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doug pagitt

To all those with concerns, let me assure you that a very similar conversation to the ones posted here went on for two days during the meeting, and really has been going on for more than a year.

I can tell you that I am one who raised these concerns. So, I can affirm that these decisions were made with concerns in mind. And we did not leave with the attitude that all had been solved. We left living in the tension, and deciding to step forward in the tension (for some more tension than others, but these concerns are on the minds and hearts of all involved).

And we invite you, especially those who feel that we may be making a misstep, to join in with us to live beyond any mistakes we may have made.
I have the phrase "love covers a multiple of sins" running through my head, even though it doesn't fit all that well. I can tell you that my comfort living in this tension comes because of my love and trust of those who hold a different understanding of these issues than I do.

So, please know that we are moving together, and in unity even in the midst of the unclarity of how this all will work.

For those who see this as a "no-brainer", "for sure the right thing" just give the rest of us a little time and encouragement. I can assure you that people only care as much as we do because of our commitment to one another. And let's all commit to stay together and work together for the greatest good.

bob Hyatt

Cool- congrats tony!

Just one suggestion-

Now is the time to change the name.


Do it before it gets any harder... or any more confusing to those observing from the "outside"

You guys have done a great job getting something started- but it's clearly bigger than emergent the organization. emergent is constantly getting confused with the emerging church as a whole. Time to step back and serve the emerging church by becoming something different.

Then no one will care if you have a coordinator, release "official" statements, have structure or even your very own Grand Pooh-Bah. Change the name, gain some freedom...

just my 2 cents...

Van S


It encourages me to know that you struggled through this decision. It tells me that you don't take the decision for granted and are aware of potential risks. I think a lot of good will come from this. I just hope that 10 years from now that things are much more decentralized, scattered, beautifully messy, and somewhat out of control.

I'll be hoping and praying.

Ken Archer


I write this with respect and in the spirit of brotherly critique. I am among others here who really, really treasure this conversation. I know you frequently write on the central role of conversation, and so I was confused at last year's Emergent Theological Conversation panel in Atlanta, during which two theology professors were made by you, the Emergent rep on the panel, to feel very unwelcome to our conversation because of their Reformed views. I know I was embarassed and local students who helped organize the conference were deeply embarassed as well. Perhaps this was an "off" day - public speaking is difficult - and this comment I'm writing is unfair as it singles out one occasion, which happens to be the only occasion I've seen you speak. So the reason I write this is, given that I haven't read any post facto comments from you on this blog or your blog about the event which many of us sat through, and given that the "job description" of the national director presumably includes setting the right tone for the conversation, I would like to respectfully ask if you felt the tone you set for that conversation in Atlanta is the tone you will be setting as national director. Again, I hope this is a fair question, and is fairly put before you. We all have much to learn from you, and a welcoming conversation is the best way to do so. Forgive me in advance if this public question is unfair or inappropriate.

Holli Adams

Thank you for all your prayers and conversations that have gone into a big decision like this. Let's all offer some grace and understanding as this journey unfolds. No one knows the exact "right" answers...we're all just on this road together, joing with God as he unfolds His plans and desires in our hearts.
The Emergent books and gatherings have been such a refreshment to me and my husband...Thank you for your courage to stick your neck out there and make your thoughts and ideas public. Many of us could never have done that...especially with the grace and love that you have had.
peace, holli (orlando, FL)

Existential Punk

i posted the following thoughts over at Will Samson's blog:

i have such mixed emotions about all of this. I've read through the comments posted here and at emergent. i can see both sides, but some questions i have are this: How does one become a part of this "inner circle" in emergent? Why are a select few making all these decisions? How was Tony chosen? Is Tony going to be paid? If so, how? By who? Why is a woman or person of another ethnic origin not in this position? Have we really emerged or are we still Evangelicals wrapped up in a fashion frenzy doing "cool" stuff to reach people to draw them into our fold? i have never gotten the chance to meet Tony, but i do respect his insights in the books he has written. What i don't respect about Tony is his exclusive, arrogant, "us against them mentality" when it comes to a Ph.D versus a D.Min, and this kind of attitude, in my opinion, is not helpful when it comes to the emergent conversation. i mean no disrespect to Tony, but just a feeling i have.

Granted, being organic works with some planning. i always say, have a plan and be flexible within the plan. My concerns echo others in thinking this was a conversation and not a movement, that this might be forging ahead like willow creek and vineyard, that it might be good, healthy, and helpful. Too soon for me to tell. i will sit on it, pray, wait, and see.

Look forward to hearing more. Thanks to all of you who are in the "Inner Circle"! :-)


In the later days of YLN, there were issues regarding leadership. Things then dissolved and re-emerged as Emergent. No one person did that. But now, the time has come for a director to be the voice of Emergent, as to guard itself from heresy while moving forward in its original values.

randy buist


~ Thanks for the additional comments. I have no doubt that you struggled with this decision.

~ For those of you who are concerned, emergent has had several people essentially acting as directors anyway. Sometimes a director(s) is needed to simply make things happen. Administration of a non-profit or a business takes time, and most of us have real jobs that keep us from donating 50 hours of time each week to emergent.

~ We'll be praying for God's continued leading.



Good luck fulfilling the emergent order with this structure. I truly hope that this step is an effort to release power and not gather it. I think it is, or at least it could be. In fact, I think it would be refreshing to see it happen. That, I believe, would be novel.

I wonder though, in 50 or 100 or 300 years, will people have pictures of Tony in their books and other ways to honor him as an important historical figure. If so, is that really what we're looking for? Will the Jonesites venerate him? Will they all have a Howdy Doody look to them?

This might sound silly, but no one sets out to start a denomination, at the same time gobs of them have been started in just this way.

I understand from Tony's blog posts on Theoblogy several months back that he is pro church planting and is skeptical of reform from within churches. The church planting part is great, but I do have some concerns about the level of skepticism about in house church reforms, changes and emergence. Does this skepticism honor the emergent order that says:

"We are committed to honor and serve the church in all its forms – Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Protestant, Pentecostal. We practice “deep ecclesiology” – rather than favoring some forms of the church and critiquing or rejecting others, we see that every form of the church has both weaknesses and strengths, both liabilities and potential."

I'm not saying he doesn't believe this, but I am wondering to what extent.

At any rate, I will keep this new development in prayer.

Steve Barkley

Wow, I can feel the love!

Too bad we don't have a punctuation mark to indicate sarcasm.


as a total plebian out-side of any denomination realm. Someone from the margins, a stranger in the emergent kingdom, A NATIONAL DIRECTOR!! So the emergent movement is now officially anglo-white-western. I was once banned for saying that gen-x, pomo, emergent conventions institutionalize was going to become like the Promise Keeper once was. Well...

*my emergent god can beat up your traditional god, I read it on a blog.*

Sorry, I'm feeling very agnst today. I hope you still love me.


My guess is that this move was inevitable - almost like we are becoming too infatuated with the emergent conversation moving into the mainstream. How does a conversation have a national director????

Nothing against Tony - but I truly feel sorry for him. It will be like when someone gets into ministry because they love to work with people and discovers that he/she ends up being an administrator. My condolences to Tony.

My reading of this announcement brought an instant chill; a feeling of disappointment. I prefer the earlier recommendation in a comment that we decentralize even more - let the whole conversation be just that, without bounds, without membership, without creeds, representatives, directors, or para-conversation organizations.

How can any decision be made for "the emerging" church? It can't. I respect and have benefitted from the thoughts and ministry of everyone who met in Minnesota, but how can any group determine the direction of the emerging church, or of the conversation that has been emergent? That's a move only a hierarchy can make. It doesn't fit with where God has been leading or what I've understood to be the essence of the conversation.

Our saving grace may be a level of humility uncommon to most institutions which will allow this "emerging institution" to preside over the dissolution of itself rather than stubbornly fight for its maintenance.

I pray for everyone and doubt no one's intentions - only am fearful about where this is leading. I'll keep conversing, but count me out for board membership, legislating bodies, crafting directional "white papers", who's "in" and who's "out" discussions, top-down decision-making, lauding what we've accomplished, or letting "success" subvert the original impetus to simply "be" in community with God and each other.

Tibi gloria, Domine!

Ken Archer


Friends, let's stop this critique of leadership.

First, we, and I, should not be questioning Tony about his past actions on this public blog. I did above, and it was a mistake. We should first take people aside (e.g. in a private email or, even better, a phone call) with such things. That's the fair and Biblical way to handle these things.

Second, we are not a conversation, we are a community. Only communities can have conversations. And healthy communities require leadership. The identification of strong leadership or authority with the modern church is a real oversimplification. Just because the modern church had a CEO model of leadership doesn't mean strong leadership and authority are modern or bad. The Bible talks quite a bit about leadership. So should we.


Honestly I shouldn't be writing this...I should be tieing up loose ends for our Sr. High mission trip to Juarez, Mexico this Saturday (oddly enough through YouthWorks), but this is heavily weighing on my heart and mind.

Phyllis Tickle talked about what the structure of a post-denominational church would look like. She mentioned that the 'Vineyard' church just may be loose enough to get the job done. I don't think it does us any good to 'bash' Vineyard or Willow Creek or Mosaic or churches that have formed themselves around the ideas of Soloman's Porch. (Face it, we all know it's happend.)

I agree with Ken that leadership is important. I am curious to see how Tony leads. If Tony is simply a 'coordinator' of the conversation to get people connected, then why don't we title him as such? Perhaps it's just rhetoric but 'Director' feels to 'authoratative'.

I'll shut up now...I have to get organized for a parent meeting tonight.

Striving Towards Perfection,

Adam Caldwell
Ashland UMC
St. Joseph, MO



On your second point (I agree with the first completely) there is a difference in being a community through conversation, and being a community on some other basis, which then has conversation. I wonder if now the community will be established on something other than conversation about a shared gift of Trinitarian Life. Every denomination has conversation and community - but the community isn't about the conversation. It is about the institution. Institutions require leadership in ways commmunities of shared life do not. I don't actually think scripture says much about "leadership" - the term is virtually absent. But we find many ways to morph Pauls' ministry, or discussion about how some are gifted to serve, into models of "leadership."

Just my opinion, as I respect yours.


Oh my God, have mercy on us. My fears are confirmed by the general tone of many of these posts. The Emergent "Conversation" has more than its share of "pissed off," "arrogant," "why couldn't it be me, instead of Tony," "whiners." Some of us need to take a deep breath and realize the future of the COSMOS is not in jeopardy. God is not wringing hands concerned about a disturbance in the force. Lets grow up.

Ken Archer

Greg makes the excellent point that communities may either form through conversation, or else on some other basis. Conversational communities don't require the type of leadership that a more institutional community that happens to converse would. I totally agree.

However, most conversations, I think we would agree, don't lead to community. I think the reason a real community has formed among us through conversation is precisely because leaders have arisen to model good and virtuous conversations. Clearly Brian McLaren has done this, and has shown leadership by modeling virtue in his discourse. Most conversations don't lead to community because there is no leader in the conversation who leads through their virtuous (shorthand for loving, charitable, intelligent, etc) conversation that brings people together. We all have known leaders like this.

Leon Kass' tomb, The Genesis of Wisdom, reads the book of Genesis as largely a "leadership training" that Abraham received from God. (Brueggemann reviewed this book favorably in Books & Culture.) Much Biblical narrative presents truth in this way, without propositional statements that include the word "leadership". In my opinion, leadership - particularly on the part of Brian - is exactly what has grown our community, and virtuous leadership as we grow is exactly what is needed.

There are no EmergentYS books on leadership. Let's help Tony and others by presenting a vision for leadership, and not cutting down authority in itself.


Isn't this all the real problem that we have been trying to tell you guys for some time? You don't define who should be in "the conversation" by defining who is a Christian in the first place. You don't like this mentality, so you shun it and are now faced with precisely this problem. Let me explain. If Joey and Frank are Christians and Bob, Tom and Lisa are not, then only Joey and Frank are being lead by the Spirit of God and Bob, Tom and Lisa are lead by the demonic (something I'm sure numerous people will have a problem with already). So Joey and Frank are in conversation with Bob, Tom and Lisa who are influencing the direction of the conversation more than Joey because of their sheer number. If it was decided that the Church consisted of only Joey and Frank and assumed that the others were not really Christians because their worldview was unBiblical, then obviously Joey and Frank must lead the conversation and not pretend that demonic influences are valid for determining what the people of God should do and believe.
My point is this, that the offense by some is coming from the "everyone is equal" and "every idea is equally to be honored" idea of ec. EC has come out as the egalitarian and inclusive movement when it comes to its direction and theology, but is now starting to present itself as more complementarian and exclusive when it comes to certain things.
As you can also read from the posts, there is a love of chaos by the emergings that is being lost. There is a love for confusion, which authority starts to destroy. It sort of reminds me of the evil villains in movies and tv talking about how beautiful destruction is and chaos is. (Is God a God of chaos/confusion now?) But this move begins to put an end to it because authority means order.
I for the life of me don't know where in the Bible the love of confusion and democratic/egalitarian structures come from, but I have a feeling it's more from a reaction against Modernity than anything the Bible teaches in the first place (which is ironic since the idea of democracy is above all things Modern). Some people just hate certain things so much they are willing to give a blind eye toward whether something is of God or not. But this is all your problem. It is what you guys created in the first place. The bed is made.


Honestly, if everyone else was jumping of a cliff, I probably would too. So, I'll post a comment.

I think it's great that Emergent is organizing and institutionalizing. In a postmodern context there should be no deisre to be in this "Elusive Inner Circle." I think that whole line of criticism is baloney. Cheap, slimey baloney.

While I appreciate deeply the impact and direction that I have gained from Emergent's people and publishing, they are not the practicioners in S.Albany, Oregon. That is where I, and many friends, are. So why would we want to be a part of an inner circle somewhere in Minne-something-or-other. For me, it's about calling. Emergent's directors, chairs, advisors, etc. are called to that. And in that, they really serve and help me. They really do and I really appreciate them.

So thank you, Emergent men and women. Tony will be in my prayers today.

May God continue what He has started.


I'm pretty new to the emergent dialogue. I know that my husband and I have been greatly blessed by finally discovering a "conversation" that resonates with the passions and concerns on our hearts. I suspect we would not have come across emergent even this late in the game if there were not some sense of organization developing...not to mention the resources that so freely flow from people gifted and called to concisely, clearly, and faithfully articulate not only their part of the dialogue, but their vision of the Word and people of God.

From what I've gathered so far, I hear that emergent-minded churches (whether new church plants or revitalizing existing churches) are meant to lift up and empower the gifts of laity while still honoring the gifts given to those who preach, prophesy, teach,...and maybe even organize (who may be lay or ordained). Perhaps, as a conversant community or community in conversation, we should operate with similar respect for the various gifts regardless of their labels.

As a person who might self-describe as post-liberal, I've grown to truly appreciate the word "evangelical" as separate from "fundamentalist" and would hope that it would not be thrown out.

As a person from a denomination whose founders never intended to become a denomination, I offer these comments and hope for emergent: My own denom's founders were incredibly faithful, spiritual disciplined, passionate about Jesus, and honoring of differences. They lifted up the laity and chose to look at each other as brothers and sisters in Christ around the table of Christ before dialoguing about differences--as important as many of the differences were and are. Looking back over the history, I suspect that the "break down" occurred when the freedom and power now given to everyone for approaching Scripture, faith, etc. came with no expectations, accountability, or boundaries. Many of my denomination will blithely quote, "I'm a Disciple and I can believe whatever I want to believe." Perhaps this is more freeing than fundamentalism, but goes off the deep end in the other direction.
My excitement and hope for emergent is the order or rule you have established that does frame the expectations of how we each faithfully engage God and lovingly engage one another, and responsibly/generously engage the work of God all around us. There becomes much less need to "wall out" or "wall in" people when there is a mutual commitment to the way of being church so beautifully articulated in the rule.
I don't believe that a national director means that this community will now become a denomination, particularly when people remain committed to God and living as church. But, personally, I need people in leadership who can help me to understand, communicate, access, and embody what that really means.
May God continue to bless all who long to know and serve God. Tony, may you be richly blessed, strengthened, and annointed for the tasks ahead of you.
In Christ, Mindy

Van S

I think that people are falling into an either/or way of thinking. Either institutionalization is good or bad...I think that sort of thinking isn't helpful. My initial response was one of concern...and it still is, but not because it is inherently bad to institutionalize more. The issue is whether or not Emergent ought to institutionalize. I genuinely think it isn't the right direction to go in...mostly because I think in the long haul it would be healthier to move out more. It is quite possible Tony's leadership can help in this way, but history tells us that this isn't often the case. I don't think we should get into questioning motives or anything like that. This is a logistical debate. The good thing about things like this is that there will be an oportunity to change things if this isn't working out.

Kerry Doyal

How ironic to see a conversation about a conversation that many seem to fear will no longer be a conversation.

Remember de jure & de facto? To appoint a "leader" is only signifacant to those who care to be lead, or are already beng lead (not a crime, by the way). McLeran & others are already leaders / conductors of the conversation. In fact, any and all who speak up seek to guide "the conversation" in some way, even if it is to seek to see it not guided. Dare we admit that?

The semantics, yes, verily, they are many here. Honestly, some of this makes for pretty humorous reading... Back up & talk a big bigger look here.

Was it Gamelia in Acts that said: "If it is of God..."
If the Spirit is working afresh, it matters little about Tom or any of us.


i must say this has come as quite a surprise to me. i have only been apart of this conversation for about 4 years but in that time i have thought and prayed and dreamed about how we could "do it" differently. how our methodolgy of spiritual formation doesn't have to look like the institution.

kind of depressing really, it almost makes you think "jeez, if they (tony, brian & the gang) can't figure it out then my ideas definitly won't work". so many great ideas, so much great encouragement and yet they still didn't see any other way than to institutionalize. i don't mean that in a bad way, i'm sure that these guys are doing there best to walk with out as God is leading.

i continue to seek and search. as will they i'm sure.

blessings guys!



I'm not sure how I feel... Even though I've been 'Emergent' for about 15 years (before I knew there was an Emergent really), I feel basically new to the conversation, so in many ways I am probably speaking out of turn or out of ignorance. I guess I wonder how those outside of the US are going to deal with this. It seems to me that they are more on the forefront when it comes to Emergent issues.

bob Hyatt

sorry- just have to say it again...

change the name and solve the problem.

change the name!

Be an organization dedicated to serving the emerging church in all its forms.

Change your name so as not to be confused with the emerging church itself.

change the name.

change the name!


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