the last word

Here is a message which President Stowell and Ed Dobson posted on our campus bulletin board this morning.  I don’t think they would mind me posting it here, and in light of our recent discussion, I think some of you might be interested in hearing their point of view.  Keep in mind that only respectful comments will be approved for posting.

From Dr. Joseph Stowell, president:

Dear colleagues,

Over the past few days many of us have had some interesting discussions, both among ourselves and with people outside our community, about the media coverage of Dr. Ed Dobson, our friend and colleague who just completed a year-long effort to live like Jesus so that he could more deeply understand what it means to be a devoted follower of Jesus. Needless to say this is a situation that has some challenging dimensions both in terms of policy and public perception. On the policy front, some of you may not be aware that Ed is a volunteer at Cornerstone and was not asked to sign the lifestyle statement. Had he signed it, I am confident that he would have abided by it. On the political front, we support the right of Dr. Dobson or any person in our community to vote their conscience without censure or exclusion.

Personally, I applaud Ed’s passionate pursuit of Jesus. I long for that heart to be in each of us! And any conversation that Ed’s journey sparks on our campus should remind us that living in Jesus’ way is a worthy goal that is often risky and sometimes radical.

This has been a learning experience for all of us. Let’s move forward arm in arm keeping our eyes and hearts fixed on what God has in store for us as a university. I believe we are poised for greatness for his glory. So, let’s remain undistracted in our personal pursuit of Jesus and the vision he has given us for our work to empower men and women to excel as influencers in our world for Christ.

Of his own volition, Ed has written a response to this situation. I have included it below. I am thankful for Ed and the valuable things that he has brought to Cornerstone. He is our brother and friend.

After reading his response, if you have comments or questions for Ed, please know that he is very open to talking with you. He will soon be leaving campus for a planned vacation to warmer places but will be back on campus in the second semester.

From Dr. Ed Dobson, senior vice president for spiritual formation:

I know that my comments in the Grand Rapids Press, USA Today and on the Good Morning America Weekend show have created some discussion and controversy. Unfortunately, the main focus of my journey this year was lost – namely, to better understand the teachings of Jesus. I come away from the experience with a deeper appreciation for the life, teachings, sufferings, death and resurrection of Jesus. I wanted to take a few moments to react to two of the issues that are causing the most controversy: my vote for President-elect Obama and the issue of alcohol use.

I have always been and will continue to be pro-life. So why in the world did I vote the way I did? I am pro-life before birth and pro-life after birth. I am equally concerned with the violence on our streets, with people who are dying of HIV-AIDS, people who are suffering genocide in various places in the world, children who are growing up without adequate health care, etc. For me, being pro-life includes not only the protection of the unborn but also how we treat people who are already born. I felt that Mr. Obama was closer to the essence of Jesus’ teachings – compassion for the poor and the oppressed, being a peacemaker, loving your enemies and other issues. I have also said, though it never was printed, that I have little faith in politicians of either party. The real work of reducing abortions and extending love and compassion to the poor and oppressed should be done by those of us who are devoted followers of Jesus.

Now, to the alcohol issue. Jesus himself was accused of being a glutton and a drunkard. Obviously, he was neither! But he did eat food, and he did drink wine. He did frequent parties with tax collectors and sinners. So part of my journey was to try and emulate Jesus in this way. I know that this is not in sync with the Cornerstone lifestyle statement. However, I am not an employee. I do not get paid. I am a volunteer. I was not asked to sign the statement. Had I signed the statement, I would have followed that commitment because I have always strived to be a person of my word.

I regret any controversy that I may have caused our community at Cornerstone University. I love our students, personnel and the mission of the school, and I do not want to distract from the great things that God is doing on our campus. I look forward to sharing with you more of the things that God has taught me during the course of the past year.

Serving alongside you at Cornerstone,

Ed Dobson

12 Comments

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  1. “…And any conversation that Ed’s journey sparks on our campus should remind us that living in Jesus’ way is a worthy goal that is often risky and sometimes radical.” “…So, let’s remain undistracted in our personal pursuit of Jesus and the vision he has given us for our work to empower men and women to excel as influencers in our world for Christ.”

    It doesn’t appear that Dr. Joseph Stowell gets it. How are Christians generally portrayed in the media? The antics of Dobson was the distraction. For those who have many family members who are not believers, this does not help to reduce the geers.

    I had the privilege of sharing the story of Gilead with a group of mentally handicapped individuals last night. What an encouragement. These precious folks don’t seek media attention or challenge the Word of God, they just want to learn about God, His Word and live to please their Savior.

  2. That would be jeer – not geer.

  3. With all due respect to Mr Dobson – his response is based on total rationalization for both, i.e., his vote and his behavior (although I’m not opposed to a having drink now and then).

  4. In truth neither statement is surprising. Actually a bit predictable given the tenuous nature of the issue. Both men are well intentioned followers of Jesus. Both are admirable in their own right and sincere about their faith.

    No argument on that account. The rub is this: they are caught in a system that encourages confrontational sorts of responses based on behavior(s). And the crowds that follow ‘demand responses’ based on that paradigm.

    The problem, as I see it, is this: when we have ‘bounded sets’ as our paradigm, that modus operandi will dictate that we are forever in these types of trouble(s). Bounded sets communicate a sort of ‘inness and outness’ that misses the mark.

    On the other hand what might be called ‘centered sets’ afford much more freedom and conciliatory good will. Jesus is placed as center and we as followers are ‘moving towards the center’ as we make pilgrimage in community.

    Also, this clash of sorts, unveils another issue in respect to ‘what Jesus was up to’ or what the gospel means’. Two ways of thinking, though blurred and overlapping, are beginning to come into focus in these times we live in. These two men, while careful to respect one another, illustrate the clash.

  5. I CALLED IT! I knew if he drank, he hadn’t signed it.

    And completely off-topic:
    Mike, where WERE YOU when you filmed the “Defining Moments” thing about the Kingdom of God? It looks like you’re in the belly/brain of some Victorian era steam-powered robot! And I have to tell you, with all that already/not yet Kingdom stuff, you sound like someone with good solid Augustinian/Calvinist eschatology (read: amillennialism).

  6. While I’m not in full agreement with the method of “living like Jesus” that Dobson employed, I think the “Christian Community” at large makes too much of little things. As Christians, We’re not called to drink or not to drink, smoke or not to smoke, eat or not to eat; we’re not even called to “be like Jesus”, per say. We’re called to be sons and daughters of our heavenly Father…in the culture that God has placed us in. If we quit focusing on what we’re supposedly supposed to do or not to do and start focusing on who we are as His Children, the Spirit will lead us in the way we should go (in our thinking and our activity) naturally as He completes His work of “conforming us (back) into the image of Christ”.

    I also commend Dobson for his courage to vote and speak his conscience. I’ve read others who speak of being “pro-life before birth and after birth” in all the same ways that Dobson does–and I’m with them! I think we too narrowly focus our “pro-life” stance on the abortion issue (though I agee that it is a very real evil) with little or no regard to being consistenly “pro-life” on all issues of human existence.

    Good for you, Dr. Dobson. I appreciate your courage and efforts to minister to the Church in good conscience.

    Jason

  7. I agree that we sometimes focus on “little or petty” issues like the drinking of alcohol or the smoking of tobacco. Fill in the blank with any other “petty” habit that you can think of.

    That being said, alcohol and tobacco both have very addictive qualities to them and there are many people (at Cornerstone & others) that have suffered the consequences of the addictive nature that they have. Some people come out of scenarios where a family member was abusive due to alcohol so we as followers of Christ should be sensitive to that…Romans 14. After all, love limits liberty, Amen?

    As it relates to the Pro-Life question, I agree that we should be consistent in our treatment of the unborn and after we are born. Certainly no argument there. This is a bit of a straw man though. There are many people who did not vote for Obama who are taking care of the poor. To lump all those that did not vote for Obama in the same “callous” category is neither fair or consistent as Mr. Dobson states that he is striving to be.

    I would have to say that the abortion question should take precedence over any other Pro-Life issue. How you can say that you care about the poor, homeless or those with AIDS when you care nothing about the unborn…as Obama has indicated with his voting record? After all, if we care more about action rather than words then I would have to conclude that Obama’s actions (his voting record) speak a great deal louder than his words to this point. His record is the most hostile of any US Senator in history as it relates to the unborn. To suddenly think that this will change is optimistic but a long shot none the less.

    All of us would like to fit Jesus in our nice neat little box and say that He is a Democrat or a Republican. The good news is that He demands holiness and mercy at the same time. Some of us want more holiness and less mercy and some of us want more mercy than holiness. I do not believe that Jesus will let us off the hook. I for one am grateful for Professor Wittmer’s balance on these issues.

    Thanks for listening to my ramblings.

  8. Dobson said in the bulletin board message, “…I come away from the experience with a deeper appreciation for the life, teachings, sufferings, death and resurrection of Jesus.”

    If this was such an integral part of his year of “living the Jesus culture” – Why didn’t we read this in print, or hear during the Good Morning America interview?

  9. Jonathan Shelley January 9, 2009 — 9:57 am

    The part of Ed’s response that bothers me is that he didn’t have to sign the lifestyle statement because he is a volunteer. I don’t see why that matters given his title. He is the senior VP of spiritual formation. Whether he is getting paid or not, that still puts him in a position of spiritual leadership for the Cornerstone community. It seems to me that as a leader he should be held to the same standard as those he is leading, if not a higher standard. I think of Paul during his missionary journeys. Many times, he was a “volunteer” – supporting himself while preaching the Gospel. Yet even as a volunteer he held himself up as an example for others to follow, even when that meant giving up meat or wine for the sake of a weaker brother.

    I don’t know Ed Dobson. I’ve never met him or listened to his sermons or even read his book. All I know about him is what I hear or see in the media. That is true for most people who read the Press article or saw the TV interview. Perhaps Ed was portrayed in an unsympathetic or even unfair light. But the fact remains that Ed Dobson, senior VP of spiritual formation, was on national television condoning a lifestyle choice that Cornerstone, as an institution, opposes. The fact that he is a volunteer seems irrelevent to me.

  10. Romans 14 is sure an interesting chapter. The debate of Romans 14:1-12 vs. Romans 14:13-23 seems to have been going on since the Garden. However, it does seem pretty clear what God expects of His followers.

  11. Why didn’t we read this in print, or hear during the Good Morning America interview?

    Come on Yooper! How do you know he didn’t say it to the media? How do you know they decided not to print it? I respect the fact that you disagree with the man, but now, you’re coming close to saying by implication that he’s lying. There seems to be no evidence that Mr. Dobson is in any way a dishonest man.

  12. Joe, I have been misquoted in the media – so, I know that it happens. However, it appears that the reason why the media picked up on the story was because of the controversy (Obama vote and drinking), not because of the message of the life, teachings, sufferings, death and resurrection of Jesus.

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