Saturday, 28 February 2009

’The Great Emergence’ Schedule and first discussion

Well, I may barely make it but I did promise you a schedule and the kick off of our discussion. Actually, the author Phyllis Tickle did that pretty darn good herself last night. I know many of you have embarked on a schedule of your own, one that fits your context and community. I urge you to stay right with that. I offer this for those who would like to join in the discussion on the blog and anyone who wishes to be essentially reading at the same pace I am. Those on Facebook may certainly meet me there as well, although the blog will be the primary discussion point and where I hope we can center the discussion so that all that want to be, can be part of it, and can benefit from the responses.

So, here is my proposed schedule:

March 1-7- Part I intro and Chapters 1 and 2, essentially pages 1-40.

March 8-14- Part II intro and Chapter 3, pages 41-62

March 15-21- Chapters 4 and 5, pages 63-118

March 22-28- Part III intro and Chapter 8, pages 119-144

March 29-April 4- Chapter 7 and end discussion, pages 145-163

April 5-11- Holy Week and April 12th Easter!


For this week, Part I Intro and Chapters 1 and 2.


Of course Part 1 sets the case that Tickle wishes to make, that every 500 years the Church has a rummage sale, and we are living in the midst of such a time today. It would be interesting in our discussions to see where you are with that. Do you agree? Do you see it as she does? This quote from the bottom of page 26, and then top of 27 really intrigues me.

"When Christians despair of the upheavals and re-formations that have been the history of our faith-when the faithful resist, as so many do just now, the presence of another time of reconfiguration with its inevitable pain-we all would do well to remember that, not only are we in the hinge of a five-hundred year period, but we are also the direct product of one. We need, as well, to gauge our pain against the patterns and gains of each of the previous hinge times through which we have already passed. It is especially important to remember that no standing form of organized Christian faith has ever been destroyed by one of our semi-millennial eruptions. Instead, each simply has lost hegemony or pride of place to the new and not-yet-organized from that was birthing."

That one paragraph is packed with so much.

Finally, "The Cable of Meaning." What do you think?

I look forward to our discussions!




  1. Our women's bible study group in Kirkland, Washington has made "The Great Emergence" our Lenten reading. Today we had our first session. The following questions brought lively responses. The book is complicated to read and not for everyone. Perhaps these study questions will help:
    1. Let's take a look at the book title and the cover and discuss why the author chose them.
    2. What do you think the author wanted us to understand or feel in the first chapter?
    3. Why do you think the bishop chose this book for us to read during Lent?
    4. To whom is this book directed? Who are the readers?
    5. What is meant by the term "The Great Emergence?"
    6. Which are the other 3 times of great upheaval
    and flux which precede "The Great Emergence?" Which are the other 3 "Greats?"
    7.What are examples cited by the author of upheaval in today's world? e.g. long to-do lists
    8.Why does the author use the image of a rummage sale?
    9.Of mercury?
    10. What is the philosophical meaning of the term "emergence."
    11. Why does the author mention the difficulty of fixing an exact date/point in time to the "Great Reformation" or the "Great Schism?"
    11. New words: carapace, filioque, emersion line

  2. We are thinking of calling it the "Tickle Rickel Study"!

  3. Great list of questions from St. John's, Kirkland! Thanks for sending them! These could be a help to everyone!

    And, the Tickle, Rickel Study! Also interesting!



  4. Good stuff. Here’s a context that I'd put Phyllis’ work.

    A significant number of scholars and authors have, since the 1940’s, written about a contemporary paradigm shift in human consciousness and understanding that is continuing to take place on a world-wide scale. Quite a few write from the religious perspective. Among those I’d mention in addition to Phyllis’ work (because they are all in the same ballpark, so to speak) are Karl Jaspers, Lloyd Geering, Phillip Jenkins, Marcus Borg, Karen Armstrong, Diana Butler Bass, and Sharon Parks.

    They say that we are in an “Axial Age” (Jaspers) or an “Axial Period” (Geering), which is as “epochal” for the Christian World today as was the Reformation (Jenkins - and I happen to believe the Reformation hasn't yet ended, but that's another story). It is a time when some – but not many – Mainline U.S. congregations have learned healthy ways of responding (Bass); a time that has brought forth new ways of approaching Christian faith and Bible (Borg); it is “The Great Transformation” (Armstrong), or “The Great Emergence” (Tickle) a time that, because of this “turning”, requires a new understanding of community, a new “Commons” (Parks).

    I mention this because each in their own way offers us a useful construct – a schema for understanding what’s going on. Jaspers and Geering, for instance, propose only two great shifts (Axial Ages or Periods) in human history, whereas Phyllis’ proposes “every 500 years”.

    This is another way of saying “we’re on to something here (but let’s not get too ‘hooked’ on a set time-frame)”!

    To ground this, I have been developing (for myself, but I think they might be helpful) some underlying assumptions:

    ---The paradigm shift now in progress offers a cornucopia of possibilities to Christian faith communities

    ---However, because Christian faith communities currently fail to understand what is happening, and because institutional responses tend to be reactionary, resistance rather than embrace is the most likely initial response.

    ---Appropriately trained leadership that understands the issues can help faith communities move beyond solely technical responses to adaptive ones

    ---Any Christian community – and especially Episcopal communities - are wonderfully placed to move confidently and enthusiastically into this different future provided they have access to this new sort of leadership

    ---The Holy Spirit is on our side!


  5. Well, I've read the first section, and haven't figured out where we're going yet. But referring to prior periods, like the reformation, seems to have been somewhat sanitized. Yes there were schisms and reforms, but we're ignoring the "Wars of Religion". The idea of another "reformation" with wars of religion, burning heretics at the stake, and the other atrocities in the name of religion in the nuclear age is scary. We have an elephant in the parlor that no one is talking about. I have to continue my reading to see where Tickle is taking us. We start our discussions next week at St. Paul's Bellingham.

    Gary Young

  6. I post this from another discussion group doing a good job and with a good leader, food for thought!

    March 6, 2009
    Points for discussion:
    1. What are your reactions to Tickle's immediate assertion that this "new season" of the Great Emergence affects every part of our lives?
    2. Where have you seen evidence of the Great Emergence? Where have you seen evidence to the contrary, and why do you think that is?
    3. Should the Church's response to the Great Emergence differ from the response in other fields such as science, ecology or philosophy? If yes, how so, and why?
    4. Does this shift towards an emerging worldview seem distant from your own understanding of the world, or does it support your understanding of the world? In what ways can you draw parallels between emergence theory and your own faith journey?
    As a means of reference and review, the chart below describes the four "Greats" that have occurred between the early church and today. Discuss how future generations may reflect back upon the time of the Great Emergence and fill out the chart.
    Gregory the Great
    The Great Schism
    The Great Reformation
    The Great Emergence
    6th Century
    11th Century
    16th Century
    21st Century
    Central Theological Issues
    Debate surrounding the human and divine natures of Jesus; status of Mary
    Language and type of communion bread used in Mass; whether the Holy Spirit proceeded from the Father or from the Father and the Son
    Catholic indulgences, priesthood, accessibility of Bible to all
    Defining Event (if one)
    Council of Chalce-don is the Fourth Ecumenical Coun-cil in 451
    Council of Chalcedon is the Fourth Ecumenical Council in 451
    Martin Luther nails his “95 Theses” to the door of Wittenburg in 1517
    Societal Shifts in Broader Culture
    Fall of the Roman Empire, beginning of Dark Ages
    High Middle Ages, Crusades, fall of Byzantine Empire
    Enlightenment, ratio-nalism, industrialism
    Monastic traditions
    Division of Eastern and Western Christianity
    Protestant Christianity/ Vatican II
    March 6, 2009
    Points for discussion:
    1. Tickle specifies three consistent results of the Church’s rummage sale every five hundred years. What are they? How have these results transpired in past rummage sales?
    2. It is notable that all three results Tickle describes are, upon completion, positive ones. This may be true at bird’s eye view, but are there less positive results at ground level? How can congregations effectively handle the bumpier results during the transition?
    3. Does Tickle’s assertion that rummage sales do not entirely destroy old structures reassure you or cause you concern?
    4. How do you respond to the idea of your ecclesial tradition being rummaged and perhaps sold in its current form?
    5. For some, the metaphor of rummage sale may seem too demure. When the vestiges of faith you have known your entire life are being questioned, and changed, and perhaps even denounced, it can feel more like a wrecking ball coming through the walls of your house to make way for a new upstart development. In what ways does the metaphor of rummage sale ring true? In what ways does it feel more like a wrecking ball? In what ways does it feel like both, or neither?
    6. Does the author’s assertion that the previous “Greats” have led to a broader expansion of God’s story provide you hope? How so, or why not?

  7. Greg, I'm going to give this a try, but will be late as I'm placing my order with Amazon today & the book will probably not arrive before Monday.

  8. Dianne Aid, TSSF11:29 am, March 04, 2009

    I am on board with the reading. There is a part of me that sees what we are going through in the Anglican Communion, and mainstream Christianity in general as a process that has been played out before. I wonder where the interfacing of day to day ministry are and were with the theological debates being played out. I am hardly what anyone would call an "intellectual heavy weight", but I do see implications of the raging debate over inclusiveness as a way to invite the marginalized to the table. I wonder what records or testimonies there are of these day to day ministries during the "Great

  9. I liked what Rev. Taber-Hamilton said.
    I find that what people are calling the "emerging church" is more like what was going on in the book of Acts (the decision to reach out to and fully incorporate people from totally different backgrounds and the difficulties encountered making it happen) than the Reformation.

    With regard to the Cable of Meaning:
    My first reaction was that boats are not supposed to be tethered to a dock. They are intended to travel on the water independently. I debated whether to bring this up-I do know that metaphors are rarely perfect, however, I believe that part of what the establishment that is the mainline church is trying to overcome is that metaphor: many people from outside (like my 20 year old son and 35 year old brother-in-law)see Christians as tied to a dock by an unnecessary and increasingly irrelevent restraint and that instead of fussing about what it is made of and trying to repair it we should just cut it and get on with the business of traveling across the water. This might connect with Rev. Taber-Hamilton's "However, because Christian faith communities currently fail to understand what is happening, and because institutional responses tend to be reactionary, resistance rather than embrace is the most likely initial response."

    The other thought regarding the cable is that Ms. Tickle's description of what she means by corporeality struck me as the means we use to tell the story not part of the core strength. I feel there needs to be something about God in the core. I might try to replace "corporeality" with core belief system. By this I mean something like what for Jewish folks would be the Torah and for Christians the life and teachings of Jesus (kerygma and didache).

  10. No, don't cut the cable! :-)

    I've wrestled with that metaphor as well, but for a different reason. I appreciate Phyllis' use of it in terms of the Church connecting to what we consider to be authority for what we believe and what we do. In that light, the metaphor works, at least for me.

    But at first, I was quite confused by it, because I did not grow up in the Land Episcopal, but Protestant Evangelical Land. So, as I first read the section, I kept re-reading it, as I was trying, without being aware of it, to apply the metaphor to both cultures, and it just didn't work. Try as I might, I cannot see the Church Universal as a homogenous "entity", though in terms of the Body of Christ, I can. In this process of Emergence, I don't think we're all standing in the same place.

    I agree with Nigel that TEC is "wonderfully" placed for the Emergence adventure. I'm a TEC newbie, but it was my immediate impression upon washing up on the shores of the Land Episcopal, that the "three-legged stool" approach to the faith had allowed a following of the breath of the Spirit that up to that point in my life, I had not experienced. The church of my youth, if 40 years can be considered "youth", continued to rely on Sola Scriptura, and to move from that was seen as abandoning the faith, as opposed to growing into it.

    The Spirit is not dead. She is not holding her breath! Move! Breathe! Rest! Peace! Dance!

  11. I'm looking forward to this book! The more I read about the era we have entered, the more convinced I am that her premise is correct. Authors writing for a wider, secular audience are describing the context in similar ways. For example John Zogby, in The Way We'll Be, reports on the the findings of his polls regarding the "seismic shifts" in our society. And, Daniel Pink, in A Whole New Mind, describes the way the right brain is emerging in the Conceptual Age we've entered. I'd love to have Tickle, Zogby, and Pink together in a room for an hour! Zogby and Pink provide valuable insight into the audience to which the church Tickle is describing is trying to relate.

    On a different tack, does Ms. Tickle's reference to corporeality refer to core values of the church or to the church's actual, physical, tangible reality?

  12. I am looking forward to this discussion. I agree with Nigel's observations and agree that this concept of "A Great Emergence" has been raised by other religious writers. I am interested in exploring in more depth the concept of "the Holy Tether". I also want to share a link to a recent NY Times article about religious observance and belief in historically Lutheran Sweden and Denmark. Is this the wave of the future and the way "The Great Emergence" is going to play out?

  13. Oooh! Look at all the metaphors! What fun!

    And even better, what company!

    So I'm hearing the words "schism" and "reformation" and "emerging" and "corporeality" all together and I'm thinking, OMG! Don't tell me... we're pregnant!? No really. I'm remembering that page in my my old Human Biology textbook, the one in the Human Reproduction chapter with those marvelous graphics showing the stages of growth and development of a human being from sperma and ova to embryo to fetus to birth.

    So I'm thinking, Oooh! Cool metaphor! Or is it a simile? I forget. Anyway, when you think about it it works on a whole lot of levels, from the cellular to the Scriptural. And who could resist embracing a baby?

    The upside, if I'm not stretching it too far, Lord have mercy, is it suggests to me a coming quickening - the Spirit poured out on all flesh. The downside of course is it suggests some travail that's also to come. But in the end, Joy.

    So after the rummage sale we throw a shower?

  14. Hello All, when I read Tickle's section on the Cable of Meaning, my husband and I laughed at the duct tape repair to the cable. If you're in a boat and need to make repairs to the line that holds the anchor, you usually have to pull up the anchor and work on the line. That causes lots of rocking in the boat, and it can be very uncomfortable. That's where I think we are now: a very rocky boat with a line that's threatening to tear a little more. The security for me in all this, is that the boat still floats! Virginia Wagner

  15. Ok, I finished Tickle's book. What a disappointment and bunch of hogwash! We now have the frog in the blender view of Christianity and the elephant's still in the parlor. Pop the popcorn, pull up an easy chair, watch the fights begin, and if the action gets slow lob in another rash comment. If there were going to be a civilized discussion of what's happening in religion, there's no chance from this start. Maundy Thursday arrives, the Bishop stops the fighting and says "The Lord be with you. Thank you oh God for giving us the this wonderful experience. Grant us clean hearts. Go in peace. Amen."


  16. Gary, what is "the elephant" for you? Might be good to discuss that?


  17. In response to Bishop Rickel ...

    The elephant in the parlor story is most often cited in the context of alcoholics and their enablers who have something at stake in the arrangement. It's not like the Emperors New Clothes where the loyal subjects don't have anything at stake and the small child can make the pronouncement. Let me just give an example to demonstrate how the dynamics work.

    But first, I want to give my book report, so we can stay on the program. The first half of Tickle's book, two sections in 5 chapters, warms us up with with 4 or 5 cycles of "Great" changes and identifies some of the modern issues that are now in a similar contention. After wetting our appetites and skipping down the yellow brick road, we come to the big booming amplified voice of the Great Oz telling us to ignore the man behind the curtain in the control booth, click our ruby heals together three times, and Voila we're back in Kansas. Upon introducing the cable metaphor, listing a bunch of conflicts between reality and what we espouse in religion, stating that we are ready to resolve them, then moving on to an elaborate set of ven diagrams and an extremely convoluted discussion with only the few glassy-eyed readers that make it to the end finding out hunky-dorry we've solved that one.

    Now for my parlor example. Look at what happens when I mention virgin birth and evolution in the context of modern molecular biology. A hundred years ago we might have had an excuse, but now we stand up and even more forcefully parrot the Nicene Creed at every service. There have been reputable modern scholars who have written on the subject, for example Bishop Spong, who we demonize, vilify, and marginalize until we've successfully restored our precious medieval world view.



  18. As I started into Chapter 6, "The Gathering Center, And the Many Faces of a Church Emerging", I was already thinking about discussions where I had interjected the fact that there are on the order of 30,000 Christian denominations into an argument of religious inerrancy. You can find the literature about counting denominations by googling "the number of Christian denominations" or "the list of Christian denominations" (The Wikipedia has a very good article). This mental association lead me to the thought: "But, of course, Mormons aren't really Christian." Then to my chagrin, sure enough on page 127 Tickle does it: "Not included here are two significant bodies--Mormons and Quakers. Mormonism, which is growing rapidly domestically and globally, is arguably the fourth of the great Abrahamic faiths rather than a subset or variant of Christianity and increasingly is so treated by religionists." I was disappointed that she failed to return to that subject and what it says about where Christianity is going in the remainder of the book. I had already discussed the significance of so many denominations in my Proud Individual Blog entry "On Religious Debate" over two years ago.

  19. Oops, I'm sorry, I'm ahead of myself. We're not supposed to discuss Chapter 6 until the week of March 22, so just ignore that last posting for a couple of weeks. :-)


  20. I am troubled.

    I confess that I find the book disappointing and am conflicted about how to proceed in this forum. My first few attempts seemed to be too critical of the author/book, so I did not post them. Let me then start by saying that I respect the author and her opinions, and willingly accept that my opinions about her approach to this serious subject are open to the insight and enlightenment that this forum can bring. Here goes …

    The concept that the experiences of humankind proceeds linearly through time (it must assume linearity or the hallmarks would not be evenly spaced at 500 years) seems contrived to me. It also seems unimportant … except in the context of arguing that we are in one of those ‘great’ moments and therefore we should get on board and that resistance to the ideas presented by this advocacy is futile (my apologies to the Borg).

    I agree that we are in a very important time of change. The Reformation and the American Revolution are still unfinished works. Add the technology revolution (aka Information Age) and we are in for a fast ride. But, for me at least, not because it just so happens that hinges occur every 500 years.

    Another contrivance that does not resonate for me is appending ‘great’ to everything (so that our opponents will take it seriously?). The Great emergence, the Great reformation, the Great Schism, the Great Greg … the Great Gatsby … Great Caesar’s Ghost … Good (Great?) Grief. I believe there are important discussions that need to occur and these contrivances weaken not strengthen our ability to participate seriously in these debates.

    Perhaps we can all agree that the Information Age has profoundly changed our access to information and our ability to exchange ideas. [Happily, I was able to look up ‘carapace’ and ‘praxis’ via my Blackberry while reading on the ferry]. Excellent … then let us dispense with our ‘resistance is futile’ approach and proceed to define what we Episcopalians now believe and how to best communicate (proclaim) our updated beliefs to the increasing number of starving disenchanteds. [Their hearts are still burning within them … aren’t they?]. Or, is our message no longer sating that hunger? Or, is the message just not reaching them on the modern paths of communications with which they have grown to maturity? We have so much to discuss without stumbling (tripping?) on cable metaphors.

    Do not the Holy Scriptures still contain all things necessary to salvation? Are not the Nicene Creed and the Apostle’s Creed still the sufficient statements of our faith? Do we not still adhere to Baptism and Communion as the sacraments ordained by Christ? Do we not still look to the locally adapted Historic Episcopate to point us toward God’s purpose.

    Does Jesus really not want Karen & Cyndy to talk in church? … Are the homosexual individuals across all societies and all eras of time really disenfranchised from God? Can we not still update our faith periodically by application of the three legged-stool approach [Scripture, Tradition, Reason (Experience)]? Certainly the Information Age has greatly contributed to a broadening of our corporate experience (and thus, hopefully, reason).

    This is already too long … I’m still learning how to use blogs.

  21. Whidbey Knitter - I also chuckled over the 'religious duct tape'. It seems only fair that we should also be provided with 'religious WD-40'.

  22. Ilahee, are you asking those questions or are the answers to all of them supposed to be yes?

  23. JSW - I was using the questions as examples of what could occupy our inquiry instead of 'restistance is futitle' constructs.

    As for the specific questions ... for me some of the answers are 'yes' and some of the answers are 'I don't know' ... but that is only me, and I am open (even eager) for further discussion along our journey.

  24. Before we leave part one, I looked at it again to see if there was anything to say that we haven't discussed yet.

    When we hold a rummage sale, we pile our junk out in the yard, put up a sign, and somebody comes along and pays us a small amount to take it off our hands. Are we saying that we're transferring our useless and failed religion notions to someone else? At the end of the day, we dump the unsold items in the trash heap. That's where the useless failed religion notions belong. We don't identify much with the religion notions of the prior Great Rummage Sales, so that doesn't bother us much. However, ... we haven't identified which useless failed religion notions we are talking about in the current Great Emergence Rummage Sale.

    In the second chapter, Tickle leads off with religion as a social construct. The topic is covered when religion is studied as an academic pursuit, but is denied by everyone in the pews. "What! You put my precious religion notion on the trash heap?" We get a Great Flogging for even attempting to hold the Great Emergence Yard Sale.

    Part I "The Great Emergence: What Is It?" teased us into thinking that we would actually get to do an archeological dig into our neighbor's religion trash heap. Alas, Tickle doesn't have the balls to go there, and thus my disappointment with the book.


  25. Gary - What exactly is it that our author and the emergence movement proposes to dispose of in their Great Rummage Sale? I too am concerned with this question and tried to elude to it with my earlier paragraph about the articles of faith.

    In my own Great Naivete, I started reading this book without even knowing that the emergent church was already a movement or that there were presbymergent, anlgimergence, etc. entities with their own websites (and presumably agendas).

    It seems to me (one of Gary's 'people in the pew') that we can fix what needs to be fixed by application of our Anglican approach of Scripture, Reason, and Tradition.

    If we cannot come to an 'agree to disagree' compromise with the Anglican communion, then we finish the split that we started at the end of the American revolution. Hopefully, that won't be necessary, but ...

    Is the emergent movement only talking about women and gay rights ... or is there a broader specific list of issues? If someone familiar with the movement could help us by bringing us up to date on what has already preceded this book, I think it would be helpful to all.

    Why do we need a Great Rummage Sale rather than continued prayerful application of Scripture, Tradition and Reason updated from the perspective of the American Age of Reason as it has matured into the 21st century?

  26. In response to Ilahee's question " … how to best communicate (proclaim) our updated beliefs to the increasing number of starving disenchanteds. [Their hearts are still burning within them … aren’t they?]. Or, is our message no longer sating that hunger? Or, is the message just not reaching them on the modern paths of communications with which they have grown to maturity?":

    "We don't need no religion. We've got MySpace, Friendster, Facebook, WoW, Grand Auto Theft, Half Life, Twitter, the whole blogosphere and world wide web, and lots more. That's not counting our iPods, texting, chat, youTube, movies, cell phones, p2p, and porn. You can't possibly keep up."


  27. In response to Ilahee's last post to me:

    I too had never heard of the so called "emergent church" or the associated websites. After my earliest posts here, I was carrying the book at church and actually had several young people who talked like they were part of it actually join me. We don't start our discussions until Wednesday at St. Paul's Bellingham, so I don't have any more information than you do. I'm a little suspicious of some sort of big organized "emergent church", since the concept hasn't come up in the Internet news or general discussions (huffingtonpost, google news, etc.) that I follow. Google doesn't seem to have it up in their page rankings either. Googling "great emergence" seems to lead to marketing for the book, so it looks to me like a bunch of wannabes. Googling "emergent church" leads to not much more than a single long article at wikipedia, that I haven't read yet.


  28. Gary - I agree that I cannot possibly keep up ... not exactly certain that I want to ... still open on that.

    Try googling anglimergent church ... or even more fun ... anglimergent rickel

  29. The idea of the "emerging church" is not brand new, and likely has been more apparent to those in faith traditions that may not have the "broad" experience of TEC. I'm not sure that the story is "sexy" enough for mass media just yet.

    There is too much above for me to hope to respond to intelligently and in an informed way. However, i think it's important to note that Tickle is not attempting to direct the book specifically to matters of the Anglican Communion, but rather, to the 21st century church in general. Now, it is arguable that then the information becomes less practical use for us, but I think that it is more instructive when keeping in mind the church universal as opposed to just our particular "niche." The reaction to this book would be quite different in the faith tradition in which I dwelt up to mid-life as compared to the reaction at my current parish.

    Peace of Christ

  30. While Tickle's book is not aimed at the Anglican Communion, I thought the point of the forum was to have a discussion about the Episcopal church and more specifically the Diocese of Olympia and our own parishes in the context of ideas presented in the book.

    That said,Perhaps this book, which I, also, did not feel was particularly well thought out or written, may have its value in raising discussion.

    The "greatness" and 500 year intervals seem contrived but there is an underlying truth: every so often the institution that is the church becomes inadequate. Today's inadequacies, in my view, include being disconnected from both its foundation in Jesus and from the culture in which we live. In what little I know of emergent churches I see an attempt to pull Jesus into the context of life today-and it's not one size fits all.

    I think "spring cleaning" may be a better way to say what Tickle and Bishop Dyer mean by a "rummage sale". The posts which talk about the creeds are saying something like that as well. I see some key questions as: what is worth keeping? what do we believe? and who decides? This ties in with the next section of the book which talks about the reformation and authority.

  31. I was asked to post this by Karen Ward:

    Hi everyone,
    I’m Karen Ward and I work our new diocesan 'Commission for Emerging Mission.' You can find our website at

    We are here to help parishes, clergy and lay leaders in our diocese engage’ emerging church and mission,’ so do contact us! We will be hosing a diocesan Learning Day on Emerging Church on Nov 14 hosted at the Fremont Abbey (home of Church of the Apostles. Do hold the date (a Saturday) and stay tuned for more info for registration.

    I was recently interviewed for Episcopal Life on 'emerging church.' There is an article in this month's Episcopal Life which you can read. They only quoted a few lines of what they asked me, but here is my reply to them that did not get printed.

    What is the emerging/emergent church?

    The’ emerging’ or emergent church is an imprecise a term often used to describe individuals and communities that are:
    1. aware of the deep impact ‘the postmodern shift’ has in our culture.
    2. convinced that the shift ought have a deep impact on how we are and do church today.
    3. dedicated to doing the serious work of change in praxis needed to address the shift within our churches and ministries.

    In reality, there is no such thing as an ‘emerging or emergent church,’ or a ‘postmodern church’, as the only words that are properly descriptive of the church are: one, holy, catholic and apostolic. So what this really about is how ought we be church in the emerging, postmodern culture.

    Why is this hard to define?

    This is not hard to define in my view as I have tried to do so above.

    There is confusion out in the church to define this, because many confuse the issues age/generation and or ‘techniques’ with emergence. Thus you often hear:
    Is this just about young people?’ or is this about liturgy and music ‘styles’ or other formula type things you ought do, as doing effective mission is a involves a set recipe to which you simply ‘add water and stir.’

    I’m so concerned about the misunderstanding of the term ‘emerging church’ (which is a website url I created many years ago) that I’m beginning to talk about it using the tern ‘contextual church and mission’ as the heart of this is about culture and how God’s mission is carried out in current culture, just as it has been in cultures past.

    The shift of culture today is VERY significant, so this ought be a top priority in TEC to help parishes, missions, seminaries and leaders to get a handle on this for participation in the Missio Dei to prosper in the new emerging culture. We need leadership who can lead effectively in such times and having ‘emergent native’ or honed skills needed to navigate for mission in new cultural waters.

    A global Anglican conversation on emergence is happening on You can join Anglimergent and then sign up to the TEC ‘group’ on the site.

    To engage ongoing conversation here in the Diocese of Olympia, contact CFEM (The Commission for Emerging Mission) and we can add you to our mailing list. We can also come out to do consulting and visioning work with your congregation directly. We also hold training events, such as the one on Nov 14, and I am working on a proposal for a new College for Congregational Mission in our diocese that can offer training events each spring and fall for teams from diocesan congregations.

    This is all very exciting … as we are well poised as Episcopalians engage emerging mission.

    There is a video of Brian McLaren speaking to the Diocese of Washington (DC) which I posted Anglimergent. Watch it here. I think it is helpful. Here is the url:

  32. That is very helpful information. Thanks, Karen!

    Anon (8:13 AM, 3/09/09) -- I agree that our discussion should be regarding how does the "contextual church and mission" (Thank you again, Karen. Maybe some day we can even reclaim the word "Gospel" in its original intent, and make things even simpler.) apply to us, here and now. My comment was directed more towards other comments that seemed to be restricting the scope of the book, which admittedly, is very wide.

  33. Here's a link to an interesting article yesterday that I feel pertains to this discussion:

    The article says 15% of Americans now consider themselves to have no religion. Mainline Protestants have dropped to just under 13%. New England and the East Coast is now more unchurched than the Pacific Northwest. Twenty-seven percent don't plan to have a church funeral, and a large percentage aren't interested in a church wedding.

  34. Here's a link to something Loren Mead wrote on the topic back in 1991 when the conversation was just getting off the ground:

    It's from his book, Once and Future Church, published by Alban Institute.

  35. I am commenting without having read the book (for shame!). However, I just got home from the discussion at church on it.

    I lived in a community for over two years that was inspired by New Monasticism (eg Shane Claiborne) and the Emerg[ent/ing] Church movement (eg Brian McLaren). That is also how I came to convert back to Christianity and to a more traditional/liturgicaal perspective than my fundamentalist/evangelical upbringing.

    So after being exposed to the Emergent Church ideas for the past three years, my comments are thus:
    * I know this comes as a shock to my generation obsessed with technological and philosophical innovations but newer isn't always better.
    * Thus simply because post-modernism is new and exciting to some people (particularly those who don't realize that its not actually new), doesn't mean that we have to follow it.
    * Paul became as a Roman to win Romans. He didn't abandon his beliefs or try to change them to something the Romans might like better. Relevance has limits.
    * Post-modernism, like Pilate, asks, "What is truth?" By abandoning objective truth, post-modernists reject thw Truth.
    * The Church uses a three-legged stool (alt. a quadrilangle) of Scripture, Tradition and Reason. "Textual criticism" attacks the first leg, the love of innovation attacks the second and post-modernism attacks the third. We should not bee surprised if we find ourselves sitting on the ground.
    * Post-modernism says there is no truth, thus no right and wrong, thus no sin, thus no salvation and Sacrifice, thus no Christ, thus no Christianity. Brian McLaren openly says he doesn't believe in Hell and thus no neeed for Christ (he's not the only one who denies the fundamental truth of Christianity - the sacrifice of God the Son to God the Father for the remission of sins), except perhaps as a Pelagian model for good behavior, or in more post-modernist terms, "an interesting topic of discussion and point of criticism."

    I don't want to take up too much space, but ridiculous philosophical fashions and rehashed ancient heresies doesn't make for a new "church" that I would want to associate myself with.

    I should have more direct comments after I read the book.

    ~ Tamara
    St Paul's, Bellingham

  36. Tamara,

    Can you point me to where Brian McLaren says there is no need for Christ?


  37. I would like to preface my comments by saying I am somewhat new to religious discussions. I have spent the better part of my life avoiding them as I tend to have emotional reactions most likely based on my confusion of the subject. Like most people I come with "baggage" and mine is from my youth.

    Having said this for those of us who feel safe in the Episcopal tradition I am heartened by the statement of Tickle "that no standing form of organized Christian faith has ever been destroyed by one of our semi-millennial eruptions". I find grace in the Episcopal church that I never felt in any other.

    The more fundamental 'sects' of the Protestant faith could go by the wayside as far as I am concerned. But then I'm sure they would feel the same about a group who is more accepting of the human condition than they. It's this openness that drew me to the Episcopal Church.

    I look forward to this discussion and may drop in & out depending on my comfort zone. Thanks for opening this to all.

  38. Dear Bp. Rickel,

    In an interview in 2006, Brian McLaren says that he is "closer to the view of God held by some universalists" but not a "traditional universalist".[1] But, two years later (at least that is when it was posted, the date of the interview is unclear), he says, "the doctrine of hell basically says, [...] in the end, God gets His way through coercion and violence and intimidation." He goes on to say, "The traditional understanding says that God asks of us something that God is incapable of Himself. God asks us to forgive people. But God is incapable of forgiving. God can't forgive unless He punishes somebody in place of the person He was going to forgive. God doesn't say things to you -- forgive your wife, and then go kick the dog to vent your anger. God asks you to actually forgive... And there's a certain sense that, a common understanding of the atonement presents a God who is incapable of forgiving unless He kicks somebody else."[2]

    Although theologians can argue whether or not God could have forgiven without subsitutionary punishment, whether God's righteousness demands a sacrifice, or whether that was just the method that He chose unconstrained by His own perfection, McLaren clearly says that it is somehow *wrong* that God *did* forgive mankind through the sacrifice of His own Son -- God the Son being the only perfect Sacrifice that can be offered to God the Father. So what does McLaren say the reason is for Christ's death on the Cross?

    I have read (and own) McLaren's, "A Generous Orthodoxy" and "A New Kind of Christian", but that was almost three years ago when my friends and I in our New Monastic community had a strong interest in this emergent movement. In McLaren's new book, "The Secret Teachings of Jesus", which I have not and probably will not read, he claims that 2,000 years and billions of Christians past and present are wrong but that *he* has discovered the correct truth of the Gospel. McLaren says that the Gospel is *not*, as St. Paul teaches, "justification by grace through faith, the free gift of salvation, Christ being a subsitutionary sacrifice for sin." Instead, he says, the Gospel is that "the kingdom of God is at hand." Of course, McLaren must have a poor understanding of the Kingdom of God if it doesn't include our salvation and justification through Christ's sacrifice. But Christ without the most important work of all eternity, the Cross, is Pelagianism -- an ancient heresy that states that we can, through our own efforts, become perfect.

    Brian McLaren, to my knowledge, has not spoke directly against Original Sin, he tries to avoid the word "sin". But other "emergent" authors have, including books that McLaren has endorsed, such as Specer Burke, "A Heretic's Guide to Eternity" (that's admitting it right there...) and Doug Pagitt's "A Christianity Worth Believing" (apparently orthodox Christianity is not worth believing in), which *do* oppose the well-accepted doctrine of Original Sin.

    As you wrote in your blog, there is grumbling about the creeds, that we need to change them to match what people want or eliminate them altogether. You said that this shows contempt for those who came before us (and still pray for us and guide us -- the "great cloud of witnesses"). I don't know the details of the class in which you had people rewrite the creeds to something that makes sense to us today. Are the creeds confusing? I have heard it said by Episcopal (un)faithful, priests, even bishops, that they don't believe in the creeds, at least as they stand and want to revise them to match their beliefs or eliminate them altogether. Christianity should change the way we live and what we believe, we shouldn't seek to change Christianity to match our fallen state.

    If Anglicanism is the via media, if it is open to different ideas and discussion and does lack the extent of dogma such as in the Roman Catholic Church, then we have to at least agree on basic tenets of Christianity. Nearly all Christian groups accept the Nicene and Apostle's Creeds. But we start denying basic points of Christianity, we no longer have Christianity. What makes Christianity Christianity and not Islam or Buddhism or Wicca? Inclusiveness and diversity doesn't mean denying our faith, even broad church inclusiveness of practice and tolerance of diverse ideas still has to have limits. As Chesterton said in "Orthodoxy":

    "If you draw a giraffe, you must draw him with a long neck. If, in your bold creative way, you hold yourself free to draw a giraffe with a short neck, you will really find that you are not free to draw a giraffe. The moment you step into the world of facts, you step into a world of limits. You can free things from alien or accidental laws, but not from the laws of their own nature. You may, if you like, free a tiger from his bars; but do not free him from his stripes. Do not free a camel of the burden of his hump: you may be freeing him from being a camel."

    In the same way, you can't free Christianity of Hell, Christ's sacrifice for our sins, Original Sin, the creeds, etc. or you are freeing it of being Christianity and it becomes meaningless. It is not my concern with talking about poverty, of the environment, of reforming Protestantism to infuse concepts from Catholic and Orthodox Christianity, none of this is problematic for me. My criticism comes from the idea that somehow our actions on this earth towards our fellow immortals is in contrast to orthodox Christianity, to traditional understandings of God, Christ, the Cross, and the Mass. If you pit orthodoxy and orthopraxy against each other, you're clearly misunderstanding one or the other for "the just shall live in his faith" (Hab 2:4, DRB).

    There is a distinct difference, I believe, between Anglicanism as broad church or via media and the "emergent church movement" because even though we may disagree on particulars, we still agree on fundamentals, as put forth in the Book of Common Prayer. But the post-modern "emergent church" calls all this into question, it is nihilistic, not because it wants to readdress doctrines and understand them better or even reform them, it questions how we understand God and the very foundations of Christianity and the existence of truth itself (which Chesterton refers to as "the suicide of thought"). At some point, it's no longer a giraffe.

    I came out of conservative Evangelical / fundamentalist Christianity and discovered the beauty of liturgical, historic Christianity. My belief is that the "emergent church" is far from a "great" change in the Church, comparable to the Great Schism or the Reformation, but simply one faction of liberal Evangelicalism spun out of control, like a sun flare, and will die out because it has abandoned sound doctrine.

    "Preach the word: be instant in season, out of season: reprove, entreat, rebuke in all patience and doctrine. For there shall be a tine when they will not endure sound doctrine but, according to their own desires, they will heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears: And will indeed turn away their hearing from the truth, but will be turned unto fables. But be thou vigilant: labour in all things: do the work of an evangelist: fulfil thy ministry. Be sober. For I am even now ready to be sacrificed: and the time of my dissolutions is at hand. I have fought a good fight: I have finished my course: I have kept the faith." -- 2Tim 4:2-6 (DRB)

    Yours in Christ,
    St. Paul's, Bellingham

    PS: I am now reading "The Great Emergence", which I borrowed from the church library yesterday. I shall comment on more specifics as I read.

    [1] -
    [2] -

  39. I'm familiar enough with Ken Silva's work (the second cite) to realize he thinks pretty much anyone more popular than him has to be heretical and apostate. Ken does not give Brian a very fair hearing, much less a generous one. Ken's testimony against Brian is at best hearsay and a false witness at worse.

    I found an apt article, written by Brian himself, entitled "Atonement Wars"? Let's Hope Not. You can read it here:

    In it he refers to a most excellent article by Bishop N.T. Wright, The Cross and the Caricatures - it's long but well worth wading through. [T]he key point: there are several forms of the doctrine of penal substitution, and some are more biblical than others.

  40. Well, I am really late in joining the blog, but better late than not at all. Thank you, Bishop Greg, for suggesting this book for Lent. I am finding it thought-provoking, enlightening and disturbing. Does history simply repeat itself again and again? The book definitely points to the fact that the church is once again in a major reformation.

    I, too, have been part of congregations that have worked on "flattening" leadership, or rather "circled it up," as well as a couple that were very fixed in hierarchy. The satisfaction and purpose gained from working leadership in the circular model seems to be countered only by a need to be expedient. It takes a much longer time to reach consensus when everyone has a voice, and especially so as the circle enlarges and each voice feels a need to be heard. How much training we need to know when and how we must speak. For me, this is the beautiful work of the Holy Spirit. As a mediator and long-time mother, I will always seek the process.

    The cable of meaning is new image for me. What I do see is fraying at all levels of the interior cord, caused by questioning, scientific studies, etc. Please understand, I am not against this, but there is consequence to knowledge. There is inconsistency in what we say we are and how we present this to the world and to one another. These all cause punctures and tears through the outer layers of our common imagination and has changed our community story, at least for some of us.

    Between the severely traditional and the inquisitive progressive is turmoil and a serious lack of tolerance. The shrinking of our planet only heightens the tension.

    An image I have had in my prayer is that of the possibility of our fragmentation simply being a turning out as we stand in the circle. If we each repent/turn around, we will be facing one another and can more easily live out our imperatives to love God and to love one another as ourselves.

    I have worked on personal creeds, then attempted to develop one for a community. It is very hard work. The Nicene and Apostles creeds are both useful and bothersome for me. The are either overstated or lacking for my personal use, but with little to replace it for community, I can repeat them in liturgy without much problem, though I have friends who cannot.

    I write weekly devotions and prayers for my order, and am often called to account by one member or another regarding saying things correctly … not grammatically, but with the “proper” theology. I know that my thinking pushes against very fundamental thinking.

    My prayer is to remain gentle and loving in the face of criticism, and remain open to the beliefs of all. One of the biggest differences I find in dealing with my fundamental family and friends, is that they are sure they are
    "right." Right is not what I seek, rather to be loving. It seems to me that this is the ultimate following of Christ.

  41. Oh. Silly me.

    Hi Tamara. I'm Rick. Pleased to meet you. In here, and even more at the Table.

    Don't you just love this church? :D

  42. Forgot to double check those links which I had written down, sorry.

    Correct link:

    My use of that citation was not to ratify anything Ken Silva said and I am not familiar with him though it appears he is a Reform pastor. I simply used that link instead of the main YouTube one because it had a transcript. Ken Silva had little comment, what about a recording of an interview is "hearsay", especially when Brian McLaren confirms the same things in his books?

    I have said that I believe that conservative, traditional Catholics (and Anglo-Catholics) and conservative, traditional Protestants (and low-church Evangelical Anglicans) have more in common than we do with the liberal, modernist/post-modernist strains of our respective traditions. My history growing up in the Fundamentalist movement, even though I've rejected it, gives me much more respect for them in their pursuit of Biblical, Christian truth than for those who try to temper the Gospel to meet human desires and political correctness.

    I also want to say that I do not attack post-modernism as a modernist. Modernism, as Pope St. Pius X warned, is the "heresy of heresies". Christianity has been under assault for 2,000 years but this particular new strain is at least 100 years old (and much of it reincarnations of ancient heresies), with the liberal theologies, the denial of Scripture as infallible, the denial of miracles, the idea of Christ as "good teacher" and the relativism of religious truth is nothing new.

    Mark Driscoll, of Mars Hill, in Seattle distinguishes "emerging" from "emergent". He puts "emergent" in the ultra-liberal, there is no truth, only discussion camp. But defines his own ministry as "emerging", in trying to find new forms of Evangelical Christianity. Though his theology is Reformed and mine is Catholic, we at least have common ground to discuss on. Though we would disagree on theological truth, we still agree on the fundamental points of Christianity, why we both can honestly call ourselves "Christians", and that there is Truth that is objective, that stands outside of ourselves, that we both are seeking.

    It's that post-modernism that denies objective truth and commits "intellectual suicide".

    ~ Tamara

  43. Hi Tamara. I wish we could speak face to face on this. It makes a difference. But until then I'll have to pare it down a bit.

    Ken says Brian is a cult leader. That's a serious charge. I know cults and cult leaders - I was a member of a Bible cult back in the early seventies, and some of my best friends are former cult members (not to mention deprogrammers! No, really! Interesting bunch!).

    I can assure you if you'd like, Brian is no cult leader.

    Ken might better stick to his own last - in online conversations with those in the Reformed camp, I have observed that far too many folks believe the Penal Sub theory of atonement means Christ's sacrificial death on the Cross was necessary in order to appease God's wrath. By my sights that more-popular-than-you'd-think notion is what's deadly and destructive on a whole lot of levels.

    Funny how two people can hear two different things from the same words. In that youtube interview I heard Brian calling us back to the centrality of the Cross.

    He's no enemy. And certainly no enemy of the Cross as Ken surmises. He's our brother. A fellow laborer. He just so happens to be fishing the other side of the boat than the one we're accustomed to.

    Even so we all do need critical voices from the faithful opposition. All God's critters got a voice in the choir. I have to trust it'll all redound to the Glory of God the Father of us all.

  44. If McLaren was calling us back to the centrality of the Cross, and it has nothing to do with substitutionary atonement, what happened that day on Calvary?

    Gay bishop on the other side of the pond, Rev. Jeffery John, said, "In other words, Jesus took the rap and we got forgiven as long as we said we believed in him. This is repulsive as well as nonsensical. It makes God sound like a psychopath. If a human behaved like this we'd say that they were a monster." Instead, he repeats that same meaningless Pelagian heresy that McLaren does, that Christ died to "share in the worst of grief and suffering that life can throw at us."

    NT Wright's "The Cross and the Caricatures" was a response to Rev. John's attack on a caricature of the Cross, a strawman. If there is a transcript of the BBC interview with Rev. John, I'd like to read something more than the news soundbites.

    "I have observed that far too many folks believe the Penal Sub theory of atonement means Christ's sacrificial death on the Cross was necessary in order to appease God's wrath" As long as we understand God wrath as not "sadistic" or "psychopathic" as Rev. John and McLaren characterize it, but instead as "holy", "good" and "righteous", then I see nothing wrong with this understanding. Agnes Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis. Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.

    The "moral exemplar" model that John and McLaren are proposing is nothing more than Pelagianism 1500 years later.

    I think if we are going to interbreed Christian sects, as Tickle proposes, I think the liberals (and neo-liberal "emergents") in the Evangelical and Episcopal churches need to have a good heaping of Five-Point Calvinist Southern Baptist preaching on total depravity so they can get over themselves and their belief that mankind is fundamentally good and somehow worthy of God's mercy by their own merit and existence. A thought a couple days ago was, "If God chooses to save me and redeem me and take me to Heaven, praise God because He is merciful. If God chooses to punish me and damn me to Hell, praise God because He is just and I deserve it."

    HR Neibur, on Liberalism: "A God without wrath brought men without sin into a Kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a Cross."

    -- Tamara

  45. Oooo, and I thought I was having fun. Play it down on their own turf. I'll pop some more popcorn.


  46. Rick: I have observed that far too many folks believe the Penal Sub theory of atonement means Christ's sacrificial death on the Cross was necessary in order to appease God's wrath.

    Tamara: As long as we understand God wrath as not "sadistic" or "psychopathic" as Rev. John and McLaren characterize it, but instead as "holy", "good" and "righteous", then I see nothing wrong with this understanding.

    There are a couple problems with that, Tamara. First, as I understand it, it says that God the Father is the one who most needs to repent, that what changed at the Cross was God's mind, as if it were God who needed to be reconciled with the world rather than the other way around. Second, it denies the Trinity - it splits the godhead into a merciful, forgiving Son arguing with an angry, punitive Father. Talk about crazy-making. On a cosmic scale. That will leave a mark. And so it has. Not in a good way either, I don't think.

    As I understand it the Cross of Christ is first and foremost revelatory - it is God's Body language, God's most expressive and eloquent Self-disclosure to date. The Truth is that God was in Christ - Christ, in whom the fulness of the godhead dwelt bodily ("He that has seen me has seen the Father") - reconciling the world unto himself. Because God so loves. Thanks be to God.

    Tamara: I think the liberals (and neo-liberal "emergents") in the Evangelical and Episcopal churches need to have a good heaping of Five-Point Calvinist Southern Baptist preaching on total depravity so they can get over themselves and their belief that mankind is fundamentally good and somehow worthy of God's mercy by their own merit and existence.

    Perhaps. As a good Episcopalian I go back and forth on that. On the one hand, extremes from both ends of the continuum balance each other out. On the other hand they can also tend to cancel each other out. From where I sit I'd say that Five Pointers pushing total depravity need to ask themselves if there's nothing human worth redeeming then what's to love? When you say I love you, what do you mean?

    But yeah. We need to talk more. And listen more. I'm hoping we'll find we're not that different, and the regrettable spaces between are not so great as they seem.

    Here's to balance and not cancellation.

    Hey, I smell popcorn.

  47. I am busy with community soup night tonight but I thought I'd pop on for a minute to check for replies. I don't have time to respond more but I want to talk about this.

    Class/Discussion #2 is tomorrow, it will be interesting!
    ~ Tamara

  48. Ricky: "First, as I understand it, it says that God the Father is the one who most needs to repent, that what changed at the Cross was God's mind, as if it were God who needed to be reconciled with the world rather than the other way around."

    God is the only one who could have healed that divide between Man and God, what can Man do? We can only choose to participate in the working of that Divine Grace, to unite with Christ on the marriage bed of the Cross.

    Saying that it means God changed His mind supposes it was not part of the plan all along. God sent His servants and they were killed, God sent His Son and He was killed. (Mt 21:33-41) But what would have happened if God had sent His Son to Adam and Eve right away? Or had waited thousands of years longer? God sent His Son at the right time. The field was ripe for harvest.

    "Second, it splits the godhead into a merciful, forgiving Son arguing with an angry, punitive Father."

    No more than Abraham was angry and punitive and Isaac was merciful and forgiving or the Judaic priest was angry and punitive and the lamb was merciful and forgiving. The priest is representative of his community, seeking reconciliation with God through obedience and sacrifice. The Christian priest offers God the Son as a sacrifice to God the Father.

    If the Father isn't merciful and forgiving, then why would He sacrifice His Son? (John 3:16) God is both forgiving *and* just, loving *and* wrathful. To use a cliche, God hates the sin and loves the sinner. Christ, "who knew no sin, he hath made sin for us, that we might be made the justice of God in him" (2Cor 5:21, DRB)

    There are many reasons I'm not a Calvinist. My point, tongue-in-cheek, was maybe we should use the other extreme as a counter-balance. But I see orthodoxy as pressing against heresies on all sides (and generally heretics believe they're othodox and the other side is heretical - even saint against saint). This is much different than "let's blend every sect together into a rose and share our feelings". The battle for orthodoxy is a real, vibrant search for truth.

    ~ Tamara

  49. heretics believe they're orthodox and the other side is heretical - even saint against saint

    Amen, sister.

    I'm going to hang with that thought awhile and just let things be for the moment.

  50. I will not be able to make it to Church tonight, I am quite unwell and had to call in sick to work. I was very much looking forward to discussion in person.

    Please say a prayer for my health.
    ~ Tamara