D.A. Carson and the Australians

Mike Frost and Alan Hirsch have written a statement of where they stand on the whole D.A. Carson VS. EmergentVillage saga and Carson’s book “Becoming Conversant With Emergent. They explain why they think Carson’s assessment of Emergent is “irrelevant for the missional church in Australia.” They also claim to be more theologically conservative and mission focused than Emergent Village in USA. HT: Hamo

UPDATE: I have removed the link to the PDF Statement at the request of Hamo – who asks that others do likewise.

Andrew

Andrew Jones has been blogging since 1997. He is based in San Francisco with his two daughters but also travels the globe to find compelling stories of early stage entrepreneurs changing their world. Sometimes he talks in the third person. Sometimes he even talks to himself and has been heard uttering the name “Precious” :-)

48 Comments

  • Forge Responds to DA Carson

    The two things that have been most transformative for me in my looking at Christianity in a new way are Andrew Jones’ TallSkinnyKiwi blog and the book The Shaping of Things to Come by Mike Frost and Alan Hirsch. I owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to …

  • Andrew (and others):
    I just read this .pdf, and I must say that I am becoming more and more troubled by the tone of the recent posts around the blogosphere. When a group like Forge distances themselves from Emergent, I am quite sure that it does more harm than good, and I am afraid that they are letting Emergent’s critics define who/what Emergent is rather than being involved with the conversation on its own terms.
    Any of us who know Brian McLaren, for instance, are well aware that the impetus for ALL of his writing is a deeply missional heart. Going back to his first book, The Church on the Other Side, he has been developing a missional ecclesiology, and from there he has worked at a missional epistemology, apologetic, and eschatology — and he’s currently writing a missional Christology. For anyone to imply that Brian (or any of us) have removed Christ from the center of our theology, or that we have allowed postmodern philosophy to overtake our orthodoxy is silly and displays a really shallow reading of our work. I could point you to dozens of passages in my own books that emphasize my own very high Christology.
    While I disagree with the sentence in the document’s last section that seems to long for a return to Christendom, I happily affirm the document’s statement that we need a robust theology that affirms centrality of scripture and of Christ (we might, however, have some interesting conversations on just what they mean by “firm foundation.”)
    I continue to believe that position papers that draw lines within the emerging church, taking sides for and against organizations, and the like will be supremely unhelpful, and I ask people to please STOP IT.
    Tony Jones
    National Coordinator
    Emergent-U.S.

  • yeah, the tone of this piece makes me sad. i understand alan’s need to clarify that claims against emergent-US should not apply to forge. but i’m disheartened that they feel a need to so clearly distance themselves.

  • tony, thanks for your comment.
    it might be true – that:
    1. they “are letting Emergent’s critics define who/what Emergent is” as you said
    and also 2. they are painting Emergent Village with a broad brush, the same one given to them by the critics. – and we know that Emergent is a conversation between a wide spectrum of believers – some fundamental and others liberal, if we wanted to use those polarities (which we do not find helpful)
    But if they are drawing a line within the global emerging church, then they are drawing themselves INSIDE that line not outside, by including themselves as part of the global emerging-missional church, . . . which of course they are, alongside Emergent Village, and they may be bringing some strengths to the table . . . as they have done in their visits to UK where they have also challenged the British churches in their missional strategies and training philosophies.
    And alongside their strengths are a few different flavors that add distinction to the Australian contribution.
    That contribution is probably less theological and more missional in practical outworking.
    In my opinion, Hirsch and Frosty do offer a more muscular and intentional strategy/focus for missional church planting movements in their nation than Emergent Village has put forward as a group for USA.
    The other side to that argument is that individual members of Emergent Village may be intentionally focused on CPM’s and are participating in DAWN-like strategies for their nation, similar to the DAWN-like strategy outlined in the Frost/Hirsch book, “The Shaping of Things to Come”
    And as for Brian – yes – he has a missional heart and has been heavily involved in assisting mission efforts around the world. In fact, i think he is an evangelist at heart – more than a pastor or teacher.

  • Missional and Emergent

    Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch, authors of The Shaping of Things to Come (I’m through some of it, good stuff) and leaders of a missional training organization in Australia called Forge, have come out with a paper (pdf) responding to

  • It’s probably not bad to highlight the diversity that exists within the ec. It’s messy but I think messiness is inherent in something that calls itself “emerging”.
    I don’t see this as distancing as much as acknowledging that this thing is a whole lot bigger and more diverse than is reflected in Carson’s book.

  • Thanks Tony. While we may not always agree with everything that Emergent does and it isn’t fun being painted with the wide brush that critics of the emerging church use, we are in this together.

  • I think this kind of paper is pretty important for us to listen to at the very least and examine our faith. It is easy to get defensive and not be teachable, even if we don’t agree with everything we are hearing.

  • as an australian involved in alternative expressions of church and worship, i’m always slightly bemused by the Forge stuff – which is giving birth to undeniably good stuff, but is certainly not the whole Australian emerging church story. it gets quite lonely when one’s theology / ecclesiology / practice doesn’t fit the predominant model.

  • I agree- we are in this together, and I would stand with Brian any day… that having been said…
    I think this type of thing will happen as long as “Emergent” continues to be confused with “emerging church.”
    Those who are currently steering Emergent (the organization) tend towards the theologically, shall we say, “adventuresome”… And because there are people all along the theological continuum who wish to identify with an “emerging/missional church”, those who are less theologically “adventuresome” will feel the need to clarify certain things- and even distance themselves from certain positions held by “Leaders” in “Emergent.”
    It seems as if one of two things is going to happen. Either “Emergent” will change its name (again, unfortunately for them), or those who resonate with the emerging church movement, but tire of defending themselves against critics of Brian, Tony, et al. (for theological positions or ideas they don’t really share) will settle on a different expression (like “organic church” or “missional church movement”) to tie them together and begin eschewing the word “emergent.”
    I wouldn’t necessarily think this a good thing, but it may happen nonetheless…
    I’ve said before, and Tony has disagreed with me, that Emergent needs to change its name. I know as an organization they want to serve the Emerging Church. But as long as they, and therefore their own individual theologies, are confused with the emerging church as a whole, people are going to continue the distancing, especially as the criticism ramps up.

  • Please be assured that what we have written is not a dismissal of Emergent and certainly not a distancing from Brian McLaren and what he stands for. I have immense and abiding respect, nay, reverence, for Brian. Our primary concern in drafting this document was to try and distinguish elements that make us different in terms of nuance and focus in order to try offset the collateral damage on the Australian missional church that has, and is, sadly taking place due to Carson’s book. The context for this is that we have labored long and hard to try and establish a small beach-head of legitimacy within the broader Aussie church, and we feared (with reason) that this debate could set the cause of the emerging missional church in Australia back significantly. Unfairly so. Hence the paper.
    It is quite true to say that the general issues of Emergent are not ones that we have in tended to focus on over the past few years. This is not to say that Brian’s works have not significantly advanced worldwide understanding of the issues that the church in the 21st Century must face. They certainly have. These are simply not Forge’s primary concerns. There *are* differences, but I am happy to say, with one of the other posts, that these are differences within the family.
    This document is therefore not primarily aimed at those within the EC, but at its critics and at the curious onlookers in our context. What we are really asking is that those who will criticize the emerging church as we experience it, then let them fully understand what they are criticizing and not subject all people in the various worldwide expression of the EC to a critique focused on a few of its significant spokespeople–as ill-informed as Carson’s critique may sometimes be. I think many of the responses that have been given to Carson’s book have clearly exposed the many flaws in it. It was not our purpose to add one more. Please believe me that our purposes were primarily pastoral by two guys on behalf a sometimes fragile emerging phenomenon. It would be tragic to see the remarkable thing that is just beginning to happen here being cut down in its infancy for all the wrong reasons!
    I am truly sorry that this might play itself out badly on brothers and sisters in common cause. We will try and limit any misunderstandings that our document might have caused. Brian, you are a legend. Stay true!

  • Alan, I appreciate the spirit of your comment, but I still wonder: is the posting of position papers really the way that we want the global EC conversation to continue? It seems to me to characterize the worst of the Protestant inclination to separate and differentiate from one another. Let’s embody another way of being the Body of Christ.
    Tony Jones

  • Tony,
    I’ve followed this conversation a bit from afar, and I’ve read the “position paper,” etc.. For what is worth…
    First, the best way to carry on a conversation is to be truthful, direct, and clear about what one has to say.
    Second, add to this the ability to listen to one another.
    I am seeing this in Andrew and Alan’s piece, and in your response as well.
    I’m trying to find my place in the emerging missional church, and I like all of this: I like the missional emphasis and I like the theological conversation and its philosophical discussions. Honest questions and provocative views will produce honest disagreements.
    No advice here: just this. This is the sort of conversation that needs to be had, for it will probably do less divisiveness if it is aired properly and charitably. There are different emphases, and as one who wants this emerging conversation to take place in an academic institution, what is going on here between Emergent US and Forge is for me part of the entire picture.
    Bless one another, I say, and speak your mind and we’ll listen in.
    Scot McKnight

  • I write as one whose life was changed by Brian McLaren – I sat under his preaching from 1988 until 2001 and served on his pastoral staff. Brian married Beth and me. He’s been such a blessing to us.
    Having said that, I am very sure that Forge, Emergent, and the Emerging Church all have something to learn from each other. I personally found the Forge document helpfully provocative.
    I respectfully suggest that we not be shocked that we have different perspectives on this ec thing going on but that we listen with humble respect – anxious to learn and to listen. If we concern ourselves more with the substance of what’s being said and less about the lines, we’ll grow larger.
    fwiw

  • Carson v. Emergent v. Forge

    Seems the nice folks at Forge in Australia have released a position paper written on their behalf by Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch of TSOTTC fame. The paper is a response to D.A. Carson’s Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church, which is s…

  • As a noboby just trying to apply this missional stuff in an Aussie city I’m deeply grateful to peope like Al and Mike who can offer some informed clarity among all the confusing conversations out there.
    I found the Forge paper very helpful and reassuring and want to thank those who went to the trouble to produce and post it.

  • as one who’s eavesdroping on all this … I appreciate the honesty, and civility in the conversation through the comments of this post. This is a helpful model of how we can progress forward.
    when the criticisms on Emergent, emerging church and Brian specifically was growing …especially this year, it made me pause and wonder how I should proceed especially as some of us have a growing friendship with each other.
    There were temptations to “avoid” any conflict by perhaps “distancing” myself (as I was just getting started to “intentionally” gather people for more “open” conversations and it looked promising) , someone asked me perhaps we should have a statement or something .. Furthermore, many things are still at the beginning stage here in my context, and I was concerned that the criticisms would affect us even just to start “carving” some space for people to interact.
    but I chose not to “distance” myself and be little “patient”… simply because we are friends and I respect all the hard work and thinking that has gone through in this conversation thus far (especially through Brian). And i also did not want to be reactionary or having a knee-jerk reaction. I chose silence and patience while quietly working (and bloggin)
    and yet, I felt I needed to “understand” better the context on my friends engaged in the conversation in USA, UK, and Australia. And recent interactions with Tony for example has helped me in regards to the USA context (previous interactions with Jason Clark helped for UK). This helped me to clarify where are we different and how can we proceed. And when people ask me questions about all things emergent or emerging church, I could give a more informed confident answer/reply (and it’s not an answer from a distance like reading a book but because we have a relationship and we’ve talked face-to-face which makes a big difference).
    So, for all its worth, thanks to all who have charted the way and are still on the way together …

  • I continue to be vexed by this string of comments. While I may have been a little quick on the trigger in my first comment, I simply will not abide when others caricature and mischaracterize my friends. DA Carson’s book caricatures Brian, and I believe that this paper mischaracterizes him.
    Thus, I am NOT attempting to chill out debate and dialogue. No, indeed those are among the foremost values for Emergent and for me as a theologian. However, we should have some ground rules for positive and healthy engagement. For instance, let’s always start by giving one another the benefit of the doubt.
    Emergent in the U.S. may seem like the group that everyone needs to position themselves over against, but I think that’s unwise. It has taken us a while to undo the damage done by misunderstandings between the U.S. and the U.K. Why are we suddenly going down this road again?
    Finally this: it’s not either missional or theological.
    It’s missional and theological.
    The two are inseparable, and they must both be rigourously pursued. Bad theology begets bad missiology…and vice versa. Can’t we work together on this rather than say “we’re more this and they’re more that”?
    “Divide and conquer” they say. Let’s not let them be right.

  • Tony
    I hear you bro. But I really do think you are being overly defensive. And I CAN understand this given the circumstances. But as I said before, our primary reason for writing the paper is to guard against unnecesary fallout on the EMC in Australia. I am genuinely sorry if this effects you negatively. But I think it is unfair if the whole movement suffers because of the books and debates others are having in different countries. Surely you can understand this. What if Carson wrote against Forge (a real possibility). Would Emergent want to cop the flack that we are taking–at great expense to your movement?? C’mon. Don’t be so narrow in your need for solidarity. I certainly wouldn’t want crap aimed at me to fall on everyone else. Let others defend you–they have done so eloquently. You need not defend yourself.
    Besides, presumably if one is willing to write books, one must be willing to take the heat (even personally) when and if it comes. I’ve had this too. Some people hate ‘Shaping’ and what Forge stands for. I know what it is to be misunderstood and amligned. Its part of prophetic ministry in every age.
    Furthermore, the blogosphere is full of diverse opinions: We cannot afford to get too touchy when ‘positioning’ (your terminology not mine) takes place. And we can’t on the one hand use blogs (as EV clearly does) to create diverse opinion,and then complain when that diverse opinion does not suit us.
    Anyhow, I for one do not want ‘divide and conquer’ but I do seek a vigorous diversity that can hold together around a profound and believing unity.

  • Good morning, everyone.
    I just took the link away, at Hamo’s request.
    I was just reading about the conversation last year when FORGE came to UK and the two countries examined each other in light of the different movements. No one got defensive, since both countries were secure in their “unity” enough to explore their diversity.
    This is part of what I blogged . . .
    “Thanks to Mike Frost (Sydney) and Alan Hirsch (Melbourne) for stimulating the conversation and providing a great working model (FORGE). The English admitted FORGE was further down the road in its integration than what they currently have, but acknowledged that England has a plethora of training resources and needs to find a way to pull all the elements together.” link
    I think its fair for each country and each movement to assess its own particular strengths and assets as it works with other countries. The English admitted the Aussies, despite being uncouth and feral, and at times totally primitive [ok – i put that in myself . . .might actually be ahead in some areas (integrated training program) and learning from UK in others [how to cook a decent curry].
    Americans, who have a reputation for seeing the world in two groups – those FOR us or those AGAINST us – might need some extra lovin’ when the various countries and networks begin to show their colours, and maybe the time right now is to highlight the extraordinary accomplishments of Emergent Village – who determined to bring their missional church conversation to the spotlight of the mainstream American church for a hearing .. . and have acheived that par excellence.

  • O’ Skinny Kiwi
    Thanks for your marvellous, but strange, mediation on these matters. But what else can we expect from the strange and marvellous man that you are-especially for a mixed up Kiwi. Actually, I felt that *some* of the the Poms (that’s what we Aussies the English–stands for Prisoners of Mother England) were sometimes quite harsh with us. It got quite personal really. The Americans have been far more generous.

  • If the issue is caricatures and misrepresentations of Brian’s theological positions, I’m wondering if it would make sense for Brian to address these in greater detail at some point?
    I know he’s provided a brief statement and pointed to others, but I have often wished that Brian could respond in greater detail himself.
    I have really appreciated the irenic tone that he and others have established. He has responded less defensively to Carson than we have with each other in this discussion!
    Anyway, as someone who appreciates and has been blessed by all the major players in this conversation – thanks for what you’re doing, even in all of this.

  • Daryl: on that point, rest assured that private conversations are currently taking place.
    Alan: Again, sorry that you think I’ve been overly defensive of a friend. To be honest, we in the leadership of Emergent-U.S. have bent over backwards to not write or say things that could be taken as disparaging of another EC group. Ask the Brits, who have several times criticized us via blogs for getting into partnership with “big business” for publishing and events. Those posts have led to some very painful interactions.
    We will, however, affirm or criticize ideas and thoughts. You can ask anyone who knows me (including TSK), I LOVE debate (too much, my wife says). But the point here continues to be that Brian, a brother at the front of the EC global movement, was misrepresented in a paper by others in the fold. Why isn’t that being addressed?
    I think we should challenge one another’s ideas as rigourously as possible, but let’s just make sure that the ideas we’re challenging really are the ideas of the other.
    (And I’m happy to be tagged as defensive if I’m defending something worthwhile.)

  • Point taken Tony. What we responded to in the paper was deliberately the view that Carson maintained/painted of Brian because we wanted to address the readership of his book (not Emergent.) As you know Brian and I have been chatting and I wish to point out here to any wider audience that Brian himself rejects Carson’s caricatures of him. We didn’t try and correct this because others have done it far more eloquently than we have and know Brian better than we do. And again I must point out, that was not our purpose. I am pained that our paper seemed to further victimize Brian and Emergent.
    And Tony…Bravo! what a friend you are bro! Defending someone you love so eloquently and passionately. Its great to see and experience. Brian is blessed to have you as his buddy. You can be mine anytime!

  • Why can’t we be friends … Jordon offers a worthy goal …

    Conversations may present dilemmas. Body language and tone stir the listener occasionally more than words. For about eight months I have been calling for conversations; despite how tricky they may be from time to time. It seems to me those of us who ar…

  • As it should be. So we’re all agreed, then… everybody is (jointly and severally) distancing themselves from the caricature that DA Carson criticized — even Brian McLaren, who isn’t fairly represented by the caricature.

  • Well, it’s amazing what one can sleep through!
    The discussion that began with the Forge paper needs to continue. I see potential potholes in the road ahead for the emergent, missional church, perhaps a detour or two.
    Carson’s book and the way the emerging church was depicted in the R&ENW report CAN precipitate a period of clear, charitable, critical evaluation from within. And–properly done, mind you–that can be a very healthy thing.

  • “how good and how pleasant it is . . ”
    thanks for your comments everyone.
    seems like another precious ecumenical moment for us all.
    I think those of us who have cast our lot in with the emerging church movement around the world, in its many incarnations and movements and conversations, need to stay open to critism from our critics but we must not accept definition from them, lest we compromise our integrity to pacify their description.

  • Alan:
    Amen. Sorry for my earlier snippiness. I count you as a friend from here on out, and you can expect rabid defenses from me here on out!
    Peace.

  • hey guys . . . quit getting soppy on my blog or i will have to kick you off – how can i keep a hard edge going with you guys blubbering on each other’s shoulder?
    any more and i will ban the pair of you!!!

  • I just came home and felt “better” after reading all the comments so far. I can sleep well tonight and with gratitude that we’re moving forward … together!

  • Forge and Emergent

    While some may characterize this as another emergent train wreck, the recent Forge/Emergent issue has a lot to teach us.
    Firs, some important posts:Hamo’s original post, now sans-pdf, but with several defensive-esque comments from Tony JonesTSK pick…

  • DA Carson and his book are obviously very powerful forces. The “Forge” folks have felt threatened enough to defend themselves before they are truly criticized, a sort of pre-emptive apologetic, if I am following the conversation correctly. I couldn’t find the paper at the end of the link, too busy working my day job to keep up, so I am at a disadvantage. Tony felt Brian’s toes being stepped on, and yelled ouch! on his behalf. It is interesting, the entire process. As an observer, and a journalist, I would like to note, that the church that is emerging is God’s own. No critic will stand against it. If it is a movement, it is His movement, and it will go where He wills it. I have been writing about God’s next-wave for nigh on to 7 years now. When I started I was discouraged because I couldn’t see that anything was happening. It didn’t take long for me to realize that there was plenty happening, just most of it was under the radar…Now that the “cover” is blown, the critics will take their pot shots! Be encouraged Alan, the Carson’s and your critics down under can’t stop what God’s Spirit is doing! Differentiate all you want, but keep on the mission He has called you to. Likewise Tony, Andrew and the rest…It will be fun to see what criticism and persecution will do to spread the missional “virus.”
    Blessings…

  • You guys
    shame on you no-one is really reading this stuff anyway, no-one really cares except for a select few “bloggers” in the blogosphere. Why don’t you all walk away from your computers and go and meet some real people outside of the blogosphere. Nice try though.

  • Lies and Damn Lies and the Christianity-Industrial Complex

    Beware the power of the Christianity-Industrial Complex.
    In recent weeks, the heat has been turned up by evangelicals and theologians on the just simmering pot that is Emerging Church. During the ensuing storm, Brian McLaren has taken most of the strike

  • Emergent-US and Forge: The conversation we had to have

    In a recent position paper Forge Missional Training Network (Australia) distanced themselves from Emerging Church movements in the United States and UK in their response to DA Carson’s “Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church”.

  • I am very surprised to follow this censorship of a document that has been posted on the Net, and very surprised that so many bloggers have de-linked it. A truly remarkable notion in the new millenium for such post-modern folk to be doing.
    Or is it more about some seismic cracks beginning to appear in the whole emerging scene and some rearguard action to keep it all beneath the surface? Good old fashioned church politics, just with new vocabulary!

  • and yet what great commitment to unity and fellowship in the emerging church . . . as well as a commitment to respect privacy of documents written not for universal viewing but just for a small group.
    we are all free to talk about it, if anyone is interested . . . but not free to force private documents into the public realm.

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