Claiborne Affirmed As Speaker

SA2011 Speaker Raises Eyebrows

by Myra Holmes

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 lots of people, including Christians, uncomfortable. So it’s not surprising that Claiborne’s selection as one of two keynote speakers scheduled for San Antonio 2011 has raised questions among some U.S. Mennonite Brethren.

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 CL talked with several of these leaders about the concerns and the role speakers and sponsors play in calling teens to a life of discipleship. Here, in part, is what they have to say:

Steve Schroeder, U.S. Conference Leadership Board chair: When people come to me with these kinds of concerns I first ask: "Have you verified the information?" Too often, the answer is "no." 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 Web site 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: We have excellent (SA2011) leaders that take seriously the concerns being raised. They are seasoned in youth ministry and have designed this event to challenge young people caught in a very materialistic culture to risk their lives with Jesus. It is critical that we support them in the effort, surround them and all those who will attend in prayer and direct any concerns directly to them so that they can make SA 2011 the best experience it can be.

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 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 youthleadersa great opportunity for spiritual discernment and growth.

Study guides and post-event materials to help youth prepare for and process SA2011 are available at More information about Shane Claiborne is also linked on the SA2011 site.

2 comments (Add your own)

1. wrote:
Kudos to the MB leaders who have stood behind the decision to invite Shane Claiborne as speaker at the national youth conference. It's important that the conference not give into unfounded fears and baseless accusations. Thank you.

Fri, October 29, 2010 @ 10:45 PM

2. Benjamin A. Tagle wrote:
I agree with the previous comment. As recently as a month ago, from the pulpit mind you, Claiborne was described as "#3 in the Emergent Church hierarchy" (an incorrect statement) and the emergent church movement itself then characterized as pro-homosexual and worse ('unfounded fears and baseless accusations' galore). I fail to see the sanctity of a sermon which must resort to innuendo and falsehood--a lawyer would have been proud of the tactics employed. While ideologies may differ, I see no reason why a positive message cannot be found in Claiborne's presentation.

Thu, March 3, 2011 @ 3:54 PM

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