We are excited to announce this year’s 2021 Misfits Theology Conference in Tulsa, OK on October 22-23. This year’s lineup of speakers will include Brian Zahnd pastor of Word of Life Church in St Joseph, MO, and author of many books, including Water to Wine, Postcards to Babylon, and Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God and Keith Giles, podcaster, blogger, and author of such books as Jesus Unbound, Jesus Untangled, and many more. In addition, we have a number of other speakers we look forward to announcing soon. Our mission for the Conference as always is to strive to do the hard work necessary to build bridges between the scattered and divided denominations and traditions that comprise Christianity and to mend and heal the divisions in the Church. So come on down for this weekend to meet, hear, and eat with diverse Christians. Let us live out Jesus’ pray for the oneness of the Church.
Precautions for Covid-19
This has been some of the most divisive and stressful couple of years for a lot of us, not just here in the United States but for those around the world. Here at the Misfits Theology club I (Gabe here) want to cultivate an environment that strives to build bridges rather than burning them down. But I also want us to hold firmly to the Great Broad Historic Tradition. Which has explicitly denied the gnostic heresy, which itself denies the goodness of the material world (including our bodies), and has always affirmed and defined freedom in rather different ways than what happens today in the U.S.
Gnosticism is a heresy that is alive and well today in the US, and its practical implications are detrimental to our bodies, the environment, and so forth. Let me be clear at the Misfits Theology Club Gnosticism is explicitly and utterly condemned as unacceptable for Christians to hold to. Rather the gospel teaches us that a Good God made the material world good, indeed God called the creation of humanity (as material creatures) very good, and God's salvation is bodily salvation in which our bodies will be raised from the dead in the general resurrection. Because of this, we are called to maintain the health and goodness of our bodies and the health and goodness of our communities and the whole of creation. This means when there is a global pandemic if you are going to live in accord with the gospel rather than the heresy of Gnosticism you need to do your part (in fact each of us as a community needs to do our part) to help keep people healthy and full of life. I am convinced in our particular circumstances that means masking up and getting the vaccine. My intuition is that Gnosticism is a large factor in the reason so many "Christians" are not taking the pandemic seriously by masking up and getting vaccinated.
Freedom in the modern American context pretty much can be summed up as the following: I am free as an individual to do whatever I want, however, I want, to whoever I want to the exclusive of how it affects those around me. This is, if I can be so blunt, a uniquely American heresy. Most people around the world for all of human history have never defined freedom in such a way, and it certainly is not how the Christian Tradition (including the scriptures) has defined freedom. Christ frees us from Sin, Death, and Satan, so that we may become slaves to righteousness. Or said another way, we are made free from Sin and Evil in order that we can pick up our cross, and lay down our lives in love for our neighbour. We are free to place the needs and desires of others before our own. Free to follow Christ, and practice the virtues of, "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control." We are not made free and given a kind of freedom that is rooted in the individual and whatever our own momentary desires may be. We are given the freedom to follow Christ, to be like him, and like him, to die bleeding and suffering on a cross for the needs of others, for the love of others.
In light of this, we will require in-person attendees to wear masks, fully covering their nose and mouth, at all times while inside the building where the conference is being held. In addition, we will require in-person attendees to show proof of vaccination. If you refuse to abide by these requirements you can still attend the conference online.
Definition of Gnosticism:
Gnosticism is the early church heresy, still prevalent today, which teaches a number of things. The first is that physical matter, creation, is evil. This includes our bodies, which act as a prison to our true selves, found in the form of our spirit or soul. The goal of the Gnostic, or their concept of salvation, is to escape from the body and physical world to a spiritual dimension. The way for our souls to escape from our evil bodies and the evil physical world is through secret knowledge that “saves” us. The result is that we don’t need to take care of our bodies or those of our neighbors, and we don’t need to steward and care for the world because it’s all evil. Gnostics were just waiting for their souls to be saved by knowledge of the truth and to be taken away to that spiritual place in the sky. Sound familiar? Yeah, most American Christians actually are Gnostics, theologically. This is why many Christians don’t care about their physical health or the health of the planet—or the social welfare of those in need. Their primary concern is to “save” people’s souls by giving them the right propositional knowledge so that they can escape this evil world and go to heaven. In reality, the first Christians and those who wrote the New Testament believed that physical matter, like our bodies and the rest of creation is good, although broken, because it was created by a good God. Instead of believing that salvation was their souls going to heaven, they believed that Jesus had reclaimed his kingship through his victory over death, sin and evil in the bodily resurrection. They also believed that through Christ God was healing creation and that one day our bodies would also be resurrected like Jesus. Then, after Christ judges the living and the dead, after making all things right, we would live with God on Earth as the new garden of Eden in our new immortal bodies.
What is the Misfits Theology Conference?
In September of 2019, the Misfits Theology Club launched its first-ever annual conference. The establishment of an annual conference was for the purpose of furthering the implementation of our vision: To seek Unity within the Church. While there is certainly a place for our presence online in the midst of constant theological social media warfare we felt that to seek out our vision online only was not enough. We needed a more holistic approach. Followers of Jesus from diverse traditions and denominations who may otherwise never cross paths or even know of the other's existence need to come face to face in the same physical space. We are physical social beings, the life lived virtually is not enough. All of us need to gather at the same table and eat together. The conference is our way of facilitating these needs. Centered around a number of guest speakers, theologians, missionaries, scholars, pastors, etc, presenting on widely varying topics from diverse theological perspectives. This allows those gathered together to engage with one another in charitable and respectful dialogue with those from different backgrounds than their own, sometimes with those they disagree with. Through the speakers, time and a meal together the hope is that new friendships between Followers of Jesus from different traditions will blossom. Through these friendships, we become a little bit more united as the one holy and apostolic church.
Testimonies From Past Attendees
The Misfits Theology Club promised to open wide the umbrella of unity at their recent conference, and they most certainly did so. The quality of speakers and openness of conversations were singular. The variety of worship experiences opened my eyes to how different faith traditions worshipped. I found myself having conversations with people that were truly exploratory, rather than defensive. The umbrella of the conference created a space of graciousness, and my heart was truly drenched in Jesus’ call to love and unity. I was delighted to hear this would be an annual event. If you want to meet your brothers and sisters in Christ who are from a different “country” – the Misfits Theology Conference is a good place to do so. Misfits Theology Club members – well done, good and faithful servants. - Lynn C. Woodward
Attending the Misfit Theology Conference was a great experience to come together and listen, learn, worship, experience and share in several diverse Christian faith traditions. The several presenters were very passionate, inspiring ,respectful , and open. It gave a space for several denominations to come together and unite as one body in our faith in a positive way. I read the book “God Can’t” by speaker and writer Thomas Oord ,in just a few days and it challenged me to dig deeper into my own prayer life and beliefs. Thank you Gabriel for bringing this forum to Christ Church. - Barbara Dinehart
The Misfits Theology Conference was a wonderful experience. Very few places can you find, conservative, liberals, Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Mainline Protestant, Evangelical Protestant, and Fundamentalists Christians all in one place let alone worshipping together. Having conversations with respect and love rather than heated hate filled debates. Look forward to doing again next year! - Gabriel Gordon
In a Christian subculture that is often marked by denominational divides, the Misfits Theology Conference was a wonderful display of the unity we all share in Jesus. Each speaker brought articulate and compelling presentations with grace and humility. I appreciated the wisdom shared from the historic Christan traditions and the application of that wisdom in our modern cultural context. The spirit of the conference was one of grace and truth. I saw that real unity is possible and that it is essential for the global church to thrive now and into the future. I believe that at the Misfits Theology Conference the present reality of the “Kingdom of the heavens” was brought a bit closer to my attention. Thanks Misfits Theology Club! - Adam Takac