Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Faith Works 12-01-07
Jeff Gill

Relational Giving? What’s That?

Let me commend to you, this first weekend of Advent, a website for the Advent Conspiracy, which is simply

They are an eclectic clump of Christian groups with a passion for something called “relational giving,” which you can read about in brief or at length at the website, but is an approach for reducing consumerism and refocusing on mission during the Christmas season.

One element of relational giving is giving people a note of appreciation that includes that you’ve given a gift to an organization whose work is in line with the ideals you and the recipient share. The Lovely Wife and I usually do this aligned with the Licking County Coalition for Housing and The Salvation Army, but part of the point is for you to prayerfully discern which gifts are right for you and the person on the other end.

Jim Wallis is an evangelical pastor who would doubtless like pretty much everything about Advent Conspiracy. He is one of the founders of the “Sojourners” community, editor of their award-winning magazine (see, and recently wrote “God’s Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn’t Get It.”

This nationally recognized preacher and teacher will be offering the ordination sermon for Ohio’s first state organizer for Sojourners’ activism arm, “Call To Renewal,” whose mission is “to articulate the biblical call to social justice, inspiring hope and building a movement to transform individuals, communities, the church, and the world.”

The woman taking on this daunting challenge is Virginia Lohmann Bauman, and from a background in law and a degree from Denison and Newark Catholic before that, she will move into ordained ministry with an ordination service on Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2007 at 7pm at First Baptist Church of Granville.

Gini says “although ordinations tend to be more private church affairs, we have decided to extend an invitation to the wider faith community to attend the ordination due to Jim Wallis' involvement in the event. It is quite extraordinary for him to be available to speak in our local community.”

I certainly plan to come hear Wallis preach, and welcome another laborer into the vineyard.

If you just have to buy stuff for some folks this Christmas, or were looking for an ordination present for Gini, you might want to check out for a place to look for “fair trade” gifts that contribute to environmental sustainability. People like Nancy Ortberg, one of Willow Creek’s teaching pastors, and Brian McLaren, author of “Everything Must Change,” are part of a Christian initiative to honor the oneness of creation, and to practice our responsibility as stewards for the integrity of both the Gospel and “the least of these, my brothers.”

And since we’ve lifted up three Christian oriented efforts to make this season a bit more outwardly focused, let me offer a shout-out to consistent commenter on our on-line forums, Gary from Lancaster! The Humanist Community of Central Ohio has a website at, where if you click on the “Community Service” link you’ll see their own efforts to join together to reduce suffering and build community connections.

Atheists and humanists (they aren’t always the same thing, remember) have their own reasons for caring about the world beyond their own lives, even if they don’t think those lives have continuing meaning. I’ll work with just about anyone with shared goals, and not just because it gives me a chance to share the vision behind my take on those goals while we labor together!

The “holiday season,” as folks navigate how and when to wish “Merry Christmas,” or learn who responds with a cheery “Happy Hanukkah,” can be a good time to learn about friends and co-workers faith perspectives. If you want to share your views with someone around you, the key is this: you have to listen to theirs first.

Really listen, and not just for holes in their story. Listen, and appreciate, and you’ll very likely be invited to share your story.

Which is where I Peter 3:15 comes in.

Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; as a Christian, he’s preached for Unitarians and Jews when the invitations arose (the Atheists haven’t called yet, but there’s always hope!). Invite him to tell your faith community’s story here at

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