We live in an age when the most urgent question is the most fundamental question of all: “Who am I?” “Who are we?” The question of identity has been forced to the forefront, and our political and religious lives are reeling.
This should not surprise us. Identity lies at the unstable intersection of belonging and uniqueness. Who I am is shaped by my family, place, and vocation, yet it cannot be reduced to these things; I am unique. I may belong to a group, and yet God calls me by my own name. Likewise, each church belongs to a certain denomination, and each denomination to the larger body of Christ—but each also has its own unique history and its own unique God-given calling.
For decades, society and the church emphasized only the unique “I.” The resulting loss of meaning and belonging has triggered a violent lurch back toward the “we,” the language of solidarity and “identity groups.”
In our culture more broadly, this lurch remains confused and incoherent, as many of the loudest identity groups of the new tribalism seek to define themselves communally by their commitment to individual self-definition and self-invention.
In the church, the lurch is a bit more coherent, but still troubling: desperate for a common theological tradition that was not born yesterday, many thousands of Christians are abandoning evangelical faith to seek refuge in churches that promise authority, history, continuity—in a word, “catholicity.” At the same time, other Christians react against the sins in the church’s past and become “woke,” proving their wakefulness by their ability to name all the errors of historic Christianity.
At Davenant, we are aware of the urgent need to steer a faithful course through these identity crises. We cannot flee to the past and abandon the Lord’s call to faithfulness in our time; but nor can we flee from our past to prove our solidarity with those who do not share it. We must affirm our vocation as individuals, attentive to the Spirit’s summons, without falling back into the individualism that ate away the foundations of our churches and our politics.
At Davenant, we look to the Protestant Reformers not only for the truths they proclaimed, but as fitting guides for such a time as this. They wrestled with what it meant to be faithful to the church’s past while answering the Spirit’s reforming call in the present.
At Davenant, we recognize that the root of the identity crisis rocking our civilization is the question: “what does it mean to be human?” We live in the wake of what C.S. Lewis dubbed “the abolition of man”: mankind’s self-liberation that turned out to also be his self-repudiation. Having taken over the mastery of ourselves from the God who made us, we no longer know how to live as creatures, within limits, and so find ourselves flailing in the void into which we have hurled ourselves. People in the church urgently need and desire guidance in the Christian wisdom that begins in a Christian humanism, a Christian humanism proclaimed by the Reformers but also by many saints and sages before and since.
At Davenant, we recognize that behind the many defections from Christian orthodoxy or evangelical Protestantism is a more basic psychological lack: friendlessness and fatherlessness. Most of us lack the dense web of relationships that sustained our Christian forebears, whether the peers with whom to share our triumphs and our doubts, or the fathers and mothers in the faith to anchor us and mentor us in the midst of confusion.
Our work at Davenant is informed by these three profound needs: the need for networks of friendship and mentoring in the church; the need for basic training in the wisdom of Christian humanism; and the need for our churches to be strongly anchored in the soil of our catholic past without forgetting the call to reform. We have labored over the last six years to build bonds of friendship and collaboration between pastors, scholars, and thoughtful laymen, to provide programs of training and mentoring that equip the next generation to faithfully grasp the shape of God’s reality, and to publish, translate, and disseminate resources that proclaim the “reformed catholic” vision of the Protestant Reformation and its relevance today. This year, we have witnessed the immense blessings of God’s grace in opening doors and providing resources for renewed and expanded ministry. The Hughes family appeared on our doorstep and have rapidly turned Davenant House into a flourishing hub for ministry in the Southeast. New leadership in our Vice-Presidential, Editor-in-Chief, and Davenant Latin Institute positions has breathed fresh life into our programs and operations, while veterans of the organization continue to do fantastic work behind the scenes. Urgent fundraising needs have been met with humbling outpourings of generosity, and designated gifts have enabled us to relaunch initiatives like our Ad Fontes magazine stronger than ever before.
Indeed, there are so many exciting initiatives and opportunities before us in 2020 that I can’t wait to share with you all, that it’s hard to believe that just ten months ago we were focused on cutting back programs. We are so grateful for the help of so many of you in helping our ministry grow this year.
However, the fields are still white unto harvest and the opportunities before us well beyond our current means. We hope to make decisions in January about which areas of expanded ministry we can and cannot pursue, and we would like to invite you to consider generously giving or pledging here in this end-of-year giving season so that we can make the most of the opportunities God has placed before us.
Here are just a few areas where we are hoping to grow:
- Expansion of both the property and the programs at Davenant House to offer ministries ranging from evening discussion nights with local pastors to semester-long residential mentoring programs for gap-year students. (You can designate your gift to “Davenant House” to support this work and provide scholarships for summer programs.)
- Hiring new Teaching Fellows to do regional and online teaching ministries in Protestant wisdom.
- Expanding the Davenant Language Institute to offer top-notch Hebrew, Greek, and Latin training to seminarians and pastors. (You can designate your gift to “Davenant Language Institute” to support scholarships.)
- Translating and publishing neglected Reformation-era classics. (For instance, you can designate your gift to “Vermigli Project” to support our translation of Peter Martyr Vermigli’s Common Places.)
Appropriately enough given these particular projects and our broader mission, our focus in the year to come will be the theme of Christian Education. We already have conferences planned in Oxford and in South Carolina with leaders in this field such as Michael Ward and Gene Edward Veith, and we look forward to continuing to build partnerships with Christian schools, colleges, and seminaries to help them grow deeper and broader in the riches of Christian wisdom.
Thanks for supporting us with your gifts and your prayers!
Brad Littlejohn, President