Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Ministers' School - Day 2 Begins

The first half-day is done, and I'm pretty happy.

I spent yesterday kind of hovering, waiting for problems to arise. As a result, I wasn't really fully here until the middle of the afternoon. But I was definitely here for Tony Jones' presentation, and he pretty much nailed it.

An hour and a half of Tony talking about the current cultural ethos is pretty cool. My only wish is that he wouldn't confine his dispatches to this nebulous group of people he calls the "emergent people." Sounds like a bad sci-fi movie. I think the dispatches he articulated last night are far more common. When he talks about emergent people as if they are different from other people somehow it makes what he has to say seem less meaningful.

Truth is, his dispatches make sense to a LOT of people, many of whom are sitting in the pews of traditional mainline places - many of whom are in ministry leadership roles in traditional mainlines places.

His dispatches were: Comfort with paradox, suspicion of "tabernacles," ambivalence toward denomination, a mosaic of world Christianity, theological acumen, organizing our church based on our theology, starting churches to save the faith, seeing no ontological difference among people (even ordained people), rejection of left/right politics, and positive witness in the community.

Makes sense to me, and I know it makes sense to a lot of people. But I'm afraid that some will be very quick to say, "OK, that's fine for those 'emergent people' but it won't play in my congregation." For whatever reason. To say this would really be a shame, of course, because they would have missed the point altogether.

Tony used the stories of St. Francis and Martin Luther to describe how the institutional church can either embrace or reject change. He said that both men stood up in front of the church in their day and said, "You are missing the point!" The church made Francis a saint, but excommunicated Luther. It felt like he was using this metaphor to implore (his word) the mainline church not to reject the people who are changing things, the current day reformers.

So all of this is making me thing about reformation and innovation again. Just to get this thought out there, and maybe comment on it later when there is more time - whether it is reformation or innovation, navel-gazing change is not the point. And even more insidious is when navel-gazing change is disguised as transformational change. Bluntly put, trying to get people to notice how cool you are is not a good model for being church.

But like I said, I'll need to think more about that and write more about that later - I've gotta go to morning worship now for Day 2 of Ministers' School.

btw - I'm Twittering now, whatever that means.


Anonymous said...

At the end of a long afternoon, when my bottomside is numb from sitting and my brain is numb from information overload, my attention is beginning to wander. But grappling with this whole concept of the emergent church has been time well spent. There are ideas that can be implemented in my very traditional congregation and maybe some things I can do better to reach youth and adults. It is all about using the tools we have available to build relationships and share Christ with the world.

I hope the conversation that was begun at Minister's School will continue in the future.

DogBlogger said...

So what's your Twitter I.D.? Come find me... I'm amforbus.

matt gallion said...

I for one am very grateful for all the work you put into this week. I thought Tony's presentation was perhaps limited in it's framework, but it might also be attributed to a postmodern mindset seeking to express itself to a modernity that loves labels and distinctions. Emergent is not really a label that can honestly be bestowed or granted. It's not a system or institution that requires devotion, loyalty and membership. In fact, to claim such things is to be positively "unEmergent." I honestly appreciate your heart to converse with all of the Church, to pursue the Kingdom beyond bounds and to be faithful to Christ whatever the cost.