scriptures, we are aiding in this goal. I can’t speak for everyone, but I know that for myself, this is one front where all seems well.

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Round Table discussions offer insights into important issues from numerous Conciliar Post authors. Authors focus on a specific question or topic and respond with concise and precise summaries of their perspective, allowing readers to engage multiple viewpoints within the scope of one article.

  • First, I want to thank Jody, Laura, and Jeff for writing these reflections on this past year. And I want to thank the entire editorial team — Andrew, Ben, Micah, Laura, Jody, and Jeff — for their selfless dedications of time, effort, and finances to make Conciliar Post possible. This site would simply not be possible without your hard work.

    Second, I want to agree with George and note my appreciation for Jeff’s input on the Protestant/RC-O topic. We do have quite a few Roman Catholics and Orthodox writers on this site. And we do have a fair number of Protestants as well. I think George is onto something with his suggestion of advanced degrees (and, yes, I shall continue to apologize for my precarious position on the edge of Protestantism). But I also think there are some other reasons that we have such a strong Protestant/RC-O difference in feel. Three quick thoughts:

    First, I wonder if there is any aspect of Roman Catholic/Orthodox unity (i.e., one church) versus Protestant divisions. That is, if we group ourselves by the labels of Roman Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant, we have more Protestants than anything else. But, if we actually break ourselves down into RC, O, Lutheran, Anglican, Methodist, Baptist, Reformed, etc, then yes, it is going to feel like we have more Catholics and Orthodox, because we do. I think this is a good example of how using the term Protestant can be potentially misleading, as our Protestant voices vary on differing issues, just like Protestantism does.

    Second, I wonder if our Roman Catholic and Orthodox writers are simply more comfortable writing about important issues in a context where they may have to stridently defend their beliefs. It may be that our Protestants are still getting used to the idea of being decried/disagreed with for their Protestantism. I have no way of knowing this for sure. But knowing some of the conversion stories of our Catholic and Orthodox writers, many of them seem to have more “real life” experience explaining why they believe they way they do. I’m not entirely convinced this is reason for the differences on CP, but I think it’s a plausible factor.

    Finally, I think there may be a “Summit” factor among the Protestants. That is, I know that many of us were trained to think worldviewishly and therefore view Catholics and Orthodox Christians as our friends and allies before we think of them as “other” types of Christians. We want to focus on the issues that unite us and not where we disagree. This is, in fact, the impetus behind our Round Table discussions, where we hope to not only discuss our disagreements, but also the wide swaths of unity that exist between different denominations. Our RC-O friends (I say this not as a critique) have not had this experience, but Jody, Jeff, Micah M., Jeff H., myself, and some others have. That’s going to shift the tone with which the Protestant “block” speaks.

    Just some thoughts that have been rattling around in my head for some time now. I would love to hear what everyone else thinks. JJP

    • I think these are all likely factors for the strong RC/O feel. Another reason: many of us Catholics and Orthodox writers are converts to Catholicism/Orthodoxy. Conversion into both Churches requires intense study of Church doctrine and dogma, both in membership classes and often on our own accord as we grappled with the notion of conversion. Sometimes that level of knowledge is not there, or at least at the forefront of one’s mind, when one has been raised in that denomination.

      • That’s a good point, Laura. However, I was baptised and confirmed in the Anglican church a few years back, and I don’t talk about my Anglicanism a whole lot. I wonder if part of it is that many RC/O find their identity in [the unity of] their church community, while most protestants worry that finding identity in their church community is replacing one’s identity in Christ.

  • George Aldhizer

    Jeff, thanks for your interesting reflection on the output of CP and how it differs from Protestant to RC/O. I think having been on the site for a year I’ve sort of felt *weight* from the views of the RC/O writers on the blog, particularly because there seems to be more of them, and when they do write they tend to write particularly on dogma.

    I guess I would place myself as a Protestant that dabbles in these discussions, but doesn’t feel like I have the expertise/time to be able to always write an article on dogma. Do you think the lack of “dogmatic” articles from Protestants has more to do with the simple fact that the writers on the blog with advanced degrees (excluding Chris Casberg and potentially some of the incoming writers, the jury seems to still be out on Jacob 🙂 ) are either RC/O? I find that as the probable reason why I’ve felt that CP has an RC/O *feel* to it. I dunno.