Emergent Dust Storm

Emergent Dust Storm

Yesterday I bought the brand new bookThe Deconstructed Church: Understanding Emerging Christianity, by authors Gerardo Marti and Gladys Ganiel. I hope to review it after having a proper read over a good coffee but first I need to deal with one sentence in the book that bugs me and might affect the tone of my review. It’s that little sentence where I (yes, me) killed the emerging church, or almost killed it.

In fact, Tickle argues there was a crisis within Emergence Christianity (the term she uses for the ECM as a whole) in 2009 and 2010, which crystallized when Andrew Jones asked “if 2009 was to be the end of the Emergent ethos.” Jones’s comments stirred debate within the movement and ultimately revealed plenty of life.”

The original passage quoted here is from Emergence Christianity: What is is, Where its going, and Why it matters, where Phyllis Tickle says,


“By 2009, enough once-ardent Emergences had begun to withdraw themselves from active conversations and blog exchanges, that, sotto voce, some observers were beginning to wonder whether or not they had been mistaken. Would the current Emergence responses to the Great Emergence prove themselves to have been no more than ecclesial Will-o-the-wisps? Was this it, or were we to wait for another, after all? Even the Tall Skinny Kiwi, Anthony [sic] Jones, asked publicly whether 2009 was to be the end of the Emergence ethos. He kicked up a huge dust storm when he did that, of course, proving that there was more life in the beast than he had thought. (Proving also, we should add, that greater discretion in the future about what one chooses to kick might be a good idea!)”

Fact is, I never said “Emergence” nor did I say “Emergent”. Neither did I say “ethos”. For what I really said, which was focused on the global scene rather than USA, read the whole post and the follow up. While I appreciate the idea that my post created so much interest in Emergent Village and the wider movement, the fact is that the “dust storm” was already there without my help and I found myself deep inside it.


How can it be POPULAR?

Here’s my side of the story, for what its worth. Some of you may remember a rumour about an impending article for a big mag on the “Death of Emergent” and it had a lot of people asking questions and some people running scared. The writer of the phantom article was investigating the leadership ranks of Emergent over accusations of sexual immorality, cover-up, threats, misogyny, bullying and a purging of internet sites to delete evidence. None of us seemed to know if these accusations had any legs. I suggested the leadership tell us what was going on rather than having people find out second hand.

I had some harsh conversations with EV leaders, as reflected in some of my posts – which are awkward to read with all the deletions. In the end, I was assured that all the accusations were false and ungrounded. And it turned out that the big sensational article that was going to bring down Emergent Village was never published. But  during the heated discussions, I was “de-friended”, thus my “Goodbyes to Emergent” post.

A “strident sanctification debate”, DA Carson might say.


I had the group liquidated. They were insolent!

“In the movies, the villain is always the coolest person.” TJ Jones

It was a crazy week and there are still plenty of posts out there describing the dust storm. John Piper went ballistic on youtube, saying the EC leaders lives were in “shambles“. The posts from critics like Pyromaniacs Village Idiots and Ken Silva’s Emergent Discord and Pain gave even more background but despite the attempts at clarity, word got out that TSK was announcing death over the Emerging Church and the rumours spread like Chinese whispers.

For the record, I never said “demise”, “death”, “obituary”, or “RIP”. I think people were expecting someone to say it and they jumped the gun. Or as Mark Driscoll once said, “Mistakes were made!”

And with Emergent Village closing its doors earlier this year as an organization (although still operating as a very interesting Facebook group and as a channel on Patheos to which I have been graciously invited to publish whenever I want – and have done a few times) I think it opens the conversation up as to whether we [bloggers] all did the right thing on that crazy caffeine-induced week of January 2010, during the dust storm [or “firestorm”] the week of The Great Emergence Purge? Also, the recent departure of Tullian from The Gospel Coalition last month was, for me, an encouragement towards leaving groups respectfully, but also with truthfulness and transparency. A good example for us all.

Looking back, I may have been too harsh and snarky towards Emergent Village and for that, I am sorry for any distress I may have caused it.

I may have been too secretive and mysterious about my disconnection with Emergent Village and for that, I am sorry for any miscommunication that may have happened.

And lastly, I may have been too hasty to dismiss and delete the comments of women who claimed to be victims, and for that, I am sorry I did not stand with you. Please forgive me. I hope my next blogging season will be more honest, vulnerable and transparent.

UPDATE (Sep 21, 2014) – I added Julie’s comment because the comments disappeared.

JULIE – Submitted on 2014/06/25 at 10:51 am

Thank you, Andrew. I forgive you wholeheartedly, and feel your stand with me now all these years later. My children and I were delivered from the Emergent church. It was not a blessing for me and my family, but bore only rotten fruit. From my view it was money, male ego, greed, and sin.

I truly was a victim of key Emergent Village leaders and betrayed by my own pastor at the Emergent church where I worshipped in Minneapolis. My children forever changed. Scarred. I’m still waiting for their public apology. They know exactly who they are, and what they did. It was wrong. It was sin. It was about silencing the ugly truth to preserve book deals and speaking gigs. An expensive bus tour with a large sponsor from a publishing house.

The “discernment letter” written by the six of them that night in Dallas, Texas will go down as one of the most ungodly acts against a woman done by men who claim to be of God, progressive, pro-feminist, Christianity 21. Plus, discernment 101 requires that I would be part of it, and not just the husband FYI. I did not even know these men.

All this “discernment” in an attempt to cover up an affair.

My own pastor at the time covering up my husbands adulterous affair in order to save his own career. Especially heinous!

Sadly, the Emergent “conversation” went silent when I attempted to talk about this sin, and sought healing and redemption from those involved. No one cared to “discern” the irrefutable evidence I offered to show them even saying, “Please don’t send it to me. I don’t want to know.”

Because God is bigger I still wait in hope for those men to step forward and say, “I’m sorry, Julie. That was wrong.” I will warmly forgive them.

That was years ago now. Those were crazy times. A $140,000 book advance for a bus tour from Zondervon publishing. An affair would have been quite messy, quite untimely.

To this day, it is all neatly denied and the “Julie is crazy campaign” rocks on to rationalize bad behavior, but why else would six men try so vehemently to have me silenced…even flying one of them “at great expense” to Minneapolis with the sole mission to get Julie locked up…flew the red eye to get that done…all that work to try and have a sane woman committed to rationalize an affair, and a rapid divorce? Sick, sick stuff.

When their plan failed due to my sanity (much to their dismay) my pastor said, “I bet I can find you a hospital to admit you.” Speechless.

I was instructed the only way my husband would stay married to me is if I committed myself…I found out later he had already retained a divorce lawyer and was in full swing with his now wife.

The intake nurse said, “Honey, you don’t need to be admitted here, but you do need a good lawyer.”

Those words turned out to be prophetic. Despite my attempts they never spoke to me again, but the heinous rumors came back to me. Very hurtful. Betrayal. Lies.

I believe it is time for forgiveness and healing. Which one of you will be brave enough to start that “conversation?”



Update 20.Jan.2015

Weird. I checked the comments on this thread and they are all gone. Not sure what happened but i am glad i included Julie’s comment on my actual post. Does anyone have the whole comment thread that they can send me?

 Update 13 Feb 2015

I have noticed a lot of discussion on this issue over the past few weeks and the issue is a lot more public than it was 5 years ago. I would love to see some illumination and clarity on the issue.

I told Tony Jones many years ago that if he posted some information that would provide clarity then I would point to it. As it turns out he has done that so I want to fulfil my promise. Tony has written a statement that he has posted. [It has been taken down [404] but when it returns, I will put a link to it here.]

Supporters of Tony have placed their statements here. You will see the endorsement of Phyllis Tickle and other friends like Brian McLaren, Doug Pagitt, and Pete Rollins.

A few other blogs have picked up the conversation and are discussing it.

– Naked Pastor had a very popular post where Julie tells more of her story in the comments and Tony, Doug, Brian and others make an appearance to offer clarity.

– RL Stoller, The Evidence Against Tony Jones, who also gives suggested readings on the topic.

– Libby Anne has some thoughts: The Tony Jones Affair: Releasing the Documents. 

– Wartburg Watch: Brian McLaren Responds. Julie’s In, and Mediation will be moving forward.

If you have info that sheds light on this whole situation and helps us all to find resolution, then please leave a link in the comments below (I am trying to turn them on but have been struggling with comments on this post.)

About The Author

Andrew Jones
As a wandering mystic and storyteller who has been blogging since 1997, I am discovering that the simple and mundane things in life are often more blogworthy. I hope this new season of blogging will invigorate me and will not bore you too much. Thanks for hanging in there.