Youth convention speaker raises eyebrows

No one would call Shane Claiborne boring. Claiborne looks and sounds like an Old Testament prophet, sporting dreadlocks, boldly questioning wealth, and calling for justice for the poor. He makes a lot of people – including Christians – uncomfortable. So it’s not surprising that Claiborne’s selection as one of two keynote speakers scheduled for the U.S. Mennonite Brethren conference’s 2011 youth convention in San Antonio, Texas, (SA2011), raised questions among some constituents.

National Youth Convention co-directors Rick Bartlett, Wendell Loewen, and Tim Neufeld have worked with national and district U.S. MB leaders throughout the vetting process. The Christian Leader talked with several leaders about the concerns.

Steve Schroeder, U.S. Conference leadership board chair:
I have read one of Shane Claiborne’s books, which I found very inspiring and which sounded very Anabaptist to me. I have also combed through his website looking for anything that would contradict our MB Confession of Faith and I’ve found nothing.

Rod Suess, Pacific District Conference board of faith and life: [NYC leaders] designed this event to challenge young people caught in a very materialistic culture to risk their lives with Jesus. It’s critical that we support them in the effort, surround them and all those who will attend in prayer, and send any concerns directly to them.

Ed Boschman, U.S. Conference executive director: When a youth camp speaker challenged me as a 15-year-old to lay down my life to follow Jesus – over the top as far as I was concerned – I said I would. And while I’m still struggling to get it right, I’ve never regretted it. The NYC planning team has put together an incredible plan for a similar discipleship opportunity. I’d love to be a youth pastor or sponsor at SA2011, and after hearing from this modern-day prophet, get into a circle with open Bibles and do what the Bereans (Acts 17:11) did. The Spirit of Jesus Christ would be there.

Larry Nikkel, chair of the national board of faith and life: I have read Shane’s writings and find him among the most serious followers of Jesus I know. If his messages offer the opportunity to engage in serious examination of biblical truth, he would be presenting our youth and our youth leaders with a great opportunity for spiritual discernment and growth.

Study guides and post-event materials to help youth prepare for and process the Apr. 16–19 convention are available at www.SanAntonio2011.org. More information about Shane Claiborne is also linked on the SA2011 site.

Myra Holmes, Christian Leader assistant editor. Reprinted from Christian Leader.

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