Monday, 9 March 2009

Week Two: The Great Emergence

Dear Ones,

I want to thank all of you who have so diligently entered into this conversation. There are many others out there in small study groups, around the diocese working alongside you even if they do not get to comment online. So, this week, although many of you have already, we enter into Part II intro and Chapter 3, pages 41-62. I wanted to comment on an overall view of last week's comments.

There were a few comments about the Creeds. Many seem to point to the need to change them in some way. I want to throw into this discussion the idea that we have just passed through an era where this was the "plan." If only we could get the right word usage, or drop a line here or there, or simply leave it out altogether, we would be better off. In some ways I wonder if this does not show some contempt for those who went before us, a somewhat arrogant belief that we are smarter than they are. I put this up against the reality I am seeing in the newer generations, who do not seem to have the need for the semantic changes to yet continue the conversation. With this, they hardly check their brains at the door either. They seem more willing to honor those that left the tradition and history as they knew it, and to instead look for the Truth our forbears were trying to tell us in the story. Even in these conversations there seem to be insinuations, or outright statements, that Tickle is not very smart, that those that came before us are not very smart, and that it is up to us to "make this all right." I am pushing a bit I realize, but so have some of you! I used to teach a class where I invited the class to rewrite the Creed to "make sense" to them. Of course, if there were 20 individuals in the class, there were 20 different versions of what is "right." Even after putting them together to come up with one, well you see where this is going. I am well aware that this is how we got the Creeds we have, but having some unaltered centering point to come back to, to honor, and to question seems to make sense as well.

On a totally different subject, a rather passing thought in this but brought up by Tickle nonetheless, is music, and the importance of it in sharing and passing along the story. I have to say I am quite attached to this feeling as well, and wonder what others think about it. I see many places where music seems to get in the way, rather than help, and other places where it carries the day in profound ways. What do you think about this?

Finally, in some defense of Tickle, this book is not there to answer all questions, but rather, as Anonymous in the 8:39 p.m., March 8th post states,

"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."

Although I do not want to try to direct this away from the way you choose to take it, my hope in this was more of what is spelled out above, less a critique of the book, and more of a "push" on the larger questions and what we might do here and now to address those.

Again, I am most honored by your engagement in this study.




  1. In response to Bishop Rickel: "... I put this up against the reality I am seeing in the newer generations, who do not seem to have the need for the semantic changes to yet continue the conversation. With this, they hardly check their brains at the door either. ..."

    To finish the discussion in the comments of the prior blog post, this seems to be the crux of the matter. We've had the wars of religion, the war between science and religion, demythologizing God, "Honest to God", The Historical Jesus material, biblical studies and criticism, the academic study of religion, the archeology and history of religion, the sociology and psychology of religion, and even the New Atheists. But some how, it's not relevant. How could so many religious people be so stupid?

    The elephant in the closet is religious fraud used for power and control. With 4,200 religions and 30,000 Christian denominations, at least some of them use fraud as a weapon. But notice that any discussion of this topic is taboo. We are all enablers.

    Thanks to you, Bishop Rickel, and this discussion, it finally occurred to me.

    In the 1983 movie WarGames, the supercomputer WOPR is tricked into analyzing tic-tac-toe to alleviate the Global Thermonuclear War game. WOPR observes that "the only winning move is not to play".

    The only winning move in religion is not to play. How about a nice game of chess?

    Gary Young
    Proud Individual

  2. Proud Individual
    I'm probably dense, but I don't get what you are trying to say.

  3. I believe the main cause of the Reformation was that the church (and for the people involved in the Reformation there was only one when it started) had seriously parted company with Jesus-by which I mean the principles displayed in his life story and what he taught. I see this in the church of today as well.

    The difference with the Reformation is that, while there were major changes occurring in culture at that time, I don't believe that they had the widespread and dramatic impact on the way the way the average individual saw the world ("world view" in today's jargon) as what we are experiencing today. The changes in scientific understanding of the past 150 years combined with the number of people who have access to education are unprecedented. In that way the challenges the church faces to adapt are greater today than they were during the reformation. The flip side is that access to information and easy communication may well allow the changes to be less bloody and more easily enacted than was the Reformation.

    Because our world view has changed we may need, possibly as its own discussion, to talk seriously about what we believe and how to say it (creed). Jumping just a little ahead it seemed to me that the "fundamentals" listed on pages 65-66 are startlingly close to our creed.

    But discussing authority is going to be necessary. The questions of the Reformation became "who decides?" and "how?". They are still with us.

  4. Apology to Bishop Rickel

    Bishop, I sense much pain in your post about some of the conversation last week. If any of my posts contributed to that pain, I sincerely apologize.

    I was attempting to make the point that the creeds, the sacraments, etc were our anchors and should not be changed by the emergent church. And, that any changes to our understanding of scripture needed to be prayerfully weighed with full consideration to Tradition and Reason. And, that this three legged stool approach, applied over time by our locally adapted Historic Episcopate is the answer to the question “Where now the authority.”

    I confess that during the first week, I felt that the Episcopal Church is the answer to the problem of declining church membership in the newer generation, and we just need to get the message out using their media.

    Also, please be assured that I am certain that Phyllis Tickle is smarter than I am. A fact that I am quite at peace with.

    I think there are some in our group who are already fully aware of the emergence movement and others of us who are learning about it for the first time. For those of us in the second grouping, there is a bit of anxiety about what they intend to throw out. This misunderstanding, I believe, contributed to some of the conversation strings. I was very pleased therefore to see the post from Karen Ward. Thank you for sharing that with us. The information she provided and the information available on the links she provided were most comforting to me. For example, the link to her church website informs one that ‘a summary of our communal beliefs are found in the words of the ancient Nicene creed …’ I hope she will be able to join our conversation from time to time.

    Again, thank you for the candid feedback about our first week in community and please be assured that I did not intend to recommend altering our creeds or cause pain to anyone.


  5. Greg, I appreciate your commments about tweaking the text of the Creed. For me, the following saying is applicable: 'When a finger points at the moon, don't stare at the finger.'

  6. Significant to me is the statement on page 59: "We can not look, however, at the huge gifts to Western civilization of either Protestantism or a renewed Roman Catholicism without looking as well at how our forebears on both sides of the divide chose competition over cooperation. Hegemony, by definition, can belong only to one among, and above others. Pride of place it is called..." Whether we accept we are in the midst of a hinge, a crisis, or we are emerging into something unlike anything we have every seen, the conflict and pain come from the "Pride of place" idea. If we are ever to reconcile, we must, must find a place where we are not climbing over each other to get to where we think God lives! Virginia

  7. This type of forum may be the start to reconciliation. Pride of place is a very human tendency and Jesus was trying to stop us climbing over each other when he said the "last shall be first" and "whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant." I think this is part of the idea behind the priesthood of all believers.

    I was reflecting this morning about the authority question: scriptura sola, the priesthood of all believers and the three legged stool.

    One thought was that this past summer's Lambeth Conference was a bold experiment in using scripture and an equality concept(priesthood of all?) along with the traditions of Lambeth to begin work on a problem that was not being resolved within the old political system. I felt proud of the Arch-bishop for trying something so totally new and of our own bishops because they were so willing to enter into it with open minds and hope.

    Another was that I haven't seen any practical application of the three legged stool as a problem solving method-it, in my limited experience, seems to be used more as an explanation for why we continue to do things that are clearly counter to the scripture. I wondered if others have seen it in action as a problem solving tool and if you could describe how it worked.

  8. Greg, you asked about the importance of music and how it affects our worship services.

    My reflection has been that there is room for everything in the Episcopal Church, if we as individuals will open our minds and hearts to it.

    It seems to me the point of Tickle's book on the whole is not that the church is weakened, but strengthened through the process of change. The result will not be what we have always known, but will be larger and more solid for the test by fire it has and is undergoing.

    Which brings me to music. I have attended silent worship services that were beautiful and moving and I have leapt to my feet at the sound of modern praise music at other services.

    A steady diet of either one would not be a preference. Nor would it be healthy, in my opinion, for a congregation. It leads to shouts of "that's NOT how it's done in our church."

    But, celebrating all talents and all varieties of music within the harbor of one's congregation with ears and hearts opening to sample different music like a buffet can lead to creating an atmosphere where everyone of all ages and backgrounds can feel a part of the worship.

    Emergence, like any change, is not something we need to fear. I am not certain we can direct it, either. I do agree with Tickle -- it is an exciting time to be a Christian.

  9. I am not sure I understand the above comment on music.

    In our church a lot of people express dissatisfaction with the music but, if you talk to them about it (actually the trick is listening), the real culprit seems to be a general dissatisfaction with the worship that they can't quite pin down. I think they complain about music because it is the "feeling" part of the service and they are feeling that something is wrong.

    New experiences are fine but, in my experience, the ability to sing along has a lot to do with how comfortable I feel. It also has a lot to do with how worthwhile I felt the worship was.

    Music is a place where emerging churches are reaching out to people who aren't part of the standard hymn culture. They are trying out everything from Gregorian chant to heavy metal. I have not seen combining the types together (e.g., chanting the psalm and having a heavy metal piece for the offertory) in descriptions of emerging churches. They seem to pick a particular niche and fill it. St. Mark's Cathedral does this with the Sunday 9:00 am service and compline.

  10. Phyllis writes on pages 48/9 about the bloody history of the Iberian Peninsula while Luther was pondering his Theses. For centuries prior to this however was La Convivencia, or coexistence, partially catalyzed by geographical remoteness from Europe. Jews, Christians and Muslims respected differences, while honoring commonalities; there was rich interplay of cultural ideas between the three groups. What a prayer of hope for the Great Emergence if the Abrahamic triad could again establish such amity.

  11. Music? … well, I am a big fan!

    Whenever I hear Mahalia Jackson sing “O Holy Night”, I always get goose bumps:
    A thrill of hope, the weary world … [join me if you know the words].

    On the other hand, my singing voice should not be imposed on the unsuspecting public (alas it has not improved with age), and I find the singing of traditional hymns in traditional services to be less than entirely enjoyable (or particularly inspiring). So, I am open to improvements (perhaps even a modern Hymnal).

    I have seen in the recent media, a trend to ask “What’s on your iPod?”. OK … Mine has a collection of my favorite 60s oldies (e.g. Baby It’s You – Shirelles), Country (A Thousand Miles from Nowhere – Dwight Strait), Jazz (Miles Davis), and Classical (Beethoven’s Eighth Symphony and Pie Jesu – Sarah Brightman). I thoroughly enjoy plugging in my iPod to listen to classical music, while reading the bible on the ferry commute. I should also mention that I am a sucker for any duets.

    But … I have also noticed that some of the music that I hear on the Metro bus during my daily commute, cranked so loud that it wafts somehow out of the earplugs of younger riders (while I am trying to read) … is almost (maybe actually) offensive. I willingly accept that a loud rendition of CCR singing “I Put a Spell on You” is probably not their cup of tea either.

    So, back to music in our Episcopal services:
    I would love to hear a concert of Linda Ronstadt, with “Long Long Time”, but I am not certain that it should or would bring me to attend a worship service.

    Likewise, “Paint It Black” by the Rolling Stones, while 'swimming' in it helped me deal with my mother’s death while I was in college, may not be appropriate for Sunday service. And, “Season of the Witch” by Vanilla Fudge, while also helpful in dealing with my mother’s death [“God, God , hey if you can’t help us … You better listen … please …], also potentially not entirely appropriate for Sunday service.

    When our kids were still home we went to the second service which had an organist and choir. Now that they have ‘flown the nest’, we go to the first service that does not have any music. We find (yes, I asked her) that in this phase of our lives, we do not miss it. But, if it were in both services, of course we would still attend. My point … sure we should experiment, as long as it is holy, but perhaps we can offer different approaches at separate services.

    I have no problem with modifying the existing hymns to some that were written in the modern age. But, are there any? “I Don’t Know How to Love Him” … OK. “King Herod’s Song” … totally enjoyable as parody, but worship service material? … perhaps not.

    Where does this lead us… I think that worship should be holy, set apart. I think that we should continuously update our worship services so that they speak to our inner needs for God, in modern times and for new generations. I think that at different ages our needs for God (as we understand them at that age) are different [Seek God when he wills to be found]. I think that we should not pander to current fads (in music or in spirituality). And, I think that if we stay true to our beliefs, we will be there for the newer generations when they are ready to seek God … which I firmly believe they will … in time.

  12. Bishop Rickel said, "I see many places where music seems to get in the way, rather than help, and other places where it carries the day in profound ways. What do you think about this?"

    In response to your question about music's importance, being a member of St. James in Austin, TX the answer to that is a resounding yes it is extremely important. Music is a very important element in the worship service. It supplements the message and in some cases is the message.

    In other churches I've visited the music aspect has been lacking (but I must add, I have not visited a great many other Episcopal churches). As you know, but most who read this will not know, St. James has a unique heritage. It was founded on the day Pearl Harbor was bombed by a small group of black Austinites. The supplemental hymnal used is the LEV or Lift Every Voice which is filled with music in the African-American tradition. Each song truly tells a story and even though the stories are about a particular group of people the words & music resonate within each of us who listen regardless of our experiences.

    Tickle said, "...we tend to forget, too, that much of the passion as well as the theological underpinnings of the Reformation was disseminated by means of popular music. With the Great Reformation, as has been true with the Great Emergence, music was often a more effectual vehicle of transmittal than was the learned treatise or the well-honed sermon." (p. 53.)

    One would think Tickle attended St. James at some point. Ahhh, I'm sure there are many other that have wonderful music as well. Sigh...

    Cheryl Cato

  13. Hello All! Sorry I have been slow to respond, I am currently at the House of Bishops meeting. Gary, I appreciated your post, but must ask, Why then do you play?

    And I want to make sure you all understand there is no pain here. I really do appreciate your thoughtful and direct responses. I think it is quite good for us to press on this even more. I think everyone is bringing good points into this discussion.

    Let's keep that going especially as you read more! And if this brings up something else for you, please add that as well. I will be back with you soon with some more follow up thoughts.



  14. In response to the Bishop's "Why then do you play?":

    That's a difficult question. Because of family pressures I'm imprisoned in silence. I take what few opportunities I find to retain my integrity and fight back. I often think my wife would rather that I give up everything and were out of her life completely, no matter what I do. My parents have never accepted me as an individual, and even though I am retired and in my 60's their only interaction with me is still religion manipulation. I love my granddaughter, daughter, and son-in-law. The politics, laws, social norms, economy, and community have been messed up by religious fraud. I mostly give up and suffer quietly, but on rare occasions I see a small opportunity where I think I might make a difference and I get suckered back in. I originally thought the subject was change in religion. The barriers to change are tremendous and there is little room for hope. I wasn't going to come back into the discussion, I'm sorry I bothered you.


  15. If I may be so bold as to respond to Gary, I very much appreciate the "elephant" that you are referring to and "why do you play." My personal thoughts are that I would like to see you continue to join in the comment process. The church is not perfect, never has been and never will be. While we may have wonderful experiences within the church, we may also experience pain, loneliness and frustration within the church for many reasons. Abuse of religion and by religious institutions has happened and will again for we all are imperfect creatures. Personal relation ships can have many effects - good and bad.

    I am one of the "dreaded Lutherpalians (Lutheran worshiping with Episcopalians). My experiences on past church councils has been both blessings and batterings. Probably similar comments could be found re: vestries.

    My point in this rambling statement is that all voices are important, and whether we like it or not, the one constant in our lives is change with the only changeless thing the love of God. Searching and discussion are great and wonderful lights for us all on our spiritual journeys. We may not see them as such at the time, but they may be so in the future. May we proceed faithfully and in faith (and compassion).


  16. Gary,

    I absolutely agree, I am so glad you have put this out there. My question was serious and real. Obviously you have found something here that you want to engage, and to learn from you, I wanted to ask what that was. So, I appreciate very much you taking the time to respond. I too, hope you will stay with us in this! Chris, thanks for getting to this and making that clear as well. blessings,


  17. Week Two Reflections

    I am grateful for the opportunity of this shared Lenten community.

    I appreciate the insight provided by Anonymous near the end of last week’s conversation, which was included in our Bishop’s lead-off for Week Two. To paraphrase: some of the analogies and metaphors may not resonate for all of us, but there is an underlying truth. And, … we should move on to the larger questions.

    I am also grateful for the age we live in. I am excited to be a part of it. There is an acceleration of changes to the human experience (to the shared stories and expectations) that were unheard of in previous generations, centuries, millennia. [electricity, radio waves, motion pictures, television, … automobiles, airplanes, lunar expeditions, … atomic power, nuclear threats, … pocket calculators, home computers, internet, wikipedia, … telephones, cellphones, PDAs … is there no end to it]. Certainly, our shared story/expectations has changed … several times … in our life times.

    When the rate of change accelerates in any process, it is not unusual for the supporting infrastructures and society to lag behind … unable to keep up. A modern example is the lagging of Informational Property protection of copyrights with respect to the new technology of Napster or even more recently YouTube.

    It is only natural, therefore, that religion is lagging the needs of the generations reared in the new technologies at this time … not necessarily broken … just lagging. In these times of rapid change there is a naturally occurring tension between the old shared stories and the new shared stories. As our author said on p. 58. “…the tension toward changing things externally into new forms, as opposed to reworking them internally into what should be.” I believe it is important for us to be working on both approaches. While engaging in this important work, we should also maintain the perspective that this is a naturally occurring condition, not a crisis.

    I also think we should embrace the invitation to choose cooperation over competition. Apparently, the opposite approach has not always worked for the betterment of the human experience in previous centuries.

    So then, on to the larger questions … do we have a shared understanding in our Lenten blog community of what those questions are?

    I’ll start with an easy one:
    1)Where now the authority? [yes, I know I stole it from the book]

    Any other larger questions … anyone?

  18. The finger pointing at the moon ...

    Those of us in the Pacific Northwest had some spectacular views of the full moon in the early morning commuting hours this past week. All the more appreciated because breaks in the normal March cloud cover allowed us to see one of God's gifts to us.

    And it is easy to appreciate the 'don't look at the finger ... look at the moon' analogy. But ... what if the person attached to the finger is urging us to worship the moon instead of urging us to see the glory of God's creation in the moon?

    Perhaps, sometimes, we need to look at the finger(motives) while we also look at the moon.

  19. Three legged stool approach ...

    I would like to reply to Anonymous' post from earlier this week ... but, alas, we seem to have garnered a growing group of Anonymouses (or is it Anonymousi, Anonymousae, ... who is to know such mysteries ... Perhaps most simply ... Anons). I digress.

    Anonymous 2:23PM Mar 11,2009 asked, "... I haven't seen any practical application of the three legged stool ... it seems to be used more as an explanation for why we continue to do things that are clearly counter to the scripture. I wondered if others have seen it in action as a problem solving tool and if you could describe how it worked."

    In my extreme naiveté, I thought that this is what has been occurring within the Anglican church via our Bishops. I thought that they all met at a conference some decades back and agreed that women could be priests and bishops (quite contrary to some interpretations of Pauline letters). Also, I thought that the American Episcopalian Bishops met and determined that the scripture's opposition to homosexuality could be interpreted in a way to allow those with open homosexual proclivities to be priests and bishops.

    I hope this is the way that it happened. And, as such, would be excellent as well as current examples of the application of the scripture, tradition, reason approach of our Anglican communion in adjusting the interpretation of scripture for new times.

  20. I don't understand the great push for an authority to tell you what to think. Do we really need someone to tell us what to think? I know, ... you have the Republicans, the Religious-Right, and their talking-point media to tell you what to think.

    Even in science, you read what the Nobel Laureate reports and then you go and verify it for yourself. They publish their results with the expectation that it will be validated by independent research and thought, or not.

    Tickle mentions pandemics in footnote 2 on pages 60-61, and the speculation that they coincide with the reduced "efficacy of the church." Chapter 3, where Tickle explains the Reformation, is the best written chapter in her book. Tickle gives us a brief summary of MacCulloch's "The Reformation: A History" which is a heavily footnoted 792 academic pages. The Black Plague in the 1300's killed off the bishop and priest authorities at exactly the same rate as everyone else in spite of their claims about sin and holiness. Probably a third of the population of western Europe was wiped out, some towns and villages nearly completely. So many people died that they couldn't keep up with the burials. The plague was one of the factors that lead to the rise of the individual in the Renaissance and to the Reformation.

    MacCulloch is extremely interesting in itself and it's one of the books that anyone who wants to understand the current state of religion has to read and think about.


  21. Another thought on Music:

    Anon 5:21 PM March 11, 2009 posted:
    “But, celebrating all talents and all varieties of music within the harbor of one's congregation with ears and hearts opening to sample different music like a buffet can lead to creating an atmosphere where everyone of all ages and backgrounds can feel a part of the worship.
    Emergence, like any change, is not something we need to fear. I am not certain we can direct it, either.”

    I was moved by the ‘buffet’ of musical tastes analogy. I think back to the large churches that we have enjoyed in our journey … Good Sheppard in Burke, VA or St John’s in Ross, CA. What amazing musical programs, and children’s pageants. What a depth of talent in both adult and children musicians.

    I have reconsidered my earlier post on music in our services and now realize that my current need for music has been affected by our relatively small parish (mission). Quite frankly, there is less we can afford to do (e.g. we only recently added a choir, and for one service only) and a significantly smaller pool of musical talent to draw upon for a ‘buffet’.

    I recall a discussion with our previous Bishop, during which he opined that Western Washington many years ago had gone down the path of numerous smaller churches rather than fewer but larger churches. Indeed, on our humble small Kitsap peninsula we have about nine.

    I wonder if this affects our ability to foster music experimentation and improvements in our predominantly smaller congregations. Is the solution to combine congregations for better music programs, Sunday school programs, youth group programs … like in Burke (Fairfax County) or St John’s (Marin County).

    A thought just occurred … maybe Bishop Nedi could add her perspective. I believe she is familiar with the size/area of congregations in the St John’s model and of course here in Western Washington.

  22. Hello All,

    I have come late to this party (can we call it a party in Lent?), but am glad to be here. I have a couple thoughts, some related to prior posts.

    One is the role of violence in these conflicts. I appreciate the comments above that the greater flow of information to a large number of people worldwide may reduce some of the violence of this developmental transition in comparison to all prior transitions. I hope this is the case, though recent wars and terrorism have already left a high body count. And yet I want to raise an awareness that there is violence where peoples' bodies are hurt, and violence where peoples' emotions/minds/souls are hurt. We moderns have learned to dismiss the second kind of hurt with phrases like "You hurt my feelings." And yet it is also of significant importance. To our current discussion of religious transition: We may not all kill each other this time, but we may do plenty of damage to our internal selves, and to our communities, and this should not be dismissed in our discussion. The use of toxic fear and alienation on both (all?) sides of the conflict is surely significant, i.e.

    A related question is: can we expect this transition to be different than the prior ones? I am all for reducing violence of all kinds and increasing Godly Love among us all. And yet, again speaking developmentally, I believe that a person cannot skip over the biological/emotional 'crisis' of adolescence in the journey from childhood to adulthood. I think that many of the problems in our culture/world stem from "grown people" avoiding or trivializing or seeking to skip the developmental crisis/transition from adolescence to adulthood, and so remain adolescents in bigger bodies, running an increasingly adolescent world. Developmental crises on the individual scale can have their negative effects reduced, and for the good of the family/school/etc.--but some disruptions and suffering seems necessary for that process. Can developmental crises on the global or religious level be similarly influenced? Or do we have to go through it all to get out the other side?

    That's all for now.

    Hope remains. Love wins.

    - Tyler

  23. With the $65 billion largest investor fraud ever committed by a single person, Madoff defrauded thousands of investors in a massive Ponzi scheme.

    According to the Federal Reserve, households lost $5.1 trillion, or 9 percent, of their wealth in the last three months of 2008. The explanations seem complex, but fraudulent trading in sub prime mortgage securities by hedge funds and large banks creating a bubble in asset values, a huge Ponzi scheme, seem to be part of it.

    Ponzi schemes are quite lucrative, so we see them every so often.

    I was thinking about Tickle's 500 year cycle of upheaval in organized religion. So is she saying that religion is kind of like a Ponzi scheme in that it gathers more and more investors and unfunded earnings on bank statements until it collapses of its own weight?

    "... And he SCORES! The crowd roars! The Bishop created an opening with his Creed modification play and Individual took the long shot from center court. They should have removed it from the play book as it fails every time. The stakes are high as next week they are challenged by the Pastafarians of The Flying Spaghetti Monster (FSM) team. The Bishop's have the ball, ... and while they regroup, a word from our sponsors ..."


  24. I recently read the book Christianity for the Rest of Us by Diana Butler-Bass. That book is about a three-year study she did of emerging churches that were part of mainline denominations. Here is a quote relevent to the discussion about authority (it also connects a bit with the next chapter)from page 234 of her book:

    "....In a recent book, the World is Flat, Thomas Friedman points out that top-down, centralized, chain-of-command authorities are quickly becoming history as networks of participatory and relational authorities take their place. The shift from established authorities to emerging ones is a process of chaotic cultural reorganization whereby fragmentation is and inevitable part of the journey of change.

    In an age of fragmentation, however, many people are tempted to revert to top-down authority as a way of controlling chaos. All the churches I visited are part of denominations in which some interest groups are attempting to centralize doctrine, polity, and praxis as an answer to fractured culture. What if the answer to fragmentation is not centralized authority? What if the answer is authentic community?

    Over the course of this three-year study, I observed congregations that had moved away from being hierarchical, top-down communities of authority toward more participatory forms of church, thus flatteningtheir congregations. Instead of reasserting the ministerial or doctrinal voice of authority, they had opened their congregations to more voices, bringing a multiplicity of perspectives to bear on community life. As a result of embracing variety, the worshiping community generated spiritual authority--shifting Christian leadership away from external and distant sources to the inner work of paying attention to the Holy Spirit. By moving more deeply into diversity, they formed the New Testament vision of church as Christ's body in the world. The congregations along my way navigated between the extremes of spiritual individualism and authoritarian religion by emphasizing the power of relationship in community. Flat church."

  25. Aaagghhh! Too many topics to which to respond with too little time to do so! I work for myself, and haven't figured out how to make a living blogging, and family medical crises are my current "free time."

    Gary -- I hope you feel free to say whatever you'd like. I'm afraid that in my current parish, you would find yourself to be quite ordinary, and I mean that in a good way! All Episcopal parishes differ, of course, but many do not approach the faith in the way you would assume, and inquiring minds are valued. Historical accuracy is valued and informs us, but hopefully does not define us.

    Three legged stool -- That was a great question, whichever "Anon" brought it up, but I don't agree with the premise that it is used exclusively to explain "why we continue to do things that are clearly counter to the scripture."

    Here I am tempted to share my own story to the Divine, but I think that might distract and diverge the conversation in ways that are not helpful and would be best done in person. So, I will rely on Jesus in today's reading from John 7, in which Jesus makes the point that though it was "okay" for religious leaders to perform a circumcision on the Sabbath, he was, in the eyes of these same leaders, a "rule breaker", and "clearly counter to scripture", if you will, to heal on the Sabbath.

    Jesus instructs his detractors, "Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgement."

    I believe that is what "the three legged stool" is about, and nearly the entire breadth of the church has used it, whether they acknowledge this is so, or not. If it had not, the church would certainly be far more homogeneous, much more relevant to another time, and of little use for the Gospel throughout the ages.

    Music -- No time! Different thread! But I will say that breadth of expression is needed to even begin to attempt to express our hearts' desires to communicate the divine, and some parishes/churches may attempt to cover that spectrum under one roof, others may "specialize", but all, in my humble opinion, are needed.

    Peace of Christ


  26. When I began reading Chapter 3 I still was not sure where this book was headed in relation to “The Great Emergence”. “Sola scriptura, scriptura sola” and “Where now is the authority?” was very confusing to me.

    Then we come to the Enlightenment and the beginning of literacy. Tickle mentions that “the most obvious problem of universal literacy is that if one teaches five people to read and then asks them to read the same document, there will be at least three different interpretations of what the five of them have read.” (p.46)

    By now I’m thinking that people are developing meaning from the scriptures based on their own experiences and have passed the state where they are to be “spoon-fed” meanings. We are a species of reason; our minds are what separates us from other animals. We have the ability to reason. Of course I do not agree with the more right-wing, fundamentalist thought process; but I try to ask myself what is right. I try to weigh all sides and see where I can find a common ground.

    Page 47 discusses what came as a result of the almost constant warfare between the Christian Europeans and Islam. As a direct result we had culture of Romans, the ability to read ancient text from exiled Greeks, and scientific & mathematical knowledge from the Arab/Islamic culture. All of this led the close ties between the Renaissance and the Great Reformation.
    When I finished the section “Rethinking Church Authority” (p. 55) I realized how much I agreed with Tickle when she answered the questions of the possibility of the Church being wrong all these years with a simple “Yes”.

    When Tickle discusses leadership and from where it will come, her parting words are, “Those who do not learn from the past … are destined to relive it.” is a dire warning.

    By now I am not wanting to put the book down. Is this going to validate those questions and doubts that have hung on since I was about 15 years of age? As Greg said, this book is not to give answers. It is to open dialog.

    So the question “Where now the authority?” will be interesting. One thought regarding the Creeds is basis our beliefs. Perhaps not all is taken literally by everyone, but there lies the foundation and is therefore necessary. Is this our authority? We need some means of authority and guidance.

    Sort of a PS to my rambling: I do not think right-wing fundamentalist thinking is the answer. I cannot live by what I perceive to be their standards. As with Gary (Proud Individual), I do not discuss religion or politics with most of my family members. They are more fundamental in their thinking & belief. We generally are at an impasse on tolerance of religious beliefs, homosexuality, cultural differences, politics, etc. Therefore we “agree to disagree” and do not discuss topics that are ‘iffy’. Sometimes that leaves very little to discuss except the weather.

  27. I obviously mis-communicated. When I said "explanation" in an earlier post about the three legged stool I did mean explanation-not lame excuse. There are many edicts in the Bible which we do not follow, and don't (I hope, anyway) intend to follow-stoning people for various infractions and beating our kids to death for disobedience come to mind. The words were the first that came to mind and came out sounding backwards from what I meant. I was not thinking about homosexuality at all at the time one way or the other.
    I don't think the homosexual question can be answered by scripture for the simple reason that the type of long-term, loving, family-forming relationship in question today was probably not conceived of at the time they put the scriptures in writing. This is one of the reasons why we need to think about the authority question. As we move into times which our predecessors couldn't begin to imagine, issues will come up that their wisdom cannot address.

    My question about the stool was really intended to elicit a more specific response-for example, do they use this as a form of theological reflection? If so what is the process they use?

  28. As I pass through this rich stream just a few comments on the creeds:
    1. The creeds are statements of belief, philosophical ruminations that are reflections on the Gospels and letters; they are not statements of faith. If they were statements of faith then they would begin "I place my heart and my trust in God...etc.). there is no magic in sticking to a specific set of words.
    2. That said, what we have in the creeds is important, since it is about the only thing all Christians share. That alone makes the creeds worthy of respect. Change them and even this visible symbol of unity is gone.
    3. However, the creeds are (in the words of one RC theologian) "the least worst definition of God we have". To recite the creeds is to enter into the mystery, but it is a shared mystery.
    3.Human history and experience is a history of and an experience of change. As Raymond E. Brown has said: ""While each generation must preserve the teaching that has been passed on, it must also add to this living tradition its own experience of Christ. No one can hear the gospel of Christ except through the events of one's own time, for the Holy Spirit is a living teacher who does not merely repeat a tradition of the past. Thus, it is good to beware of legalism and authoritarianism, always listening anew for the voice of Christ."

    Grace and peace,


  29. More thoughts on the creeds, thinking about Nigels comment and particularly about the Bishop's post at the top:

    I had approached the change in religion topic thinking about religion as fraud, so Greg's comments about changing the creeds startled me. I hadn't expected anything along those lines, and particularly tying it back into an argument from authority. Not that I shouldn't have expected it, but in the line of the argument that I was developing it was like tipping over the queen in chess acknowledging checkmate. Of course, it's not that simple and I don't want to make more of it than it deserves; but that was my thought process as I read it.

    I hadn't internalized the recent and long internal struggle over the creeds. Obviously we've hit a nerve there. In my original virgin birth example of the elephant in the parlor, the creed was only incidental in representing the resistance to change. Had I chosen a different example, the creeds wouldn't have entered.

    As Nigel points out, the creeds could be an important subject for examination, and his synthesis would lead to a discussion along the lines of comparing the creeds to secret handshakes or something. I'm not interested in going there because it's too much like the study of details in religion that everybody ignores, like the historical Jesus material that I mentioned earlier. Well, maybe not ignores. You'd have to work out the threads leading to the 30,000 Christian denominations or something.

    In the discussion of our main topic, "how Christianity is changing and why", I am from the non-religious culture that the church is embedded in. It's not clear that you should want me in the discussion, now that you know that.


  30. Gary, being from the "non-religious culture" does not negate your contribution, but makes it invaluable.

  31. Yep. When I'm inside the frame it's hard to see the whole picture. So I need your eyes. For perspective, and even more to get a sense of proportion. I do appreciate your letting me know when my slip is showing. I would ask that you be somewhat discrete about pointing that out.

  32. In response to Ricky "...discrete about pointing that out.":

    I'm a nudist, so it's hard to be discrete.


  33. Heh-heh!

    Is that your answer to the question, "Who wears the pants in this family?"

    If so, good one!

    But then again, you would deny me the opportunity to point out when your slip is showing? Well... effective strategy, that.

    Anyway. Thanks for being here. Carry on. Please drive through.

  34. Illahee ~

    If only the decisions aboout female "priests" and "bishops" and about homosexuality were that organized. The "Philadelphia Eleven" were a political move to force the issue. Eleven women were "ordained" directly in violation of Church law but they argued that these "ordinations" were "valid but illicit". So there was a meeting called and the bishops relented to this pressure and declared the "ordinations" "valid and licit" by changing the rules. But the Church split, many people going to Rome and others who founded "Continuing Anglicanism, which kept the traditional 1928 prayer book and the male-only orders. There are still a minority of people who do not accept the validity of female "ordinations".

    The same is true with the issue of ordaining openly sexually-active homosexuals and the "blessing of same-sex unions", it is being done in individual parishes irregularly. That is why the ABC asked US bishops to control their priests and suppress these actions. The HOB meeting in 2007 produced a weasel-worded "concession" but nothing was done to suppress the rogue parishes. This lead to the development of CANA and priests sought oversight from other bishops, primarily in Africa. Also, again many people (including some priests and a couple bishops) left for Rome.

    Even though Bp. Robinson was not invited to Lambeth, many bishops (particularly in Africa) protested the convention and declared that their Churches were not in communion with the US and others who were dissenters on this issue. Again, experimentation and provocation leads to disunity in the Body of Christ.

    ~ Tamara

  35. Thanks, KJ, for the encouragement. I don't think I've ever been called ordinary or normal on anything in my entire life. But that fits into a long rambling story I have to tell about my thought explorations on fraud in religion. After this, I'll leave the subject alone, with the possible exception of a conclusion if I come up with one later.

    About 6 years ago my wife and I moved back to Washington after I had retired and my wife started attending the local Episcopal church here. I attended very occasionally, but became quite regular at the Sunday and Thursday adult education classes where they discussed various PBS programs on religion, several excellent Teaching Company courses (by the likes of Bart Ehrman and Amy-Jill Levine) and such. The classes were not run by the priest, but I'm sure that he talked about me with those who did.

    My father-in-law had been an Episcopal Priest before he died and I had interacted with a number of other priests in various places that I attended with my wife, so I had a broad sampling of how priests react to me. I infrequently saw the rector at my wife's new church. I had disclosed that I was a nudist and had attempted to gave him a bad time about preaching non-historical material for Christmas sermons though. The way that he treated me after that and his general behavior when I was around was vary strange. More strange than I had ever experienced before. It wasn't noticed by my wife or anyone else, but he always seemed to act like he was covering something up and avoiding me.

    At the time I was trying to understand why so many people were involved in religion, when there was so much that was unreasonable in what they professed. It occurred to me from the rector's behavior that that was the way that someone who was committing fraud would act to keep from being found out.

    I was right. The fraud turned out to be that he was planning the schism of the parish. It was also plain in several interactions with me as he left that he was committing fraud with the splinter group too. Something like "no honor amongst thieves", I presume.

    I may have imagined it all, but I started watching people in situations where there might be some debate on religion. When I next visited my parents, I tried to play the Teaching Company DVD course on the "History of the Bible: The Making of the New Testament Canon". My mother started loudly talking to drown Ehrman out before he even started the first lecture, to prevent it from being heard. Someone who is confident in their position or belief wouldn't be threatened by talking about it. They'd only be defensive and try to suppress it if they knew they were committing fraud. If they were just unsure, they should be open to exploring alternatives. I gave up and packed the lecture away.

    A lot of behavior by religious people gives away the fact that not only are they committing fraud, but that they know that they are. Some would claim that the average religious person who makes wild unsupportable claims about religion is an innocent un-sophisticate who doesn't know better. Their behavior appears to contradict that.

    I'm still thinking about whether there is a valid argument in this idea. Thanks for humoring me.