Posts Tagged ‘ New Parish Church ’

Understanding Emerging Faith

This is a helpful link for anyone looking to learn more about the emerging conversation and how it is shaping and re-shaping church and faith practices. peace, dwight

international reflection on emerging church life

The latest issue of the International Journal for the Study of the Christian Church (Volume 6, Number 1 / March 2006) is focused entirely on the “Emerging Church.” Online access to the issue will run you close to $80, so be prepared. The contents are as follows:

Peace, dwight

emergent & the way of Christ

O the beauty of the dialogue sparked by LaRon Shults’ Emergent/C post (for more comments, links and conversation visit emergent blog and generous orthodoxy think tank).

The action/belief dance has been a difficult one for modern Westerners. The tune keeps changing, the dance hall is morphing, thus dance is forever becoming. Yet this “forever becoming” is in fact the magic of the dance of life. Those who gravitate toward a greater emphasis on a life of action have a tendency to diminish belief/confession to pragmatic apologetics providing a defense for whatever the current action, while those who gravitate toward a greater emphasis on belief have a tendency to lean in the direction of a comparatively static view of being in the world, a hermeneutic which often leads to a reactionary presence, whether beliefs (usually propositional universal truth claims) must be defended.

The conversation involving Shults, Smith and others has been gloriously generative, and clarifying. I look forward to the day when ethicists and activists feel immediate ownership for such conversations . . . for it is not just theologians who we can learn from in this regard.

Born in part from the idea that Christianity is not a belief system, but the Way of Christ, Emergent’s commitment to provide an Order & Rule for those seeking to understand and do life with emergent, while resisting the pressure to provide Doctrinal Statement underscores emergent’s conviction that action is the mother of belief. Understanding action as the mother of belief it can be helpful to remember that action and belief interpenetrate and interanimate one another . . . action shapes belief, belief shapes action, repeat.

Peace, dwight

playing tag

I’ve been picturing a group of neighborhood kids playing tag in the backyard when all of a sudden one of the kids sees something in a tree.  She stops playing the game as it has been played and goes over to look.  The other kids notice that she is playing the game differently and they wonder, “What’s up with that?”  She makes her way over the tree to take a closer look and she sees is a cocoon; and a butterfly struggling for freedom. 


The overwhelming desire of the child is to help free the butterfly. 


She remembers from science class that if she tries to help, or control the cocoon emancipation the butterfly will die.  So how does she best participate in the in the ongoing transformation of the caterpillar?  She and the other kids watch, and it becomes their focus – their all consuming interest. 


This is one of the questions core to the emerging church movement, how do we best participate in the emancipation of Christ’s church?  Core to emergent is the idea of living into churching on the other side of rationalism, modernism, authoritarianism, etc.  Emeregnt and many of the other missional movements signal a transition the move to a liminal place.  To spend one’s life studying the cocoon may in some cases mean the loss of playing tag.


May the tag playing children of emergent continue to play. 


peace, dwight

episcopal voicing of the emerging church

Reporter, Peter Strimer for the Episcopal Voice wrote “The Emerging Church” (June 2005) after visiting the “mission_shaped_church” learning party sponsored by Karen Ward and COTA

The article has a great cover photo of Ryan Marsh.  And being the narcissistic person I am . . . I draw your attention to a “dwight-quote” on page three . . . it is all about me isn’t it?  😉

peace, dwight

what is emergent?

Yesterday I participated in one of the most promising North American emergent-type events I have seen in some time.  Karen Ward and the Church of the Apostles sponsored “mission shaped church: a learning party.”  A couple of things that were promising to me about the event were: the age of the participants (average age maybe in their 50’s), and the fact that the group was dominated by non-evangelicals.  All six presenters were asked to give three minutes to respond to: “what is emergent?”  Here’s my response:

– – – – –


Emergent might be the ecclesial equivalent to Miester Eckhardt’s statement “I pray to God that I might be rid of Him.” 


Emergent is in many ways in pursuit of churchless churches: living self-organizing networked communities of Christ-followers leveling traditional hierarchies as they incarnate Divine relationality, integrating text, soul and culture in such radically indigenous ways that one church might barely recognize another church.  These Christ-communities are reflective of the very interpenetrating and interanimating relationality of the Holy Trinity. 


“It is the business of the future to be dangerous,” said Alfred North Whitehead.  Emergent as a movement is in a liminal space standing between worlds, pursuing a third-way, transcending terms like liberal/conservative, or Protestant/Catholic, republican/democrat, modern/postmodern, etc.  Emergent is dangerous and so D. A. Carson, Chuck Colson and others are wise to be asking hard questions of the influencers of this movement for the potential for chaos is great.


Having said that, we also know that one of the first principles of quantum physics is that “life exists at the edge of Chaos”; real life, abundant life at the very edge of chaos.  There is little doubt that emergent may lead to chaos and uncertainty, which we as Christians understand in part as the cross.   And so, in a time like ours when Western churches appear to be failing and our structures are facing their own deaths there is an invitation to the edge of chaos.  Emergent may be one such invitation.


Peace, dwight


The Church of the Apostles (Seattle, WA) and Moot (Westminster, UK) are sponsoring what is promising to be a great conversational space.  Click for more details.

peace, dwight

emerging danger

Karen Ward pointed me to an interesting article on dangers of the “emergent church movement.”  The article cited Dr. Donald A. Carson (with his new book, Becoming Conversant with Emergent),  Dr. R. Albert Mohler Jr. (President of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) and the Kentucky Baptist Convention’s recent withdrawal of its speaking invitation to Brian McLaren


One of the blessings and curses of the Christian Protestant tradition has been its willingness to adopt and adapt to changing times in part by critiquing its ecclesial peers and forbearers. 


What might happen if Orthodox and Roman Catholic sisters and brothers would create a space for people like Brian and Donald to have ongoing face-to-face conversation; or what if the global Christian community came together for a type of Church Council addressing the issue of Christ and culture.  Don’t get me w
rong I am not hankering for a credo statement on culture . . . but if the Protestant Reformation gave the Bible back to the people, maybe the postmodern turn could offer people “particularity” of context. 


I hope and pray that through the conversations between people like D. A. and Brian each will bring their unique codividual selves to the other, demonstrating a oneness which transcends their obvious differences.  Not negating differences: but stepping in to an “us” of “I “and “thou.” 


In so many ways “emerging leaders” need Carson even more than they need McLaren.  And “non-emerging” (if such a group could even exist) need McLaren even more than they need Carson.  And of course, we all need God who creates and is working in/through all. 


Peace, dwight

church: body & soul

There have been times throughout Western history when people talked as though the spiritual mattered, and the physical did not.  Soul = good; body = bad.  The move to holistic viewing of the human person in community seems like a healthy move.  How I treat my body impacts my soul, the condition of my heart manifests itself in my body.  The ways we choose to relate with others shapes our being, etc. 


It seems we may still be approaching the institutions in a dualistic manner; separating the body from the soul.   


Consider the church:  the body of the church may be thought of as the visible structures, institutions, gatherings, titles, positions, denominations, dogmas, etc.  These visible realities give shape to this thing we call church.  To reduce Christ’s church to these visible realities is more than reductionistic, it may boarder on ecclesial pornography.  When Christ’s church is defined entirely in terms of the external the objectification of the church is nearly impossible to resist. 


To focus entirely on the soul of Christ’s church is equally problematic.  Such an emphasis highlights the Gnostic impulse.  These invisible realities, or experiences often are the very things that drew us to God in the first place.  When Christ’s church is defined entirely in terms of the internals the subjectification of the church is nearly impossible to resist. 


We need a third way.  “Body” and “soul” interanimate and interpenetrate one another.  What we do with the visible “Body” of our churches shape the invisible “soul” of our churches; and our care for the invisible “soul” of our churches shapes the visible “body” of our churches. 


In a CT article by Eugene Peterson, he credits Frederick von Hugel with: “the institution of the church is like the bark on the tree.  There’s no life in the bark.  It’s dead wood.  But it protects the life of the tree within.  And the tree grows and grows and grows and grows.  If you take the bark off, it’s p
rone to disease, dehydration, death.”


Often pastors enter vocational ministry, in part, because of some glorious “soul” connections in their own narrative and they want to help others experience such connections, only to discover that the bulk of their time is consumed caring for the visible or external structures.  Pastor’s often want to fan the flame of the Spirit while often feeling like they are physical therapists doing rehab work on their churches after hip-replacement surgery.  Until we surrender to the scandal of “particularity” as seen in the Christian doctrine of the incarnation we will resist conjoining our unique bodies and souls.


Body and soul together.  Each one informs, reforms and transforms the other in an ongoing and iterative process.  Ask anyone who is committed to holistic living – all of life seems to war against such interconnectedness.  May the Bond Of Love help us all.


Speaking of integration . . . I have hinted over the last few months that Mars Hill Graduate School is rolling out a new MDiv program that integrates text, soul and culture.  Details are now coming available.  Wait unitl you see the course listings . . . damn!  They’re good.


peace, dwight 

emerging women

This week in Seattle there is a gathering of Emerging Women’s Leadership.  I would claim this initiative is one of the most important to be born of the avant-church conversation to date.  As has often been commented, the “emergent” conversation began primarily as a conversation of quasi-conservative/post-evangelical/post-fundamentalists (though certainly not limited to these groups), and it is the more conservative voices that have often tried to dampen the leadership presence of women.  How this conversation develops is so important.  I trust we can learn from the Lilith Fair. 

Remember in the 1990’s when for first time in music history women artists were gaining the kind of influence that men had enjoyed.  To celebrate what was happening with the rise of the female voice the Lilith Fair music festival was born.  Within two years the those Lilith Fair artists were cut out of the mainstream music scene and it became a “women’s music festival.”  The influence of those female artists was affectively muted by self-segregation.  I pray it will not be so with the church . . . but for it to be different a male response seems necessary.  Men must “buy tickets to the festival,” as it were; and not out of obligation but simply because the music is great.  Whenever I have the opportunity to participate in events like the Emerging Women’s Leadership Initiative I choose to. 

If you are a male reading this, don’t kid yourself about what is being invited of you.  Brothers, we must surrender ourselves.  The “will to power” is great, it has often been the male’s drug of choice.  And to receive the stories that are being offered without defense . . . all I can say is that I need God.  When I hear some of the stories of my sister’s in ministry I want to say, “I am not like that!”  But I fear I might be.  For as much as I want to surrender I also want power.  God help us.

Symbolically I am the old-guard – I am a Western, white, educated, middle-class, male and as such part of my calling is to surrender my “power” (as best as I am able and aware), to hear and really listen to the stories of the “other,” and to choose “us,” by stepping into relationship.  One of my prayers is that men and women will step into relationship and choose “us” thus avoiding the Lilith Fair Effect, while also creating a people of God where there is no Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female.  The way of Christ is to leave the center and step into the margin.  By moving into the margin the marginalized no longer are . . . how do we shape the ethos of a community . . . by our presence. 

On a different note, Brian McLaren is in town all week, teaching Mission in a Postmodern World at MHGS at the same time Spencer Burke and theooze will be Soularizing in CA.  On Thursday we will be web-feeding Brian into Soularize, joining his class which will already be in process; after an hour or so with Brian I will have the chance to facilitate a discussion with in-person students, some Soularize people and web participants, how cool is that?  At least that’s the plan for now. 

Peace, dwight