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Japanese bridges, Bridgetown, iconic tables, and potlucks adorn New Wine’s imagination and our history and story to the present day. If you look closely, you can find a table/bridge and an “n” and “w” in the New Wine logo. The brushstroke look of the logo embodies a scratchy, gritty, stretchable quality that is required of those who would be new wineskins through which Jesus pours out his new wine. To learn more about our history, please continue reading…

The New Wine institute began in 2000 at Multnomah University and Seminary in Portland, OR, otherwise known as Bridgetown. But New Wine’s grapes started fermenting back in 1989 at The Art Institute of Chicago when our Founder and Director Dr. Paul Louis Metzger asked his girlfriend, Mariko, to marry him. They had just finished touring a special exhibit of Claude Monet’s art. The last painting on display was Monet’s Japanese Footbridge, which featured the bridge that crossed over the water lily pond on his Giverny estate. The narrator indicated that Monet intended his art to serve as a bridge between East and West. The rest is history: Paul purchased the painting and asked Mariko to marry him. The painting was featured in their bi-lingual and bi-cultural wedding and now adorns their living room. What is not history is Paul and Mariko’s longing that their lives together would serve as a bridge between East and West—a global theological and cultural connection.

In addition to artists Monet, Katsushika Hokusai (who influenced Monet as well as Paul’s theological-cultural imagination), and Georges Rouault, Trinitarian theologians Karl Barth, Colin Gunton (Paul’s PhD supervisor on Barth and the theology of culture), and civil rights leader John M. Perkins have made a lasting impact on New Wine. A year after New Wine’s founding, Dr. Perkins gave a series of lectures on justice for New Wine at Multnomah University and various other locations in Bridgetown. Dr. Perkins lives reconciliation. He is a bridge builder on such subjects as race and community economic development.

Paul joined forces with Dr. Brad Harper (Associate Director) and continued to build New Wine. In 2004, New Wine started its journal, Cultural Encounters: A Journal for the Theology of Culture in collaboration with the university and seminary. New Wine also developed its advisory council, which has served an invaluable role administratively and missionally for New Wine.

New Wine’s conferences and journal issues over the years have covered a vast variety of subjects, including race, community development, sexuality, gender, creation care, the arts, immigration reform, faith and science, trauma and resilience, mental health, and disabilities. Paul’s son Christopher’s traumatic brain injury in 2021 brings many of New Wine’s themes home to Paul and reinforces his commitment to address pressing cultural subjects from a Christ-centered lens—“for Christ and for Christopher.” Christopher means “bearer of Christ” and New Wine seeks to bear witness to Christ in its various spheres of ministry, including mentorship of next generation leaders. With that in mind, New Wine developed an internship program at the university and seminary many years ago. Several of those interns now serve as the second and third generation of leaders at New Wine. We are excited about what these leaders will do in uncorking New Wine in the future.

New Wine has cultivated friendships and partnerships that have left an indelible mark. One is Dharma Rain Zen Center in Portland. Paul and Abbot Kyogen Carlson started a series of potluck gatherings in 2005. Noted author Sallie Tisdale, who is a disciple of Kyogen’s and also a leader at Dharma Rain Zen Center, wrote about this developing partnership in Tricycle: The Buddhist Review in 2006. The article is titled “Beloved Community.” Those gatherings have carried on over the years and involve people bringing a favorite dish to share while going through keen theological and social differences in search of common ground, rather than going around those differences or stopping short and refusing to dialogue. New Wine and Multnomah Seminary received a grant from the Association of Theological Schools to work with Dharma Rain on how to prepare people to be hospitable and good neighbors in a multi-faith world. Such multi-faith works has continued for New Wine in partnership with Multi-Faith Matters, including two Louisville grants led by New Wine colleague John Morehead. John and Paul have been working with Latter-day Saint leaders Ed Stone and Spencer Fluhman to form “Fence Posts and Front Porches,” where Evangelical Christians and Latter-day Saints can articulate their keen differences as doctrinal fenceposts (good fences make good neighbors), while also building friendships on front porches as neighbors in their communities. Friendships and developing partnerships with faith leaders from a variety of traditions is central to New Wine’s ongoing work in Bridgetown and beyond.

Like bridges, potlucks, fence posts, front porches, and tables show up in so many places. Paul’s dad’s passing in 2011 led Paul to reflect further on the significance of the table in his and New Wine’s ministry. His big-hearted father, William, and mother, Audrey, always sought to ensure that people of all walks of life feel at home and have a place at the table. Paul was in San Francisco at the time of his father’s passing. He, Gloria Young, and Cooky Wall coordinated a gathering with two Foursquare pastors Leroy and Leversie Johnson on the importance of “The Table” for Christian unity and urban ministry. Earlier that same year, Paul gave a keynote lecture at Mount Angel Seminary on Christian unity. Mount Angel gave Paul a large-framed picture of Andre Rublev’s icon of the Holy Trinity. Many of us at New Wine love the depiction of the Father, Son, and Spirit represented by three angels sitting down together at a table in an open posture that invites the viewer to participate with them at the Eucharistic meal. The iconic gift now graces the Metzger’s dining room. Paul’s book, “Consuming Jesus: Beyond Race and Class Divisions in a Consumer Church,” and his co-authored work with Brad, entitled Exploring Ecclesiology: An Evangelical and Ecumenical Introduction, along with Brad’s book, co-written with his son Drew, Space at the Table: Conversations Between an Evangelical Theologian and His Gay Son, reflect New Wine’s emphasis on the significance of tables and communion for cultural engagement in various settings.

New Wine is all about integration, as well as cultural engagement. New Wine oversaw Multnomah Seminary’s grant in conjunction with the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Templeton, and ATS titled “Science for Seminaries.” The aim of the grant was to help pastors-in-training be better equipped to lead their communities with discernment in a scientific age. Paul, Brad, and several other professors incorporated science into their seminary classes, with the help of scientific advisors and administrators, chiefly Robert Potter, Steve Kolmes, and Se Kim. Paul has continued in this work, as he has served as a theological advisor to AAAS and seminaries for related grant initiatives. This endeavor has since expanded to include a budding partnership with S. Joshua Swamidass and Peaceful Science. It is worth mentioning here that New Wine now spearheads integration efforts among faculty at Multnomah University.

While remaining an official program at Multnomah University and Seminary, New Wine has expanded its outreach as a nonprofit. In 2019, New Wine was registered as a nonprofit and has developed a Board of Directors and Consultants. Together with New Wine’s advisory council, New Wine is now positioned to provide education and consultation to churches, nonprofits, other institutions, and individuals in various settings here and abroad who seek to benefit from New Wine’s unique Trinitarian approach to cultural engagement. To find out more about New Wine’s offerings in education and consultation along with mentorship opportunities, please visit What We Do. Also, please check out our “Mustard Seed Communities” document for more on our aspirations for partnership in New Wine’s prophetic ministry in various social and cultural settings. New Wine draws inspiration for this ongoing work from Paul’s investment in community life with New Wine interns, New Wine’s annual retreats, and during his time with diverse scholars and practitioners from across the globe as a resident member at the Center of Theological Inquiry in 2004, and as senior scholar in residence in Overseas Ministry Study Center in 2018.

At a time when so much of “Christian America” appears set on building walls of various kinds, including Christian nationalism, we at New Wine are very thankful for the courage and compassion of those in our growing community. They seek to be stretched as new wineskins to build bridges and set tables that provide space for people of various backgrounds and ways of life to share life together and build what Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. called the Beloved Community. Let’s keep pressing grapes as we seek to cultivate mustard seed communities through Jesus in the Spirit’s power and love of God.