Notes from underground

يارب يسوع المسيح ابن اللّه الحيّ إرحمني أنا الخاطئ

Archive for the tag “emerging church”

Tall Skinny Kiwi: Get Ready for Lausanne World Congress

For the last couple of months I’ve been keeping an eye on the Lausanne Conversation, but there has been very little about it in the South African blogosphere. Perhaps a prophet is not without honour, except in his own country. Here’s what a New Zealander living in Europe has to say about it Tall Skinny Kiwi: Get Ready for Lausanne World Congress:

The global mission event of the century is only a week away! Its the Third Lausanne World Congress on World Evangelization also known as Lausanne 3.

Its huge.

We’re talking 5000 invited delegates from all over the world.

Its bigger than Lausanne 1 and even bigger than Lausanne 2.

Its bigger than Edinburgh 1910 and 2010

Its the most wired, webbed, blogged, twittered, streamed missions event EVER!

Its also more SOUTHERLY than any missions conference you have ever followed.

It happens in Cape Town, South Africa and it starts next week. Like Oct 16 – 25th

Overblown hype? A lot of South Africans seem to think so, to judge from the way most South African bloggers are ignoring it.

Andrew Jones, alias Tall Skinny Kiwi, is one of the gurus of the emerging church movement. you can engage with him on his blog, or at the Lausanne Conversation here.

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The emerging menace in South Africa

There have been a few blog posts recently expressing concern about the emerging menace in South Africa.

Contact Online Weblog: Why Postmodernism and the Emerging Church threaten Missions and World Evangelism:

I am told that there are Anglican churches here in South Africa embracing this new deviation of the Christian faith. which, as I understand it so far, seems to be a kind of neo-liberalism. There is more on the site linked below on the Emerging Church which may be of interest to readers

Another blogger says The Emerging Threat of the ‘Emerging Church’ in South Africa: Quotes from the ‘Emerging Church Conversation’ in South Africa

Many older pastors simply don’t know the heretical ideas and viewpoints being discussed within the South African ‘Emerging Church’ movement – and thus fail to take action to speak up against and correct false teachings being spread by the movement. Should you have any other heretical quotes you wish to contribute to this blog, please post them as a comment below, with internet links please to authenticate. The quotes below should help everyone to see the dangerous consequences of using the ideology of postmodernism to interpret scripture.

Now I’ll be the first to admit that I find this emerging church thing confusing. Since I first heard about it three years ago, I’ve been trying to find out what it’s all about, and I’m still not sure. But it seems to me that those who are warning against it are introducing more confusion rather than trying to make sense of it. There are a few terms that help to accomplish this: “neoliberalism”, “heresy” and “postmodernist ideology”.

Now I’m probably more sensitive about terminology than most people, because I worked for several years as an editor of academic texts, and so I’m concerned about terms that could possibly confuse readers.

So let’s look at these terms:

  • neoliberalism normally refers to the kind of free-market fundamentalism that has impoverished and underdeveloped many countries in Africa at the behest of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. In all my discussions with “emerging church” people in the last three years, I can’t say I’ve noticed any who have been advocating that.
  • heresy is a term that is pretty meaningless unless you know where the speaker is coming from. Most of the people who are most free with their use of words like “heresy” and “heretics” actually hold views that seem pretty heretical to me, but I don’t say so. As an Orthodox Christian, I don’t regard anyone outside the Orthodox Church as a heretic, or their teachings as heresy. A heretic is a member of the Orthodox Church who reaches something that is contrary to the faith of the Orthodox Church. It is possible that Vassula Ryden, who is offering her New Age teachings in Johannesburg tomorrow, is a heretic, to the extent that she represents herself as a member of the Orthodox Church and her teachings as the teaching of the Orthodox Church. But though I disagree with many of the doctrinal presuppositions of emerging church people, I wouldn’t call them heretical. OK, that’s where I’m coming from — but where is the blogger who wrote the bit I quoted above coming from?
  • postmodernist ideology is perhaps the most confusing of all. Postmodernism is even harder to put a finger on than “emerging church”, so it would be interesting to know what the writer thinks this postmodernist ideology is. I’ve not noticed any emerging church people talking much about postmodernism. What they do talk about is how to do mission and evangelism in a postmodern world, where many people don’t accept the modernist ideology, or accept it only with qualifications. The implication of that citicism is that the modernist ideology is good, and the postmodernist one is bad — but why? And why should one interpret the Bible in terms of a modernist ideology rather than in terms of a postmodernist one? The Bible was written by premodern people, and I suspect their own understanding of what they wrote was neither modern nor postmodern.

I’m not saying that the “emerging church” movement is above criticism, but to be of any use, criticism needs to be based on something better than this.

___
Update

I’ve suggested ways in which South African emerging church people could respond to critics here.

Synchroblogs — maturity and post-charismatic

The synchroblog phenomenon seems to be taking off.

It was started as a once-off thing by Phil Wyman and John Smulo in December 2006, when they proposed that a group of Christian bloggers, mostly with an interest in the “emerging church” movement, all blog on the same general topic on the same day, to compare and contrast different views. The topic of the first one was Syncretism.

Some people liked it, and agreed to continue to do a synchroblog once a month. This month’s topic, published today, is “maturity” — what it means to be adult. You can find my contribution at Adult content, with links to the other contributions — there are nearly 20 contributions this month.

There is a mailing list for the regular participants in the synchroblog, where they discuss future topics, when they will post etc.

The idea seems to be catching on now.

There is at least one other Christian synchroblog, and next month they will be having a post-charismatic synchroblog. As Jonathan Stegall puts it

Should you be unaware of what a post-charismatic is, give the above blogs, as well as Mike Morrell’s, parts of this blog, and several others, a perusal. In any case, I had actually been planning to give an account of my first encounter with the Spirit. In the near future, I believe I will be telling my story, in a very broad way, for the people of Revolution.

If you’re interested in that one, you can find more at robbymac: Getting Here From There (Synchro-blog Invitation)

There has also been a Pagan/Mythology Synchroblog, and several more. There’s even a controversy about synchroblogs. To see just how popular it is becoming, check on Technorati for . You might be surprised.

The emerging African church… South Africa’s unpaid debt

Reggie Nel writes in his blog Alpha Christian Community: The emerging African church… South Africa’s unpaid debt:

The current obsession of theologians and pastors with whatever is new and funky from the West or from US churches, reveal an evident identity crisis. The contextual challenges of these ‘foreign’ regions are presented as our challenges and so, the answers they’ve heard from God is gospel to us. Hence our impotence in the face of xehophobia and the humnitarian crisis in the wake of this challenge. Well, this is Africa. This is the real challenges of ministry of being church here in Africa.

And just yesterday I received a message from John Davies, one of the contributors to the Message to the people of South Africa, in which he said:

It showed that South Africa could have a mind of its own in the world of theological discourse, that it was not simply part of a loudspeaker system run by British or American power-base.

At the time the Message to the people of South Africa was being drawn up, I was studying theology in Britain, and had been for two years, and in many ways found the atmosphere stifling, and felt I needed to go and study somewhere else, like South America, or Central Africa, in order to be able to breathe again. I came back to a South Africa in which the “Message” was published, but at places like Rhodes University in Grahamstown people like Basil Moore were still plugging the latest theological trends from the USA (back then it was “God is dead”). So Reggie’s comments rang a bell for me. Things havent changed all that much in the last 40 years.

The Suburban Christian: Typologies of renewal: Three routes, four models, five streams

An interesting post on the changing shape of some varieties of Christianity. The Suburban Christian: Typologies of renewal: Three routes, four models, five streams:

This is something of a follow-up to my previous post on emergents and new Calvinists. In the comments, Claytonius linked to a post he’d written last year about three routes of escape from the pragmatic evangelical church. He observed that many young adults who leave evangelical churches tend to head to three other places

To summarise, the places these restless pragmatic evangelicals tend to head to are:

  • Catholic, Orthodox and Anglican churches
  • Emerging Churches
  • Reformed Churches

And there are four kinds of Emerging Churches:

  • Deconstructionist
  • Pre-modern/Augustinian Model
  • Emerging Peace Church Model
  • Foundationalist Model

As a language pedant, I find the growing misuse of “typology” a bit annoying. Surely the correct term is “taxonomy”?

My (secular) dictionary (Collins Millennium Edition) gives:

  • typology n Chiefly Christian theol. the doctrine or study of types or of the correspondence between them and the reality they typify.
  • taxonomy 2 n the science or practice of classification.

Typology usually has to do with one event foreshadowing another — for example the Passover and Exodus as types of Christ’s resurrection.

There’s still a language problem, though, because I’m not sure what “pragmatic” evangelicalism is, and I get the impression that “evangelical” means, or has come to mean, something different in the USA from what it means in Southern Africa. For example, in posts such as the one I was referring to, “evangelical” is mentioned in the same breath as “megachurches”.

In South Africa “megachurches” (ie the barn-style “everything under one roof” hypermarket-style super-congregations like Rhema, Christian City, The Universal Church of the Kingdom of God etc) are almost invariably Neopentecostal, rather than “evangelical”.

Evangelicals are spread over a number of different denominations that tend to have normal-sized congregations — Baptists, a few Anglicans and Methodists and the like. Evangelicals are also concentrated in some parachurch organisations like Scripture Union, Youth with a Mission, African Enterprise, and so on, which were regarded as more evangelical if they were anti-charismatic, and less evangelical if they were pro-charismatic or at least tolerant of the charismatic movement.

So where do “pragmatic” evangelicals fit in?

Another observation is that in South Africa these distinctions seem to be far more important to white Christians than to black ones.

I once attended an ecumenical mission conference where my room-mate was a hyper-Calvinist member of the Church of England in South Africa, who kept interrogating me with the TULIP test, and when I failed the test he found my presence unbearable. He kept phoning home to ask for advice on what to do, and must have been advised to “Come out of Babylon” because after a couple of days he left and I never saw him again. Back in those days I was a hands-up and knees-down Anglo-Catholic Evangelical Charismatic Anglican, with bells, smells and singing in tongues, and believing in things like “one man one vote”, which was very politically incorrect in the days of PW Botha, Adriaan Vlok, Magnus Malan and the Total Onslaught, all of which was anathema to the Church of England in South Africa. The Church of England in South Africa (CESA) is changing too, though — as Stephen Murray’s blog shows.

But even today, white Christians in South Africa tend to do the classification thing and create taxonomies. Yet among black Christians the church that is emerging is a kind of generic Protestantism. Anglicans, Assemblies, Baptists, Congregationalists, Full Gospellers, Lutherans, Methodists, Presbyterians and Zionists are all coming to resemble one another more and more.

White Christians (some of them) are interested in the Emerging Church, but the church that is emerging among the majority is somewhat different.

So I think our taxonomies might be somewhat different from the American ones, and what is emerging isn’t necessarily Emerging.

The Suburban Christian: Typologies of renewal: Three routes, four models, five streams

An interesting post on the changing shape of some varieties of Christianity. The Suburban Christian: Typologies of renewal: Three routes, four models, five streams:

This is something of a follow-up to my previous post on emergents and new Calvinists. In the comments, Claytonius linked to a post he’d written last year about three routes of escape from the pragmatic evangelical church. He observed that many young adults who leave evangelical churches tend to head to three other places

To summarise, the places these restless pragmatic evangelicals tend to head to are:

  • Catholic, Orthodox and Anglican churches
  • Emerging Churches
  • Reformed Churches

And there are four kinds of Emerging Churches:

  • Deconstructionist
  • Pre-modern/Augustinian Model
  • Emerging Peace Church Model
  • Foundationalist Model

As a language pedant, I find the growing misuse of “typology” a bit annoying. Surely the correct term is “taxonomy”?

My (secular) dictionary (Collins Millennium Edition) gives:

  • typology n Chiefly Christian theol. the doctrine or study of types or of the correspondence between them and the reality they typify.
  • taxonomy 2 n the science or practice of classification.

Typology usually has to do with one event foreshadowing another — for example the Passover and Exodus as types of Christ’s resurrection.

There’s still a language problem, though, because I’m not sure what “pragmatic” evangelicalism is, and I get the impression that “evangelical” means, or has come to mean, something different in the USA from what it means in Southern Africa. For example, in posts such as the one I was referring to, “evangelical” is mentioned in the same breath as “megachurches”.

In South Africa “megachurches” (ie the barn-style “everything under one roof” hypermarket-style super-congregations like Rhema, Christian City, The Universal Church of the Kingdom of God etc) are almost invariably Neopentecostal, rather than “evangelical”.

Evangelicals are spread over a number of different denominations that tend to have normal-sized congregations — Baptists, a few Anglicans and Methodists and the like. Evangelicals are also concentrated in some parachurch organisations like Scripture Union, Youth with a Mission, African Enterprise, and so on, which were regarded as more evangelical if they were anti-charismatic, and less evangelical if they were pro-charismatic or at least tolerant of the charismatic movement.

So where do “pragmatic” evangelicals fit in?

Another observation is that in South Africa these distinctions seem to be far more important to white Christians than to black ones.

I once attended an ecumenical mission conference where my room-mate was a hyper-Calvinist member of the Church of England in South Africa, who kept interrogating me with the TULIP test, and when I failed the test he found my presence unbearable. He kept phoning home to ask for advice on what to do, and must have been advised to “Come out of Babylon” because after a couple of days he left and I never saw him again. Back in those days I was a hands-up and knees-down Anglo-Catholic Evangelical Charismatic Anglican, with bells, smells and singing in tongues, and believing in things like “one man one vote”, which was very politically incorrect in the days of PW Botha, Adriaan Vlok, Magnus Malan and the Total Onslaught, all of which was anathema to the Church of England in South Africa. The Church of England in South Africa (CESA) is changing too, though — as Stephen Murray’s blog shows.

But even today, white Christians in South Africa tend to do the classification thing and create taxonomies. Yet among black Christians the church that is emerging is a kind of generic Protestantism. Anglicans, Assemblies, Baptists, Congregationalists, Full Gospellers, Lutherans, Methodists, Presbyterians and Zionists are all coming to resemble one another more and more.

White Christians (some of them) are interested in the Emerging Church, but the church that is emerging among the majority is somewhat different.

So I think our taxonomies might be somewhat different from the American ones, and what is emerging isn’t necessarily Emerging.

Another synchroblog – Emerging heresy

There’s yet another synchroblog — this time on “Emerging heresy”. Here are the contributions:

For the rationale behind it see Emerging Africa — emerging heresy.

And, though not part of the synchroblog, this post is about a related topic, which may be of interest too: open source research: A New Kind of Christian is a New Kind of Atheist: Truth and A/theistic Orthodoxy in the Emerging Church Milieu – part one

Juggling with Jelly: A new church

There’s a lot of talk these days about the emerging church. Here’s a story about church growth and the submerging church.

A church building closed for rebuilding, and the congregation split up and scattered, and, as it were, sank out of sight. Then it re-emerged after the building alterations were completed, and found they had added 100 members.

Juggling with Jelly: A new church

Before closing the church building our net annual growth had been an average of one person. Transfers out as people moved away, transfers in as people came to the area, new converts. Balanced. During our nine months without a building the net growth has been over 100 (yes one hundred). And that’s just counting new converts. We have well-known evangelists amongst the congregation. They had little to do with these local converts being off elsewhere in the world.

I discovered this story accidentally in a moribund blog that hasn’t been updated for years. I sometimes want to read something different, and went interest surfing in Blogger profiles. I click on one of my interests, and see who else is interested. In this case I clicked on one of my favourite books, The Greater Trumps. It seemed quite an interesting story and worth sharing.

Emerging church and Orthodoxy revisited

This morning I was playing around with the tag surfing feature on WordPress and came across this post, which was more than 9 months old, so I might not have found it otherwise: Just an apprentice: Emerging church and orthodoxy. This linked to some articles by Scot McKnight, an emerging church theologian, which answered some of the questions I posed in an earlier post here: Notes from underground: Orthodoxy and Evangelical Protestantism. And “just an apprentice” puts a finger on the biggest stumbling block in all ecumenical discussions between Orthodox and Protestants, whether the Protestants are Evangelical, Emerging, Pentecostal, Liberal, or anything else:

This question that Scot McKnight addresses is one that I have been asking on my journey. It is a question of ecclesiology. What is the center of the Christian church? What is the prism through which we worship God, read Scripture, and interact with our culture? What is the relationship of the emerging church with the Creeds of classical Chrisitianity? The commentary and analysis by McKnight are helpful in connecting a few dots.

The stumbling block is ecclesiology.

It was this that nearly caused all the Orthodox Churches to leave the World Council of Churches recently. It is this that causes some conservative Orthodox to call “ecumenism” a heresy.

The book to read is Beyond the East-West divide — the World Council of Churches and “the Orthodox problem” by Anna Marie Aagaard and Peter Bouteneff (Geneva, Risk, 2001 ISBN 2-8254-1350-X).

If you’re Protestant and want to talk to Orthodox Christians, read this book to understand where the Orthodox are coming from. It doesn’t matter what kind of Protestant — Evangelical, Ecumenical, Lutheran, Calvinist, Reformed, Pentecostal, Emerging, Anglican (even Anglo-Catholic, if you believe in the “branch theory” of ecclesiology).

One can’t go into all the nuances in a blog post, so what follows is probably over-simplified, not to say simplistic, but I try to summarise the point.

Most Protestants share a common basic ecclesiology.

Methodists (for example) are quite happy to see themselves as one denomination among many within a particular religion — Christianity (which is in turn seen as one religion among many). That applies to most Protestant Christian denominations, and those that do not see it in that way are regarded by the others as sects. Even non-denominational bodies tend to think of themselves as one nondenomination among many denominations and nondenominations within one religion, Christianity.

The Orthodox Church does not regard itself as a denomination, at least in the ecclesiological sense. And even the sociological sense, for conservative Orthodox, comes too close to the “heresy of ecumenism”. The “heresy of ecumenism”, in this case, being to regard the Orthodox Church as one denomination among many.

The Orthodox “statement of faith” (to use an Evangelical Protestant term), is the Symbol of Faith, usually called by Protestants the “Nicene Creed”, though the actual Nicene Creed was a much shorter document, which says nothing about the Church.

Among the statements in the Symbol of Faith is “(I believe) in One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church” (is mian agian kathoikin ke apostolikin ekklesian). Not in many denominations (and nondenominations), but One Church.

In what sense is the Church “apostolic”?

If we read about the day the Church began, in Acts 2, we see that the first Christian converts “continued in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, the breaking of bread and the prayers” (isan de proscarteroundes ti didache ton apostolon, ke ti kinonia, ti klasi tou artu, ke tis prosevches).

The Orthodox Church believes that it has “continued” unbroken in those four things from that day to this. It is not “Wesleyan” or “Lutheran” or “Calvinist” but “Apostolic”. The “apostles’ fellowship” is maintained by, among other things, the apostolic succession of bishops. The “apostles’ fellowship” is among the key elements of Orthodox ecclesiology, and, with the “apostles’ teaching” is what makes the one holy catholic Church “apostolic”.

There are numerous denominations, especially in the Pentecostal tradition, which have the word “Apostolic” in the name of their denomination, such as the Apostolic Faith Mission (from which many of the others sprang). As David du Plessis puts it, their criterion is not so much “apostolic succession” as “apostolic success”. But for the Orthodox Church the “apostles’ fellowship” (or “apostles’ communion”) is an essential mark of the Church.

In the New Testament the word “church” never means a “denomination” or “communion” (or even a “nondenomination”). In the New Testament the word “church” refers either to the local church or to the universal church. The worldwide church is the “ecumenical church” (not in the modern sense of “many denominations together”, but in the geographical sense of “the inhabited earth”). The local churches are bound together in the apostles’ fellowship through the communion of their bishops, as they commemorate and pray for each other in the Divine Liturgy.

The church is catholic, not in the sense of being “universal” (for the Orthodox that is covered by “ecumenical”) but more in the sense of being holistic. Catholic means “according to the whole”. In a holographic image, if you divide the image in two, you get not two half images, but two whole images. The whole is greater than the sum of the parts. So the church is like a temple, where the building is more than just the individual bricks and tiles. But each local church is not just a brick in the building, but like a holographic image, whole in itself.

From an Orthodox point of view, therefore, the congregationalist ecclesiology resembles a pile of bricks rather than a whole building, while Roman Catholic ecclesiology resembles a monolith – a single boulder rather than a building.

So for the Orthodox, schism is not within the church, but from the church.

And for the Orthodox it makes little sense to talk of “emerging ecclesiology”, unless it means that the ecclesiology that submerged a long time ago in the West is resurfacing.

I realise that to ecumenically-minded Protestants this all looks extaordinarily arrogant, saying “we’re right and you’re wrong” (non-ecumenically-minded Protestants, like those who generated the Biola report mentioned in an earlier post, assert that far more strongly than most Orthodox). But for the Orthodox it is more a matter of being true to the Orthodox understanding of history — that the Orthodox Church has continued in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, the breaking of bread and the prayers, for twenty centuries, and it would be false to say that it has not. The Orthodox Church participates in the ecumenical movement because it believes that it would be good to restore the apostles’ fellowship among all who declare their faith in the Triune God, but not at the price of abandoning its own ecclesiology and adopting a Protestant one (and there have been times in which there has been pressure within the World Council of Churches for the Orthodox Churches to do just that — see the book by Aagard and Bouteneff for details).

In dialogue there are four things we need to learn: you need to know who I am, and how I see you. I need to know who you are, and how you see me. We need to know the reality of both sides, and the way in which both parties perceive themselves and each other. Or if you want to be really postmodern about it, the way the self is perseived by the self, and the way the self is perceived by the other. And our perceptions of others show the others more about how we see ourselves. So the Biola report about the Orthodox tells the Orthodox a lot about Biola, and much less about the Orthodox.

So when I describe Roman Catholic ecclesiology as a monolith and Congregationalist ecclesiology as a heap of stones, that tells you more about Orthodox ecclesiology than it does about Roman Catholic or Congregationalist ecclesiology. And so we learn more about each other, even through our misperceptions.

Let the discussion continue.

Brian McLaren: a generous Orthodoxy

A few weeks ago I wrote Notes from underground: Brian McLaren to speak in Pretoria and asked people who knew about him and his writings to tell me whether it would be worth paying to go an hear him speak.

There were various answers, some positive, some negative.

Now I’ve just got back from hearing him speak, and I can say unequivocally that yes, it was worth hearing him, and my wife and I are both glad that we went. It was very interesting, and it clarified a lot of things for me about the “emerging church” movement. Yes, I know he is just one bloke, and others are saying different things, but it resolved a lot of confusion for me.

In many ways there was nothing very special or startling about what he said. At one level it was New Testament 101: Introduction to the gospels. It was very Orthodox, and at some points he used Orthodox ikons to illustrate it. It was the basics of the gospel, the good news of the kingdom of God. When Jesus came proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, what did it mean in the contemporary setting, and what does it mean today? For me it was familiar ground, biblically, theologically and culturally. There was nothing new, nothing I hadn’t heard before.

So what was it worth going to hear him?

I think it was his presentation, the way he drew things together, the way he got the message across.

Someone asked at one point how one does evangelism with this view of the gospel, but I think in many ways it was evangelism; he presented the basics of the gospel in a clear, succinct and ordered way, and that is evangelism.

So it answered some questions for me. Over the past few months I have got the feeling that a lot of what “emerging church” people are looking for is to be found in Orthodox Christianity, and has been in the Orthodox Church all along. Many of these things disappeared in Western Christianity with the onset of modernity, and in a sense Western Christianity and modernity are almost synonymous. And Brian McLaren’s lecture tended to confirm this. I was unable to get hold of his book A generous orthodoxy to read beforehand, and I wondered how “orthodox” he was, and what I can say now that what I heard him say tonight was very Orthodox, many Orthodox speakers I have heard have said similar things. Any differences were mostly in style, not substance.

There is more I could say, but now I’m tired and want to go to bed. Maybe I’ll pick up some particular themes from what he said in later posts.

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