Have you read Brian McLaren’s newest book, A New Kind of Christianity? Have you been meaning to? Would you like to get together with folks from all over the country for to talk about what you think and feel about this book?
Join us at Koinonia Church in Second Life on September 21 & 22 for two evenings of generative conversation.
A small news item blipped on my radar this week about a federal court ruling that a religious nonprofit organization that primarily conducts worship services via the Internet and radio does not meet the Internal Revenue Service definition of a church (that has 14 criteria), according to a U.S. Court of Appeals ruling reported on by The National Law Journal.
Those criteria include that it has a recognized creed and form of worship; a formal code of doctrine and discipline; a membership not associated with any other church or denomination; ordained ministers selected after completing prescribed studies; and holds regular religious services.
The organization in question with this ruling is The Foundation of Human Understanding – The Federal Circuit panel deemed the associational test the most important. It agreed with the lower court that the foundation’s “electronic ministry” did not satisfy the test.
As the pastor serving an online congregation that does likely meet the “associational test” I was at first taken aback at a the line of demarcation from our feds. Now don’t get me wrong, I certainly don’t need Rome to validate our little gathering of disciples. Call me old school, but the notion of federal criteria for declaring a fellowship church or not church seems a little hinky to me.
Take a look and see what you think – does your church meet these? How about my emergent sisters and brothers? And what social movements or celebrity fan clubs can you think of that might meet these criteria?
According to the IRS there are 14 criteria that determine whether or not a group is a church:
*Distinct legal existence
*Recognized creed and form of worship
*Definite and distinct ecclesiastical government
*Formal code of doctrine and discipline
*Distinct religious history
*Membership not associated with any other church or denomination
*Organization of ordained ministers
*Ordained ministers selected after completing prescribed courses of study
*Literature of its own
*Established places of worship
*Regular religious services
*Sunday schools for the religious instruction of the young
*Schools for the preparation of its members
The IRS generally uses a combination of these characteristics, together with other facts and circumstances, to determine whether an organization is considered a church for federal tax purposes.
Just thinkin’ out loud and would love to hear your thoughts. What criteria would you make for whether not a bevy of believers were actually a church?
nakedpastor (a blog and web cartoon site – yes it’s safe for work).
Good news from the Jewish community in the US:
Last night was the kick-off of our summer StoryQuest, a Second Life Vacation Bible School experience at Koinonia. Unlike first life VBS we will gather once a week in an expanded time around our usual worship time on Wednesday evenings. Each week a different leader in the larger Koionia community (yes I realize every time I type that phrase that it is redundant) will begin by sharing a parable with those gathered and encouraging a little discussion. After folks are engaged and thinking deeply about the parable the leader invites folks to go on a field trip to some interesting location in Second Life, a location that tells a story (which most locations truly do). Hopefully participants can make some connections at the new location – either with the parable or with their own story. After a time of exploration folks are to return to Koinonia (some location in the larger sim community) and are invited to share a story of their own. Something that maybe came to mind in the reading for the evening or something that surfaced as they explored the SL location.
Last night we gathered around the fire outside Koinonia church and began our evening with Luke 13:18-21 – the parables of “Mischievous Mustard and Lasting Leaven” as Barbara E. Reid has called them in Parables for Preachers (Year C)
We had a lovely little discussion about the subversive nature of these parables and about the in-breaking of the Reign of God.
We returned to the fire ring and told stories then I offered them the link to a fantastic sim hosting the Stories Without Borders Project
All in all, a perfect start to Koinonia StoryQuest. I hope you will join us next week as we continue to explore how our stories intertwine with God’s story.
Tonight, Wednesday July 7th begins Koinonia’s summer StoryQuest – come explore The Parables, take a SL field trip and relax under the story telling tree where folks are invited to share their own personal stories. BEGINS AT 9:30 PM EST
I hope you will join us!
Second Life may be an escape from our daily reality, but more often than not, for me they intersect and inform each other. It’s hard to separate the concerns I see in “first” life from those I hear and share in “second”.
Preparing for worship this week, I was again confronted with this “reality” as folks popped into Koinonia before worship to chat and exchange ideas and test out the space.
Much like first life, this conversation started simply enough with introductions and pleasantries, but soon turned into an exploration of belief and practices of the gathered community. UNLIKE first life, the questions and responses flowed quickly and with depth and introspection that as a pastor, I do not often see among first time participants.
One of the surprising blessings of second life is this random encounter with the holy through “unmasked” discussions. Think how often we “mind our words” in public settings when faith, religion or belief is brought up. Sharing our inner ideas, theologies and understandings with total strangers, is something most of us are reluctant to do. So in a curious why, second life offers us a “mask” or more appropriately a screen to set our words before others, and test the waters of dialogue more readily.
At first some of the newer folks were hesitant to share their opinions- based on their assumptions of first life discourse- where “proving their worthiness” (knowledge and authority) are a given. Once they recognized that they too could share their insights without first having to show competency or capacity- they stepped boldly into a lively discussion on faith, making this random encounter a holy moment.
Holy moments occur when people recognize the work, spirit and action of God creating, moving and being in that time and space. It transcends the medium and practice- it simply is just another way for God to be experienced, expressed and evidenced to those who will see, hear and claim the possibility and potentiality of GOD to be present, vital and honored anywhere and everywhere.
Today marks the beginning of another way to engage others in God’s word and wisdom. Thanks to the support and technical abilities of John (Adelph Gustafon) Peterson and Kathy (Gemini Takaaki) Orebaugh- Beloved Garden’s Monday Meditation is now up and streaming live. Each Monday @ 9am pdt (slt) an opportunity to share music, prayer and reflections is available not only inworld via Second Life- but through the internet as well. Another new offering is a summer music concert series on @ Beloved Beach:
Summer Breeze Concert Series: Friday’s 5-7 pm @ Beloved Beach Lighthouse Point. Good vibrations abound as sizzling songs and cool tunes set the tone for our summer music series @ Beloved. Kick Off Concert July 2 5pm featuring the one and only Mr. Psychedelic! Music sure to get your feet tapping and your body moving!
To tune into these new option go to: http://m1.secondstreaming.com:9628/ or join us in Second Life.
Please note, live programing will only be available during the following times;
- 9am pdt- Monday Meditations weekly every Monday beginning June 28
- 5-7pm pdt- Summer Breeze concerts on the Beach weekly every Friday beginning July 2
We hope to have extended programing throughout the week in the near future. For now we are trying this simple schedule out, and getting used to the flow of it.
Your input on how to expand and develop these live programs is gratefully appreciated and requested!
This presents us with an expanded capacity to reach out with others, beyond the realm of SL and the Koinonia/Beloved Community there. Something we are excited about, and working together to extend God’s grace and care to more people in ever increasing ways. God calls us to go in to all the world, and so we are heeding this call, and hoping to have some fun and grace-filled moments along the way.