Lonnie Frisbee and the Non-Demise of the Emerging Church

Well, it seems that my long-time friend and occasional sparring partner, Andrew Jones (TSK), has (once again) said we’ve reached the end of the emergent/-ing church movement.  TSK’s ambivalence for the “emergent/-ing” language and the partnership that some of us in the States have with publishing houses is well known.  And I think it’s always dangerous to start to declare something over as an historian when one is still up to one’s ankles in it.

To be fair, TSK clarifies in a comment on the post when he writes that in 2009 the ECM became,

less radical and non-offensive but actually larger in scope and impact than it has ever been.

Let’s take those in reverse order.

I used to think I knew what the term “radical” meant, but then I entered a doctoral program in theology.  How that term is used in the academy versus how it’s used in the streets and in the church is virtually unrelated, as far as I can tell.  What I now mean by “radical” is informed by Marxism (another word that’s dirty outside the academy, but everyone in the academy seems to know what you mean when you use it).

Karl Marx (he looks as nice as a grandpa)

In short, what Marx did was to see what others did not see,

The bourgeoisie cannot exist without constantly revolutionizing the instruments of production, and thereby the relations of production, and with them the whole relations of society. Conservation of the old modes of production in unaltered form, was, on the contrary, the first condition of existence for all earlier industrial classes. Constant revolutionizing of production, uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation distinguish the bourgeois epoch from all earlier ones. All fixed, fast frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real condition of life and his relations with his kind. (from The Communist Manifesto)

The capitalist system, he’s saying, is predicated on constant changes in production, which both wipes away all former fixedness of human existence and precludes the ability of the bourgeoisie or the masses to reflect on their existence because they are always too busy trying to keep up with said changes.  What is “radical” about Marx and Marxists is their ability to see and proclaim this, and to potentially catalyze a revolution that will overturn this way of being.  Of course, it’s somewhat ironic that now, 150 years after Marx, his ideas live on the academy but are virtually unknown in politics.

That being said, is the ECM still “radical”?  Has it ever been?  It seems to me that, yes, there is some radicality left in the ECM, for it seems to me that emergents are and have been among those proclaiming that the “emperor has no clothes” — here the “emperor” being the conventional church.  And, contrary to Aaron Stewart, who commented at TSK,

The Emergent conversation is coming to an end because people eventually get tired of just talking,

the fact is that those of us in the ECM have spent a lot more time doing than talking.  To push that even further, why that dichotomy?  When TSK travels Europe and talks to folks about starting new, off-the-grid Christian communities, is he “just talking”?  Am I, when I write a book or a blog post or give a talk somewhere?  Of course not.  Talking is actually doing, so let’s all stop using this tired trope, okay?

And secondly, is the ECM becoming “less offensive”?  Let me shake my Magic Eight Ball.  Mine reads, “Outlook not so good.” If my personal and anecdotal experience is any guide, the ECM is more offensive than ever.  In the States, the Evangelical Intelligentsia has determined that emergent leaders are not true evangelicals, leaving pastors like Dan Kimball and Bob Hyatt to choose between evangelicalism the ECM.  Personally, I have been disinvited from three speaking engagements this year, and one that I’ve got coming up in 2010 was moved off of a college campus and into a nearby hotel because of my presence at the event.

TSK notes that the conventional church in the UK and Europe has been more accepting of emergence in their midst, even supporting leading ECM thinkers like himself and Jonny Baker and underwriting emergingchurch.info.  Agreed.  From Rowan Williams on down, it seems that European church leaders are generally more comfortable with theological and ecclesiological innovation than their American brethren (although the protesters that have greeted Brian McLaren in Scotland and France and Germany show that European acceptance is not universal).

Interest in the ECM is peaking among mainline leaders in the States, if my speaking schedule is any indication.  I, for one, hope that this does not mean a lack of controversy — in fact, in one speaking engagement to which I just agreed, I’ll be speaking alongside Will Willimon, and we’ll be taking contrary positions on the benefit of denominati0ns.  That might lead to some controversy.

***

Lonne Frisbee

Last night I watched the documentary, Frisbee: The Life and Death of a Hippie Preacher.  Although the productions leaves something to be desired, the content of the film is both fascinating and harrowing.  In brief, Lonnie Frisbee was a gay, drugged out hippie who converted to Christianity during an acid trip.  As it turned out, he had a knack for preaching and healing, and he was pivotal in the genesis of both the Calvary Chapel and Vineyard Associations, and he was like a son to Chuck Smith, Sr. and then to John Wimber.  But as his sexuality became more public, they both turned on him.  When he died of AIDS in 1993, he had been ostracized by the churches that he helped found, and he was surrounded only by his longtime friends from the Jesus Movement.

I couldn’t help but be reminded of Max Weber‘s definition that charisma is,

a certain quality of an individual personality, by virtue of which he is set apart from ordinary men and treated as endowed with supernatural, superhuman, or at least specifically exceptional powers or qualities. These are such as are not accessible to the ordinary person, but are regarded as of divine origin or as exemplary, and on the basis of them the individual concerned is treated as a leader.

That’s Lonnie Frisbee in a nutshell.

More damning, however, is Weber’s conclusion that religious charisma is always routinized and bureaucratized as the generation that follows the charismatic leader attempts to capture the charisma and make a living from it.

And that is Calvary Chapel and the Vineyard.

If anything — and I think that TSK may agree with me on this — the question that looms over the ECM is whether it will become domesticated as the first generation of leadership passes the mantle to the second.  But, the truth is, the answer to that lies not with me or TSK, but with you.  Yes, you.

[UPDATE: It seems that TSK took my post to be more in-your-face than I meant it.  I really used a couple disagreements he and I have and used them as a jumping off point to reflect on movements in general, and the ECM and Calvary Chapel and Vineyard specifically.  My apologies to Andrew if this post seemed overly antagonistic.]

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  • Robyn

    Along with Weber, the most memorable learning from my church history class in divinity school is that “ardor always leads to order.”

  • http://treehousemonastic.com Steven Burleson

    There are those of us out here trying to trek the Emergent/-ing Landscape and make our own discoveries. TSK can play around with labels all he wants. The fact remains that many of us are out and about doing this thing called “emerging” and you can’t quite pin it down because it is so diverse, sweeping, and O so beautiful. I’m not throwing Emergent Church Conventions, but I am trying to bring a theological/contemplative/post-modern/etc. conversation into my local church/neighborhood. Here’s to HOPE. I raise my glass to emergence Christianity…. It’s happening.

  • Nile Gomez

    Personally, while I like a lot of what the emergent church stands for, I have shied away from the movement as a whole because of its openness to unorthodox theological positions such as universalism and hyperpreterism and its stance on homosexuality. I realize not all emergents adhere to these beliefs, but Brian McLaren alone has said enough “out there” things to make me step back a bit. Unfortunately, I haven’t had enough time to keep up with the reading, as I work full-time and am a divinity student as well.

    The problem with emergent thought is that there is no clear statement of belief, but rather, is a mushy mish-mash of disparate voices claiming the “label” of emergent. And perhaps that is deliberate. After all, emergent, as I understand it, is not a belief system that claims to have “arrived,” but rather, one that is on a journey in uncharted territory from the traditional into the unknown. Still, I would prefer to not see the baby thrown out with the bathwater in the quest for change. Just my two cents’ worth.

  • http://livingtheresurrection.typepad.com chris enstad

    Thanks for your sober and accurate response TJ! things are just getting started over here and as long as we have the pharisees like mark driscoll and john piper locking out the conversation there will continue to be an insurgent guerilla action to be run! Onward!

  • http://livingtheresurrection.typepad.com chris enstad

    Niles
    Is there a difference between “beliefs” and “faith” and is it possible for people to share the same faith while holding different beliefs *about* that faith?

  • http://notes-from-offcenter.com Drew Tatusko

    this goes more back to niebuhr’s hypothesis in the social sources of denominationalism. ecm is in a pattern that is not new and we can find examples of it in the past (disciples of christ?).

    the pattern is that if this is an emerging movement, at what point has it emerged and what has it emerged into? history shows us that it will emerge into its own social system (arguably it already has done so). what your piece here shows us tony is that there are fault lines of disagreement that are already quite pervasive in the movement. the current fault lines are where things will break apart into contained sub-movements for which the radical edge may be one (see outlaw preachers).

    i think what is important is to see where the tensions are that are forming these social faultlines. this will show us how ecm is evolving and into what it might be evolving. positive points of unification are worth holding up, but this is never where change occurs. change occurs at fault lines and fault lines change landscapes in often dissentful and unfriendly ways. which ecm has not reached that point (in a lasting way as there have certainly been conflicts), there is nothing in the social history of religious movements to indicate that it will not.

  • http://moffou.blogspot.com Amy Moffitt

    Great response to TSW, Tony. Thanks!! I can’t comment on your opinions about Calvary Chapel, but I really appreciate the first part of this post.

    It seems to me that what’s going on here is a struggle for identity. There are folks who have a very particular idea of what the Emergent Church is. They point to specific historical events, to people, to books, to conferences, to things they were personally involved in and upon which they had a great deal of influence. Of COURSE they can make observations about those particular things, especially if they were heavily involved in making those things happen.

    But the concept of emergence and its ramifications for how we do church is very, very far from being obsolete. I am convinced that there are many folks like me who were practicing emergence before they ever knew that there was a “movement”. It is impossible to know how many people identify with what *they* see in the Emerging Church (however they’ve first stumbled upon that concept) and how it is affecting their lives. For the sake of these people, it is very, VERY important that folk NOT make declarations that can be seen as marking the end of the emerging church (as you note, speaking IS acting, and speaking/writing as an “authority” in a movement has serious implications for the continued viability of that movement).

    It is all well and good to plot oneself at a certain point in time and assess one’s own influence upon a certain group of people and events. But by definition no one owns a label like “emerging church”… it literally doesn’t make sense to claim that label. There are also no political structures to back up that kind of claim. Simply being associated with the “movement” does not give anyone that level of authority. At best, all anyone can say is “I no longer have x level of involvement in what I recognize as x phenomenon”.

    Ok, I’m going away now.

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  • http://treehousemonastic.com Steven Burleson

    Right on Amy!

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  • http://www.holinessreeducation.com Greg

    I am convinced that at some point many in evangelicalism will decry the death of the emerging church and at that same time that much of what the emerging church has been working to accomplish in the church will become normative for evangelicals. The labels won’t last, but who ever cared about a label.

    The next generation of leaders, as you said Tony, might not ever grab the label, but the conversations and questions that you and others have been brave enough to ask will have shaped them in powerful ways.

    The legacy of the emergent church may never be understood by those who have stood opposed to it, but history will show the changes that have begun during this time, whatever they end up looking like.

  • tom c.

    I feel much resonance with Amy’s comment ‘I am convinced that there are many folks like me who were practicing emergence before they ever knew that there was a “movement”.’ I do not identify with the movement simply because it’s not clear to me what that would mean (given how diffuse the “movement” is). I will say that as a conversation, it is well-worth listening to and participating in. As a misfit Christian who is also a misfit academic, I don’t feel like such a freak when I attend to the forms of Christianity I see among people who associate with this varied movement.

    Also, regarding the charisma/institutionalization matter, I might point back a step or two earlier than Marx. Hegel famously wrote “The owl of Minerva spreads its wings only with the falling of the dusk.” What I take from this remark is an admonition to be epistemically humble about one’s assessment of events that are still unfolding. Who knows when or how the movement will be assimilated by other institutions and/or institutionalized itself (or whether this is already happening)?

    I’ve already seen some denominations attempt to domesticate aspects of the emergent church, to make it fit orthopraxy and orthodoxy. It’s probably true that institutionalization is inevitable, but that in itself would seem to create the conditions for another new expression of renewal in the Church. Faith will always call forth a new springtime.

  • austin crave

    That documentary garnered an Emmy nomination. And the filmmaker did another one that is said is going to theaters this year. That one is on Larry Norman. (www.fallenangeldoc.com)

  • http://tallskinnykiwi.typepad.com andrew jones (tsk)

    tony – good post.
    i will write up something soon in response. i considered about 50 emerging church networks and movements for this exercise, in countries all over the world, and Emergent Village [one of those EC networks] may turn out to be a little different than the rest.

    but i do wish your readers would look at my whole paragraph because the meaning changes when you read it in context.

    “In my opinion, 2009 marks the year when the emerging church suddenly and decisively ceased to be a radical and controversial movement in global Christianity. In many places around the world, the movement has already been either adopted, adapted, or made redundant through the traditional church catching up or duplicating EC efforts. …
    In 2009, the emerging church either grew up, stopped being offensive, switched gear from experimental to normal, became the new mainstream, or a bit of each.”

    Please note i did not say it “ended” per se and i did not use the word “death” or “demise”.

    more to say but i will save it for the post.

    every blessing

    • http://tonyj.net tony

      Agreed, Andrew, but your post does have the feel of you proclaiming an end to the significance of the ECM, especially when you go so far as to give beginning and end dates. And the forthcoming article to which you refer is using the term demise (unless it’s been edited since I was contacted about it).

      Also, no where in my post do I mention Emergent Village, so I don’t quite understand your reference to it. EV has changed significantly since I left the payroll 15 months ago, and I’m not privy to the directions they’re taking now. I’m talking about the ECM globally, not EV in the US.

  • http://twitter.com/alexgamble Alex

    Hey Tony (and everyone else),

    I loved this post. It really strikes a chord with me. I am a 21 year-old intern at a historically Methodist church, though I do not affiliate with any denomination.

    I have noticed among the leadership an increasing disgust with emerging leaders such as McLaren and Rob Bell (I include Bell because he is without saying so, which works to his advantage, I think).

    Yet, at the same time, these leaders emulate their styles, myself included. The pastor will make fun of Rob Bell then use a clip from his video. All the small groups read Rob Bell, to the point that it starts to feel restrictive.

    I wonder, do you think this next generation, myself included, will be obsessed with trying to be a Rob Bell, whose gifts are more widely known than others? And if so, how do we break out of that to become more of ourselves? I have been involved with the emergent theology since I was 19 and I think about this stuff all the time, and I would really like to know what you all think.

    Also, what gives with mainline churches being fascinated with emerging leaders while at the same time being scared and using that fear as motivation for condemnation?

    Thanks,

    Alex

  • http://jonathanbrink.com Jonathan Brink

    I don’t share Andrew’s perspective on the Emerging Church, but that’s why we call these things opinions. We just see it differently. The RSS stream for the word “Emerging Church” lists 4-6 posts a day on the subject.

    But your insights on Lonnie Frisbee got me thinking. I had to wonder if the tension with Lonnie lies in the fact that he was “inspired” but gay. The strange mixture doesn’t fit in the typical Calvary world, which I actually attended in the early 90′s. I attended Chuck’s church from 89-92.

    In other words, the paradigm of a gay man preaching the gospel effectively doesn’t work for them. It creates an unresolvable tension. How could God bless Lonnie while he’s gay?

    Interesting thoughts Tony.

  • http://blakehuggins.com Blake Huggins

    Nice response.

    It seems like these sort of sweeping pronouncements have become fashionable as of late (that also raises my curiosity about this “big article”). Personally, I am beginning to lost my patience with them.

    While I do very much appreciate TSK contributions — especially his keeping the North American conversation honest — eulogizing just doesn’t seem very congruent with my own observations and the various conversations of which I am a part.

    Frankly, I couldn’t care less what labels “die” or lose their currency. As far as I am concerned the core ethos and that drives the movement will always present itself in new and exciting forms. In fact, if my memory serves me correctly I believe I remember a line to that effect in your book, Tony — something about the conversation, and Christianity at large really, always exploding through the crust and riding the vicissitudes of the times through the inspiration of the Spirit. The conversation will continue — whether we call it emerging, emergent, emergence or nothing at all — it always has.

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  • http://www.precipicemagazine.com Darren King

    I agree with Jonathan that Lonnie’s sexuality and his charismatic gifting seemed like unresolvable tensions to the leadership at the time. And, on that point, I would suggest we remember that its never fair to apply the standards of one era to another. Today many more people in Christian circles would see Lonnie’s sexuality and his gifting as potentially compatible. But when this all took place, a couple of decades ago, that just wasn’t the case. I doubt one could find a “mainstream” evangelical church/movement anywhere, that would have embraced this then. Remember that John Wimber quite desperately wanted his charismatic movement to find a home in the mainstream of evangelicalism. So, when it came to theological matters, John would defer to broader evangelical positions, preferring himself to focus on the practice of a renewed charismatic experience in the church. All that is to say, Wimber was – as we all are (to some extent) – a product of his times. Remember that, as it was, he was considered close to heretical by many, merely because of his belief in the action of the Holy Spirit in today’s world. I don’t think its realistic, or fair, to assume he should have (or could have) taken on huge theological taboos about human sexuality as well.

  • http://eyesofhope.wordpress.com Theresa Seeber

    Andrew, I noticed your lack of using terms like death and demise, but I think that your post still feels like a death sentence and that is why you are seeing people use them in response to your post.

    I have created a response to both of your posts, Andrew and Tony, on my blog at

    http://eyesofhope.wordpress.com/2009/12/30/keeping-up-with-the-joneses/

  • http://richardinaz.blogspot.com Richard Jones

    I do think TSK had a couple of good points. And playing with the meaning of radical is not helpful-we all know what WE mean by it. I perfect example of emerging not being radical is the blog-debate you had a few months ago over whether or not you were orthodox. Why did you care if someone else thought you were orthodox? (Probably ordination hinged on it.) And who else besides Samir or maybe Brian McLaren is pushing the envelope theologically? And I wonder why some people seem to avoid the label “emergent”? Rob Bell seems to me to be clearly emergent (not evangelical) from his Noomas. Yet he clings to the label evangelical and just wants to redefine it. It may be that Christian thought-leaders are so caught up with book deals and speaking engagements that they are afraid to bite the hand that feeds them. But I can’t fault you for that. There are lots of things I don’t preach on because I know the church establishment would get mad.

  • http://www.makeesha.com Makeesha

    Very well articulated Tony, thanks.

    Andrew (TSK – btw, I think it’s funny how many different acronyms people have used to abbreviate Tall Skinny Kiwi *chuckle) – meaning of communication lies with the hearer. It appears as though most of your readers (those who agree and disagree with your sentiments) seem to HEAR you declaring the irrelevancy if not the death of the EC. So if that was not your intent in the post, it seems as though further clarification may be called for. If you’re simply issuing Emergent Village (a very small part of the ECM) a challenge then that’s something all together different. But it doesn’t seem as though that’s what many people HEARD you say.

    Also, historians (and your piece struck me as a historian’s journal) record what is actually going on and reiterate what has been. Mixing an historical account with a futurist prediction makes your role confusing. Perhaps that’s where people are feeling frustration.

  • http://www.dualravens.com/ravens Patrick Oden

    “In many places around the world, the movement has already been either adopted, adapted, or made redundant through the traditional church catching up or duplicating EC efforts”

    This is what came to my mind when I read this post, and think TSK is right on here. I’m definitely not an Emerging is Over believer, but I think it’s definitely the case that a lot of the battles that took place ten years ago, that defined the emerging movement, aren’t as relevant. We’re seeing if not major adoption of emerging principles, than at least major consideration within established churches as they seek to navigate away from Christendom ideals towards missional, even as they hold onto their various traditions.

    The Nazarene church I began attending in the middle of last year has a pastor very engaged in the emerging conversation, which honestly shocked me. A Holiness interest in those famously antinomian emergents?! Yes. While this is still being worked out, there is significant agreement with much of what emerging folks have to say.

    Yet, emerging isn’t over. It’s not over because there are still some significant contributions still being made, and I think these are continuing to shape emerging thought theologically. A big reason for this has to do with the still massive dissatisfaction many Christians feel with traditional churches, to the point of total non-attendance. The emerging church gives context and meaning to non-traditional church gatherings–giving people a way of finding their own way with others in the Spirit.

    There is also the reality that while many traditional congregations are adopting emerging principles, the various emerging churches can still be the most radical expression of these principles–pushing the envelope and giving guidance to emerging expressions that can then aid less ‘pure’ expressions transition. I think of Tim Conder’s congregational leadership/teaching approach as a great example of this.

    So, in a way emerging doesn’t have the same kinds of total contrast or battles as it did before. The battles that remain tend to be on more conventional theological (Armenian vs. Calvinism) or ethical fronts. But as a contemporary nonconformist movement that gives great space for expression within a conversation of ecclesial radicalism it’s still quite alive and well. It still exists as a prophetic movement, and I think as it is deepening its roots in various traditions and finding a more profound theological depth it will continue to be a driving force.

    Tony, I think the Pentecostals, at least, don’t think emerging is over and done with. I’m definitely looking forward to your contribution to their conference in March.

  • http://freedompastor.blogspot.com Frank Emanuel

    Excellent post Tony. BTW the more I research EC phenomenon the more I’m finding that some of the best examples are never heard about because they are so busy doing it flies completely under the radar. The most recent brilliant example I’ve run into is EPIC in Calgary.

    I think the challenge ahead of us is to find ways of communicating the heart of what the EC is doing (innovating in an effort to communicate Christ in a changing cultural context (plural)) so that it doesn’t just become a fad other churches adopt trying to “catch the wave” of what they hope God is doing. As a Vineyard pastor I’ve seen far too much of that from charismatics coming to see if we were the next “it”. By God’s grace most of those folk haven’t stuck with us and we’ve been able to do something that we feel is innovative for both our denomination and for our context – and we’ve been able to think through new means of measuring what success looks like. I’m hoping some of this will trickle its way into my writing. I plan on writing both academically and pastorally, much of what I have out there is more academic except a few pieces written specifically for my denomination.

    BTW I loved the Frisbee movie. I have a copy that we’ve passed around much of our church.

  • Derek Koehl

    I think it is interesting that you introduced Marx–and by extension critical theory–into your thinking; however I believe your reading of him and the way you applied him to the topic at hand fall short. Much more apropos to your point is the theory of the dialectic which is what most embodies the innate radicalism of Marx and critical theory. The emergent church can be viewed as embracing that approach.

    • http://tonyj.net tony

      I’m sure you’re right, Derek. Mine was simply a quick shorthand about Marx and what radicalism truly is. Yes, it seems that the dialectic is a better example of using Marxism to understand the ECM. Actually, in my dissertation I am arguing that the ECM is a New Social Movement and, as such, post-Marxist.

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  • http://wwwi-wonder-as-i-wander.blogspot.com/ linda

    i think emergent was domesticated awhile ago by the mainline churches, or at least by their theology. it leaves some of us who no longer consider ourselves evangelical without a community to call home as we don’t fit in the emergent crowd anymore. what ever happened to being postmodern? conservative and liberal are such tired clichés however they are repackaged and renamed.

  • Jay

    COME ON!! Are you all crazy? You all should know by now that the magic eight ball is satanic! ;~)

  • http://notes-from-offcenter.com Drew Tatusko

    linda,

    what you also have to see is that there are many in mainline churches who feel quite abandoned by the structures that are there. many of us (i’m PCUSA) desire to see how we can reform those structures. i am a fan of local control for this reason.

    so i think that placing “domestication” squarely in the court of mainliners is not only inaccurate, it misses an important point about the ECM – it lives everywhere God is revealed.

    as i brought up in my response above and my longer blog post, ALL religious movements either reduce tension with society and so become “domesticated” or they increase their tension in the direction of sectarianism and isolate themselves. right now ECM is somewhere in the middle trying to sort it all out. it’s a developmental movement of transition to something we are not yet sure about yet. i would, for this reason call it part of classic liberalism in the sense that it is adaptive (in the sense of an “evolutionary truce” as bob kegan calls it). so i think its important to reclaim these terms the right way instead of allowing folks who have misused them to frame the conversation for us.

    i think the question is this: what *kind* of tension with society does and should the ECM have? understanding that there needs to be a tension there is the first step and i think we can all agree that whether it’s radical or what have you, there is a tension with society that demands Christians reveal God in ways that are transformative. the question is how we characterise that tension.

    where liberalism in the early 20th c. failed was that it intentionally reduced that tension which was in large part due to class mobility of parishioners. where this movement differs is that i have never gotten a sense that reducing tensions with society to that degree is part of the conversation. what we do need to address, i think, is what kind of tensions this movement has with society in order to change it in the ways that Christ would have us do.

  • http://wwwi-wonder-as-i-wander.blogspot.com/ linda

    drew,

    i should clarify that when i said i think the emergents have been domesticated by liberal theology i believe they domesticated themselves. i don’t believe the mainliners went in search of them to tame them. so you’re off the hook for now. ;) also, i’m referring to the movement in north america. the worldwide emerging movement is quite different with its more charismatic flavor.

    if i’m understanding you correctly to say that you think the ECM is akin to classic liberalism then that supports my point about it largely abandoning postmodern thinking and thus my general apathy toward it currently. here again, i’m only talking about the north american version. i largely agree with andrew jones that the radical nature of the movement has ended. as i understand the term radical from feminism it deals with the root nature, or foundation if you will, of issues.

    it’s interesting to hear you say you feel abandoned by the structures in place in the mainline church. i grew up nominally presbyterian and sadly my experience was largely one of spiritual abandonment. thankfully, God is in the redeeming business!

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  • priest

    Andrew,

    Your desire to get historical handles on this amorphous postmodern thing strikes me as markedly… modern. How do you reconcile the tension between the slippery subject and the certainty with which you perceive the EC ceased to be rad?

    Your post reminds me of a music critics recent “top 20 albums of the decade” blog. In the top ten was the Avett Brothers album released this past September. I know there’s all this pressure to call these kind of shots at the end of a decade, but… it seems a bit pre-digested.

  • Justin

    Tony,

    I kind of think you took some cheap shots at Calvary Chapel and the Vineyard. As a pastor in the Vineyard (an association of churches), I can also say that your generalization of both is equally as cheap: (More damning, however, is Weber’s conclusion that religious charisma is always routinized and bureaucratized as the generation that follows the charismatic leader attempts to capture the charisma and make a living from it. And that is Calvary Chapel and the Vineyard.)

    I believe I tend to agree with Darren’s post in support of leaders involved being a product of their time…

    Lonnie was a great guy and loved by many. God clearly used him in powerful ways as His agent during the time of the Jesus Movement, but I do not believe there is any biblical support or justification for living a double life. It’s all about God and not man, which is clearly why God chose to use Lonnie (and all of us) even though he was living in a lifestyle of clear and blatant sin as a practicing homosexual. But eventually your “sin will find you out” and you hope that there can be forgiveness, restoration and peace. As I understand it, Lonnie was not so much left to “hang out to dry” as you have painted it in this post, but he did in fact become frustrated and eventually left on his own because he was pulled out of visible ministry (and rightfully so) by good leadership. By the way, part of being a good leader is not sacrificing your spiritual integrity because someone has spiritual gifting.

  • http://www.thewanderingroad.wordpress.com Alan Stucky

    So a quick thought.

    I’m a Mennonite, which means I’ve come out of the Anabaptist tradition. Recently I’ve done a fair bit of thinking (and some writing) comparing the Emerging Church to Anabaptism. I.e. if Phyllis Tickle is right in “The Great Emergence”, maybe we can learn something from the last time this shakeup happened.

    Not that it’s a perfect comparison, but there are some interesting similarities. One of the interesting ones is the explosion that has happened in both movements followed by a period of apparent reduction in size. In Anabaptism, there was a great flurry of activity, writing, organizing, and formation of all kinds of groups calling themselves “Anabaptist” (more accurately being called “anabaptist” by others) This flurry of activity basically happend from the early 1520′s to the mid 1530′s. By the end of the 1530′s there were still a lot of Anabaptist groups out there, but they had begun to consolidate into fewer and more organized groups, with a more developed understanding of theology and church. The persecution didn’t stop for another 100 years by the way.

    It seems to me (admittedly looking in from the outside to some extent) that the EC has experienced a boom since the early to mid 90′s that is similar in excitement and disorganization to the early Anabaptist movement. What seems to be happening now is that the EC is shifting into second gear. What will probably happen in the next part of this unfolding history is that the groups who were just into the EC just because it was the next new thing, or they were just pissed off at their previous church, or were bored, or whatever, will probably fall by the wayside. There’s not the same active persecution as there was in the 1500′s, but you could still consider it a refining fire kind of time.

    In addition, the EC will begin to figure out what it’s center is. The problem with Anabaptists was that most of them started off as simply “not-Catholic” and it took a while for them to figure out what they were really about (see Menno Simons for this role). So far the EC strikes me as mainly being “not-fundamentalist”. There are some glimpses of things that hold it together, but that will probably get more refined from here on out.

    As someone who is writing this 500 years later, I can safely say that Anabaptism didn’t go away after it’s first 15 years or so. I don’t think the EC will either, but it will become something different than it is now; partly by necessity but also so that it can become more mature.

  • http://matybigfro.blogspot.com matybigfro

    Justin I was just about to jump in on the vineyard reference and you beat me to it. It’s a shame as I really struggle with your idea of leadership. Sorry but neither Vineyard, Calvary Chapel, or Lonnie get out of shebang spotless no matter what your spin on it is. What is sadder still is how indicitive your attitude is of allot of christian ministery/leadership. Big on being the big dog not so big on Jesus (you know the whole Good shepard who left the 99 for the 1 and equally not big on the concept of leaving or forsaking)
    I’m just sure glad Jesus is not the sort to leave you to die on your own cos you haven’t managed to stop sinning yet.

    Saying that i think maybe tony you maybe a little off base in how your talking about chapel and vineyard. I’m deffinatly not wanting to take any of the importance of Lonnie away from the 3rd wave charismatic movement and Vineyard from what I’ve picked up he seems a pretty special dude, but I don’t think he was solely responsible for either movement. It seems your emolying a similar level of dismisivness to vineyard and chapel to that which TSK is being hanged. Maybe suggesting that both Calvery Chappel and Vineyard are now movements making a living off lonnie frisbies charisma goes beyond simply hyporcrital to being a tad uncharitable. There are allot of fellow minsters and followers of Jesus you seem to be making character judgements about there. Let alone the posibilty of the ongoing work of the holy spirit managing to continue kingdom work through people inspite of the normal maybe natural phases of a movemetns life span that you seem to rule out.

    At the end of the day the ECM or EV are still young movements and there’s allot of time to pass before anyone can judge if they have learned from the movements that went before them or managed to surpass the curse’s of bureaucracy, routinization and domestication.

  • Justin

    matybigfro,

    Thanks for your feedback. I think we have a lot more in common leadership-wise than you think (re-read my comment about forgiveness, restoration and peace). I don’t necessarily take the “big dog” approach as you have suggested so much as the route of integrity and righteousness. None of us are perfect and we all deal with stuff, but the issue comes about when we lose our struggle and fall into consistent patterns / lifestyles of sin. Let me ask, would you allow a practicing homosexual man who was gifted by God to continue on as a very visible and public leader if he didn’t want to submit himself to restoration and a less visible place in the church? The bottom line is that sometimes submission to authority reveals your true heart. There a lot of things I don’t necessarily agree with all the time in ministry, but that doesn’t stop me from being loyal to my leaders who have been placed there by God to shepherd what He is doing.

  • Bobby Gilbert

    When I had heard Lonnie’s name in loose conversation a long time ago, I believe it was about him being exposed. His name disappeared to allow “new and now old names” to be set forward for instance, Greg Laurie. Lonnie had his moments. His name came back up for me this past year. I think history owes Lonnie a special place in growth of Calvary Chapel and Vineyard. Like John the Baptist, he needs to decrease because Jesus needs to increase.

  • http://www.relinquo.org joshua price

    Tony,

    First off, I really appreciate the direction you’re taking regarding some marxist thought and how it might apply within the emerging stuff…

    Secondly (and please allow me to make this brief), I think some of the more visible figures in emergent are growing frustrated with the dichotomy you point out regarding “talk” versus “doing.”

    It makes me wonder how many people who desperately want to appear “radical” all of you have actually met or been around for extended periods of time.

    I think what you’re hearing in this echoing dichotomy are the ever-growing frustrations of grass-roots leaders who are always on the recruiting trail. They cycle through all of these people who feel it is trendy to be this “hipster,” “radical,” “edgy” kind of leader but really aren’t willing to make the sacrifices or live in a manner that substantiates their radical convictions.

    I think the worst possible thing that has happened in my short experience with emerging people is that it became “cool” or “trendy” to be emergent… that in some way, emergence bastardized the hipster look and became precocious in many ways.

    That is not an accusation on any specific person and I suspect in your humility, many of you visible leaders have fought against that in your own lives. But many, many in the trenches have fallen into it and bred groups of people who love the “style” of emergence but have no time for the real “substance.”

    I have a friend who had a community of sorts for six or seven years. It was a typical coffee shop, philosophy of religion type chat that attracted a lot of semi-college, twenty-somethings who were all very cool. Over the last year, he ratcheted up their work in the community and their drive for social justice and they effectively shrank from 35 to about 4.

    Knowing all of your experience, I bet you know exactly how that feels. It is miserable, and I think that is why you’re hearing such bitterness toward the “talk” versus “doing” rhetoric.

    Many of you visible leaders (I hope you don’t mind me beating that label to death) can write a few books and put out some impressive ideas and to the rest of us, you look successful. We don’t know what you’re family life is like or what kind of community you cultivate or whether your followers or co-laborers actually get it or not.

    We just know that we don’t have any books and we’re not changing the game globally, we just know that many of our efforts fall short because we build our best hopes on people who are interested in emergent because it is trendy at the moment.

    So I would suggest that the dichotomy that vexes you is not going away anytime soon, because I think this phenomenon is not going away anytime soon.

    It might be more helpful to have self-deprecating and transparent conversations about the “cool factor” threatening to destroy the genuine need for this global conversation.

    Either way, Happy New Year and here is to a brighter future built on the backs of leaders who constantly feel they are falling short.

  • http://aaronstewart.blogspot.com Aaron Stewart

    Tony you and others that write books and speak aren’t who I’m talking about and you are not the norm within the ‘Emergent Movement’. I think the comment above me typifies where my earlier comment came from on Andrew’s blog. I’ll quote Joshua below.

    “But many, many in the trenches have fallen into it and bred groups of people who love the “style” of emergence but have no time for the real “substance.””

  • http://www.knightopia.com/blog Steve K.

    Great conversation you’ve stirred up here, Tony. All of this has gotten me thinking about how to “re-radicalize” the emerging church movement (if, in fact, it’s lost its “radical” edge). Or perhaps that’s not the point at all anyway? It’s not very “sexy” (to use Danielle Shroyer’s language), so it doesn’t get much airplay, but the emergence of communities of New Christians (those who embody a new kind of Christianity) could turn out to be the most “radical” event thus far.

  • http://frontiercafe.blogspot.com Stephen Feltmate

    I hope the Emergent movement never gets to the point where it can be packaged, franchised and sold like the cheap evangelical knock-offs you see everywhere in the “Christian marketplace”. It really is all about expressing the character of Jesus in one’s every day life regardless of one’s theology.

    As one who believes in Jesus’ human birth, salvation as an expression of the Kingdom of Heaven and the inclusion of all people in this Kingdom (perhaps a better word today is “Community”) regardless of their race, gender, faith or sexual orientation, I find very little tension with more theologically conservative Christians who get the fact that it’s all about Jesus.

    If we cannot join hands across the theological divide then how can we invite others into our community? If we put the focus squarely on the person of Jesus and the attitudes and internal transformation he encouraged then theological differences don’t matter – they become the background rather than the production.

    There are those who insist on building walls of division – and they are welcome too as long as they agree to respectfully disagree. We can be in community with each other as long as we express the character of Jesus.

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  • http://next-wave.org Charlie Wear

    Your Lonnie Frisbee analysis, based on the film, is misplaced. Unfortunately the film has become the story of what happened with Lonnie and the “movements” he helped birth.
    However, if you want to examine the birth and then decline of a movement, the Vineyard is a great example. A little over 25 years in and it is clearly in decline. And the decline absolutely began when the leadership was passed to the next generation of leaders.
    Regarding the emerging church (not emergent village), while it has always exhibited some of the characteristics of a movement, it has always lacked a clear momentum of “church” starting.
    You might argue that the “movement” is still in the early birthing stages, but this is clearly not so. However, all of this is not criticism but observation. The Holy Spirit is not finished with Gen-X or the rising generations, and new expressions of spirituality and community will continue to rise.

  • http://www.pubpastor.com Erik Samuelson (pubpastor)

    When I read TSK’s post the other day, my sense was that he wasn’t talking about something “dying” but more like a major shift–and it seems like that is something that you (Tony) seem to be recognizing as well. The question seems to be “How will whatever this new thing that has emerged emerge in another generation of leaders/communities?” I think this is a key one if the Emergent/Emerging Church is to be more than many critics claim it to be: a “style” based moment that appeals to hipster 20 somethings. And to be fair, many churches have (as Joshua Price so aptly commented above) have taken the style and pasted it on top of the same old substance–hardly an example of “emergence”. But other’s have taken the substance and incarnated that in ways that seem a far cry from the hipster model–and yet share so much in common.

    I wonder of the “death of the emergent church” and its so-called coopting (where that means something other than a style cut-and-paste) has more to do with the big shift Phyliss Tickle talks about in “The Great Emergence”. The reason the frontliners are seeing the movement as “dead” is because in many ways it has actually worked. The Great Emergence has begun, and those who have blazed the trail have opened up the whole wilderness for the rest of us to follow. But the trouble is, we’re not going to do it the same way as the originators–the radical badasses who confronted opposition at every turn. Perhaps someone more versed in feminist theory than I am could draw comparisons between the generational “waves” of the feminist movement as it shifted from the suffragettes to the bra-burners to the power-suits to the choosing-to-be-stay-at-home-moms. Movements evolve (emerge?) and to have deep societal impact by nature have to morph over time. Even when they go in directions the trailblazers never intended. But, we must remember, the Church (emergent or otherwise) is not ours, but God’s–and we are only players in God’s great drama. Who knows what it is that God intends this whole experiment to turn into? (and, really, only God gets to say “its over”)

    This is why I’ve come to like Alan Hirsch uses in The Forgotten Ways: “Emerging Missional”. I’m seeing in both the mainline and evangelical circles I’m in, a refocus on mission that I believe has been sparked in a huge way by the Emerging/Emergent movement, much in the same way that the charismatic/holiness movement of the early 20th Century brought the Holy Spirit back into the forefront of American Christianity across denominations or how Vatican II opened up liturgical renewal way beyond the Roman Catholic Church. But in all of these examples what this looks like in actual incarnated forms in communities is so amazingly different its hard to see how they are all connected–but I believe they are.

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  • http://frontiercafe.blogspot.com Stephen Feltmate

    Hmmm…there’s some interesting ideas in the comments here.

    Here’s one more: maybe the reason that attendance goes down when “doing” is ratcheted up is because we are trying too hard to define what “doing” should be?

    Not everyone is going to want to volunteer in a soup kitchen. But they may be really excited about applying their faith in their work as an engineer, entrepreneur, graphic artist or sales professional.

    People need to feel free to express who they are in our respective faith communities (first “Who?” then “What?”). Maybe we need to be refining tools to help people discover their inherent talents and then release them to build the Community of Heaven in the way best suited to what drives them?

  • http://www.relinquo.org joshua price

    Go ahead, friend, defend those who say “lord, lord…”

    I know it is very trendy to avoid judgment and I’m sure I sound bitter here. Duly noted.

    And we nearly can’t talk about Scripture anymore because so much of it has been deconstructed, but can we at least take a shot at early church history?

    Mind you, it wasn’t perfect (and we could deconstruct it too, I suppose), but it may be our best indicator of how Christ’s original audience understood His ideals.

    The apostles didn’t seem to beg people to try and integrate some of this Jesus rhetoric into their hobbies here and there. He didn’t tell the Roman soldier to be the best dang jesus-y Roman soldier he could be.

    The early followers of the Way saw Jesus’ message as an entirely different way of life. Roman soldiers left their careers never to return. Politicians forsook all to follow Jesus. There are many, many professions that we have recorded as unacceptable to the early followers. It isn’t simply a matter of adding some Jesus to what you already do!

    I have heard too many people let their peers off the hook so easily because we have over-reacted to intolerance. I’ve watched this happen. Each person that has abandoned the community of my dear friend has a somewhat nuanced reason, but a lot of it was due to gossip and an unwillingness to hold their tongue accountable, some of it was due to a pecking order with young singles and their lack of relational loyalty being over-ridden by their poor sexual choices. There are even worse reasons.

    Not one of them said, “You’re just putting us into too narrow a social justice box.”

    And by the way, the sheep and goats don’t give hope to hearing, “when i was desperate for a image to manipulate consumers, you came through for me with a great graphic design idea… or when i needed a new marble bathroom renovation, you wisely ignored people in other parts of the world who have no running water and drew up the perfect plans to indulge my greed…”

    It’s “I was naked… I was hungry… I was in prison”

    Every single follower of Jesus is called to the least of these. If someone isn’t able to grasp social justice and the calling of our Master, perhaps they should seek out a different master.

    My apologies for injecting such black and white rhetoric into a conversation dominated by subjectivity, because truly, there aren’t many things in my life that I have much confidence. I am confident that if Jesus were physically manifested here today, He would command us again, to care for the least of these… to spend our time in shelters, soup kitchens, brothels, back alleys, and ghettos.

    This is doing.

    So far as following Jesus, I know no other way.

  • http://www.relinquo.org joshua price

    My sincere apologies Stephen.

    I just reread your comment and then reread mine and I do sound like a monster. That was much too strong.

    Maybe a little emotional frustration there… no excuses, but by way of explanation… I hurt a little for my friend. I dearly want him to succeed and I feel a sense of betrayal on his behalf.

  • http://frontiercafe.blogspot.com Stephen Feltmate

    Hey Joshua,

    No worries; we almost always respond in the moment according to what’s going on in our lives. I’m sorry to hear about your friend. Jesus doesn’t abandon anyone; clearly this person is experiencing the pain that arises when we do not have our intimacy needs met and this can be very damaging.

    In no way was I suggesting that we should neglect those in need. We should do all that we can to ease suffering in the world with the understanding that we also have responsibilities to our families, friends and the path that God is calling us to travel.

    Also, we all possess inherent conative (instinctual), cognitive (intellectual) and effective (emotional) strengths that can be measured to give us a better understanding of who we are naturally (i.e. Kolbe index, Myers-Briggs, DISC).

    Once we know our strengths we have a better idea of where we can be most effective in the Kingdom of Heaven. There are people who work best with their hands: they are better suited to tasks that involve physical objects. Some work best in the world of ideas: they are better suited to things like planning events or creative problem-solving. Everyone has something to contribute and their contribution is most valuable when they work with their natural strengths rather than trying to be something they’re not.

    The problem is, many leaders push people to adopt the preferences of the leader rather than releasing people to be who they are and contribute according to their talents.

    This doesn’t absolve anyone of responsibility in the area of social justice. For example: I have a friend who is quite wealthy and gives a lot of money away to people in need. Should this person, rather than running their business effectively, shut everything down throwing hundreds of people out of work and stopping the flow of money to worthy organizations in order to make time for volunteer work?

    In the case of your friend, wouldn’t it be great if he was fully aware of his uniqueness and understood what he had to offer so that he could then confidently take his place in the Kingdom of Heaven and contribute his talents? That’s what I think we need to work toward.

  • Angry Native

    The irony of the terms emerging and emergent is that the provisionality and formlessness inherent in the term always implied a time bound phenomenon.
    Is it possible to deny that the EC is ended? By EC I mean of course the Emerging Conversation, the conversation in which Orthodox and Roman Catholic, house church and exiled from church could examine and discuss the inroads of Modernism into the Church. That conversation, one in which as a post materialist, post charismatic African intellectual I was both welcomed and challenged, is over.
    Intriguingly Tony’s own response offers us a Modern progress narrative in its place. The 3rd wave churches treated a gay minister in one way, we, the enlightened have progressed, we know better than them because we are later in time, further evolved in the Hegelian upward spiral of History.
    Those who reject Modern narratives including the myth of Progress are apt to use the word radical rather differently to what has been suggested, pointing instead to its derivation from Latin the Latin word radix meaning “root”. Our radical quest in the emerging conversation was to reconnect with the roots of our faith. It was knowing that Orthodox, Pentecostals and Campbellites all perceived themselves as embodying the early church that enabled us to learn from each, while appreciating that church must needs be embedded in one culture or another, while remaining connected to its origin and source of life. From our perspective 2009 marks the final closure of the conversation, what this means for the commentators anxious to proclaim your right to use the term Emerging Church is that you need no longer designate it with the symbol ™ which is afterall only for a pending trademark, it is now registered as a trademark and you should use (R) to represent your prior claim.

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  • Anthony

    Great post Tony! Here’s to Emergence in Cooleemee, NC where this New Christian has been leading a group of youth in lectio divina in the back room of a small black storefront Pentecostal church. And dreaming of creative ways to witness to the kingdom.

  • http://www.relinquo.org joshua price

    Once again…. to Stephen…

    So here’s the thing, friend… I think we’re obviously both working off of massive generalities and hoping our individual experiences represent what is happening in broad strokes.

    Maybe you’ve seen communities fall apart because the leader didn’t understand how to engage people’s gifts. I can’t argue with that. Maybe you have.

    Maybe in my brief experience watching these things play out, that sounds like a cop out. Here in the states, and especially on the west coast, it is very trendy to be a hipster jesus follower. Unfortunately, this has often attached itself to emergent. It shouldn’t have, but it did.

    I don’t know if you live in an intentional community or if you’ve started one of your own, but if you’ve had that experience for any real time, you know you’re going to have some magnificent recruits and some people who, again, are very intrigued by the style but are not willing to handle the costs associated with the substance.

    Can you honestly say you don’t know any of the kinds of people who desperately want change? Maybe change in their country… their economics… their relationships… their lives personally… But rather than chart a new course in these areas, they realize that it is easier to simply maintain the status quo? Do you not have this type of thing in Canada?

    This is precisely what is effecting better than half the people I know within and outside of emergent stuff.

    I can’t use that first hand experience to diagnose a global ideal. It is my experience, and we tend to go from that working toward generalities. It is purely anecdotal, but obviously, I think I’m right or I wouldn’t have posited it :-)

    And obviously, people like Aaron Stewart (who I don’t know personally) have also had this type of experience. All that to say, try it out. If you don’t already lead an intentional community or some sort of emergent/social justice initiative, by all means, start one and let me know if you run across this.

    If not, I’ll gladly say you Canadians do everything better than us ridiculous yanks. After all, your police still ride horses! How cool is that!?

    All my best new year’s wishes to you,

    joshua

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  • Sarah

    I don’t know, Tony. I’m not sure I can agree that “talking is doing” and I have been tired of the talk for some time myself. I’m not sure writing a book is doing. I’m not sure giving a speech is doing. Going to a homeless shelter, starting a recycling program, planting a church, moving into an intentional community–those things are “doing.” No, I don’t espouse an end to the conversation, I just wish that I could see all that blah blah blah actually leading to something productive.

  • http://outsidetheautisticasylum.blogspot.com Ted Seeber

    Thank you Tony- in researching the life of the people you brought up (Lonnie, Chuck, and John) I now understand WAY better where many of my Protestant relatives are coming from- and why they seem to be attracted more to Charisma than to Charity.

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  • http://freedompastor.blogspot.com Frank Emanuel

    Ted, your assessment does not indicate you understand the situation at all. It is far from a simple desire for charisma that is at the heart of these movements. In fact CC was an effort to have church that had less emphasis on charisma than its Foursquare roots. Also Wimber was consistent that our emphasis should be on the main and the plain of the gospel and not the charisma (which for Wimber always meant ministry to the poor). This desire for balance is part of what happened during the Toronto Blessing incident, which came right on the heels of the US Vineyard correcting a messy foray into more charismatic terrain.

    It has been a tough balance for both movements. I know the Vineyard history better though. As a Vineyard pastor I know first hand that overt charisma seekers are a recurring issue. The assessment that we have favoured charisma over charity would be true for some of our churches – but it could never describe our movement. And if what my CC brother tells me is right I think that Chuck is also thinking about what it means to have a balance in that area.

  • http://outsidetheautisticasylum.blogspot.com Ted Seeber

    Foursquare roots- thanks Pastor Frank, for a bit more of the history.

    I’ve had some problems placing my Vineyard and CC relatives in my study of greater Christianity; the splits among congregationalist evangelicals in general seem to be almost random and without any reference to authority to a Catholic.

    I can certainly see it as being a tough balance indeed.

  • http://freedompastor.blogspot.com Frank Emanuel

    As an evangelical studying at a Roman Catholic institution I see this a lot, you are not alone in your confusion around the mess of North American denominationalism. There is a really good book on the roots of the Vineyard called Quest for the Radical Middle. But to connect the dots for you, the movement started in Calvary Chapel (which broke away from the Foursquare church) but really took off under the leadership of former Quaker leader John Wimber. Also, from early on the Vineyard has had a mutually (at times) relationship with Fuller Seminary. I think you could call it a blend of neo-evangelical neo-pentecostalism with a splash of West Coast Quakerism. My own roots are equally convoluted, perhaps that is why I feel so at home in the Vineyard.

    I’m not sure what he has written, but Nick Jesson is a brilliant Roman Catholic scholar who studies evangelicals. He teaches a course on contemporary protestant thought at the University of Saskatchewan. I know he is interested in catholic-evangelical ecumenism. He might be a good one to help navigate a mess that most of us evangelicals just take for granted (and many of us really dislike – one of the things I admire about Rome is the ability to hold diversity in unity). Denominationalism is a very complex reality tied to the formation of the American rejection of state church (Mark Noll is who I turn to for this insight).

  • http://outsidetheautisticasylum.blogspot.com Ted Seeber

    My favorite Pope, John Paul The Great, had much to say during his extremely long papacy on the role of humility in leadership. As I watch “the office change the man” with Pope Benedict, I think a large part of Rome’s more recent (at least, post Italian Unification, since in Italy you can never quite separate church & state) ability to hold diversity in unity has been the humility almost forced on recent Popes (by European wars and the rise of the European Secular State), and their rediscovery of that wonderful concept from the Gospels that “The last shall be first, and the first shall be last”.

    I like that insight you attribute to Mark Noll- for me religion is more of a hobby than a job (I’m just laity, though I am a Knight of Columbus and trying to form a council in my parish). It’s one of the reasons I have yet to go 4th degree (the 4th degree of Knights of Columbus is Patriotism), because I see a deep disconnect between what the Church preaches for unity, and how Americans practice individualism (this even goes to economic matters for me- Solidarity and Subsidiarity are almost banned topics in American economics, heaven forbid somebody should mention that the real duty of a government in economics is that everybody should have a job).

  • cjdm

    I am so glad that the various Emergent movements are not dead. I am so glad that, contrary to popular belief, Calvary and Vineyard clearly are not dead either.

    However, I wish to raise a serious methodological objection.

    The natty theoretical wrap-up invoking Marx and Weber to explain what the ECM, Calvary and Vineyard are, evince an ahistorical interpretative presumptiveness that is clearly misplaced. As some of the comments above indicate, there is a great deal of life and thought in all these movements. Presumably Jones’ dismissal of such is the part of the revolutionary dialectic where the progeny tries to eat its parents?

    Clearly Weber and Marx are valuable interlocutors in building a historiographical method to consider these movements (Calvary, Vineyard, and ECM). However, using them off the cuff in such a linear and uncritical manner, particularly on such classic but contested points as the revolutionary reproduction of culture or the routinization of charisma, is a really, really bad idea. There is enough critique of both proposals, from the point of view of critical theory, cultural history, and hermeneutics, that these grand theories must be appropriated with care. To trundle them out as supposed supporters of a positive point about the ECM or a negative point about Vineyard or Calvary Chapel strikes me as fundamentally dishonest, designed to impress all who have not taken an introductory course in social theory.

    If anything about this post is “offensive” in the positive sense that TJ seems to want to apply to the fecund future of Emergent, it is the simplistic intellectual hucksterism that drives its analysis.

  • http://wordofmouthministries.blogspot.com/ iggy

    It seems there are many Vineyards that may be as you described, yet there are also many that are not. Presently I attend a great one. I know also that Jason Clark in the UK is Vineyard… so I wonder… is your analysis quite as right on as it could be? Remember we entered the Anita Baker era in the 80′s so homophobia was rampant… so it would follow suit that many CC and Vineyards would turn against those they found to be gay. Yet, I see a openness that is returning… Vineyard is actually turning to N.T. Wright as far as theology… and many of us are looking at the gay community as the next wave of God’s grace. To put it in the old terms… some are seeing a revival coming out of the gay communities.

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  • kenny

    I found Di Sabatino’s rendering of Lonnie’s story to be interesting, but sensational. Not denying this was Lonnie’s perspective (Di Sabatino says that in the film), but in talking with close friends of Lonnies (& close to the situation), it takes two to tango, & Lonnie seemed to have added his own fuel to the fire. I can’t speak for CC, but the whole bit about him being written out of Vineyard history is untrue (yes, Wimber didn’t refer to him by name in a book), but for that I have 3 others where he was. Over the last 20 years, I also heard many, many, many stories about Lonnie in Vineyard circles without disdain or anything negative to say about him. I wrote a post about this in 2006: http://kpetrowski.blogspot.com/2006/09/lonnie-frisbee.html

    Regarding the Vineyard movement in decline… I can see how it might seem that way based on the relatively poor Vineyard representation on the interweb. Case in point, the wikipedia entry is about 15 yrs outdated. I don’t know any leader in the movement who would characterize the movement as “a neocharismatic evangelical Christian denomination…has been associated with the Signs and Wonders movement, the Toronto blessing, the Kansas City Prophets and a particular style of Christian worship music”. It’s like giving a toast at a person’s wedding & talking only about their first 5 years of life… the juvenile stories without context of the whole life are incomplete.

    It would be ok if it was in decline, but my experience tells me otherwise.. the signs of life are evident in the collective disaster response (vineyardusa.org), leading toward reconciliation with the muslim world (whydoyoufearme.com), breaking down “stained glass barriers” of following jesus vs christiandom (notreligious.org), intentional actions against human trafficking as well as church planting, teaching people to “do the stuff” (Wimber’s desire all along)…

    All that to say, I agree that movements do die out, especially those that act as bridges forging the way (like the ECM & the Vineyard did). The question is do they find their second wind, or are they meant to be a one act play?

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  • GD

    Tony, one could argue Lonnie was holier in that he acknowledged his situation – the Christian Church, of all persuasions is littered with leaders who fornicate/gamble/abuse/drink/drug on Saturday and preach on Sunday. Show us your perfect church, show us your sinless preacher – maybe you should be more worried about the preachers who’s sins you are not aware of, those who have only public glory persona’s. Do not pretend Frisbee was any less gifted/annointed/talented because of his sexual bent. I know many men who are bewildered God continues to use them despite their own brokenness – those that accept that is ok go on and serve well, those that can’t work it out continue to struggle and struggle – I know, I’ve put them back together.

    Re the relevance of Christianity – it is waning, no doubt about that, and will continue to do so as long as the ‘Christian Elite’ such as yourself go around rubbishing everyone who does not fit into YOUR model of Christianity.

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