Round 3 – why not?

8 09 2011

Fascinating day today!

Firstly, the beginnings of a missional community have grown beyond embryonic and are starting to take shape. This has been the result of a lot of conversations, a lot of false start and a lot of hurt – and I suspect that is not the end of the conversations, the false starts and the hurt. This news is not entirely unrelated to the rest of the post but it is kind of stand alone!

 

I have spent today defending, explaining or correcting my previous blog post! Which is good – I’ve enjoyed it, but rather than add more to the comments stream (and thanks to @drgeorgemorley and @RicStott for leaving comments) I thought I’d write more here.

Firstly, an apology to Pete Philips. It has been suggested that I tried to set up Pete as a traditional laggard and Kester as a Jedi knight hope for the future. If that did come across I didn’t mean it to! Those who know Pete well will know that he has stood up in many council and conference meetings and defended the work of pioneer ministry and fresh expressions. I was trying to show that these conversations are erupting across The Church and more has been written here, here and here and trying to relate some of my thinking to what they had written. I stand by what I wrote (for now) and I am still worried about who decides who does theology, where and how? I’m also concerned that the church pays little attention into reading what lies behind those that challenge it and even less attention to their sources and methods. In Barbara Glasson’s latest book The Exuberant Church she writes of communities such as the GLBT community and those who are survivors of sexual abuse:

But these communities, on the whole, do not sit easily with the church. They are an uncomfortable presence. They cause the institution to be challenged to new ways, just as I have been challenged to minister amongst them. I know that in being alongside these diverse and troubling people, I have also had to re-examine the masks I wear in my role, that I have to acknowledge that I am not what others assume I am, that I have moved significantly and profoundly to a new way of understanding mission and the church, and that this process means that I hang on in the institution by a thread – as do many of my colleagues. But rather than despair of the church. I sense there is a real source of hope – if we can attend diligently to these prophetic communities and learn from the process of ‘coming out’ – that I am beginning to see as both profoundly human and deeply of God.

The emergent’s are not in the same category as the communities that Barbara is speaking of and it would be insulting to even hint at it. But the language could describe the relationship between inherited models of church and emergent thinkers and the effect emergent thinkers are having on the church. I can highly recommend the book for those who, like me, are struggling to hang on in the institution but are wary of being labelled an emergent (or anything for that matter!)

Back to my opening sentences – I was speaking to one of the possible members of this new missional community who has been burnt a few too many times by, what she called, ‘conservative Christians’. I showed her my blog and after she read it she said ‘so what’s the fuss about?’ – there is a thirst for this stuff and a desire to think and be different to that which has gone before. The form and content of such a future? …. who knows?

One last thing – I am not saying that emergents, pioneers, or fresh expressions are the answer to some kind of crisis in the church and I do not know of any Venture FX pioneer who would make such a bold claim.

For now, all I can hope for is that the conversation continues, that the church leans closer to hear fully those disruptive voices and that those voices find a confidence and a coherence to articulate themselves fully; and that both will be humble enough to live with alterity and not assimilation.

 

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4 responses

8 09 2011
littlewarrior (@littlewarrior)

isnt this The Church vs The Church?

8 09 2011
Pete Phillips (@pmphillips)

Thanks for the clarification and nice words, Simon.

Two things – if pioneer churches, missional churches are going to become more than a passing phase then they need to be serious about their own funding. At present inherited models of church are pouring vast amounts of money into supporting the new and doing that happily. But in the long run that level of support is not sustainable – see what has happened with venturefx funding. At present, there are few examples of emergent congregations becoming sustainable in the long run. I am happy to be proved wrong on this. Emergent congregations which turn into megachurch are viable but not really as missional or pioneering as you might want them to be!

Secondly, that final line – remain in alterity and not assimilation. To some extent I agree with the concept of a mixed economy. We need pioneering churches, inherited model churches, suburban family churches, village churches, old people churches and so on. But I think I am not so keen on the concept of alterity. We are one body. The body of Christ and we have to be assimilated into this body. We together are the temple of God and need to be filled with the Holy Spirit together. We – the mixed community. And I think that it’s not just a kind of awkward agreement. It’s an acceptance of pioneers and inherited both representing the Gospel appropriately in a contemporary context – not bashing the hell out of each other and suggesting one has got it right and the other is heretical and has lost its religion.

We need an image of one Church and I’m not so sure alterity does that…but I think you want one church too and don’t understand it as being alternatives but as Jimmy Dunn said – unity in diversity.

Pete

9 09 2011
Ric Stott (@RicStott)

Surely those inheritted churches that are financially viable are only viable because they don’t have to buy their own buildings – they’ve received them as a gift from their predecessors. There must be very very few churches (particularly Methodist Churches) that would be in a position to start from scratch and buy their own building, but that model of church needs a building to work. So if we start to ask these financial questions too soon then pioneering forms of church are being asked to answer difficult questions that are never asked of inheritted models of church.

I agree that in the long term the financial viability of new church communities needs to be taken into consideration, but that is a long way down the line.

If the Methodist Church decides it would like to spawn a load of new churches on the mega church model that will bring in the cash then so be it. But I think we are more courageous than that – if we can sow our resources generously and in faith then maybe some of these weird little pioneering communitities could grow in exciting and unexpected ways, into missional communtities that not only enrich the world but also the wider body of the church too.

And whilst I broadly agree with what Pete says above about mixed economy etc. there’s something about the word ‘assimilation’ that makes me shudder.

Ric

17 09 2011
Edward Green (@EdwardBGreen)

I completely missed these blog posts, whilst blogging on the same discussion myself- Paleo-Emergent.

http://www.future-shape-of-church.org/?e=48

I suspect that the real tensions and divides are really in very different places than Emergent vs. Inherited.

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