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Two local clergymen to debate important Christian topics

Well, they are at it again.

Pastor Don Ford, pastor of Community United Methodist Church, and The Rev. Douglas Neel, rector of St. Patrick’s Episcopal Church, are once again holding a weekly Wednesday evening debate that began Feb. 28 and will continue during the season of Lent.

This year, each will represent arguments of two prominent theologians, Marcus Borg and N.T. Wright.

The evening will begin at 6 p.m. with a delicious soup and bread meal at Community United Methodist Church followed by informative, thought-provoking, lively debates based on the book “The Meaning of Jesus.”

In this book Borg and Wright, two Oxford classmates, take opposing views on long-debated theological questions such as: Did Jesus know he was the messiah? Did Jesus intentionally die to redeem humankind? Was Jesus bodily resurrected from the dead? Was Jesus God?

Both Borg and Wright agree that Christian faith should be grounded in the best historical scholarship and that Jesus is the Christian messiah who preached the Kingdom of God. But in their book, each discusses deeply felt and well-argued differences in their opinions regarding these questions. Marcus Borg, an Episcopalian, and N.T. Wright, an Anglican, were classmates at Oxford University where each obtained their doctorates in New Testament, and worked with the same principal professor.

Borg is Hundere Distinguished Professor of Religion at Oregon State University. He is a popular liberal voice in Christian scholarship, a member of the Jesus Seminar, and author of the bestselling book, “Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time.” His book, “The God We Never Knew” was a Publishers Weekly Best Book of 1997. N.T. Wright, formerly a professor at Oxford, is now Dean of Lichfield Cathedral in England. He is a prominent standard bearer for the traditional stance, and an outspoken critic of the Jesus Seminar. He is author of “Jesus and the Victory of God,” “The Original Jesus,” and “The New Testament and the People of God.” These two scholars argue theological questions of Christian faith in their collaborative book, “The Meaning of Jesus,” each writing opposing, well thought-out chapters, presenting their sides to each of the questions.

Each Wednesday evening, Fr. Doug Neel and Pastor Don Ford will each take on the opposing arguments and personality of each scholar (switching stances each week, so as not to make this a personal debate).

“These debates are meant to be informative, thought-provoking, and create an interesting discussion for those who attend,” said Fr. Doug. “Lent is a time when Christians are called into the wilderness with Christ; a time of personal reflection and self-evaluation. It is a time to ask ourselves important questions regarding our own personal faith and beliefs and recommit ourselves to our Christian calling to take God’s love into the world.”.

These debates are not meant to promote one view over the other. They are, rather, meant to provoke serious reflective thought and help bring each of us into a deeper relationship with Christ.

Each week, Pastor Don and Fr. Doug will tackle a new question in the persona of Borg and Wright, so if a participant misses a week, they will not feel as though they are walking in at the middle of an ongoing discussion. The Rev.’s Ford and Neel enjoyed another such debate last year when each took on the persona of theologians of the Reformation. Those who attended learned a great deal about that period of church history and how much of our current Christian theology has formed.

The public is invited to attend these soup dinners and debates each Wednesday during Lent from 6-7:30 p.m. at Community United Methodist Church, located downtown at 434 Lewis St.

For more information, call CUMC at (970) 264-5508.

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