Jon Stovell’s Projects and Papers

More to come...

I will upload more papers and projects here as time permits.

Officially Enacting Vineyard Ecclesiology: Policy Recommendations for Developing Position Papers and Alternative Responses to Theological Controversy

In the life of any ecclesial body, theological controversies will periodically arise that require an intentional response from it leaders. The Vineyard movement is no exception to this rule. Discerning the best way to respond to theological controversy requires not only discerning the content of that response, but also discerning the form of response that is appropriate for a given situation. In regard to the latter, the national leadership teams of the various Associations of Vineyard Churches have several options available to them. The most formal of these options is to issue a “position paper,” a document articulating the stance of an AVC’s leaders on a given subject. Other options include educational programs, communal discernment processes, and direct personal dialogue with involved parties. Determining which of these forms of response is the most appropriate is not always easy.

In an effort to assist the leaders of AVCs facing theological controversies in the future, this paper proposes guidelines for determining when to develop a position paper or to pursue other forms of response. A chief goal in developing these guidelines has been to ensure that they are grounded in and directed by the Vineyard’s essential ecclesiological principles, and so the paper begins with a brief consideration of those principles as they apply to theological discernment. Building on that foundation, the discussion is directed by the following questions:

  1. How have Vineyard position papers functioned historically in the past?
  2. How do we differentiate between kinds of position papers?
  3. When is it helpful to use one kind of position paper or another, and what are the strengths and weaknesses of each kind?
  4. What alternatives are available besides creating position papers?

Finally, the paper gives methodological recommendations for how to discern the most appropriate form of response to a theological controversy in a given situation. The core proposal here is that the preferable way to deal with theological controversies in the Vineyard is via theological and spiritual direction and mentoring, with descriptive position papers as a fallback response appropriate for some scenarios, and prescriptive position papers reserved for use only as a last resort.

This paper was presented at the 2016 Annual Meeting of the Society of Vineyard Scholars.

Download it here.

Kenosis and the Kingdom of God: On Suffering, Obedience, Trust, and Surrender as the Vessels of Eschatological Glory

Building on my paper presented at SVS 2013, which sketched out the proposal that the manner of Jesus’ own coming into the world defines the manner of the coming of his kingdom into the world, this paper argues that the concept of kenosis provides vitally important insight for a robust understanding of the ways and patterns of the kingdom of God as experienced in this “time between the times.” The paper first examines the Christological question of how the Son’s incarnation and his kenosis are related to one another, arguing that the two should not be confused and clarifying that incarnation is the logical prerequisite for Christ’s kenosis, rather than vice-versa as is often assumed. With this clarification in hand, the paper next argues that the reason Christ’s incarnation took place initially in the mode of kenosis was so that the advent of his kingdom could be saving rather than destructive for our fallen world. Finally, several implications this has for the present mode of his kingdom are drawn out. This includes consideration of how the new order created by God’s reign in the present is characterized by weakness and vulnerability to suffering, self-giving service, obedience to and sheer trust in God, and a laying aside of any claim to authority of one’s own.

This paper was presented at the 2014 Annual Meeting of the Society of Vineyard Scholars.

Download it here.

Seeing What the Father is Doing When the Glory Doesn’t Come: Healing a Theological Blind Spot in Our Inaugurated Eschatology

Despite its strengths in helping its members to learn how to discern the activity and intentions of the Spirit, the Vineyard theological tradition consistently stumbles and is forced to retreat into vague generalizations when faced with the question of why God’s kingdom becomes manifest in power in one situation but not in another apparently identical set of circumstances. This suggests the presence of a significant theological blind spot that interferes with our ability to discern “what the Father is doing” as clearly as we would like.

The root causes of this blind spot are two shortcomings of the classic formulations of inaugurated eschatology on which so much Vineyard theology and practice rely: a tendency to neglect the assumptive-redemptive element of NT theology in favour of the element of eschatological dualism, and a tendency to neglect the question of how God’s kingdom comes in favour of the question of when it comes. These two root causes produce the immediate cause of our theological blind spot: a tendency to see triumph over evil as the sign of God’s kingdom rather than as the ultimate result of his kingdom. This theological blinder prevents us from discerning what God is doing in situations where triumph over evil is not apparent.

Healing this blind spot requires incorporating our current formulation of inaugurated eschatology into a richer and more explicitly Christological framework—one in which the patterns involved in Jesus’ first and second advents provide the paradigm for the patterns of the kingdom subsequent to those advents. Such a model identifies the assumptive-redemptive pattern of kenosis and exaltation, or death and resurrection, as the mode in which the kingdom of God is present today. This removes the theological blinder that has obscured our recognition that the sign of the kingdom consists in suffering-unto-glory and not glory alone, and so opens our eyes to look and see what the Father is doing when it seems like he is doing nothing.

This paper was presented at the 2013 Annual Meeting of the Society of Vineyard Scholars.

Download it here.

To Dwell in the House of the Lord: Vineyard Soteriology and its Praxis in Worship, Discipleship, and Evangelism

Beginning with inaugurated eschatology, in which the coming of God in his royal power is the central hope, makes living in the presence of God the central and integrating motif of Vineyard soteriology. Moreover, it renders salvation a dynamic, “already-not yet” or past-present-future reality in the experience of Christians. These underlying soteriological structures significantly shape Vineyard praxis. Two examples of how this works out can be found in the ways Vineyard churches practice worship and in the ways Vineyard churches have approached discipleship and evangelism. In regard to the former, worship in the Vineyard functions sacramentally, as a space in which one can enter the presence of God and experience his blessings and grace in a unique and powerful way, and is consciously understood and practiced as a means of communion with God that anticipates the eschatological communion that is the goal of salvation. In regard to the latter, the underlying rationale for the various approaches to discipleship and evangelism used in the Vineyard—and especially in those developed indigenously by the Vineyard—centres on the idea of encountering and growing in God’s presence and emphasizes an eschatologically oriented faith journey towards Christ.

This paper was presented at the 2012 Annual Meeting of the Society of Vineyard Scholars.

Download it here.

Pannenberg’s Eschatological Christology

For Pannenberg, the resurrection of Jesus is the cornerstone of Christology, without which all Christological claims would crumble into dust. Starting from this basis, Pannenberg constructs a Christology that proceeds methodologically “from below” that succeeds in becoming a “high” Christology in terms of its theological content.

The paper begins by exploring the main facets of Pannenberg’s methodological bases: a historical approach to theology, and the central importance of the future hope for the arrival of the kingdom of God. The latter of these requires a survey of Pannenberg’s eschatology itself in order to proceed. In light of this methodological background, Pannenberg’s Christology itself is explored. Finally, critical engagements with the material are offered.

Download it here.