by Tony Jones
We do get emails to the emergentvillage site every week. Here are a couple that we've gotten recently, with some thoughts in response:
"I discovered you all through the book The Relevant Church. I am a pastor of a church in Toronto, Ontario, Canada and we are somewhat in a 're-building' process. I am curious to know the leadership structures of your respective ministries (e.g. hierarchy of leaders, elders, deacons, pastors, overseers, etc.) and if you see any pro's and/or con's to this structure, especially in how it relates to your specific ministry purposes and structures. I know that it is a lot to ask, but I do hope to hear from you or someone from your ministry soon."
There is no normative way that churches connected with Emergent are structuring their leadership. It seems to me that many are using the traditional concept of pastor and elders, which they've inherited from the presbyterian and bible church models. Others use ideas such as "covenant partners," while still others have such a nebulous leadership structure that there's not really a name for it. I will say that the churches at the core of the Emerging Church Movement (yes, it's a movement) are egalitarian -- men and women are included equally in leadership.
"As I read all the books and peruse the website am I wrong to assume this movement is coming from an Amillennial position. That is not bad, but I kind of like to know the perspective of the authors."
This movement is not "coming from" any position regarding the millennium. In fact, I can't think of one conversation that's we've had about the millennium. We are concerned about eschatology, and I'd say that many of us have been influenced by the theologies of people like Jurgen Moltmann and Miroslav Volf, both of whom propose a "realized" eschatology. If you want to read more on this, try reading The Coming of God by Moltmann.
By Tim Conder
Geoff Holscaw, Andrea Summers, Mike King, Rick Bennett, Laci Scott, and I have been working to lead Emergent's effort to develop regional learning communities and local gatherings that we call "cohorts." Geoff has graciously accepted the leadership mantle for this group.
We are enthusiastic and optimistic about the "localization" and "regionalization" of Emergent. Local conversations provide unique support, intimate knowledge of a ministry context, and relational learning opportunities that can be gifts for ministry leaders and spiritual travelers in a specific location. Regional communities offer opportunties for collaboration that might be too resource intensive for local communities. Each day we are hearing of new cohorts developing. We apologize as well that many have written looking for a local community only to find that one does not exist in their area. A common question we receive from those living in areas without a group concerns how to start a cohort.
There is no blueprint or template for doing so. I'll share a bit of our experiences in starting a new community ("Ekklesia") in the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area of North Carolina. We started with just a handful of friends (about 5) who were interested in discussing issues related to the emerging church. In our case, the original core were pastors and church planters who connected through national events like the Emergent Convention and Soularize. As we have started to grow, we have been intentional about searching our community for ministries that have emergent interests and inviting their leaders and participants to attend Ekklesia. As our group has started to grow just a bit, we have resisted the urge to be overly programmatic — "to do something together to legitimize our existence." Our initial focus has been relational and dialogical explorations. Since we didn't know each other at all, we often focus on the narrative of a specifc community in our monthly gatherings. We also have committed to learn and read together since this small group allows for comfortable dialogue and discussion. We began with Brian McLaren's "Generous Orthodoxy" as a common text. Even in our neophyte stage, many easy collaborations have occurred. Several of us have spoken at each other's ministry gatherings. Two of the communities in our original core are sharing space. Relationships are forming quickly that are becoming the basis of a thriving community.
This past month in San Diego at the Emergent/YS Convention, I had the privilege of connecting three folks in our cohort with Tim Keel, Mike King, and Ivy Beckwith who have all been very involved with Emergent on a national level. It was a delight to watch Tim Keel, a generous and gifted church planter, share his experiences with my friends from Raleigh. As a new church planter myself and in a cohort with several other beginning church planters, we have little experience to pool on the subject in our local gatherings. These kind of local/national relationships are part of Emergent's dream in developing local conversations. We hope that Emergent will be deeply effected by and responsive to the transitions of the church, innovations, and creative movement's of God's Spirit on the local level.
We're just starting out in Raleigh-Durham with our group. I'm sure there will be challenges and frustrations ahead. And certainly I understand that just finding a few interested folks in some communities may be difficult. But, this experience of community, learning, and collaboration has been a exciting and fruitful journey in our context.
What's Ahead with Cohorts
•I encourage you to scroll below to Tony Jones' post on February 3 to get a bigger picture of our development and dreams for cohorts.
•We will soon be listing contact information for cohorts around the country on our new web site. If you have a group meeting that you would like to listed please let us know.
•Down the road, look for regional gatherings to develop in areas where we have several cohorts.
•Those of you who have attended "The Gathering" in New Mexico know that this annual reunion pilgrimmage is one of Emergent's most casual, familial, and worshipful events. We hope that the Gathering (and other events as they develop) will become a meeting place for cohort leader and a time where local communities can learn from each other.
From Doug Pagitt
I received this email from Chad Farrand about church planting. I think this is a good question and I wondered if someone would like to follow-up on it.
doug, has there been any conversation around the idea of emergent providing an ongoing connection/development/encouragement...
for church planters within the conversation? this may sound like a dumb question, but i just feel like there could be some way for new church planters (and i would like to figure out a better name than "planter") to be encouraged and glean from those in the conversation that have taken the step already.
just an idea i've been stewing on.
From time to time, I receive emails that ask questions such as the following:
"What does emergent think of women in leadership positions?"
"What is emergent's position on the role of women?" and even,
"What does emergent think about women?"
I must admit, I'm usually baffled when I see the last one. I know the intent is to ask, "What does emergent think about the role of women in ministry." But I'd rather answer the obvious, "Well, I'm pretty sure emergent thinks lots about women. Many involved are women and, well, many are men who are married to women. I'm pretty sure almost everyone involved knows at least a few women. I assume that means that they think about women alot."
But the fact of the matter is that for many people, the role of women in leadership in the church is a huge issue. I received yet another email today detailing a painful story of a women who was working in the church and hit the glass ceiling. This is reality. This is still an issue.
Just what does emergent think of women? I want to answer that they don't, meaning that the hope of emergent is that this would become a non-issue so that we can continue to push into the dreams of the kingdom.
I also want to answer that they do: this is still an issue. Because of that, emergent is also committed to creating space for women to be included into this conversation.
We need women in this conversation. In our current context, where there is lots of talk about those who have been previously excluded from the conversation (whether it be women or many other neglected groups) being included, it is imperative that women are part of this conversation.
Because of this hope, several of us started the emerging women leaders initiative. It has been a gift to be involved with this creative, diverse group of women as we've gathered our hopes about what the church might look like if women were truly included. We've received seed money, grants, and gifts that have assisted the first couple of phases of this initiative to soar: we've hosted two breakfasts and a lunch at the last three emergent conventions, a consultation for thirty women leaders last June to explore new forms of leadership, and, most recently, a critical concerns course called New Forms of Leadership for New Forms of Church at the most recent emergent convention. There is more in the works: a publication and another offering of the critical concerns course at the emergent convention in Nashville.
My personal dream is that this will become more and more of a non-issue in the emergent context, that we will find many men and women who are about ushering in and being a part of kingdom.
Please continue to check in with the emerging women leaders initiative to see what's going on! And maybe together we can dream new dreams...
holly rankin zaher
We are considering sponsoring an "Emerging Theologians" series. Details are still being discussed, but the object would to sponsor new theological thought that is outside of the academy and created by currently unpublished authors. We would love to see younger theologians submitting to this effort but are equally excited about the possibility of submissions from all ages. Right now this is very much in the dream stages but we hope to have some established theologians participate in the review process, possibly acting as mentors. We're also considering a combination of publishing options, including web-based and/or a print journal, and possibly a books that is a collection of the essays. Stay tuned for more details, and please leave your comments below.
by Tony Jones
UPDATE: Chris Scharen has let me know that Miroslav Volf has agreed to be our theological dialogue partner in Winter, 2006 and the Yale Center for Faith and Culture will co-host the event. We're currently working out dates, logisitics, etc. It will be held at Yale Divinity School in New Haven, CT, and we're committed to keeping the cost low.
Watch this space for more details...
There are two new event pages on the Emergent Village site. First, the dates for this year's Emergent Gathering have been announced, so the first iteration of that page went up this weekend. Check out the Emergent 2005 Page
Next, for those in the mid-Atlantic, there is a wonderful gathering called Kairos. Billed as, "two days catching up with old friends and making new ones as we explore, discuss, and dream about the church of the future & the future of the church," it promises to be well-worth the trip. Check out the Kairos Info Page
by Tim Conder
I would like to second Tim Keel's affirmation of the past eYS convention. Particularly, I was excited that we were able to create intimacy in a larger event. This year's structure of medium-sized learning communities (about 150 persons) that were visited by practitioner/thought leader pairs seemed to really work. I thought this format allowed for the presentation of significant material and the kind of participation that encourages both learning and creative response. As I participated in these dialogues, I was fully aware of the impossibility of communicating some of this material in a plenary address.
Here's an example of how this format worked and a taste of some of the quality of the ideas presented in the learning communities:
In a previous convention, Dallas Willard, on the main stage, made the strong statement that Christian theology had been dominated by a single view of the atonement. He was referring the view of Jesus' death as a substitionary payment or ransom for our sins. We heard this point as extremely significant but there were few opportunities to work this out, explore other views of the atonement, and consider how an expanded theology would shape life and ministry. Since Dallas' presentation, I have spent a good deal of time thinking about this point and reading more about this theological notion of Jesus' work of atonement. This is what plenary sessions do well, they provoke us to new thoughts and new areas of exploration. But I believe we took this a step further this year.
I was thinking about Dallas' comment as the convention began. On the night before the convention began, many of us (like many of you) gathered to watch Brian McLaren on Larry King Live. Brian, by the way, did a marvelous job embodying and explaining the heart and ethos of Emergent during this time. But it was Franklin Graham's contribution to the broadcast that reminded me of the Atonement. Graham answered many of the questions addressed to him with very brief statements and then transitioned to a repetitive explanation of substitionary atonement as the route to salvation. As l listened, I kept wanting to call in and say, "there is so much more to our understanding of the life and work of Christ!"
One of our learning communities at the Convention, challenged us to consider and explore the "so much more" of my frustration. Kara Eckman-Powell and LeRon Shults offered an extremely thoughtful conversation on humanity. Kara asked us to consider the "masks" that we wear that hide our face from God or obscure our ability to consider God's face. LeRon guided our conversation to a theology of humanity by considering a theology of facing. He demonstrated powerfully the importance in the Scripture narratives of the yearning to see God's face and actions where humans hide their face from God. This led to a discussion on sin and God's atoning work in responding to human sin. LeRon pointed out that we have historically considered sin as a "substance that stains the human soul" which yields a view of God's atonement as a work of removing the substance of sin. From the theological vantage point of facing though, we see that human failure has a significant relational dimension. Sin also becomes the "broken relations that inhibit intimate facing." This relational and communal view of God's work expands our view of God, our worship, and our understanding of what it means to be truly human. Our overly individualized theologies, like seeing the Atonement as solely a substitutionary payment of personal sin, lead us to consider the way of Jesus as freedom from guilt but silent in regards to our communal and human shame. This conversation, led wonderfully by Kara and LeRon, was a safe and inviting space to expand our view of God and our own humanity.
The learning communities created space for substantial and safe dialogues throughout the convention. Brian McLaren, Stan Grenz, Kara Powell, LeRon Shults, Alan Roxburgh, Doug Pagitt, Todd Hunter, and John Franke are to be thanked for their vulnerable sharing and insightful leadership that made this process work.
The learning communities were a bit of a risk for a large event that were executely wonderfully to benefit of all who attended. For those of you who are considering the Nashville convention, these communities are one of several compelling reasons to attend.
by Doug Pagitt
Here is a copy of an email I am trying to send to those who were at the 07 contributors meeting at the San Diego Event.
Hello all, thanks for coming to the contributors meeting in San Diego or for your interest in being part of the future steps of the Emergent National event.
On Saturday morning the group of us who offered to put the next steps together met. After much discussion it became clear to all of us that to really pull off the kind of “big tent” event with multiple partners we are hoping for we need more time. So we are suggesting that we schedule this big event for May 2007.
This will give us 26 months and afar more time to invite partners to join in the creation process. Michael Toy asked a very observant question, “With 2007 being so far away are we really saying that we have no plans to do this?”
We all agreed that that is not at all our intention. We all agreed that we need to get working on this immediately if we want our partners to feel part of the event from the ground up. We also feel that we can use the Fall Emergent Gatherings in New Mexico, the theological gatherings, WALP, and even summer “institutes” as a building events to keep momentum and connections alive between now and then.
I also talked with the folks from Zondervan and if they decide to do the NPC again at the Town and Country next year, which it looks like they will, then perhaps we could have a “Mini-emergent convention” (think Mac Mini – all the power of a Mac but you bring your own keyboard and monitor). The initial discussion of this looks like it could be really great. We are discussing creating a rhythm of worship to the day turning the entire facility into a labyrinth (the sunrise in the morning, the pools as water of healing, the meals a refreshment – that sort of thing) and not having a music driven worship event. To make a theme of the day and have seminars and meetings fit the theme. We would try to make it simple and inexpensive. This would mean a fewer number of presenters and very little production. But this event is not the one that would capture the attention of our conversation over the next year.
We hope to intentionally try to get people to the Fall Gathering and other events and use the mini-convention to pick-up any who would be predisposed to the NPC partnership. So the next step is to create a plan and vision for the 07 event (which will include 08 and 09). This initial planning group will begin work immediately and have goal of having location, date, budget conception and partner invitations ready by April 1 (if Allah wills ☺).
We will then bring together an additional group to start the work of planning the event. So after this first phase we will need to draw from additional people to start putting the event together. We do need a name and input on the vision. We will have a planning blog to share ideas and give input. We are hoping to use this more than email for the exchange of ideas. Please leave comments of input there.
Here is the address: http://emergent-us.typepad.com/07event/
I know this all seems like a lot of work, but I think we are at a crucial point with a brief window of being able to turn the public perception of Emergent from the Brand to a catalytic network of friendships and these events may help that.