Generous Orthodoxy

Our community group this year is going to listen to various podcasts and focus on the meditation and reflection sparked by those podcasts.  If you’d like to follow along with us, you can check out my notes here on the blog each week.

October 18th

Not sure why you can’t see the “play” button but it still works.  Hover over the black space on the left and click.


For discussion…

As described by Malcolm Gladwell

Orthodoxy = committed to tradition
Generous = open to change

The best way to live our lives is to find the middle ground between these two things.  Orthodoxy without generosity is blindness.  Generosity without orthodoxy is shallow and empty.

The Mennonite embodiment of the sentiment that “we’re all in this together.”

Chester Wenger, ordained minister in the Mennonite Church, performing the wedding ceremony for his gay son, losing his credentials with the Lancaster Mennonite conference, and his subsequent letter to “his beloved church.”


The story of Wilglory Tanjong and the Black Justice League at Princeton University protesting the school’s deep adulation for U.S. President and former president of Princeton, Thomas Woodrow Wilson, and its blind veneration to this deeply racist demigod.


Gladwell believes that in order to bring lasting and meaningful change, one must be willing to personally sacrifice if one wants to make things better.  We must respect and love the body that we are trying to heal and in caring so deeply, we are willing to sacrifice and do hard things in order that it might be made more whole.

Should the manifestations of this belief look the same for various people groups?   How might “generous orthodoxy” look for a person of color?  How about for a White person?   How does our perception of “generous orthodoxy” change when viewed through lenses other than our own? 

For Meditation & Reflection…

For I am not ashamed of the gospel;
it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith,
to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

Romans 1:16 – NRSV

“Notice how broad that is?”  -Chester Wenger

For Further Contemplation & Exploration

  • Wilglory Tanjong’s response to the Revisionist History podcast.  Definitely worth reading the full piece.  “Gladwell’s argument reveals a much larger issue with the perception of black commitment.  Black people are constantly expected to sacrifice twice as much as a white person for access to the same rights and norms.  As black people, the sacrifices we make are often ignored and dismissed.  To say that sitting in the President’s office was simply a ‘sleepover’ completely dismisses the importance sit-ins have had not only on college campuses, but also the wider civil rights movements.”
  • The letter written by Chester Wenger.
  • The book by the same name by Brian McLaren, which explores these concepts in more depth.

Last week’s notes and podcast can be found here.

4 thoughts on “Generous Orthodoxy

  1. I love what you guys are doing!!! Gosh, I wish I could join you!

    I listened to this episode and had reallllly mixed feelings about it. I thought the parts about the Mennonite minister and his son were well-done and important. And I love the idea of Generous Orthodoxy. But I was very concerned and disappointed with the way MG talked about the fight for racial justice at Princeton, regarding Woodrow Wilson’s name and image. He may be correct that the “generous orthodoxy” method of addressing racism would have been more effective with the old white dudes who make decisions, but it’s really not his place to suggest how black student activists should approach these issues. I felt like he completely missed their point (even though he did seem to agree about changing the name). I’m glad you noted Wilglory’s response because it needs to be heard. So all in all, I’m glad he talked about Generous Orthodoxy (which is so so important), but I wish he’d done a better job of it.

  2. We miss you, Michelle! Wish you could be part of our discussion tonight!

    I agree, I think MG missed the mark with the Princeton story. I think his idea of withdrawing from the school might make sense for White protestors but not for Black. We often think that actions should be equal for all people regardless of race and circumstance (what’s fair is fair, and such) and I think that’s where Gladwell misstepped, so to speak.

    He did state clearly that he thinks the name should be removed. But he didn’t take into account what Black people have ALREADY sacrificed when he called the protestors to take more self-sacrificial action. And like Tanjong points out, he also failed to acknowledge the historic relevance of sit-ins in our country and he made a mockery of it. His idea of a generous orthodoxy makes sense (and gives much to think about/talk about/explore) but I think it’s going to manifest itself in very different ways for different people and he didn’t give it the nuance it needs.

  3. I am a total podcast junkie– this is right up my alley. But just one tiny correction that doesn’t take away from your points. Gladwell isn’t a White American. He’s multiethnic English/Canadian.

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