EDITOR’S NOTE: BP Ledger carries items for reader information from various Southern Baptist-related entities. The items are published as received.
Today’s BP Ledger includes items from:
The Pathway (Missouri Baptist Convention)
New website launched by Exodus International
ORLANDO, FL – Exodus International, a global Christian ministry whose mission is mobilizing the Church to minister grace and truth to a world impacted by homosexuality, is beginning its 35th year with a brand-new website.
When asked about the longevity of such a controversial ministry, Alan Chambers, President of Exodus International, says, “There is obviously an ongoing need to provide a biblical perspective that enables people to live out their sexuality in a way that is congruent to their faith and beliefs. For 35 years now, Exodus leaders from around the world have provided loving support to those struggling with unwanted same-sex attractions and have offered understanding, encouragement and counseling to friends and family members impacted by homosexuality.”
Exodus’ new website — www.exodusinternational.org — has a fresh, modern and streamlined look, according to Jeff Buchanan, Director of Church Equipping and Student Ministries who was instrumental in the redesign.
“Many people have questions about sexuality and we want to have a voice in the conversation that offers a biblical perspective in a loving and Christ-like manner,” Buchanan said. “Having a more appealing and simple website has been a top priority since an online presence is one of the most effective ways to get our message out there.”
The website includes real stories of former homosexuals, a directory of the more than 240 Exodus affiliates throughout the country, information on equipping events, the Exodus blog and a special section for students.
Founded in 1976, Exodus International is the largest Christian organization dealing with homosexual issues, with over 240 affiliates in its network for sharing the hope of freedom through the power of Jesus Christ.
Pathway associate editor pens a novel
By Lee Warren, Contributing Writer
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (The Pathway)–Holy synergy happens when flawed creative types feel free to work out their own salvation within the structure of community. Martin Luther had conversations with students and colleagues who scribbled bits of his wisdom and a classic book called “Table Talk” was the result. More than 60 years ago, C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Charles Williams and other Oxford writers, who called themselves Inklings, met once a week to discuss their writing, current events and life as they saw it and the literary world hasn’t been the same since.
Allen Palmeri, associate editor of The Pathway, newsjournal of the Missouri Baptist Convention, taps into this synergistic vein in a new novel, “The Cyberspace Letters.”
Scriptura, one of two lead characters in the book, is a rigid, theologically-minded 40-something-year-old former sportswriter who has left the world of sports for what he perceives to be the deeper things in life. When he is paired with Skateboard, a 20-something tech-savvy writer for ESPN to write a pro/con column for a Christian sports magazine, the two men exchange correspondence and a mentoring relationship ensues.
Scriptura, who lives in Canada, is old school, so he writes letters to Skateboard. Skateboard, who lives in Michigan, is new school, so he emails his responses to Scriptura. Palmeri, in penning the novel, borrows the format from Lewis’ “The Screwtape Letters.”
As the two men get to know each other, Scriptura is initially determined to help Skateboard contend for language in the 21st century.
“As simple as it may seem,” Scriptura tells him, “we must pick up one word at a time, clean up each of those words as we go and set them one by one on a true foundation, in a context where people will actually take the time and the thought to read them. This must be the business of the authentic communicator of the 21st century. It will be gritty, necessary work.”
In their correspondence, they discuss words such as “hope,” “idol,” “filled” and “beauty.” Scriptura is full of knowledge and, as he passes it along to Skateboard, their mentoring relationship seems to be quite healthy. But there is something missing.
Scriptura never leads Skateboard in a conversation about the words “love” or “grace” or “mercy.” He is more concerned about being right than loving because, in his mind, right doctrine is the only hope for saving the world — forgetting the fact that God incarnate left heaven in the name of love to do all the saving the world would ever need.
In Scriptura’s mind, psychology is the evil of his day, so he sets his sights on it, hoping to kill it. He even gets Skateboard in on the act and Skateboard is happy to be on board because he is bipolar and he despises the diagnosis.
After the two men take a break in their mentoring relationship, Scriptura sets aside six months to travel to Michigan. He wants to meet and spend time with Skateboard and while he is there he wants to write the definitive book that will kill psychology. Skateboard cheers him on.
After hitting a wall during the writing process, Scriptura accepts an invitation to a 12-step recovery group at Skateboard’s church, not knowing what to expect. He finds broken people who care more about redemptive healing than their reputations. Seeing God at work in the midst of a broken community of believers drives Scriptura to his knees in repentance as he sees the ugliness of his pride. The mentor becomes the mentee.
During their journey, Palmeri’s characters discuss modern-day controversies, ranging from eschatology to methods of psychology to alcohol. And, as is the case with Lewis’ Screwtape Letters, the reader is always mindful that a character arc exists — that characters don’t always recognize or embrace truth — leaving readers to work through these issues.
As such, Palmeri has written a novel that challenges the natural way devoted Christian men think. The Christian faith is about redemption, not rigidity. It’s about a theology of both the mind and the heart — one that loves God and others more than it loves being right.
For further information about The Cyberspace Letters, go to www.allenpalmeri.com.
A question-and-answer with Palmeri follows:
Q: What is the novel about?
A: The main character, Scriptura, is a writer/businessman from Canada who befriends a young writer from America, Skateboard. They trade communication about the way they see the world, during which the mentee becomes the mentor. Scriptura teaches Skateboard about the importance of defining words in the 2000s, bearing with him as he tries to write something meaningful. Scriptura then decides to visit his friend for a season to write the Great Canadian Novel, only to find himself immobilized by his own pride, needing to be rescued.
Q: What type of novel is it?
A: I call it an epic apologetic. By that I mean it is a narrative that flows like a river, with imperfect characters experiencing redemption as they wind around bends and seek to defend the truth. The title is a twist on The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis, where two devils correspond. This novel is unique in that it is a trilogy. The first part of the trilogy follows the Lewis format; the other two are vastly different.
Q: How long did it take to write it?
A: Nine years. For years it was set aside, but the vision of the trilogy would not die. When you are inventing something like this format, what I call a “dozenal trinitarian micronovel,” it ends up being very satisfying.
Q: What is said in the novel?
A: There are two things in the negative sense and one very big thing in the positive sense. Historically, the rise of psychology and public relations as forces that shape minds has been very damaging. Those are the negative points. The one very significant positive point is that hope conquers all. Christians know hope to be the Lord Jesus Christ. Hope conquers all. How huge!
Q: How does hope play out in the novel?
A: John writes that the Father has bestowed love on us, making us sons of God, assuring us that we will be like Christ, seeing Him as He is. With this hope in us, we mysteriously purify ourselves, even as Christ is pure (1 John 3:3). I want to take a doctrine like hope and teach it to young men through Scriptura and Skateboard. In a culture filled with sexual images, young men need hope to purify themselves. Hope is the key for us making it to 2050 and beyond.
Q: Why is 2050 mentioned?
A: This world is so messed up right now, many of us may not be confident we’re going to make it that far. It’s just a way of stretching us out a bit in our thinking. Plus, the Millennial Generation (current teens and younger) tends to be more hopeful, so this is a hope novel for them. The novel is written so that you can place it in a time capsule, keep it for 40 years, open it up, and check how well we managed to keep the faith from now until then. We hope Christ comes back today, but if He doesn’t, we pray for a pure church in 2050.
Q: Who influenced you the most?
A: I have been influenced by the works of C.S. Lewis, Francis Schaeffer and D. James Kennedy. Spiritually the novel presents deep Christian truths in a postmodern or even post-Christian context, with the idol-filled world of sports lurking over the imperfect characters. Through it all Scriptura keeps holding on to hope as an athlete, a writer, a friend, a businessman, and a believer.
Q: You’ve got sports in there?
A: Sports analogies just seem to work well for me. In one chapter Skateboard is thinking about how Brett Favre, then the Green Bay Packers quarterback, could symbolize a freer form of government on the continent. In another chapter, five of the characters head out on the highway to go see Albert Pujols and the Cardinals defeat the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field. The point of the sports in the novel is to show how men can overcome idolatry by the power of God working through sound theology, desperate prayer, holy friendship, and a passion for the truth.