Guest Post

So what’s an evangelical for social action, anyway?

By Guest Post

Guest post by Evangelicals for Social Action

At the Sider Center we make a point of discussing topics your grandmother probably told you not to discuss, like sexuality, money, politics, and racism. We think we can talk about these potentially divisive things with love and respect, even if we disagree, because we value theological diversity as much as we do racial diversity. We don’t pretend to know the all the truth, but we know what love looks like. It looks like Jesus—bold and kind, creative and patient. And it’s to make the radical love of Jesus visible in this world that the Sider Center exists.

ESAbannerThe Sider Center of Eastern University promotes peaceful coexistence and social justice through scholarship, community-transformation programs, and loving dialogue across deep differences. Primary avenues for this work include the following:

Evangelicals for Social Action (ESA)
Founded in 1973 by scholar-popularizer-activist Ronald J. Sider, ESA is the premier project of the Sider Center. ESA promotes peace with justice by educating and energizing the church through online publications (our blog, the weekly ePistle, study guides), hands-on training (such as our Racial Justice Institute), and speaking engagements.

Associate Fellows for Racial Justice
Because racial justice is so important to the Sider Center and to ESA, in 2016 we brought on Micky ScottBey Jones and Darren Calhoun as our Associate Fellows for Racial Justice. Micky and Darren focus ESA’s work on racial justice and reconciliation while leading our campaigns for racial justice and equality through social media, writing, and public actions.

Sider Scholars
Our work is supported by Sider Scholars who work 10 hours per week at the Sider Center, receiving a scholarship for 50 percent of their tuition towards Palmer graduate programs, like the Master of Theological Studies in Christian Faith and Public Policy.

Oriented to Love
Oriented to Love helps Christ-followers gather in loving, respectful dialogue around the topic of sexual and gender diversity in the church. Retreating to a place of beauty and rest for two days, together we discover a unity that is deeper than agreement.

CreatureKind exists to engage churches in new ways of thinking about animals and Christian faith, with a special focus on farmed animal welfare. CreatureKind also helps churches play a leading role in animal theology and protection.

Family Advocates
The Sider Center partners with the Family Strengthening Network to provide Family Advocates in local churches and other organizations who can work with families on complex issues like employment, housing, childcare, financial management and counseling.

Latino/a Initiatives
In collaboration with Palmer Seminary, the Sider Center helped launch an online Spanish language master’s degree for educators and pastors in México City, México. This is one of the few graduate theological programs in Spanish that emphasizes women in leadership and holistic approaches to community transformation.

On July 7, Evangelicals for Social Action will host a one-day Racial Justice Institute at the Wild Goose Festival to help participants reflect on, heal from, and discover creative ways to confront racism together. Please join us for this important and timely conversation. Even if you can’t make it, please be sure to stop by and introduce yourself! Throughout the festival, Sider Center staff will also be hosting workshops and conversations on animal welfare and how to communicate safely and lovingly around divisive issues in our faith communities.

“It’s really a magical place”

By Guest Post

Guest post by Sojourners’ Rob and Hannah Wilson-Black

What do you get when you combine the 1960s rock festival Woodstock’s vibe, the Taize community’s singing, the Chautauqua Institution’s events, and the Aspen Ideas Festival’s speakers? Hey, get real — those four things cannot be combined, in part because of geography, brand confusion, and a time-continuum issue.


But imagine they could be and you could attend with your family and friends and survive to tell the tale because you could actually remember them on your ride home? That’s the Wild Goose Festival in Hot Springs, N.C., July 7-10 — and you are officially invited to join us and a couple thousand of your best friends in this surprisingly intimate gathering of faith, art, hymns (and beer even!), rich reflections on life and faith, and good ole down-home fellowship across the tents and river wading. The common metaphor for the Holy Spirit in the British Isles is the wild goose, so that provides a clue as to what you’ll find at the Wild Goose Festival.

Here’s what my 15-year-old daughter Hannah texted me last night about our time at the WG Festival: “The first image that the Wild Goose Festival brings to mind is a small village of bike-riding, creative hippie-hermits who cultivate a culture of sharing. It’s really a magical place. Though everyone at Wild Goose is very different, one thing that ties us all together is a certain knack for making something out of nothing. We make an acre or two of land into festival grounds, hundreds of attendees into a family, trash into art, even, and a collective spirit into music. And if that’s not magic I don’t know what is.”

While I’ve never considered myself a hippie, other than intellectually perhaps (I think by hermit she means her fellow introverts are welcome), Hannah has it right. All three of our children, from when they were very young to now well into high school, have enjoyed their time at the Wild Goose, and as parents we don’t spend much time tracking their whereabouts throughout the day (I hope I’m allowed to admit that — the story of young Jesus being lost on the way out of Jerusalem should give me pause).

What seals the deal for me this year is the amazing Emily Saliers and Amy Ray as the Indigo Girls will be there, as will worship leader extraordinaire Tripp Hudgins and Anna Golladay’s artistic genius. Especially since people claim old friends and new family will be found at Wild Goose, it was a wonderful surprise to discover my college buddy Tripp, elementary school friend Anna, and new songwriting teacher Emily are all connected to Wild Goose! I can’t promise you’ll find your childhood friends and new mentors here, but it would not shock me in the slightest as that is my recent Wild Goose discovery.

Whether you’re enjoying NOT having to be at the kids’ tent with your own wonderful kids, wading in the river and hiking through forests with new colleagues, or learning more about implicit bias, slow church, and social movements’ ties to scripture, you can be sure that at the Wild Goose, you’ll find all this and more. So while you can find new ideas without Aspen, cool institutions without Chautauqua, tent communities without Woodstock, and music without Taize, why not come to Wild Goose and experience a bit of it all? I’ll see you down by the river on my bike singing “Closer to Fine” this July.

Robert Wilson-Black, PhD is CEO of Sojourners ( and a board member of The Wild Goose Festival. Hannah Wilson-Black is a ninth-grader at Sidwell Friends School in Washington, DC and is the creator of


Matt Morris invites us to start “troubling the Gospel.”

By Guest Post

Not having all the answers but being willing to ask the hard questions – this has been an abiding principle of Wild Goose from its earliest days. And providing the time and space to ask those questions through art, music, words, silence and movement – we believe that’s some of the most important work we do at this festival.

Troub-Gospel_900This year, we’re taking that belief even further with the addition of a new tent called Troubling the Gospel, dedicated to questioning our assumptions, interrogating easy answers, freeing the good news from the boxes it’s been put in, and striving to uncover new meaning in our sacred stories, in light of our own personal stories.

Co-curated by Sean Michael Morris, a critical pedagogue, teacher, and contemplative, and Matthew Morris, musician, blogger, and spiritual explorer, Sean and Matt will also be the primary facilitators for the tent. We asked Matt to tell us more of what we can expect from Troubling the Gospel.

Let’s start with the tent’s name. Why “Troubling the Gospel”? What’s that about?

The Gospel is an orientation, a lens through which things are seen, through which the world is turned upside down.The idea of the Troubling the Gospel tent is not as much to change the way we read the Gospel as it is to recognize the deep ways that the Gospel troubles us. When we do troubling the Gospel work, part of what we’re asking is “how is that connected to the kingdom of God”? What words do we use to describe that kingdom (or kin-dom), what images, what sounds, what memories, what hopes? What do we want the Gospel to say to us, and what is it saying to us? How do we hear the Gospel through others’ words, through our relationships and interactions and collaborations in community? Is the Gospel a work of social justice, and if it is, how do we work to translate that into our work, our social lives, our sense of justice?


So what we will actually find when we walk in the door?

A place of dialogue, art, and collaboration. With a multitude of art supplies to use— crayons, paper, finger paint, Play-doh — musical instruments, writing tools, and more.

Will there be workshops going on in the tent?

This will be both a space of individual reflection, and also of guided participation — with active workshops led by community teachers and artists. Each day, the tent will host  focused sessions working with a specific aspect or idea from the Gospel through one or another artistic medium, such as:

  • Troubling the Gospel with song
  • Troubling the Gospel through art
  • Troubling the Gospel with reflective writing
  • Troubling the Gospel through movement
  • Troubling the Gospel with story
  • Troubling the Gospel through confession
  • Troubling the Gospel through collaboration
  • Troubling the Gospel through dialogue
  • Troubling the Gospel through community building

There won’t be a podium, stage, or presentation space.  We want the participants to be the center of the discussion and work.

Each day will also include hours when visitors to the tent will be

encouraged to engage with a more personal, individual experience of

troubling the Gospel.

So what about the individual work? Will someone be directing that?

Facilitation will always be available during the tent’s open hours, but these individual reflection times will be primarily self-guided. Art, writing, and musical supplies will be on the tables. Each table, too, will include a prompt — a line from the Gospel, a thought or question for reflection, etc. — for visitors to engage with, if they’d like.

So if you had to sum it up in a sentence: Why visit the Troubling the Gospel tent?

So you can engage in and discover deeply personal relationships with the Gospel, its messages, its contexts, the text itself, its resonance, and all its repercussions.

Why I Hate Christian Fiction

By 2016 Festival, Guest Post

I am an out-and-proud Christian. So you would think I would love Christian fiction. But no, I can’t stand it. Oh, you’ve read some of it, too? So you know what I mean, then. The squeaky-clean protagonists give me hives. They don’t have any ACTUAL flaws, you know? And that’s just unrealistic. I mean, the Christians I know and love and worship with, week-in and week-out look nothing like the folks you find peopling the Left Behind series—unless we’re talking the bad guys, that is. No, we are seriously flawed individuals who often swear like longshoremen, and screw up in big ways on a regular basis.

And where are all the Gay and Lesbian people? Half of the folks in my church are GLBT folks. I’ve never read a Christian novel where I saw GLBT folks depicted as Christian heroes. I decided that since no one had ever published a book showing Christians as real folks—or at least Christians as I know Christians—I’d have to write it. So I wrote THE KINGDOM. And then I wrote a sequel, THE POWER. I’m working on THE GLORY now. Flawed characters? Check. Real people? Check. Love Jesus? Check. Badass demon hunters? Check. (Yeah, there’s a little bit of Buffy the Vampire Slayer in the DNA of those books, too.)

Is it hard to get something like that published? You bet. It’s like Mark Heard said, “I’m too sacred for the sinners and the saints wish I would leave.” And that’s why I started the Apocryphile Press, because honestly, no one else is going to touch books like this with a ten-foot pole. We’ve got about 130 titles out, many of them pushing (or downright punching out) the envelope of “acceptable” Christian publishing norms. Last year we published a large-format art book called THE PASSION OF CHRIST: A GAY VISION, which shows scenes from Jesus’ last week, his crucifixion and resurrection—if Jesus were a young gay man living in the American South in the 1960s. I know that sounds kind of out there, but in fact this book is stunningly beautiful and deeply moving.

We publish anything Steve Case wants to write, because he’s just a wacky good writer—check out his incredible FR. DARK to see what I mean. We also just published a bold new study of the book of Revelation called THE APOCALYPTIC GOSPEL by Justin Staller that has people buzzing.

So in between the awesome speakers and the awesomer music, please stop by our booth and check out our books. Steve Case, Justin Staller, and myself will be there. We’re giving away free ebook copies of THE KINGDOM and FR. DARK, we’ll be signing books, and selling them. We also promise to be insufferably silly. Most of all, I’m interested in hearing your book ideas—because we specialize in the kinds of books other publishers are afraid of. We are especially interested in Christian fiction that depicts real Christians—folks like you and me—as we actually are, warts and all, not as some idealized role models.

I want Apocryphile to specialize in BADASS CHRISTIAN FICTION. We’ve got a good start on that already. I figure Wild Goose is the PERFECT place to find folks who’d like what we publish, and who write the kinds of books we’d LIKE to publish. So do you have a book for us?

John R. Mabry

How big is that tent, exactly?

By 2016 Festival, Guest Post

Guest post by Christian Theological Seminary, Indianapolis, IN

Since our founding in 1855, Christian Theological Seminary has leaned toward the right side of history. We have been inclusive, ecumenical and respectful of all traditions and faiths. Founded as a school that assured “students attending it would not be brought into contact with the habits and manners that exist in populations where slavery exists,” CTS has continued to stand in solidarity with those whom history tries to leave behind. We were among the first theological schools to grant tenure to a woman, and we sheltered a faculty member of Japanese descent during the terrible period of US internment camps during WWII.

But our convictions are tested all the time. The latest? Whether to go to the Wild Goose Festival this year, because it’s being held in North Carolina—a state that just passed one of the nation’s most heinous anti-LGBT bills.

Don’t worry, Wild Goose: we’re coming. After all, we’re from Indiana—a state that’s neck-deep in hateful laws. What right do we have to call out North Carolina?

But that’s the dilemma of being a Christian, isn’t it? Our convictions are constantly tested. And at this stage in history, we may be facing one of the biggest tests of all.

We are among the Christians who believe in a “big-tent,” “embracing” and “tolerant” expression of faith. The tent we pitch is big enough for people of all faiths. But is it big enough for candidates who use hate to curry votes, legislators who work to limit school lunches for poor children, gun owners who quote the Bible to justify “stand-your-ground” laws?

Can we forgive these people? We try. Can we pray for them? We do. Can we learn how to include them in the tent, while also protecting those who are hurt by their actions? We are working on it.

Can we talk about all this at Wild Goose Festival? We will. See you there!

True Story

When potential students apply to Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis, they tell us about themselves. High GPAs. Terrific references. Years of devotion to their home churches.

But it’s not until they’ve settled in a bit — when they get through orientation, move into their apartments, go to class — it’s not until then that the true stories come out. Stories of joy, hope, support, epiphanies. Stories of abuse, loss, shame, doubt.

Novelist E. M. Forster used this example to show the difference between facts and a story:

The king died, and the queen died.
The king died, and the queen died of grief.

Jesus’s story is full of joy, hope, support, epiphanies, abuse, loss, shame, and doubt. No wonder we connect to it, are transformed by it, seek to follow his “way.”

We can’t wait to swap stories with old friends and new at Wild Goose Festival this year.

Seminaries, Roads and Stories that become what Everything is About

By 2016 Festival, Guest Post

Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary (PLTS) is excited to be at Wild Goose! Located in Berkeley, CA, it is a little tiny bit like Wild Goose all year long.

There is a story behind every person who comes to seminary, and each story is different. As the Director of Admissions, I get to hear a lot of those stories. I live and work at PLTS. Our campus is in kind of a funny location. Berkeley is funny just on its own, being the birthplace and epicenter of the free speech movement in the 1960’s. The campus is located 8 blocks up the steepest hill a road could be on, Originally intended for a trolley, this road is how Google will tell you to get there, but your car might really fight it. But it’s not the only way to get there.

In fact, the Berkeley hills are made up of a myriad of winding roads and pathways and staircases between people’s homes. You can pass lots of interesting things on the way, like the morning we passed a person having nude pictures taken of herself on some steps.

I’ve been thinking of those multiple roads as a good metaphor for how people come to understand their life story, their calling in life–which sometimes leads to seminary, and sometimes leads a million other places. Or sometimes lead to a million other places and then to seminary. Or sometimes lead to seminary and then to endless other places. Sometimes people wander a bit–up roads that are windier but not quite as hilly. Which path is better is really not the question. God is on all of those paths, and it is your own journey. Each journey has a story to tell.

And along the way of any road there are stories told, like the story in the sacred text of the Bible, where the guys are walking on the road to Emmaus, telling stories about all the things that had taken place in Jerusalem. Then Jesus, telling stories of the prophets, begins to make sense of the stories they are telling, and those stories become what everything is about.

When a person finds themselves at seminary, more stories happen: In the classroom, in coffee shops, during classes and protests and late-night end-of-the-semester paper-writing, new friendships are made, new understandings are born, and new experiences continue to shape a story that becomes what everything is about.

And then, trained as faithful leaders for a future unknown, people are sent out, ready. There is a story in front of every person who comes out of seminary too, which continues to become what everything is about.

Think about bringing your own story, and finding out what comes next.

Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary: A place for forward-thinking faithful leaders to engage in open-minded, interfaith study to prepare for faithful leadership in an evolving church and world. Come and talk to us about our story. PLTS is a graduate program of California Lutheran University, a seminary of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and part of the largest interreligious theological consortium in the world–the Graduate Theological Union (GTU). Come ask us about it!




Twitter: @PLTSofCLU

Holly Johnson and Christa Compton will be there!

HollyJohnson_300pxHolly Johnson, Director of Admissions at PLTS, is also a graduate and pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. She loves live music, poetry, blurring the lines between sacred and secular, good food, good wine, and she’s a little thrilled that she gets to be at the Festival and call it work. @MinnesotaHolly @PLTSofCLU




ChristaCompton_300pxChrista Compton is a graduate of PLTS, and current pastor in New Jersey. She also likes music, poetry, literature, good food and wine. She describes herself as a southern woman who likes to defy stereotypes. @ChristaCompton

There Is A Ferguson Near You

By Guest Post
Author Leah Gunning Francis

Leah Gunning Francis

Leah Gunning Francis (who spoke at Wild Goose Festival 2015) is more than the author of Ferguson and Faith: Sparking Leadership and Awakening Community, she is also an activist and a passionate champion for changing the public narrative about young black men.

When the tragic death of Michael Brown occurred in Ferguson, Missouri, on August 9, 2014, St. Louis-based Chalice Press needed to be part of a positive and justice-seeking response. In partnership with the Forum for Theological Exploration (FTE), we were honored to work with Dr. Gunning Francis, who went out and interviewed more than two dozen faith leaders and young activists to tell the behind-the-scenes story of what happened in the days and months following the event that propelled the #BlackLivesMatter movement on the national stage.

As Shane Claiborne has called it, Ferguson and Faith is “an important book … a theological memoir of a movement.”

In his foreword to the book, Jim Wallis, founder and president of Sojourners, writes,

I believe that if the young Ferguson leaders hadn’t gotten up day after day and gone to the streets night after night, and some courageous clergy hadn’t joined them there and spoken out in their community, there might never have been a historic national commission on policing or a damning Department of Justice report on the Ferguson Police Department — and we would not be at the beginning of a new national conversation on reforming the criminal justice system. But it is only the beginning …

With new reports of police shootings in the news nearly every day, we know Wallis is right, and it is our hope that this book will be part of sparking the national conversation among people and communities of faith as to how to faithfully respond. Because, as Dr. Gunning Francis writes in the book, “There is a Ferguson near you.”

Order Ferguson and Faith online now!

Watch and share this video message from Ferguson and Faith author Leah Gunning Francis!

Other Wild Goose 2015 speakers whose books are available from Chalice Press:
Forward Together by Rev. William Barber II
Pre-Post-Racial America by Sandhya Rani Jha
Blessed Are The Crazy by Sarah Griffith Lund
Coming Home by Zachary Moon
PregMANcy by Christian Piatt
Sacred Wounds by Teresa B Pasquale

Ready for Round 2! 

By 2015 Festival, Guest Post

uts at wild goose festival

The Admissions Team at Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York is back again at the Goose.  Last year we had such a great time greeting our fabulous alumni/ae and meeting prospective students that we couldn’t stay away!

The idea of theological education can be a big step.  We are grateful to again be able to share our Union experiences as students and alumni/ae. We were also really moved to see folks from all over the country, and the world, connecting at our recruitment table. That we played a role in facilitating these surprising connections was a real highlight of our experience.  And we are grateful.

At Wild Goose, there is no shortage of booths to visit and people to meet. Between the warm welcome from the people of Hot Springs, NC to the visiting community that’s built especially for this weekend, you’re sure to find something that piques your interest and feeds your passion. We hope that Union Theological Seminary can be on that list of inspirations.

So come and find us in the Spirituality Tent this year.  Just look for the large “Union” banner.  We will again have a team of folks ready to answer any questions you may have, from “what is seminary like,” to “how do you manage living in New York City?” and anything in between.  And if you don’t have any questions, you are warmly invited to share some of your story, reminisce about Union, or simply say “hello.” We look forward to seeing you!

– The Admissions Team of Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York



Making Peace with the Church

By 2015 Contributor, 2015 Festival, Guest Post

lane_author-photo_compressedLike all good anthropologists, I started research for my new book Lessons in Belonging from a Church-Going Commitment Phobe with a list of questions, not answers. Why is it so hard to belong to a local church? How do we know when we’ve found the one, and if there is no “one,” how do we make do with one that’s good enough? Can we really share flesh in Christ and not get eaten alive by one another? And when does a church go from being an imperfect one to a toxic one? Will we ever be able to make peace with a church that’s not a place of peace for all?

I am not a natural born peacemaker.

Although Erin means peace in Gaelic, I like to tell people my name is more aspirational than prophetic. At the age of five, I fought with the Catholic Church to receive my First Holy Communion two years early. At eight, as part of my parents’ divorce proceedings, I went before a Jewish arbitrator, argued, and lost my right to choose my own religion. At fourteen, I rebelled against the court orders and attended a non-demoninational church in which the Holy Spirit – and the handsome boys – set me aflame. When I married a Methodist pastor at age twenty-two, some friends worried I’d been domesticated. Four years later – and still happily married – I legally returned to my maiden name because his “just didn’t feel right.”

Making peace with the church and its people has been lifetime work for me. Despite my generation’s reputation for being a bunch of affiliation-averse, individualistically-inclined, spiritual-DIY-ers, I think many of us have struggled to make peace with the church not because we don’t care about this community of Christ-followers but because we care it’s done well – with excellence and creativity and accountability. The late poet John O’Donohue called this type of intense lover of the church the “artist.” We often think of artists as living on the edge of culture, the innovators and free thinkers, but O’Donohue described the artist this way: “He inhabits the tradition to such depth that he can feel it beat in his heart, but his tradition also makes him feel like a total stranger who can find for his longing no echo there.”

The artist makes her home not on the edge of culture but amidst her own near-constant heartbreak.

I have never been to the Wild Goose Festival before. But I suspect that among this group of faithful rebels, hearts are raw. I want to know about these hearts, the reckless hearts, the brave hearts, the skittish hearts, the open hearts. Author Parker Palmer points out that the word heart as its most ancient comes from the Latin cor and represents that hidden wholeness within each of us that holds together the intellectual, the emotional, the bodily, the imaginative, and all our ways of knowing. This heart stuff isn’t for the faint. If we want to be true peacemakers with the church and others, we must first make peace within our selves.

I don’t have answers for how exactly each one of us is called to do that. I’m hoping that’s what we can share and explore at the festival breakout session together. But I do know that each of us has a choice in how we will respond to our heartbreak. We can either let it take us out of the action in favor of a simpler life where we belong without question or question without belonging, or we can let it lead us into a more wholehearted life in which the contradictions of our faith open us to the death of illusions, the suffering of community, and the resurrection of our real selves as members of God’s household.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” – Matthew 5:9

Erin S. Lane is author of Lessons in Belonging from a Church-Going Commitment Phobe and co-editor of Talking Taboo: American Christian Women Get Frank about Faith. Confirmed Catholic, raised Charismatic, and married to a Methodist, she facilitates retreats for clergy and congregational leaders through the Center for Courage & Renewal. To find more of her writing, visit


Frank Schaeffer To Bring Newest Paintings To Wild Goose

By Guest Post

Frank Schaeffer PaintingTo my Wild Goose Family:

Hi all. Here’s my Spring/Summer Wild Goose art show of NEW paintings. I’ll have some of these with me at Wild Goose 2015!

The theme is transcendent resurrection of the spirit. This revival of hope is open to all—atheist, believer and agnostic. I believe in beauty as the intrinsic truth. Here is my small new contribution to that truth.

My muses are my grandchildren, Amanda, Ben, Lucy, Jack and Nora. (By the way, Amanda will be with me at WG this year!) They are the lens through which death loses its sting for me. Painting is my expression of the peace I feel when I’m immersed in the lives I love best.

Detail from Daffodils, Tulips & Narcissus in a Storm

Detail from Daffodils, Tulips & Narcissus in a Storm

Thank you for taking the time to share these moments with me by looking at my work. I walk from my studio into the garden, pick a flower that was planted by my grandchildren (usually as a bulb the year before) and paint it. Really these are “portraits” of the moments of joy and grace I experience with the gifts of the children near and dear to me.

See you at WG!

Frank Schaeffer


(See more of Frank’s work here.)