Married to: Sharon
Children: Andrew, Brennan, KaiLi
Home Town: Camas, Washington
Religious Affiliation: Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
Employment: Pastor of Adult Discipleship and Formation Columbia Presbyterian Church, Vancouver, WA. USA
My purpose in maintaining this blog is to create a place for conversation around my most recent publication, Trinitarian Grace and Participation – an entry into the theology of Thomas F. Torrance. My intention is to post quotes, reflections, and section summaries in order to invite conversation around the issues which this raises. My great desire is to see the reality of our inclusion in Christ become a lived reality in the life of his people.
For more background on my journey, read on….
After completing my seminary studies at Regent College, I was fortunate to be called to serve as Associate Pastor for Congregational Care and Spiritual Development at Fremont Presbyterian Church in Sacramento. I was installed at Fremont in 1999 and enjoyed 8 ½ years of serving alongside the wonderful people there.
My primary focus at Fremont was in the area of spiritual formation, which suited me well after having studied under Eugene Peterson while at Regent. But Regent had planted some other seeds in me that were also looking for a way to grow – specifically, in relation to the Trinity. I had grown up with a very abstract and functional view of God as Trinity: abstract in the sense that it was sort of irrelevant or at the very least confusing; functional in the sense that the easiest and most common way they were talked about was like tag-team wrestlers – the Father creates, the Son saves, and the Spirit leads the Church through to the end. Well, Regent had suggested to me something more integrated and relational and I was looking for ways to explore that territory and mine its depths and fruitfulness for Christian living today.
Fast forward to March of 2007. It was Sunday morning and we had a guest preacher, Andrew Purves, whom I had invited to do a pastors preaching workshop for the presbytery. The time was approximately 9:48am and Dr. Purves had just finished his sermon on Phil 3:12-14 about how in his life, death, and resurrection to the right hand of the Father, Christ has grabbed hold of us and will never let us go, and as Andrew finished his prayer and went to sit down something happened that had never happened before nor has ever happened since – the traditional congregation clapped. They clapped…after the sermon! And here’s the thing. They weren’t clapping for Andrew or for what a great sermon he gave. They were cheering God, cheering the good news of the gospel that they had just heard and they were compelled to respond to with something like…gratitude and joy. It was in that moment that I received my call to go to Scotland. I felt God clearly saying to me, “Geordie, you need to go to Scotland to study trinitiarian theology so that you can come back to the Church and communicate this incredible gospel as clearly as Andrew just did.” From that point on, I had no doubts.
Shortly after that I submitted my resignation and a few months later we had sold our cars, our house, our children (no, we didn’t do that!), and most of our other possessions, and moved to a small town (Banchory) outside of Aberdeen, Scotland where I began post-graduate studies. It was a long journey. What I assumed would take 3-4 years ended up taking 6 (and then some), but by the summer of 2014 I had submitted and defended my thesis and was “doctored.”
And now the fruit of that looooong season has finally been published by the good people of Fortress Press in their “Emerging Scholars” series under the title, “Trinitarian Grace and Participation: An entry into the theology of TF Torrance.” What’s the book about? Well, basically, it is about Grace, and that Grace is not a “thing” or a “force” or some “legal status” we have before God; rather, Grace is a person (Jesus) in whom we are included, and because of whom we have communion with God. That is, through the Holy Spirit we are brought in and lifted up to fellowship with the Father through the Son. We think that grace exists because we are bad, but actually grace exists because God is good. Sadly, most Christians most of the time live as if it is all up to us and so we work really hard to be good people – we do “churchy” stuff, we read our bibles and say our prayers and serve the needy…when all the time God isn’t interested in our goodness. What God wants is for us to share in his life and love. That is the gospel: through the Spirit, you and I are included in Jesus’ relationship with the Father.
It’s been a wonderful journey, and it has changed me in many ways. It changes how I pray, how I parent, how I worship, how I think about service, how I preach and teach, how I relate to difficult people…. My prayer is that it will do that and more for Christ’s Church.