Best Guess typology of current church context

Jonny put me onto Arbukles book Refounding the church, and just posted today about several of his thoughts. As ever with these type of things they never quite fit the context I am in, but it had an interesting typology of church that I have adapted. I am not that worried about pinning down what I think about church but it did get me thinking enough to try and re-contextualize it into where we are now in the UK. This is just my best guess and I actually found the process a helpful follow on from the last couple of posts about sobornost.
A pdf of my best guess
Typology of church I think I am most closely aligned to the right column, but recognise that this is probably more a reflection of where I am than the emerging church, as I think many would have a higher view of orthodoxy and tradition, than me. Hence only using (emerging) and (FE) and using different titles.

church on the edge – community in practice

it was great to have people around last weekend, to see the young people who had come up through the project, linking with the professional people who help form the management committee, volunteers, their children and partners. building new forms of church isn’t rocket science, it is being real, open and relational.
People had space to be themselves, drawing away from the main group to chat, or smoke, or play. People had time to mingle over food and argue over which pudding was best, or education policy.
Here were a group of people journeying together from different startpoints towards christ. Helping to build kingdom (but not all understanding that sort of wording), and called together for a purpose. The practice of an open sobnoristic community meeting together around food, or if you want to get theological about it “a banqueting table”.

Open Sodal Sobornostic Communities

Excuse the jargon title, but following up my recent posts I wanted to explore some of the theory that is behind some of the practice and growth of streetspace as a community of practice and local work that I am involved in. Modal and Sodal are two ways of looking at / being church / approaching the mission of God. To borrow from Jonny “modal is the local gathered and sodal the spread out focused around a mission task” I have found this problematic for three reasons, firstly as the gathered needs to swept up in the missio dei as much as the sodal. Secondly as most writings around this suggests a kind of higher commitment to the sodal (there is good post here on what it looks like in a parish church setting). Lastly the concept is rooted in a more closed set and modernist paradigm and I think a weak ecclesiology.

However what is becoming increasingly clear from the take up on StreetSpace and from Beth Keiths recent twitter post “60% of pioneers found the parish church they were connected to the most obstructive part of their job” is that we need a new sort of sodal community. One that is more journey focused and open at the edges. This type of sodal community reflects the core of the missio-dei and as it journeys creates space for others to journey alongside, (who may or may not believe) but are heading with you towards Christ, and as such may have different interpretations of what is means to be committed/believe and in my experience are usually committed to the journey and you if not yet to Christ who is being revealed as we travel. This type of sodal community is continually pushing and finding new edges as together it forms, reforms and discards, as it genuinely values its co travellers, with an orthopraxis rather than orthodox approach.

This is why I think Sobornost is an important christian tradition, “Spiritual community of many jointly living people” or one that is rooted in practice, action, dialogue and community. Because this how you help move towards a new Habitus – (see previous post) but one that is not static or modal, but continually unfolding and in line with the character of God, revealed in Jesus and the Mission dei. The most exciting part of this is that even our local gathered community is sodal in this way but looks nothing like a new monastic community!

It is not easy and during the BBQ we will be having on sunday, or the Gathering (StreetSpace annual get together) there will be practical examples of the type of tensions that will exist, but something new is always unfolding, and something fresh being experienced as we journey together.

Space for newness

Following up on the last post and subsequent comments here and Pete’s post around radicals and conservatives and Kester’s on Newness I wanted to explore some issues around creating a space for newness.
I would be with James that very little new has emerged in the last few years and Petes post seeking definition on the terms highlighted for me that finding newness within our current context was highly problematic, due to the strength of the christian cultural context we find ourselves in. As I commented I am unsure if radical theology can emerge in such a context and as such maybe defining terms such as radical and conservative is a red herring as it reinforces the place of this cultural context, and thus hinders new voices from emerging. How many teenagers or children, people not coming from a faith tradition would want to part of that discussion?
Community organising suggests all action is in the reaction, and I wonder if this one of the things that has shifted. In the early experimental days there was plenty for people to react to, as people in community developed new forms of connection through the Alt worship ect it created an experience that people could react to, discuss and dialogue. As such there was far more equity, and I remember great conversations with children and young people or faith or none that I took to Greenbelt events, and their comments greatly informed my ecclesiology.

(I recognise the irony of continuing to write in the light of what I have said so far but want to pursue another reason about creating space for reason.)

Bourdieu who builds on an earlier ideas of Habitus – cultures way of behaving and norms making society possible, which we are socialised into. Bourdieu suggests that habitus was more than this and that through our participation we contribute to the unfolding “habitus” i.e. it is a two way dialogical or iterative process. Is part of our problem is that as we have moved from experience/activity to dialogue and discussion that not a wide enough people demographic are participating to allow something new to unfold. More than this as I explored in Reconnected that if as Elaine Graham argues “the task of rebuilding Christian theology in a more authentic fashion requires a critique of the points at which tradition has misrepresented the spirit of the gospel; and then a reconstruction of theology according to emancipatory principles”. It can equally be argued that when these emancipatory principles are told, or the tradition critiqued, that it must be accompanied by the liberatory story, and voices of those outside that initially gave rise to the need for change, if it is to have any hope of getting through the layers of misrepresentation that have accumulated over the years.
I think there is model for this- the russian concept of Sobornost, “Spiritual community of many jointly living people” or one that is rooted in practice, action, dialogue and community but that is for another post.

Transitology and emerging theology

As a practitioner and activist I have been fascinated by the idea of change for a long time, change on so many levels, and in so many ways. How individuals change, how communities change, how culture changes, how education changes, how young people change, how theology changes, how church changes and list goes on and on…..

For some time I have been questioning the depth of change, challenge and if any real transition was happening in emerging church thinking and theology, if we were on a road less traveled and willing to encounter G-d that can only be found in glimpses as we deny the false god we know. Often finding a sense of newness in some of Pete Rollins writing and in agreement with Kester Brewins post that there has been a sense of retreating. However I am unsure if this is conscious or circumstantial as the institutions catch up.

Kesters postthe backlash begins and the comments has prompted me to finally get around to this post.

At a basic level Transitology (derived from political science and initially examining change in latin america) identifies 4 elements to the change process. 1, structural factors are inadequate by themselves need actors to help make change, 2 change happens at times uncertainty, 3 Actors are assumed self interested, 4, Property rights of the wealthy need to be challenged.

I want to borrow from Transitology to say a few things about the change or lack of it, and current processes in the emerging theology debates.
1, The structures (and here I mainly mean the institutions and denominations) recognised the need for change and could not make the shift happen by themselves. They needed and still need actors on the edge of and preferably (in my mind) outside themselves to help make change happen.
2, The uncertainty and backdrop of the cultural shift to post (hyper) modernity is obvious, and the challenges it wrought both in terms of thinking and theological processes and in terms of subscription to institutions, commitment etc provided the climate of uncertainty needed for next shift, or as Phylis Tickle suggests the great emergence.

But it is the next two arenas of Transitology where I think we can draw some hope from and maybe build a bit of a platform to stop the retreat.
3, I think the backlash Kester mentions, comes from, and is coming from, a number of fields. Initial emergence was quite egalitarian, and practice driven by actors, working out what to do on the ground in the shifting context they found themselves. This flew in the face of self interest and created a platform for voices from the margin to be seen and heard. As the movement matured the voices shifted from the group to the individual, (which is needed as Actors play a key role), but in doing so could easily be seen as being less rooted in communities and practice or self interested. This will make it easy for people from outside emerging theology circles that are too lazy to get to know the actors to criticise them as self interested or unaccountable, as at a surface level they see people removed from their communities (or systems) and not practice orientated. I assume (like my own experience on the edge) that Kester with Vaux, and Pete with Ikon forged a depth of relationship created in the years of practice and risky experimentation that still remains. However, it may be helpful (particularly for the likes of me) to be given some pointers on grounding some of the thinking into our practice, and where actors are not involved directly anymore, to be dialoging with practitioners who are seeking to flesh out the christ they are speaking of on the ground, and to make these faltering attempts, and relationships public alongside the theological discourse. One of my greatest fears is that our key actors will be unfairly criticised from within (one field that the backlash may come from), and in doing so the movement will not embody the openess and acceptance, robustness and questioning that much of the emerging church is known for, and is certainly one of the changes worth protecting. This links to my final point, I do think the voices of the wealthy need to be challenged and this is two fold. There needs to be a challenge to the intellectually wealthy to root theological ideas on the ground. Secondly the growth of fresh expressions could be viewed as the wealthy institutions colonialising the grass roots, and in so (hopefully not intentionally) suppressing the voice of the actors and those on the edge who were and still are, key to helping make change happen. This may be the another field where the backlash comes from, but it will be disguised in many colors, as the tentacles of the wealthy and powerful are legion.

One of those days

Every now and then I have one of those days, where I cant get motivated, want to lounge around and do not a lot. I returned to work on Thursday after a great sabbatical, and had two fantastic days, with loads of stuff just falling into place, had a small grant confirmed, and good meeting with a funder, met John who had held the fort brilliantly, wrote two major reports, and set up a heap of meetings.
It is not tiredness but more lethargy, it works one way or the other – sometimes I have loads of work energy and sometimes loads of home energy. But today there is lack of home energy which i find more difficult to deal with, and life is not quite happening today. Note to self – SORT IT OUT