loren Eric Swanson: From Trent to Rome, Day 1

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

From Trent to Rome, Day 1

Bakke's method of teaching and learning is always based on relective learning--what did I hear and see and what does it mean. For our class requirements we need to have a daily journal where we describe the day, do sometime of analysis of what we saw...or didn't see for that matter. Because I was away from the Internet for most of our time in Italy I was not able to post those reflections but will try to do so now.

June 21, 2006

We are on the beginning of a journey. We boarded a Lufthansa 747 in Denver and flew directly to Frankfurt then caught a Lufthansa connecting flight to Milan for the first day of a class called “From Trent to Rome.” The company is good. Liz and I are traveling with John and Nancy Lamb—dear friends for 30 years. John and Nancy worked together with Campus Crusade for eight years together at the University of Colorado, another eight years, where I was roughly his supervisor and then another seven years together on the regional team. Where the Lambs are there is conversation, critical thinking and life. We say here in Colorado, “There are two types of people in the world, those who love the Lambs and those who have never met the Lambs.” Both John and I are pursuing our D.Min degrees through BGU--Bakke Graduate School (www.bgu.edu) so this should be a good week of learning, discovery and interaction.

The class is organized by Robert Calvert as the professor of record. He is Scottish by birth, training and accent but also wears the pastor’s hat of the Scots International Church in Rotterdam and is regularly available as a seminary professor. Robert is also the founder and director of PLACE--Partners Learning and Acting in Cities of Europe (PLACE) a loose confederation of ministers and ministries in the cities of Europe. Ray Bakke has also thrown his lot in with us. At 67 Ray is still the consummate learner and contributor.

After a few logistical glitches we catch up with the rest of the class and board a bus that will take us to Trent—about a 3 hour ride northeast of Milan. As we pull out of the airport Robert cast some vision for the week. “This week will be one long conversation” reminding us that even on the bus ride, class is now in session. One by one each of the 35 students finds himself at the front of the bus answering three questions: “Who are you? Where are you from? Why are you here?” I discover that we are actually three groups of people on the bus—around twenty students from BGU, sixteen from PLACE along with eight or nine from the Focolare Movement. It’s a mixed group—three African pastors, two of whom are pastoring churches in Amsterdam and one from Ethiopia. We have several Catholics, a couple of priests, lay people and students We’ll all see the same things through different eyes. This is the BGU way of education.

After our introductions Ray Bakke takes the microphone and gives us an extemporaneous presentation on the historical place Trent has in the history of the church. This is Ray at his best—like the scribe of biblical yore, he dips into his treasury and pulls out things old and new. He tells us the Council of Trent was convened by Pope Paul III on and off for a period of 17 hears (1546-1563) as the Catholic response to the reformation. Ray says of this period, “It was a yeasty and lively time.” To put things in perspective, “the Ottoman Turks were knocking on the doors of Europe. The Holy Roman emperor, Carlos V, was ruling from Spain. In 1540 The Society of Jesus--the Jesuits was founded by Ignatius Loyola as a missionary arm of the Catholic Church. By the time the Council of Trent had convened, the young protesting church had already had already taken root and its fruits were spreading. Ray says we need to “study Catholicism as the regular verb. Protestantism is the irregular verb.” That makes sense. 1500 years of my Christian heritage is rooted in Catholicism. As we wind up the mountains into modern day Trento Ray sets his expectation for our time together. He muses on the fact that many spiritual movements have arisen from Italy—in 529, The Benedicts…in 1206, St. Francis in Assisi. “Renewal,” he says, “comes from Italy.” The reformation itself is a harvest of this renewal in Trent. To breach the rift between Catholicism and Protestantism, Ray quotes N.T. Wright’s thoughts: Protestants are “Word-centered.” Catholics are “Church-centered.” But God is supporting both of these.

We wind up into the mountains of Trento and find ourselves stepping off the bus and greeted by a half dozen smiling places at Focolore’s Maiapolis. After a cafeteria style meal of pasta, turkey and gravy, salad, we are all ready for bed. But first we are welcomed with a champagne toast as their guests I suspect what we are seeing is called “radical hopsptality.”

Liz and I convene in the Lambs for a time of personal reflection and prayer. John reads from the Celtic Book of Prayer and we have some corporate prayer before retiring. Concluding each evening with John and Nancy will be our nightly practice.

This is a new world for me and makes me wish I had read more on the Council of Trent before we got here. An overview of the Councils makeup and decisions seems to be important from getting the most out of this historic city. I sense also that because the group is comprised of Lutherans, Presbyterians, Anglicans and Catholics that the class will take on a conciliatory flavor. The Council of Trent was preceded by a similar Protestant council on conciliation for within a few short years the rifts between Lutherans and Zwinglians (forerunners to Reformed / Presbyterian churches) was also great. Mainly for political reasons (establishing of Protestant States) in 1527 Phillip of Hesse proposed a reconciliation between Lutherans and Zwinglians. Luther and Zwingli differed greatly between the meaning of the Sacraments and although Zwingli was more ready to embrace Luther than visa versa, in the end they signed an accord where they agreed theologically on fourteen of fifteen articles of faith.

Although Ray only alluded the The Council of Trent being a counter-reformation gathering, the Council seemed to have convened for at least two reasons. First to condemn the principles and doctrines of the Protestant and at the same time give definition the doctrines of the Catholic Church on all disputed points. The second reason for convening was actually to reform its internal abuses and practices that were partly the cause of the Protestants rebellion. The outcome was a tighter, more unified Catholic Church, whose doctrines and practices remained in tact until the first Vatican Council. This was the strength of the council, for which they are justly proud.

It’s hard not to love a day like today. This is how I like to learn—with diverse people, from diverse countries, colored by theology wrapping themselves around big ideas. This is the way adult leaders learn. Personally I enter the class having read and reported out on six or seven books but am spiritually attuned and praying for personal renewal in my relationship with God, my relationship with Liz and our relationship with John and Nancy. Should be a good week.


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