Phoenix Affirmations Study Guide

Phoenix Affirmations Study Guide

Overview

The Phoenix Affirmations were recently developed by a group of Clergy in Phoenix. They felt the public face of Christianity that now pervades our society does not reflect the way most Christians view and practice their religion. The Affirmations express a more traditional, inclusive, and expansive role for Christianity.

The Affirmations say that, as Jesus teaches us, our Christian love should be expressed in three ways: by loving God, neighbor, and self.

Study Plans

In order to fully appreciate the content of the Phoenix Affirmations, they should be thoughtfully studied with others. A group study provides insights, connections, and resources that might not be readily discerned though individual study. This document provides a suggested study plan for each of the twelve affirmations. The intent is that each study plan can be used for a one hour study for a group of five to ten people. Of course, the plans are not rigid in their requirements and the suggested plans can be modified as needed. The study plans, listed below, are grouped into the three major ways Christian express their love.

Christian love of God includes

Christian love of neighbors includes

Christian love of ourselves includes

Suggestions for Study Leaders

Each of the Affirmations is broad in scope. Study leaders might find that narrowing the scope will lead to better results. For example, Affirmation 5 mentions people of different race, gender, sexual orientation, age, physical or mental ability, nationality, and economic class. Any one of these groupings provides an abundance of discussion material. Also, selecting a single label may help a group deal with issue of local importance.

Many of the individual study guides suggest outside resources be used to aid the discussion. If such resources are readily available, do not hesitate to use them but, if such resources are not available, do not hesitate to omit the external resource. If you discover resources that are not mentioned, (films, books, articles, artwork), please share the resource with others.

The method employed in all the studies is a conversational technique designed to engage each of the group participants and allow them to find the truth of Phoenix Affirmations in their own way. There is no right or wrong way to interpret the Affirmations. The only goal is that each student authentically examines the Affirmation in the context of their own life. Reading the document about conversational learning will help leaders understand their role and how the study guides were designed.

Phoenix Affirmations

Study Guide for a
Reflective Conversation

Affirmation 1. Affirming Diversity of Paths to God

Reminders for Leaders

Introduction

  • Welcome and introduction of guests
  • Review plans for discussions of Phoenix Affirmations

Conversation Study

Reading Affirmation 1

Christian love of God includes walking fully in the path of Jesus, without denying the legitimacy of other paths God may provide humanity.

Matthew 11:28-29: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

John 8:12: Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

John 10:16: “And I have other sheep, that are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will heed my voice. So there shall be one flock, one shepherd.”

Mark 9:40: “For he that is not against us is for us.”

As Christians, we find spiritual awakening, challenge, growth, and fulfillment in Christ’s birth, life, death, and resurrection. While we have accepted the Path of Jesus as our Path, we do not deny the legitimacy of other paths God may provide humanity. Where possible, we seek lively dialog with those of other faiths for mutual benefit and fellowship.

We confess that we have stepped away from Christ’s Path whenever we have failed to practice love of God, neighbor, and self, or have claimed Christianity is the only way, even as we claim it to be our way.

Objective Questions

  • What was your religious life in your childhood?
  • What is one way that your religious views have changed?

Reflective Questions

  • What is one word that expresses your feelings about the great variety of paths to God?
  • Do you feel encouraged or discouraged by what you have heard?

Interpretive Questions

  • What does this conversation tell you about the various paths to God?
  • Do all the paths seem legitimate to you?
  • How do you determine which are legitimate?
  • How do you affirm your path and still respect other paths?

Brief Summary of Paths of World Religions

  • Dr. Arne Hassing of NAU will provide a brief summary of the path to God as seen in four or five world religions.

Decisional Questions

  • What experiences have you had with people of other faiths?
  • How do you have a conversation with a fundamentalist?
  • What are some ways to talk with religious people who differ radically?
  • What could we do to enhance, understand and appreciate those who differ?

Sending Forth

  • Ask three or four people to share one action they will do growing out of this evening.
  • Remind people about next week and send them forth with peace.

Affirmation 2. Practicing disciplines of the Spirit

Reminders for Leaders

Introduction

  • Welcome and introduction of guests
  • Review plans for discussions of Phoenix Affirmations

Conversation Study

Reading Affirmation 2

Christian love of God includes listening for God’s Word which comes through daily prayer and meditation, through studying the ancient testimonies which we call Scripture, and through attending to God’s present activity in the world.

2 Timothy 3:16-17: All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the follower of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

1 Corinthians 13:12: For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood.

As Christians, we listen for God’s Word in the living presence of the Holy Spirit, praying every day, and discerning God’s present activity in our world. We also study and revere the ancient records which we call Scripture, recognizing that they have been formed within distinct historical and cultural contexts, yet have been informed by God’s Spirit, which transcends all ages and times. Most of all we seek the meaning of salvation, of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection as it is presented in the Scriptures and discerned in daily life.

We affirm that the Path of Jesus is found where Christ’s followers engage in daily prayer and meditation, as well as personal and community study and interpretation of Scripture, as central ways God’s continuing voice is discerned in everyday life.

We confess that we have moved away from Christ’s Path when we have claimed that God’s Word is restricted to that which may be contained in a written document, or that either the recording of God’s Word in Scripture, or our interpretation of it, are infallible. Further, we have moved away from the Path when we have allowed the mere fact of Scripture’s fallibility, or our own, to dissuade us from seeking God’s Word in Scripture, prayer, and reflection on daily life.

Introduction to Spiritual Disciplines

Objective Questions

  • What spiritual disciplines do you or have you practiced?
  • Do any members of your spiritual community practice spiritual disciplines?

Reflective Questions

  • Do some spiritual disciplines provide more benefit than others?
  • Those times you practiced spiritual disciplines, how did you feel about it each day? Why did you stop?
  • Are you encouraged or discouraged by others who practice spiritual disciplines?

Interpretive Questions

  • Can you know when you are misusing a spiritual discipline? i.e., inappropriate prayers, misinterpretation of scripture?
  • What value do/did/might you find in practicing spiritual disciplines?

Decisional Questions

  • How do you have a conversation with someone who has interpreted scriptures (or participates in a spiritual discipline) in a way that makes you uncomfortable?
  • Can non-religious books, movies, games, relationships be moved into the spiritual realm?
  • From what you have heard in this conversation, do you think you will engage in a spiritual discipline?

Sending Forth

  • Ask three or four people to share one action they will do growing out of this evening.
  • Remind people about next week and send them forth with peace.

Affirmation 3. Caring for the Environment

Reminders for Leaders

Introduction

  • Welcome and introduction of guests
  • Review plans for discussions of Phoenix Affirmations

Conversation Study

Reading Affirmation 3

Christian love of God includes celebrating the God whose Spirit pervades and whose glory is reflected in all of God’s Creation, including the earth and its ecosystems, the sacred and secular, the Christian and non-Christian, the human and non-human

Genesis 1:31a: And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.

Psalm 96:1, 11-12: O sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth! Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice; let the sea roar, and all that fills it; let the field exult, and everything in it! Then shall all the trees of the wood sing for joy.

Acts 17:23: For as I passed along, and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, “To an unknown god.” What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you.

As Christians, we seek to act as righteous stewards of the earth and its ecosystems. We celebrate the reflections of the Creator’s glory in both the sacred and secular, human and non-human, Christian and non-Christian.

We affirm that the Path of Jesus is found where Christ’s followers act as caring stewards of the earth, and where the presence of the living Christ is celebrated wherever Christ’s spirit manifests itself, transcending all preconceived human categories.

We confess that we have stepped away from this Path when we have ignored our role as stewards of the earth, or have interpreted Scripture in a way that fails to account for the sacredness of the earth or the integrity of its ecosystems. We have further moved away whenever we have claimed that the glorification and praise of God is limited only to that which is consciously and overtly Christian.

Objective Questions

  • How did you use or protect the environment today?
  • How do you depend on ecosystems (i.e. the products and services from the natural environment – water, food, air, wild animals or plants)?

Reflective Questions

  • What do you think about how you use and/or protect the environment?
  • How do you feel about how our society uses and protects the environment/ecosystems?
  • Can we worship nature? What does that mean?

Interpretive Questions

  • What do the Bible and Jesus teach us about using or protecting the environment/ecosystems?
  • Should we be dictating to others our vision of how to protect or use the environment and ecosystems?

Invited Guest

Presentation by Dr. David Ostergren, Forestry Department of NAU, specializing in Environmental and Federal Lands Policy.
“The Spiritual Value of Wilderness”

Decisional Questions

  • Should we, as people of faith, promote and advocate protecting our environment?
  • What can we do as individuals to protect or reduce our impact on the environment?

Sending Forth

  • Ask a few people how they will deal with the environmental aspect of Christianity.
  • Remind folks of the next meeting, “Worshiping Authentically”, and send them forth in peace.

References:

Nagle, John Copeland, 2005. The Spiritual Values of Wilderness. Environmental Law 35:955-1003.

Bakken, Peter W. Ecology, Justice, and Christian Faith : A Critical Guide to the Literature. Westport, Conn. : Greenwood Press, 1995.

Bratton, Susan. Christianity, Wilderness, and Wildlife: The Original Desert Solitaire/ Scranton, Pa.: University of Scranton Press; London; Cranbury, NJ: Associated University Presses, 1993.

Affirmation 4. Worshiping Authentically

Reminders for Leaders

Introduction

  • Welcome and introduction of guests
  • Review plans for discussions of Phoenix Affirmations

Conversation Study

Reading Affirmation 4

Christian love of God includes expressing our love in worship that is as sincere, vibrant, and artful as it is scriptural.

Genesis 2:7: Then the Lord God formed a human of dust from the ground, and breathed into the human’s nostrils the breath of life; and the human became a living being.

Exodus 31:2-5: “See, I have called by name Bez’alel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah: and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with ability and intelligence, with knowledge and all craftsmanship, to devise artistic designs, to work in gold, silver, and bronze, in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, for work in every craft.

Revelation 18:22 No more shall the sound of harpers and minstrels, or flute players and trumpeters, be heard in you; no more shall craftsmen of any trade be found in you; no more shall the sound of the mill be heard in you;

As Christians, we strive to respond to God’s artistry in Creation by integrating the arts in worship, education and proclamation. We encourage the reclaiming of artistry and artistic expression in all Christian endeavors, both personal and communal.

We affirm that the Path of Jesus is found where Christ’s followers make sincere and vibrant worship of God as central to the life of their community as Jesus did. We further affirm artistic expression as a way of reflecting God’s creativity, joy, and prophetic voice in what may be seen, heard, felt, tasted, sung and spoken.

We confess that we have moved away from Christ’s Path when we have failed to make worship the product of our best efforts to experience and express love for God, neighbor and self in community with others. We have moved further from this path when we have considered the arts as trivial or merely tangential to the life of a mature Christian community.

Objective Questions

  • Recall one exceptionally profound worship experience you have had.
  • What was the worst worship experience you had?
  • What was the most unusual worship in which you participated?

Reflective Questions

  • Why was your wonderful worship experience so meaningful?
  • What was so troubling about your bad worship experience?

Interpretive Questions

  • What are we trying to accomplish with worship?
  • What makes a good/bad worship experience?
  • Are there other life experiences that can be included in worship even if they make worship non-traditional?

Special Topic

  • Invite a special guest to talk about how worship may be expanded from the traditional or
  • Have a very quick non-traditional worship or
  • Show a video of a special moment of worship.

Decisional Questions

  • Do you have any ideas that you would like to use in at least one worship service?
  • How would you implement such an idea?
  • Could you have an impromptu worship service with a friend or family member?

Sending Forth

  • Remind folks of the next meeting, “Embracing diverse individuals and groups”.
  • Send forth the group as those who will worship creatively.

Affirmation 5. Embracing diverse individuals and groups

Reminders for Leaders

Introduction

  • Welcome and introduction of guests
  • Review plans for discussions of Phoenix Affirmations

Conversation Study

Reading Affirmation 5

Christian love of neighbors includes engaging people authentically, as Jesus did, treating all as creations made in God’s very image, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, age, physical or mental ability, nationality, or economic class

Genesis 1:27: So God created human beings in God’s own image, in the image of God, God created humans; male and female God created them.

Psalm 8:3-5: When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars which you have established; what are they that you are mindful of them, and mortals that you care for them? Yet you have made them little less than God, and crowned them with glory and honor.

1 Corinthians 12:3-7 Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking by the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus be cursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit. Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of working, but it is the same God who inspires them all in every one. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.

As Christians, we welcome those of every race, gender, sexual orientation, age, physical and mental ability, nationality, and economic class into the full life of our community.

We affirm that the Path of Jesus is found where Christ’s followers uplift and celebrate the worth and integrity of all people as created in God’s very image and likeness. We further affirm that Christ’s Path includes treating people authentically rather than as mere categories or classes, challenging and inspiring all people to live according to their high calling.

We confess that we have stepped away from this Path whenever we have failed to recognize the essential goodness of God’s Creation by treating some classes of human beings as more godly than others. We have moved further from Christ’s Path when we have treated people superficially, as objects to be used rather than human beings with depth and distinction.

Questions

Each of the named groups experience bias or discrimination in a unique way. Therefore, each of the named groups has a separate set of conversational questions. Please selected from the following list:

  • Race
  • Gender
  • Sexual orientation
  • Age
  • Physical ability
  • Mental ability
  • Nationality
  • Economic class

Affirmation 6. Being Advocates for the Oppressed

Reminders for Leaders

Introduction

  • Welcome and introduction of guests
  • Review plans for discussions of Phoenix Affirmations

Conversation Study

Reading Affirmation 6

Christian love of neighbors includes standing, as Jesus does, with the outcast and oppressed, the denigrated and afflicted, seeking peace and justice with or without the support of others.

Micah 6:8: He has showed you, O World, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your god?

Luke 12:48: But he who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, shall receive a light beating. Every one to whom much is given, of him will much be required; and of him to whom people commit much they will demand the more.

As Christians, we advocate and care for those who experience oppression and poverty, either physically or spiritually, within our faith communities, our country, and the world. We recognize the local congregation as the primary context for offering such care, even as we seek to extend it beyond our faith communities into the wider world.

We affirm that the Path of Jesus is found where Christ’s followers honor the essential unity of spirit and matter by connecting worship and theology with concrete acts of justice and righteousness, kindness and humility, with or without the support of others.

We confess that we have moved away from this Path when we have suggested that Christianity is concerned with only the spiritual in contrast to the material, or vice-versa. We have moved further away when we have celebrated blessings given by God without also acknowledging responsibilities that come with blessing.

Objective Questions

  • Can you think of one direct experience of oppression or denigration whether it was toward you or another?

Reflective Questions

  • How did that experience make you feel?
  • How was that direct experience different than any feelings you have when you hear about or see oppression in other parts of the USA or distant lands?

Interpretive Questions

  • What gives power to the oppressors and denigrators to act as they do?
  • Are the experiences that we have identified cases of true power differential or are they individual acts of cruelty?

Resource Moment

  • Rev. David Simpson, pastor of First Congregations Church in Flagstaff.

Decisional Questions

  • How shall we act to address small incidents of injustice?
  • How do we, acting either as individuals or churches, take the power away from the oppressors?
  • How do we energize our church to act for justice?

Jesus takes away the power of the oppressor by naming it for what it is. He acts through truth. See Matthew 20:1-15 (To reinterpret the passage as Jesus speaking to the oppressed against the rich and powerful, use reference material “Jesus against Christianity” by Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer)

Sending Forth

  • Go forth and seek to end injustice.

Affirmation 6. Being Advocates for the Oppressed

Reminders for Leaders

Introduction

  • Welcome and introduction of guests
  • Review plans for discussions of Phoenix Affirmations

Conversation Study

Reading Affirmation 6

Christian love of neighbors includes standing, as Jesus does, with the outcast and oppressed, the denigrated and afflicted, seeking peace and justice with or without the support of others.

Micah 6:8: He has showed you, O World, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your god?

Luke 12:48: But he who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, shall receive a light beating. Every one to whom much is given, of him will much be required; and of him to whom people commit much they will demand the more.

As Christians, we advocate and care for those who experience oppression and poverty, either physically or spiritually, within our faith communities, our country, and the world. We recognize the local congregation as the primary context for offering such care, even as we seek to extend it beyond our faith communities into the wider world.

We affirm that the Path of Jesus is found where Christ’s followers honor the essential unity of spirit and matter by connecting worship and theology with concrete acts of justice and righteousness, kindness and humility, with or without the support of others.

We confess that we have moved away from this Path when we have suggested that Christianity is concerned with only the spiritual in contrast to the material, or vice-versa. We have moved further away when we have celebrated blessings given by God without also acknowledging responsibilities that come with blessing.

Objective Questions

  • Can you think of one direct experience of oppression or denigration whether it was toward you or another?

Reflective Questions

  • How did that experience make you feel?
  • How was that direct experience different than any feelings you have when you hear about or see oppression in other parts of the USA or distant lands?

Interpretive Questions

  • What gives power to the oppressors and denigrators to act as they do?
  • Are the experiences that we have identified cases of true power differential or are they individual acts of cruelty?

Resource Moment

  • Rev. David Simpson, pastor of First Congregations Church in Flagstaff.

Decisional Questions

  • How shall we act to address small incidents of injustice?
  • How do we, acting either as individuals or churches, take the power away from the oppressors?
  • How do we energize our church to act for justice?

Jesus takes away the power of the oppressor by naming it for what it is. He acts through truth. See Matthew 20:1-15 (To reinterpret the passage as Jesus speaking to the oppressed against the rich and powerful, use reference material “Jesus against Christianity” by Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer)

Sending Forth

  • Go forth and seek to end injustice.

Affirmation 8. Calling Forth the Best in Others and Ourselves

Reminders for Leaders

This particular study guide has too many questions for a single study. There are really two themes. One deals with our relationship with terrorists. The other deals with our relationship with fundamentalist Christians. For a one hour study, please choose one theme or the other.

Introduction

  • Welcome and introduction of guests
  • Review plans for discussions of Phoenix Affirmations

Conversation Study

Reading Affirmation 8

Christian love of neighbors includes walking humbly with God, acknowledging our own shortcomings while honestly seeking to understand and call forth the best in others, including those who consider us their enemies.

Luke 18:9-14: He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and despised others: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank thee that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’

Luke 6:27-29: “But I say to you that hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To him who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from him who takes away your cloak do not withhold your coat as well.

Galatians 5:22-23: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such there is no law.

John 15:18-19: “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.”

As Christians, we recognize that we are misfits both with respect to God’s Realm and the world. We are misfits with respect to God’s Realm in that we rarely live up to the principles and ideals we espouse. We are misfits with respect to the world in that the ideals for which we strive frequently do not conform to the ways of the world.

We affirm that the Path of Jesus is found where Christ’s followers love those who consider them their enemies as much as they love themselves, striving humbly to embody the “fruits of the Spirit” love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

We confess that we have moved away from this Path when we have promoted a notion that people of faith are morally or ethically superior to those without faith. Further, we have moved away when we have supported any cause, no matter how just or righteous, without reflecting the “fruits of the Spirit” toward all.

Objective Questions

  • Name one recent, completely unexpected act of kindness that you have experienced.
  • Can you recall an incident where someone, possibly your enemy, unexpectedly performed a profound act of grace?
  • Do you remember seeing a deliberate act that caused pain or suffering for someone else?

Reflective Questions

  • How did you emotionally respond after witnessing the act of grace?
  • Can you recall your feelings throughout the day of 2001 September 11?

Interpretive Questions

  • We are often tempted to ignore the profoundly good or bad acts of others. Why?
  • Our country has responded to the September 11th disaster in several ways, for example, wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Patriot Act, incarceration of prisoners in Cuba, “coercing” prisoners, transportation security, and so on. Do you think there are better ways our country could have responded (and might still respond)?
  • Do we have any notion of why our country is a target of terrorists? If we understood why we are a target, could we behave differently, embodying the fruits of the spirit?
  • Some positions voiced by Fundamentalist Christians evoke a visceral response in more liberal Christians. As a moderate or liberal Christian, what should I do with that emotion?

Decisional Questions

  • How can we create opportunities genuinely and effective engage our Fundamental Christian siblings, while embodying the fruits of the Spirit?
  • What can/will I do to point out the problems with some of our nation’s responses to the attacks of September 11th?
  • Similarly, what can/will I do to offer alternative actions that embody the fruits of the Spirit?

Sending Forth

  • We are sent forth by the Spirit to demonstrate love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control to all, even to our enemies.
  • Our next meeting will be a study of Affirmation 9, affirming we are loved, valued and accepted.

Affirmation 9. Affirming We are Loved, Valued, and Accepted

Reminders for Leaders

Introduction

  • Welcome and introduction of guests
  • Review plans for discussions of Phoenix Affirmations

Conversation Study

Reading Affirmation 9

Christian love of ourselves includes basing our lives on the faith that, in Christ, all things are made new, and that we, and all people, are loved beyond our wildest imagination – for eternity.

Psalm 22:27-29: All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to God: and all the families of the nations shall worship before God. For dominion belongs to God, who rules over the nations. Indeed, to God shall all the proud of the earth bow down; before God shall bow all who go down to the dust, and those who cannot keep themselves alive.

Psalm 23:4-6: Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil, my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I shall dwell in the house of God forever.

Psalm 139:7-12: Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me. If I say, “Let only darkness cover me, and the light about me be night,” even the darkness is not dark to you, the night is bright as the day; for darkness is as light with you.

John 3:16-17: For God so loved the world the God gave God’s only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.

Romans 14:7-11: None of us live to ourselves, and none of us die to ourselves. If we live, we live to Christ, and if we die, we die to Christ; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are Christ’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, to be Sovereign both of the dead and of the living. Why do you pass judgment on your brother or sister? Or you, why do you despise your sister or brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of God; for it is written, “As I live, says the Sovereign, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall give praise to God.”

Philippians 1:20-26: …as it is my eager expectation and hope that I shall not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If it is to be life in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. Convinced of this, I know that I shall remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again.

As Christians, we bear witness to, and nurture faith in, all persons who are hungry for, or open to the revelation, love, and salvation of God in Christ. We do not seek to evangelize those who have no desire to explore the Christian Path. We trust, rather, that God’s love, grace and invitation, has been, and will be, revealed in other paths, witnesses and times.

We affirm that the Path of Jesus is found where Christ’s followers are continually discovering, and rediscovering that they – and all people – are loved beyond their wildest imagination, and they determine to live their lives according to this discovery. We find in this discovery and surrender the very essence of salvation, which is a process, not an end-point, within an eternal journey.

We confess that we have moved away from this Path whenever we have denied God’s love for all people, or have denied the effectiveness of God’s eternal will that all be saved. We have moved further from Christ’s path when we have not actively born witness to God’s love and grace with those who seek it.

Prologue

Renewal, affirmation and love are contained within many aspects of Christ’s love. They may be in accepting Christ and becoming a Christian. Renewal may be in accepting and affirming all individuals regardless of their beliefs. Love and affirmation is expressed by reserving your judgment on behavior or practices until you have careful considered all perspectives. Do not sweat the little stuff (Rom14:17). You may need to affirm, value and love yourself to find the full power of Christ’s love within yourself.

For this lesson we focused on how to temper our judgments of others — all individuals everyday determine what is good and bad, better or worse for themselves and their loved ones. How do we expand that circle of loved ones and how do we understand those with whom we differ?

Objective Questions

  • Can you provide one example of where an individual, community or nation judged others?

Reflective Questions

  • How does it make you feel when you see an individual, community or nation judge others?

Interpretive Questions

  • Where does the ability to judge others come from?
  • What do you do when you catch yourself judging others?

Decisional Questions

  • How can we influence how others act on their judgment?
  • How can the belief that all things are possible and renewed through Christ’s love, help us to stop our own judgments?

Sending Forth

  • Go forth and demonstrate God’s acceptance and affirmation of all people.

Affirmation 10. Declaring the Value of Both Science and Religion

Reminders for Leaders

Introduction

  • Welcome and introduction of guests
  • Review plans for discussions of Phoenix Affirmations

Conversation Study

Reading Affirmation 10

Christian love of ourselves includes claiming the sacredness of both our minds and our hearts, recognizing that faith and science, doubt and belief serve the pursuit of truth.

Proverbs 1:20-22: Wisdom cries aloud in the street; in the markets she raises her voice; on the top of the walls she cries out; at the entrance of the city gates she speaks: “How long, O simple ones will you love being simple? How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing and fools hate knowledge?”

1 Corinthians 3:18-19: Let no one deceive himself. If any one among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in the craftiness,”

1 Corinthians 14:15: What am I to do? I will pray with the spirit and I will pray with the mind also; I will sing with the spirit and I will sing with the mind also.

As Christians, we seek to develop intellectually as sincerely as we seek emotional development. We further seek to clarify that the truths contained in Scripture are not conveyed primarily through scientific revelations, but through wisdom which may be gleaned frequently in story and song, symbol and parable.

We affirm that the Path of Jesus is found where Christ’s followers value the pursuit of wisdom, which is found at the intersection of head and heart, where God seeks relationship with the human soul.

We confess that we have moved away from this Path when we have denied either the role of the mind, or that of the heart, in the seeking of wisdom. Further, we have moved off the Path when we have denigrated the role of doubt or pursuit of scientific knowledge as if they were enemies rather than allies of faith.

Objective Questions

We recognize that science and our practice and understanding of Christianity sometimes come into conflict.

  • Using only a word or short phrase, can you identify one widely recognized source of conflict, past or present?
  • In a word or two, can you identify any conflicts between your personal spiritual beliefs and the scientific knowledge you have gained?

Reflective Questions

  • When such conflicts arise in your life, how do you feel? Identify your emotions.
  • Other people of faith and/or science sometimes make their conflicts known to others. How do you emotionally respond to these folks and the issues they raise? Name the emotions.
  • Other people who have conflicts between faith and science sometimes act on their convictions. For example, scientists will have harsh things to say about religion, or will advocate atheism. People of faith will try to say science is wrong and support the teaching of creationism, or oppose stem cell research. What is your emotional reaction to these activities?

Interpretive Questions

  • When others make their conflicts known, does your emotional response arise because of the conflict itself or because you believe there is no conflict?
  • What options do you have to deal with your (or another’s) conflict between science and faith?
  • What options are available to you when you disagree with the actions taken by others in their support of their convictions?

Resource

  • Reading: “Evolution in Action” by Sid Perkins in Science News, Vol. 169, No. 8, Feb. 25, 2006, p. 120.

Decisional Questions

  • How are you going to deal with your own conflicts while honoring both your faith and science?
  • How are you going to deal with others who try to dishonor either your faith or science?

Sending Forth

  • Go forth in the knowledge that faith and science are valuable and complementary. Go forth with determination to stand against those who would dishonor either faith or science. Amen.

Affirmation 11. Caring for our Bodies, Minds, and Spirits

Reminders for Leaders

Introduction

  • Welcome and introduction of guests
  • Review plans for discussions of Phoenix Affirmations

Conversation Study

Reading Affirmation 11

Christian love of ourselves includes Caring for our bodies, and insisting on taking time to enjoy the benefits of prayer, reflection, worship and recreation in addition to work.

Exodus 5:4-8: But the king of Egypt said to them, “Moses and Aaron, why do you take the people away from their work? Get to your burdens.” And Pharaoh said, “Behold, the people of the land are now many and you make them rest from their burdens!” The same day Pharaoh commanded the taskmasters of the people and their foremen, “You shall no longer give the people straw to make bricks, as heretofore; let them go and gather straw for themselves. But the number of brick which they made heretofore you shall lay upon them, you shall by no means lessen it; for they are idle; therefore they cry, ‘Let us go and offer sacrifice to our God.’

1 Corinthians 6:19: Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God? You are not your own.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-19: Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit,

As Christians, we strive to embrace and embody ways of living that promote the health of the body, the joy of living, and the benefits attained when work is combined with rest and recreation, reflection and prayer. We do this for our sake, for the sake of others, for the sake of the earth, and for the sake of Christ.

We affirm that the Path of Jesus is found where Christ’s followers care for their bodies as temples of the holy, and take time to pray and play, to worship, and to reflect, as essential parts of their vocation.

We confess that we have moved away from this Path when we have supported the ethics of Pharaoh over the ethics of God by promoting systems of production and consumption without attending to the disciplines of rest and recreation, reflection and prayer. We have further moved from the Path when we have denigrated or abused our bodies, or those of others, or denied the rights and responsibilities of others to make decisions about how they care for the bodies God gave them.

Comments

The preceding paragraph mentions “denigrated or abused our bodies”, and “denied the rights and responsibilities of others to make decisions about how they care for the bodies God gave them”. The questions below do not directly cover these very important issues but students should keep these issues in mind and make them a part of the discussion when appropriate.

Objective Questions

  • Name one or two ways you promote the health of your body through work, play, worship, and/or reflection.
  • Was there a time when work, play, reflection, and worship became noticeably unbalanced in your life?

Reflective Questions

  • How would you describe your physical health and your mental state when you were balancing your spiritual, recreational, and economic lives?
  • Contrast your physical and mental health when you were practicing a balanced life to when your life was unbalanced.

Interpretive Questions

  • How do you determine when one or more aspects of your life are not in balance with the others?
  • Sometimes it is easier to recognize another whose life is out of balance than it is to recognize unbalance in ourselves. How do you react to others who are eliminating an important part of their life?
  • How do you react when someone suggests you should change the balance in your life?

Decisional Questions

  • Would you be willing to carefully analyze the balance of work, play, worship, and reflection in your life?
  • Would you be willing to partner with a close friend or a small group of friends and have them evaluate the balance of your life?
  • Would you be willing to make changes in your life based on the suggestions of your evaluator?
  • Would you be willing to form a group with someone in need of intervention?

Sending Forth –Go forth in the joy of life and all its aspects. Go forth with determination to seek the proper balance of work, play, worship and reflection in your life. Amen

Affirmation 12. Choosing a Vocation for Life

Reminders for Leaders

Introduction

  • Welcome and introduction of guests
  • Review plans for discussions of Phoenix Affirmations

Conversation Study

Reading Affirmation 12

Christian love of ourselves includes acting on the faith that we are born with a meaning and purpose; a vocation and ministry that serves to strengthen and extend God’s realm of love.

Jeremiah 1:5: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

Luke 5:15-16: But so much the more the report when abroad concerning him; and great multitudes gathered to hear and to be healed of the infirmities. But he withdrew to the wilderness and prayed.

Romans 12:4-8: For as in one body we have many members, and all the members do not have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them; if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in teaching; the one who exhorts, in exhortation; the one who contributes, in liberality; the one who gives aid, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.

1 Corinthians 12:4-31: Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of working, but it is the same God who inspires them all in every one. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. Al these are inspired by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills. For just as the body is one and has many members and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body – Jews or Greeks, slaves or free – and all were made to drink of one Spirit. For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body.” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, Gad arranged the organs in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single organ, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” One the contrary, the parts of the body which seem to be weaker are indispensable, and those parts of the body which we think less honorable we invest with the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts to not require. But God has so adjusted the body giving the greater honor to the inferior part, that there may be no discord in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. No you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, then healers, helpers, administrators, speakers in various kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.

As Christians, we practice prayer as a daily discipline, seeking in prayer both to enjoy God’s presence and to discern God’s will for our lives and our faith communities. We accept it as one of our highest responsibilities and privileges to help those in our communities of faith discern God’s direction for their lives, and to celebrate and value their discernment in the worship and mission life of the church. In every available way, we seek to help people develop and use their diverse callings as an expression of their faith.

We affirm that the Path of Jesus is found where all of Christ’s followers are understood to be called into a ministry. God’s intention for us can be found and followed, however haltingly and imperfectly, in obedience to the guidance and insights, which come in prayer. We hold this conviction to be true of the Church as well as of each of its members.

We confess that we have moved away from this Path when we have claimed that one form of ministry is any higher or more sacred than any other, in or outside a church. Further, we have moved from the Path when we have failed to concretely value meaningful input and participation by both laypeople and clergy in the worship and mission of our communities.

Objective Questions

  • On the paper provided, list all the vocations you have had in your life. Oldsters should be selective. Youngsters can put in everything that might resemble a vocation. Remember that a vocation does not require pay, so fathering and mothering are vocations.
  • Share one or two of your vocations with the study group.

Reflective Questions

  • Which vocation did you enjoy the most? How did it make you feel?
  • Which vocation did you enjoy the least? How did it make you feel?
  • Identify spiritual aspects of any vocation you have had.

Interpretive Questions

  • What made your favorite vocation enjoyable?
  • Similarly what made your least favorite vocation least enjoyable?
  • Given limitless choices, what vocation would you choose today any why? Don’t be limited by ability or time or responsibility in your choice.
  • Many jobs are unpleasant, dangerous, or poorly compensated (sometimes all three). Is there any way to improve such jobs, especially when we are compelled to accept them?

Decisional Questions

  • Would you be willing to give up a lucrative job to have a vocation that was more emotionally or spiritually fulfilling?
  • How can we help make menial job more fulfilling?

Sending Forth

Go forth in the knowledge that vocation is a gift from God. Go forth celebrating or seeking a vocation that is a ministry to others. Amen.