And Finally: August 2017

Here’s my report to you from my latest Doctor of Ministry class which I was in Chicago for the last week of June: I learned about a hermeneutic of suspicion & a homiletic of disruption. Need more than that?! – let me explain.

This was a DMin course on preaching and the course was titled “Gender, Power, and the Pulpit.” The readings for the course explored how gender and sexuality are portrayed in scripture, church and culture as well as the power dynamics involved with such portrayals. The assigned books and articles were excellent, challenging me to reflect on gender roles, on the ways that assumptions about gender and sexuality often control our interactions, and about the interplay of biblical revelation and modern understandings. The course discussions centered on how to engage such issues in preaching, and the week included my writing a sermon on and listening to sermons on some very challenging biblical texts! – which was very difficult and fruitful.

And that’s what brings us to a hermeneutic of suspicion and a homiletic of disruption:

  • a hermeneutic of suspicion: “hermeneutics” is the process and approach one uses in interpreting scripture (for example, the importance of understanding the cultural setting when a text was written). To use “suspicion” as a description for how to approach scripture may sound odd or negative, but it has more to do with bringing a spirit of curiosity or genuine questioning to a text. In terms of gender and power, what the “suspicion” is about is to “suspect” that how a story is told or a teaching is given will be influenced significantly by the assumptions of the culture at that time about gender roles and by the agendas of those who are currently in power. This is not meant to invalidate a story, but to try to bring to light the power dynamics that are going on. What this approach also does is then bring the same “hermeneutic” to looking at modern life, trying to make visible the current range of assumptions and agendas about gender, sexuality and power. A hermeneutic of suspicion “suspects” that such questions are crucial in understanding and applying a text. Which leads us to…
  • a homiletic of disruption: “homiletics” is the practice of preaching, both the preparation and delivery of a sermon (for example, requiring that a sermon must always have 3 points with each point alliterated!). As with “suspicion”, the term “disruption” may sound like an inherently negative way to approach preaching, but here too the term has more to do with the idea of creativity and opportunity. This homiletical approach of “disruption” looks at biblical texts as stories and teachings that often go against the grain of what is expected or established – which means that even as one is “suspicious” to understand the assumptions and power at work in scripture, those very things are often being “disrupted” and undone by the text at the same time! And here also that “disruption” is brought into our own lives and current culture, exploring ways in which biblical texts disrupt our assumptions and open us to new understandings. So disruption really is meant as a pathway of freedom from harmful patterns and of freedom toward creative directions.

So that’s my report! I actually think these understandings of “suspicion” and “disruption” are already present in many ways in the preaching you hear at Hope Church, but this course gave me some new language and depth to further explore and put into practice these approaches. There is a lot of importance given to issues of gender and sexuality in our culture, sometimes for great good and sometimes for great harm, and we need ways to explore and talk about these issues that face our assumptions and open us up creatively to the Spirit at work in our lives and world. I’m so grateful for the opportunity Hope Church is giving me to engage such issues in my DMin studies, and you can expect “suspicion” and “disruption” in my preaching!

Thanks and blessings.

~Pastor Gordon