Posts Tagged 'Tony Jones'

Harnessing Permission: The Power of Social Media (Theology After Google)

Here’s a KedgeForward presentation I gave last week to a Claremont School of Theology class last week via Skype. In it we discuss what Jesus’ comission has to do with new-media permssion, as well as Derek Webb, Shaun King, The Shack, Sara Miles, Gary Vaynerchuk, Haiti, the ROM, and more. You do not want to miss this. (Seriously – anyone involved in ministry or more public teaching communications or activism would do well to watch this conversation) Also – see the whole Transforming Theology Channel for more great videos.

My talk comes as a herald of sorts for the Theology After Google even coming up in just over a month at Claremont. You’ll want to be there if you can, as it features a leading-edge conversation, ringled by Tripp Fuller, workshopping and roundtabling the future of theology (and healthy churches/spirituality) in a post-Google era.

Theology After Google post/video roundup:

Theology After Google on TheOOZE

What Would Google Do?

Theology Beyond Google Part 1 – Chad Holtz

Theology Beyond Google Part 2 – Chad Holtz

Twitter-Gestions for T.A.G.

Adam Walker Cleveland on T.A.G.

Spencer Burke on T.A.G.

Tony Jones on T.A.G.

Denominations & Ordination: A Crock of Baloney?

Priest Collars 1Tony Jones has been shocking the ministerial and denominational blogosphere this week by suggesting that our contemporary denominational ordination systems are sinful and obstruct the flow of the Spirit’s activity in our time.

His entire series on this is worth reading:

Let’s Ordain Adam

Reconsider Ordination. Now.

Reconsider Ordination. Now. (Continued)

My (Anti-) Ordination Sermon

Ordination: Housekeeping

Is There Ordination in the Didache?

I have some thoughts on this as you might imagine. Here’s a lightly-edited version of what I commented on Tony’s blog during the series…

Thanks for having the guts to have this conversation, Tony. As I think you know, for the past decade I’ve been part of a stream of house churches where we emphatically believe (and on our better days practice) ‘the priesthood of every believer.’ This means that we all have the dignity, worth, responsibility and empowerment to be ministers of reconciliation, demonstrating God’s shalom here on terra firma. It also means, practically speaking, that we’re all expected to share in our gatherings, at least occasionally and hopefully more. Not like a bacchanalian Pentecostal service gone awry (though that can be fun too), but like preparing something or being open to share – you know, a psalm, hymn, a spiritual song; or perhaps a teaching, prophecy, or exhortation. : )

That said, for the past two or three years, I’ve been increasingly influenced by mainline and Catholic spirituality – liturgy, mystical theology, and commitments to justice in particular. And, like these churches would be quick to tell you, you can’t just cherry-pick the ‘spirituality’ and theology you like from them while discounting the ecclesiology it’s been shaped by and comes wrapped in. So, I haven’t. Though I remain opposed to an ordained caste of Christians that stands over and above the mere ‘laity’ (yep, I’m also an egalitarian when it comes to gender issues and I think the mutual-subordination model of the Trinity articulated by the Cappadocian mothers & fathers, and by the author of The Shack, makes good sense), I respect the coherence & elegance of the liturgy and the priesthood that’s evolved to support it.

Here’s where an ’emergence’ orientation has personally helped me, Tony: A decade ago, I would have had to keep on embracing house churching and slam mainline & Catholic spirituality; alternately, I could have ‘converted’ to (say) the Episcopal Church and recanted my house church ‘heresy.’ Now, I can transcend & include. I can embrace a both/and perspective on this.

My both/and happens to be what you all practice at Solomon’s Porch. I first encountered the idea from a friend of mine (I’ll protect his identity) who’s a progressive catholic type who’s flirted with the idea of being ordained as a priest in the Celtic Catholic Church, an independent Catholic church in the ‘ol apostolic succession. If he pursued this path, he told me, he’d pursue becoming a bishop. Once a bishop, he’d have the official authority to ordain anyone he wished – thus, he’d ordain any baptized Christian who understood the glory and duty of being a priest on earth.

I like this approach. I think that one way mainline churches can infuse new life into them would be take this subversive and experimental approach – perhaps with a few test dioceses at first, since I’m sure it would be scary. But take the Episcopalians for instance, who wish to be the best of Catholics meet Protestants. Why not take the pomp & circumstance (what Bono called the ‘glam rock of the church’) of formal priesthood and make it available even to the plebs? I know institutions rarely undertake prophetic acts, but it seems like a Jesus thing to do. And way sexier than what we dour-faced house churchers do, poo-poohing the whole ordination ‘thang.’ Priest Collars 2

This need not be overly disruptive to the highest ideals of ordination. It could draw from the best of the 2nd-5th century cathecumen process, where becoming baptized happened after much study, prayer, and service, carrying with it great weight and dignity. Make the ordinations gift-specific if need be, and certainly be clear that ordination doesn’t mean you’ll be making a full-time living or drawing a full-time paycheck from this vocation. For an era, I imagine there will still be full-time priests in this setting, but perhaps their role could evolve to being coordinators of church full of priests. After awhile, inspiration or necessity might give birth to an all-volunteer driven church, volunteers who nonetheless are completely serious about their great & glorious vocation.

[After sharing this, there were some other comments. Here’s my response…]

Thank you for your thoughts & experience sharing, Rev. Joey.

“If everyone is “set apart,” for ministry then no one is set apart.”

Well, isn’t church ‘eclessia,’ that is called-out ones? It seems that everyone is set apart for something.

“I don’t think that Tony’s comments point us to “no ordinations.”

Me neither.

“But I also have a hard time reconciling ordaining everyone to be the leader.”

Hmm. I suppose if everyone tried to be the leader at the same time, in the same space, and in the same way, one might have confusion like there was in Corinth circa century one. But if we see a diversity of ways leadership can function and is manifested, I think it makes sense to refer to a church of leaders (which isn’t the same thing as saying a church of pastors or church of elders – though I would also assume that both of these can and perhaps should be plural in a healthy gathering; ie, more than one).

Wow. Let me just say it feels weird discussing church polity like this in an ’emerging’ context. It brings me back to house church vs. conservative Calvinist debates I was having on email listservs 11 years ago! In that spirit, I’ll close with a quotation from Holy Writ:

“You also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (I Peter 2:15-16, echoing Exodus 19:6, “You will be my kingdom of priests and my holy nation.’ These are the words you must speak to the Israelites.”)

These texts in their context might not mean everything I want ’em to mean, but they’ve gotta mean something.

[Someone then told Tony that if he’s decrying a corrupt denominational system paying minister, then he needs to stop writing books for a corrupt publishing industry. Naturally, I took great umbrage. 🙂  Here’s my reply…]

The difference between regularly-paid ministry/denominational apparati and Christian publishing is significant: If Tony’s a compelling writer, people will buy his books and in effect choose to be ministered unto by him on a per-book basis. Any monetary compensation he receives from this is per book sold, unless he & the publisher negotiate an advance royalty – which still isn’t the same as a salary with benefits. A paid denominational minister, on the other hand, can and often does coast for years on mediocre material at best, continuing to draw salary and benefits. Even when local congregations oust the so-so minister, they can go from church to church and build a career out of it. I’m not suggesting that most have this outlook; I am suggesting, though, that publishing is way more merit-based than most bureaucratic ministry. Two mediocre books and you’re finished in publishing – if that. Bureaucratic ministry procedures hurt the ‘clergy’ as well as the ‘laity;’ the whoredom of Christian publishing produces Christian best-sellers, which are their own form of calumny. But that’s another conversation…

And I’ll admit, people had some great pushback to my publishing-as-meritocracy comment. The posts are well-worth reading.

Thanks again, Tony, for these provocations!

Further Atonement Thoughts: Late to the Party

[he_qi_crucifixion.jpg]Earlier this week, kicking off Lent, Tony Jones pointed his readers to some reflections on Jesus atonement, including my recent pieces “Beyond Liberal and Conservative” and “Possible Reconstructions.” The resultant comment-conversation is largely quite encouraging, and worth reading. One of the highlights from me was this helpful summary of atonement models by Brian:

(1) Substitutionary atonement (Calvin) – Christ’s voluntarily suffers and dies on the cross as our substitute. In other words, Jesus takes the punishment of God for sinners by representing us.

(2) Satisfaction (Anselm) – Christ’s voluntary sacrifice of his innocent life pays our debt to God so God’s justice can be satisfied. In short, Jesus makes restitution for us.

(3) Ransom (Origen) – Adam and Eve sold humanity out to the devil, so God had to trick the devil into accepting Christ’s death as a ransom so we can be free. In the end, the devil is tricked because Jesus got resurrected after we are freed.

(4) Moral influence (Abelard) – Jesus’ life and death are characterized by his exemplary obedience to God’s love, therefore demonstrating to humanity the love of God. So, Jesus should awaken sinners to God’s reality and inspire us to be obedient to God.

(5) Governmental (Grotius) – God demonstrates God’s anger toward sin by punishing Christ. Here, God is understood as a judge who demands divine justice for sinners. In the end, Jesus suffers in order that humans can be forgiven and God’s justice can be upheld.

(6) Liberation (Boff) – Jesus’ life and death demonstrate God’s solidarity with people who are poor and oppressed. So, Jesus lives a life of care and compassion – and his crucifixion demonstrates how perverse and violent human injustice can be. In other words, Jesus lived obediently to God’s care for the poor, which brought him into conflict with an oppressive empire that killed Jesus. In the end, Jesus was unjustly executed through crucifixion by the Roman Empire. Therefore, the oppressive and violent people in the world were exposed as ungodly and immoral. In this theology, Jesus died because of sin, but not for sins. Therefore, in imitation of Jesus, ministry is about empowering the oppressed and helping the poor.

(7) Decisive Revelation (Riggs) – Jesus is the widow through which we see God. Through Jesus’ life and teachings we learn about God and what God values. Some people experienced God-in-Christ and became faithful to God. But other people were offended and threatened by Jesus and wanted to kill him. In the end, Jesus was murdered by people who hated the values and influence of God. Despite his crucifixion, the presence and ministry of Jesus continues through the lives of Christians. God is still beckoning us into faith and faithfulness. In this theology, the purpose of ministry is to share the good news of God’s love that was decisively revealed through Christ, so more people can develop a relationship with God.

(8) State Execution (Crossan) – Jesus and his disciples invited people into the Kingdom of God and out of the Kingdom of Rome. The Empire of God was about God’s love, justice, and mutuality. The Empire of Rome was about humanity’s individuality, greed, and brutality. Jesus and his disciples were rebels against Rome by living out the values of God. Romans became angry that Jesus was undermining their way of life. So, the brutal Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, hung Jesus on a cross to humiliate Jesus and terrorize his followers. Despite Jesus’ traumatic and unjust execution by the state, Christ’s presence and God’s Kingdom continues to invite people to live by God’s values – and be assured of God love. In this theology, Christians are empowered by God’s love to live out God’s values of love, justice, and mutuality.

Brian’s series on Lent & Crucifixion is well-worth reading too:
Journey of Lent (#1): “Crucifixion of Jesus as Unresolved Grief and Trauma”
Journey of Lent (#2): “Grieving the Crucifixion to Heal Our Memories of Jesus”
Darrell Grizzle’s Atonement and Emergents is great too along this theme. And finally, The Contemporary Calvinist & Friends think we’re taking a blowtorch to the Bible – alas.

Tony Jones on Me on Queermergent – Mending the Breach

https://i2.wp.com/www.britishcouncil.org/jp/reconciliation-sculpture-2.jpgSo Tony Jones blogged the other day about our friend Adele and her new website/network Queermergent. Though Tony was simply mentioning the fact of its existence, his post erupted in a firestorm of angry blog comments from all sides (sigh). I came in kinda late, but there’s something I’ve been mulling over for about a year now that I think makes it possible for friends & followers of Jesus on all sides to have loving & courageous conversation about the matter. Or at the very least, when we all pause to take a breath, we can consider each other members of one family, and indeed one body.

Here’s what I say:

Well, I’m coming in on this discussion late – which is probably merciful. I think that, before posting on such things, we need to do a quick blood-pressure check. If its too high, then it’s probably not the Holy Spirit, no matter *what* our views on Subject XYZ are! What follows is not an attempt to change anyone’s mind about the sinfulness or blessedness of homosexual orientation and practice. We all have our perspectives, and they change like glaciers, not ice cubes. Rather, I want to lay out in as concise a manner as possible my own readings, prayer, and reflection in this these past few years, showing essentially four different options people of faith have in this regard. I’m pretty sure we all fall into one of these four understandings. My goal in showing them in a descriptive, matter-of-fact manner is to humanize all four perspectives, so that we don’t demonize one another.

Continue reading this over at Tony’s blog.

Meanwhile… Adam Walker Cleaveland is blogging about Jesus, the Bible, and Homosexuality by Jack Rogers. Here’s the Preulde, Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3, Chapter 4, Chapter 5…chapters 6 and 7 forthcoming.

Watch the Church Basement Road Show – Complete!

In late July my friend Micah and I went out to the Raleigh stop of the Church Basement Road Show at New Community Church, featuring Mark Scandrette, Tony Jones and Doug Pagitt. I wish I had blogged about it then, but I didn’t. But the saints at Disciples Fellowship in Birmingham have made their stop available in its entirety! I think everyone should watch this unconventional, fun, Christ-centered evening – especially some friends of mine who weren’t able to see it in person. 🙂

Church Basement Roadshow from Steve Knight on Vimeo. (Does anyone know how to embed Vimeo videos in WordPress? I’ve tried this a gazillion times and nada. Lemme know in the comments…)

When you’re done watching this, mosey over to Rethink Christianity, this great new site Jossey-Bass set up for readers and participants wrestling with the questions brought up by the Roadshow and its presenters.

Deeper, Safer, Richer: Emergence into Global Family

So my friend Wayne Jacobsen of The God Journey podcast (and co-publisher at Windblown Media, which you might’ve heard of ’cause of the runaway best-selling Trinitarian thriller The Shack) treated us with a visit yesterday, and Wayne is calling us to a fast from the ‘e-word’ in order to reach our truest ideals. Here’s what he said:

Mike, I think you missed my point in the questions I posed to you. There’s a difference, in my mind, between expressing your journey in ‘emerging ways’ and isolating that conversation as ‘Emergent.’ This term has moved way past describing emerging thinking on church life and has taken an identity as an organized group of people, identified spokespeople, and specific doctrine and agendas. Emergent is now a label that carries certain connotations and certainly some unfair accusations.

I don’t think you guys on the inside see that as clearly as folks do on the outside of it. It may not be what you wanted when you started this conversation, but what denomination ever began by a group of people trying to start one? I don’t think that’s evil, but unwittingly it creates an inside/outside environment and limits the conversation with others.My concern is with labels themselves. And you’re right, relational Christianity can just become another label, too, which is why I avoid using it when it takes on a life of its own. I just want my focus to be on Jesus, my fellowship to be broad among this incredibly diverse family, and to not help create or sustain movements that will over time just become another marginalized denomination to add to all the others.My hope is that some day we’ll just be a family, without needing to find any identity in labels. And we’ll get to have a deeper, richer conversation among the manifold expressions of church life that God gives breath to. My concern is only that labels limit that conversation rather than foster it. If you don’t believe me, just see how willing the ‘emergent folks’ would be to give up the term…Blessings, Bro! Always love your stuff and the freedom to crash hearts and heads without risking the friendship.With love,

Wayne

Wayne! Oh, I’m glad you saw my initial posts–I was going to alert you, but it’s been crazy moving around here (barely time to write the entries!). Thank you for taking the time to say all this; I think if anyone is, you’d be a helpful someone to offer some gentle corrective to ‘the conversation’ and how it inhabits or inhibits relationships in God’s ever-expanding kingdom.

Did I miss your point? Hmm. I may indeed have; I’m just not sure who you’re talking about. Besides maybe Tony Jones (happy 40th) or Doug Pagitt, can you name any Emergent Village folks? Most of ’em or rather low-key, and Tony & Doug are obnoxious in a good way. (did I just say that in print?) But point taken that emergent now carries a particular ‘taste’ in many people’s mouths, and not a very pleasant one among her most vocal critics.

You mention ’emergent’ as having an agenda, and I agree that there is one. The tragical irony of it all is that the agenda is fostering hospitable place for respectful dialogue regardless of differences, so that there is no ‘insider-outsider’ conception. And I’d say that this worked beautifully until around 2005 when Christian and mainstream media began taking notice, alerting people who didn’t want to converse and indeed thought that this theological hospitality was a dangerous thing. In recent years our ‘enemies’ have defined us too much, which might seriously jeopardize the value of the descriptor.

As to your concern with labels themselves–I’m with you almost all the way on that one. Have you ever read Wendell Berry’s essay In Distrust of Movements ? A great little piece; on distributed, incidentally, in 2004 I think by Brian McLaren when some people ceased referring to an emerging ‘conversation’ and started referring to it as a ‘movement.’ I think Mr. Berry’s points (and yours) are to be heeded.

And yet when you say “I just want my focus to be on Jesus,” I have a split reaction. In my heart of hearts I say “Oh yes, me too”–and mean it, just as you mean it (and live it out quite compellingly). But the other part of me is reminded of the first century situation in Corinth, where the “Just Jesus” folks were every bit as labeled and movemented as any of the other factions–maybe even more so because they were blinded to it by a false assurance that they were ‘just about Jesus’!

You know me, Wayne; I’ve been around the house church/simple church/relational Christianity/’outside the camp’ scene for 10 years now–several years longer than my reflecting on postmodernity’s interactions with faith, the mood and probing that gradually became known as ’emerging church.’ Well, in the outside-the-camp land, folks blast what they call “the institutional church” or “the IC” with aplomb–’cause they thank God they’re not that. While there are some lovely people in this stream that I call dear friends to this very day, I can’t help but see their desire to be “just about Jesus and the pristine simplicity of Scripture and divine revelation” as a modernist impulse to escape history and retreat to some kind of ‘objectivity’ that is above the messy situatedness and contingency of life. But there is no escape. I have green eyes and am 6-foot-2 and kinda overweight and I was born in Georgia. I like sci-fi and comic books and have a wonderful wife and little girl. Amid my journey into God I was Baptist then Pentecostal then Presbyterian. These days I’m way more permeable spiritually but I can still accurately describe myself as practicing apprenticeship to Jesus in a house church community context, asking questions of God, friends and reality along similar lines as those involved in a conversation we see as indicative of a kind of emergence occurring on a global scale. Try as I might seek to transcend the particulars of my life, I cannot. We are all contextual people, historically situated in a particular time and place, with proclivities that can indeed be summed up from time to time. It grates on enlightenment Western individualism, but I’m not all that original. And so sociologists can sum us up, Wayne—you and me both. We may as well enjoy it.

But I agree with your heart, brother, that we as friends and followers of the risen Jesus shouldn’t seek to sum up or size up, ever. Why eat from the Tree of Judgement (aka ‘Knowledge of Good and Evil’) when you can dine on life itself? I yearn to be more like a family with this great conglomeration we call the cosmos. I want deeper, richer, safer conversation—and not just conversation, dammit, but bold new creative, loving action! So if we need to be (I cannot help but snicker as I write this) post-emergent in order to evolve into this, then so be it.

So let me take you up on your challenge, Wayne: No “e-word” for the next 30 days on this here blog (my own commented replies to this post notwithstanding). Last time I checked I don’t have a green “e” tattooed on my forehead, and I’d be quite fine forgoing it as a source of identity and comfort. Let’s see if the fast will last!


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