This is my personal blog. The views expressed here do not necessarily represent those of the congregations or presbytery I serve.

Monday, July 5, 2010

PCUSA General Assembly - Day Three

Phyllis Tickle spoke early in the morning to practically the whole assembly. I am so glad that such a wide representation is getting exposed to her perspective.

Emergence Christianity is here. It doesn't matter whether we like or agree with it or not. It is now our context and we will have to either join or adapt.

The Emergence Christianity perspective was summed up for Tickle by a 17 year old who, upon hearing her talk about the Virgin Birth, made the comment: "The story is so beautiful it has to be true, whether it happened or not." (Which reminds me of Karl Barth's comment that the fact of the talking snake in Genesis is not important... what is important is what the snake said.) Emergence Christianity is not interested in dogma, especially "systematic" dogma; it is interested in narratives.

She talked about the Jerusalem/Antioch friction in Acts (which is a focus of Ray Anderson's book on emergent theology. These two churches did not agree on theology or practice, but they maintained their connection. It is always incumbent upon the established church to be open to the new expression.

The new form of church is described as hubs, nodes, pods, cells.

Brian McLaren's book, A Generous Orthodoxy, is "the 95 theses of Emergence Christianity." Rowan Williams: "We are not here to save the church; we are here to serve the Kingdom of God."

Tickle says that 20 million Americans experience church entirely on the web.

Things like "church membership" are a product of Protestantism. But in a web membership doesn't matter. Participants are bound to each other in different ways. Community replaces membership. Membership assumes an institution.

She didn't go into the whole "sola scriptura is over" thing at this session, which is just as well since it was a room full of Presbyterians sitting at tables full of cutlery.

Tickle spoke again later to a room packed with middle governing body staff.

Emergence theory says that organizations are flattening; they're becoming all horizontal, with no hierarchy. Emergence is by definition lateral and communal.

Emergence Christianity wants to get back to the sensibility of the 1st century, before Christendom.

Tickle talked about the history and pre-history of Emergence Christianity. There is a draw to Anglicanism. There is an original rootedness in evangelicalism, but this is now severed and becoming increasingly antagonistic. Then she told a story I am somewhat ashamed I never heard before, about the birth of Pentacostalism in Los Angeles in 1906. An African-American preacher named William Seymour moved to LA from Mississippi and started preaching in an abandoned Methodist church on Azuza Street. It was in this place that, Tickle says, "the Spirit descended," with documented cases of glossolalia, xenolalia, and healing miracles. Pentacostalism was gender inclusive and equal, had racial diversity, and was egalitarian.

She mentioned Joachim of Flora, the 13th century mystic who predicted three stages of the church. 2000 years of the Father (the Old Testament), 2000 years of the Son (the period since Jesus), and 2000 years of the Spirit (now beginning).

Anyway, who knew that I would come to General Assembly and have a chance to blog about Joachim of Flora?

Seminaries are over. So is ordination.

Tickle kind of places in a way wider perspective everything else happening around here at this big meeting. On to Tuesday....


M. Granzen said...

Paul thanks for your cogent blogging on this subject. It's highly valuable for our work and worship! I love the quote, "We are not here to save the church; we are here to serve the Kingdom of God."

John Edward Harris said...

I could be wrong, but I think C. G. Jung also wrote about three ages, similar to or those described by Joachim of Flora, and tied them to asrtology, alchemy and individuation of humanity and the collective unconscious.