Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Open source Christianity and the blogosphere

Thanks to Tony Jones in his superb book on the phenomenon of the Emergent Church Movement, 'The New Christians', I have just discovered Bob Carlton's blog and this refreshingly perceptive and honest post on men in leadership in the church, and the neglected testimony of women.  And thanks to Bob Carlton I have just discovered the blog and artwork of Jen Lemen, and re-read this lovely quote from John O'Donohue, one of my favourite writers.

unseen life

A sentence read in a book, a quick Google and a couple of mouse clicks and my soulspace has been expanded and enriched, all inside 10 minutes. This is the reality of open-source Christianity and the blogosphere. Tony Jones explores this theme at depth, emphasizing that "Emergents believe that church should function more like an open-source network and less like a hierarchy or a bureaucracy." He cites Wikipedia as a good example of this, with anyone able to edit the content in such a way that it is the community itself which produces the text we read on the screen collectively and collaboratively, rather than it coming from a single authoritative source.

In a Wiki model of church the people do theology together, do liturgy together (lit. the work of the people) and transform their communities by living 'beautiful Christianity' together: "Emergents firmly hold that God's Spirit - not their own efforts - is responsible for good in the world. The human task is to co-operate with God in what God is already doing."  Of course such open-source statements as "Emergents downplay - or outright reject - the differences between clergy and laity" threaten hierarchical, status-bound institutional churches - and thank God for that. As I prepare to go to the Methodist Conference in Scarborough next week, this sublime quote from Tony Jones is a God-gift:

"Lillian Daniel is a pastor in the United Church of Christ, a notoriously left leaning denomination founded in 1957.She's also active in the labor movement and an outspoken proponent of progressive causes - a passionate person. Reflecting on the biannual General Synod national meeting, she moaned, 'We used to be a group of revolutionaries.  Now we're a group of resolutionaries.'  Operating by a distinctively non-biblical Robert's Rules of Order, she said the convention has devolved into a gathering of persons who read resolutions that are then voted on and promptly forgotten.  The resolutions range from those for gay marriage to those against gay marriage, from a call to study the imprisonment of native Hawaiians to 'saving Social Security from privatization.' The resolutions pile up; and then they're read, seconded, discussed, voted on, and filed.'  Lillian thought she was joining a movement, but she was joining a bureaucracy.  And that bureaucracy tends to squash the passion of many Christ-centered and enthusiastic persons therein."  (The New Christians pp. 9-10)

There is a beautiful, messy godly simplicity to re-discovering church not as an institution bound to buildings and resolutions but as a transformative and revolutionary community of disciples. Disciples for whom parity of esteem and mutual respect and living out kingdom of God lives as followers of Jesus, are key. Have a look at a sample of Shane Claiborne's writing to get a flavour of what this approach feels like.  Bob Carlton has this lovely quote from him: "I see an entire generation of young people who want a Christianity they can wrap their hands around.  They don't want to just believe stuff. They're saying if you want to know what I believe, then watch how I live." If this sort of thinking floats your boat get a copy of Tony's book. In an open-source church we share the insights we have discovered, we are enriched by one-another and we are open to God's Spirit, continually weaving fresh patterns of meaning and hope in the midst of life.

So to another gift from Bob Carlton's blog, the poem 'teach us a new language' by Cheryl Lawrie, project worker for the Hold This Space alt.worship project in Australia.

We are trying, God,
and we are angry that the world will not listen
when we try to speak of you,

yet deep down
we acknowledge that we no longer have the words
that speak of who you are
and all you have done.

While we know it is no sin to be speechless,
we must confess that we have stopped looking.

Teach us a new language, God -
one of wild imagination and courageous vision -
so we can begin to tell a new story
that will unfold your ageless plot of freedom
and grace
to a world longing to hear.
A story that will speak of hope with the turning of each page.
A story that you promise has no ending but love

1 comment:

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