On the same weekend that the “Outlaw Preachers” were gathering in Memphis, I was part of a very different conference in Fort Worth, Texas. Held on the campus of Brite Divinity School (at Texas Christian University), we didn’t have nearly as many tweets at Emerging Christianity, but we did have a big room full of folks who are very interested in the Emergence of Christianity in the 21st century. In fact, the president of the divinity school introduced the event by saying that there’s no question he’s asked more often than, “What’s the deal with the emerging church?”, a comment that jibes with Brian McLaren’s post that the talk of the ECM’s demise may be a bit premature.
The conference was organized by my friends at Life in the Trinity Ministry in Dallas. Here are my highlights of the various talks:
Brian McLaren opened on Friday night with thoughts from his latest book, talking in particular about the various gospels that are presented to us at this point in history. Given the six different gospels from which we have to choose, Brian said, how about we choose the one that will establish love and peace as fundamental to our faith?
I then gave some dispatches from the landscape of the emergent movement.
And Richard Rohr closed the evening with a talk in which he reflected on what he’d heard from Brian and me; particularly interesting was his take on the emergence of the Catholic church in past historical periods.
The next morning, Richard gave part two of his talks in which he argued against dualistic thinking and encouraged us to move into a mode of “non-dual thinking.”
Suzanne Stabile, co-founder of Life in the Trinity Ministry, gave a wonderful talk about living in the liminal spaces of life, in the tragedies and discomfort, as the only real way to grow into the comfortable spaces.
After lunch, Brian gave a new talk in which he compared the predicament of the mainline church to that of the U.S. Postal Service. I’ve seldom heard Brian be s0 pointed in his challenge to the mainline church to respond — and respond quickly — to its own narrative of collapse. He made no bones about what he thinks should be done, and that includes closing churches that are sucking resources, and channeling what remains in the coffers to new and innovative works.I gave another talk, this one about thinking of a congregation as the site of a communal hermeneutic, then Phyllis Tickle gave one of the best talks I’ve hear her give, weaving through the history of emergences over the last 2,500 years. Honestly, it was a thing to behold. I don’t know if she took a breath over the course of 75 minutes.
There were, of course, other offerings in the room, including panel discussion, music, etc. But a particular highlight of mine was meeting and growing in friendship with Ted Swartz. I’d seen Ted from a distance for many years, as he performed with his now-deceased partner as Ted & Lee. Now performing as Ted and Company, he came to this conference just to see what would happen, and I think what happened was magic. First, in the youth ministry pre-conference workshop, Ted hung out and helped me put flesh on some of the ideas that I was presenting. Then, in the conference itself, Ted invited me to play opposite him two different times in scripts that he’s written. One was from, I’d Like to Buy an Enemy, a show that I’d really like to see in its entirety (and that you can bring to your church or conference).
Another highlight was discovering that Zach Lind was in the metroplex, playing a show Saturday night at the Verizon Theater. Through a series of texts and tweets, Zach ended up coming over for the Saturday afternoon session and meeting Richard Rohr, one of his favorite authors — he even surreptitiously shot this twitpic of Richard. Later that night, Courtney and I swung by the the theater, had a beer with Zach, and watched a bit of the Smashing Pumpkins set from backstage.
Finally, Courtney and I had a leisurely brunch with Phyllis on Sunday, introducing her to the wonder that is the michelada. Below is a Courtney Perry hipstamatic shot of Phyllis and yours truly plotting goodness.
Thanks to everyone who played a role in a great weekend!