Emergence Christianity 2013: A Q&A with Tony Jones

This weekend, popular Emergent Christian leaders Tony Jones and Doug Pagitt are hosting a National Conversation on Emergence Christianity in Memphis, TN — in large part to celebrate their good friend Phyllis Tickle’s new book, Emergence Christianity: What It Is, Where It Is Going, and Why It Matters. Read my post here about the event, and what you can expect to hear from the gathering over the next couple of days here at Faith Forward

In the midst of planning BBQs, panel discussions, and generally preparing to host 450 of his closest friends over the next three days, Tony took a few minutes to answer some questions about the big event for us at Patheos.

Why “Emergence Christianity 2013″?

We ran an event celebrating Phyllis’s book, The Great Emergence: How Christianity Is Changing and Why, when it released in 2008. After she penned this sequel, we asked Baker Books if they’d like us to reprise the gathering, and they said, “YES!”

Who was this event designed for … and who is actually coming?  Any surprises there?
It’s really designed for anyone who is interested in the future of Protestantism. As you might guess, that attracts a lot of clergy-types. But we’re happy that lots of non-traditional church people are coming, as are many folks from non-profits and publishing houses.

This event is also a big party for Phyllis Tickle, the “grandmother” of Emergence Christianity.  What has Phyllis’ role been in this movement, and what can we expect to hear from her at this conference?

Everyone who meets Phyllis loves her. She’s amazing — a real force of nature. In many ways, she’s the least likely advocate for the emergent movement. She’s in her late 70s, she’s deeply Anglican, and she’s a Latin professor (or at least she was). It would seem that tradition runs deep with her. But something about us caught her attention a few years back, and she become convinced that we’re a big part of the future. Her advocacy has afforded our movement legitimacy that little else has.

Some of the biggest “names” in progressive Christianity are attending and speaking – Brian McLaren, Diana Butler Bass, Nadia Bolz-Weber, etc. – what do you expect some of their themes will be?

Phyllis is the gravitational center of the event. The rest of us will be pivoting off of her and her message. We’ve asked Brian to talk about movements and Nadia and Lauren Winner to reflect on Phyllis’s impact on them.

What are you personally most excited about hearing/seeing this weekend?

We also have these very cool presentations called Pecha Kucha (or Ignite!). We get 20 slides from each speaker, and they’re timed at 20 seconds each, so it’s a rapid-fire presentation — from speakers who are used to speaking for a lot longer than that. Jay Bakker is giving one on painting dioramas. The people we’ve invited can speak on anything they’re passionate about.

What is your greatest hope for this event?

Ever since Doug and I started working together on events (in 1999!), our hope has been that relationships are fostered by the gathering. Yes, Phyllis’s content will be outstanding, but we consider it more of a success if people meet one another and out of that emerges another event, a ministry launch, a book deal, a new blogger at Patheos(!), and more good things in the world.

How can people learn more about what happens at the event and partake in the conversation?

I think the best ways will be to follow the Twitter hashtag – #EC13 – and check here at Faith Forward for blog posts. There will surely be much stuff on Facebook and Pinterest, too, but they don’t lend themselves to live events like Twitter does.

Join us for more conversation from EC13 this weekend here at Faith Forward. We’ve lined up a half a dozen bloggers to bring you dispatches from Memphis on what they’re hearing, noticing and learning about the future of the Church.

About Deborah Arca

Deborah Arca is the Managing Editor of the Progressive Christian Portal and Book Club at Patheos.com.


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