DMINLGP

DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Moderation, A Needed Virtue with a New Definition

Written by: on June 7, 2019

XIII. MODERATION

We believe that the moderation of the believer should be known of all men, that his experience and daily walk should never lead him into extremes, fanaticism, unseemly manifestations, back- biting, murmurings, but that his sober, thoughtful, balanced, mellow, forgiving, and zealous Christian experience should be one of steadfast uprightness, equilibrium, humility, self-sacrifice and Christ-likeness.[1]

The above article of the original declaration of faith as written by Aimee Semple McPherson describes a posture she expected of the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel. While reading the writings of Martin Percy in Reasonable Radical? edited by Ian S. Markham and Joshua Daniel, I discovered a familiar tone and approach to moderation as what I have read in early Foursquare history. It is interesting to consider Percy’s background compared to Semple McPherson’s though in very different time periods. Martin Percy is the Dean of Christ’s Church University of Oxford and priest in the Anglican Church yet with an evangelical background and interest in the charismatic movement. Both Percy and Semple McPherson were formed through a myriad of religious and life shaping encounters and influences that makes the reader wonder how much these varied experiences developed their moderate or reasonable radical stance. It was through Percy’s reference to the Methodists that triggered the memory of the influence Methodism had on Semple McPherson and most likely why she added Moderation as an article of the declaration of faith.

Speaking of moderation Percy says, “I think that being a moderate is rather like being ecumenical; is not weak-willed or sloppily liberal; rather, it is about being charitable, generous and tough-minded, and committed to holding the center as a place of civil convening. In other words, this is a difficult blend to achieve.”[2]

Percy and Semple McPherson both give liberty in the area of “ecclesial adiaphora” which Semple McPherson described as non-essentials. Both approach these as important to dialogue about, differences to lean into, and to call us to mature into seeing this as “good difference.” Percy quotes Hooker as defining this as “harmonious dissimilitude” in which we “agree to disagree, but agreeing to still walk together into (God’s) future.”[3] Jonathan Haidt in The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion states, “Some degree of conflict among groups may even be necessary for the health and development of any society.”[4]

Percy uses the story of Jesus cleansing the temple to describe a moment of disjuncture, the radical part of reasonableness. “This is the key to understanding the incident: it is about breaking paradigms, and disrupting prevailing frames of reference.”[5] Percy’s emphasis is on wisdom, knowing when mild adaptation is needed or when radical reform pursued through cool passion fueled by righteous anger is the proper action. He reminds us that Jesus’ action was premeditated in that he saw the temple and then went and made the whip before he came back and used it. He had been known as a mild and gentle teacher, but on this day he became an indignant prophet.

In these days of complexity and unrest may the Church understand the beauty of Jesus, Percy and Semple McPherson in calling us to the middle. The place of gentleness and mediation but also the platform of radical, loving, passionate truth telling. Though Percy reminds us that the middle is a difficult position to hold, may we take heart that even though he calls it a small seed so to was faith likened to a small mustard seed yet it results in the growth of a mighty tree caring for many.[6]

Garvey Berger and Johnston describe leadership that is needed in these complex times as those that will mature into a self-transformed mind, those that “can understand and hold perspectives of multiple and opposing stakeholders at the same time, knowing that there is truth and importance even in starkly different perspectives.”[7] Zemke urged leaders to understand that “change and dissent are very closely linked” and that “tempered radicals” are those who live in the “now and not yet” who see possibility for the future in the face of present reality.[8]

Moderation is not a domesticated softness so we all get along. Rather, it is a place of mature people who are able to stand in the middle and help those on both sides discover the truth of the other and lead with wisdom. This is the maturity I hear Percy calling the Church to, “The call of our Christian faith is to be a people of unity, maturity, and stability. But this also incites us to be a people of fervent faith and calm temperament; a people of moderation and passionate commitment; and we are invited to be agents of its inauguration.”[9]

 

[1] https://www.foursquaremissionspress.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/445_Declaration_of_Faith.pdf

[2] Ian S. Markham and Joshua Daniels eds., Reasonable Radical? Reading the Writings of Martyn Percy  (Eugene, OR: Pickwick Publications, 2018), Kindle Loc. 8879.

[3] Ibid., Kindle Loc. 8798.

[4] Jonathan Haidt, The Righeous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion (New York: Pantheon Books, 2012), Kindle Loc. 78.

[5] Ibid., Kindle Loc. 8828.

[6] Matthew 13:31-32 NIV

[7] Jennifer Garvey Berger and Keith Johnston, Simple Habits for Complex Times: Powerful Practices for Leaders (Stanford CA: Stanford University Press, 2015), 181.

[8] Diane Zemke, Being SMART about Congregational Change (self-published, 2014), Kindle Loc. 1742.

[9] Markham and Daniels, eds., Kindle Loc. 8897

About the Author

mm

Tammy Dunahoo

Tammy is a lover of God, her husband, children and grandchildren. She is the V.P. of U.S. Operations/General Supervisor of The Foursquare Church.

6 responses to “Moderation, A Needed Virtue with a New Definition”

  1. Andrea Lathrop says:

    Thank you for this, Tammy. I keep thinking about how difficult the moderate position is and you have expanded on this so well! It seems simpler to choose a side and a team instead of being open to other perspectives – attempting to solve a problem instead of living in tension. Often I think people see my openness as weakness or passivity but I am becoming more unwilling to align myself too extremely on matters that are not spine issues (life/death) but rib issues (preference), no matter the social cost. Not sure that makes sense.
    I appreciated hearing the connection with moderation and Foursquare’s roots – how encouraging to me! Grateful for this post and you.

    • mm Tammy Dunahoo says:

      Yes, it makes perfect sense. It is a challenging place to be in our current culture of extremes, but one I believe the Church is called to.

      I like your spine vs. ribs analogy!

  2. Mario Hood says:

    Great post Tammy. I loved this, “Moderation is not a domesticated softness so we all get along. Rather, it is a place of mature people who are able to stand in the middle and help those on both sides discover the truth of the other and lead with wisdom.” This to me sounds like embracing the tension in faith and life. Your work will last way past your time, but I know it will impact this time as well. Great stuff my friend.

  3. mm Sean Dean says:

    Tammy, as per usual, this is exceptional. I love the focus on moderation. My Wesleyan-Methodist roots were tingling the whole time. I’ve often described myself as aggressively moderate, which makes people laugh, but I think there is a truth to the statement. You don’t become moderate by accident and it’s not a static state. There’s a lot of work to remain in the middle. I really appreciate this from both you and Percy.

    On a side note, the statement you quote at the beginning is really masculine in its phrasing. I know that was the way people wrote in the early twentieth century, but I’m curious if the language has become more gender neutral in the years since? (I could probably look this up and find out myself, but I’m interested in hearing from you)

  4. mm Harry Fritzenschaft says:

    Tammy,
    Thanks so much for your well cited and compelling post. I really appreciated your comparison of Percy (who obviously I just met) and the founder of the Foursquare movement, Aimee Semple McPherson. The founding principles of your movement echo forward to today and even throughout your leadership and writing. Thank you for reminding us not only of Percy’s warning that the moderate position is difficult to hold, but inspiring us how to do this. In Vineyard ecclesiology, this would be the dynamic middle or the dynamic tension of both/and. Your recitation of Percy’s, “The call of our Christian faith is to be a people of unity, maturity, and stability. But this also incites us to be a people of fervent faith and calm temperament; a people of moderation and passionate commitment; and we are invited to be agents of its inauguration.” sounds like a fitting bellwether for our cohort. This is why this cohort experience has been so transformative for me. Thanks so much for leading and teaching me from your Foursquare perspective.

  5. Thank you Tammy for this clear picture of moderation that you’ve painted from the Percy’ and Semple’s writing. This can only be achieved through the process of maturity in our Christian faith and not something that can be attained overnight. It’s challenge for us to keep growing into it knowing that learning is a lifelong process.

Leave a Reply to Andrea Lathrop Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *