A Response to Tony Jones

Tony, thanks for your post "Lonnie Frisbee and the Non-Demise of the Emerging Church". Some thoughts of mine in response.

The twittersphere condensed the key thought of my post into something i didn't intend to say and there was some confusion.

And the title's question mark didn't come out on the URL so the date seemed more like a statement than question.

So I will say this with room for tweets and retweets. Some of them have been tweetshrunk to fit 140 characters.

I have not read "The Decline of the Emerging Church" by Bill Dahl but will read it on Next-Wave when it appears.

As for a Marxist treatment of the word "radical", honestly, dude, I didn't even know Karl Marx had a surfboard.

"Demise" and "emergent" were your words, not mine.

I do think 2009 marked a transition into maturity for most of the 50 movements and groups I considered.

I posted on 10 types of emerging churches that have evidenced the transition to a level of maturity and acceptance here.

Lonnie Frisbee movie? I felt the 3 issues were marital infidelity, the lack of transparency and the historical cover-up.

[ ——— this line deleted upon request———–]

The second generation of leadership may NOT choose the "emerging church" label and probably wont.

Maybe your controversy among conservative churches has more to do with your theological positions than what kind of churches you are attempting to start.

I read your post from yesterday that recommends clergy refuse to do legal marriages. I thought it was unorthodox and threatening to marriages.

Your post on marriage was disturbing and controversial. So yes, there is controversy but . . .

The controversy you are stirring up seems unrelated to the main emphasis of the emerging church movement.

Thus the need for some of us to move on from the label and get on with the job.

Every blessing for 2010





Andrew Jones launched his first internet space in 1997 and has been teaching on related issues for the past 20 years. He travels all the time but lives between Wellington, San Francisco and a hobbit home in Prague.


  • andy says:

    comment deleted. sorry andy. touchy subject. i removed the line you referred to.

  • comment deleted. sorry mark. touchy subject. i removed the line you referred to.

  • andy says:

    Understandable, glad you removed it as to not distract from the otherwise healthy conversation happening with you and Tony!

  • Dennis Coles says:

    I cannot believe you removed it. It wasn’t an ad hominem but merely an observation that Tony fails to practice what he preaches with regards to being transparent about his life and his theology. How naïve do we have to be that his recent posts about marriage have nothing to do with his own life circumstances.
    I’m glad to see though that you’re not backing down to his intellectual posturing re: Marx and radicalism which he uses to try and out egg-head most of his sparring partners. You’re too smart for that.

  • Bill Kinnon says:

    It would seem that we all need to be “in the academy” to truly understand Brother Tony and his buddy, Groucho Marx.

  • Bill Kinnon says:

    My apologies. I meant, Harpo Marx, of course.

  • Mike Morrell says:

    Dennis, if you are insinuating that Tony is gay, then you truly have no idea what you’re talking about.
    Not, to paraphrase Seinfeld, that there’d be anything wrong with it if he was and was writing out of his personal experiences.
    Bill, you sound more and more acidic toward those with whom you disagree – as though they’re not being missional or loving their neighbors simply because they don’t line up with you theologically (or because they sound too high falutin’). On this growing more-missional-than-thou attitude in some, I echo Brother Maynard’s sadness:”>http://subversiveinfluence.com/2009/12/2009-the-subversive-year-in-review>sadness: “I’m saddened that within the emerging church, people who shared a pulpit at the beginning of the decade won’t share more than the time of day at the end of the decade. Though some of them will spend some time in criticism. You know who you are.”
    This is not to say that friends like Tony, Pete Rollins, Brian or others are somehow above critique – but when we cease to critique as friends and instead take potshots, it lessens the effectiveness of said critique by 100% and makes Jesus look bad.

  • Mike Morrell says:

    Andrew, can you please explain what you find ‘unorthodox and disturbing’ about Tony’s marriage post? The US was founded on the separation of Church and State, mostly because of fine theological work done by folks like the Anabaptists. What Tony is proposing in his posts – allowing the State to enact their legal marriage and the Church to perform Sacramental marriages at their discretion – has been advocated by US evangelicals for years, including by another Tony, Campolo. Who’s edgy, sure, but hardly ’emergent’ or avant-garde.
    Now, what I’m guessing you’re really disturbed about is Tony’s views on monogamous LGBT couples. And it’s true, like it or not, that in recent years many emerging/ent groups have come out with convictions that LGBT civil rights are justice issues near and dear to God’s heart. I’m imagining that you are gently-but-firmly ‘conservative’ on such issues, much like Stan Grenz in his ‘Welcoming But Not Affirming.’ And I’m guessing that many of the missions organizations who fund you and a plethora of missional/emerging/whatever endeavors throughout Europe and South America would not take kindly to the point of view that LGBT rights are a Gospel issue. As many pixels have been spilled in hurtful and unproductive debate on the history, theology, and spirituality of LGBT inclusion in the life and mission of the Church, I will not perpetuate another such online disaster here. I simply want to ask you, Andrew, if you think that LGBT-rights issues are coming from an avant-garde American minority who are making it difficult for the rest of you to go on with being missional? Or do you think that there are more voices (and not even necessarily ’emerging’ ones) in the UK and beyond who have been issuing similar clarion calls for years?
    LOL, I realize that last question sounded a bit rhetorical – ’cause it is. : ) I recall in 2003 when I enjoyed your family’s hospitality whilst Wabi-ing and Sabi-ing, and then Greenbelt-ing, that at the latter festival I saw a number of tents and programming tracks dedicated to LGBT rights, issues, and spirituality. Honestly, for this Bible-Belt raised Libertarian, it was quite the culture shock for me! UK Christians against trade liberalisation and for LGBT really rocked my world and changed my paradigms…in what I believe to be a Jesus-honoring way.
    All this to say: I think it might be disingenuous to regard queer faith interest as an aberrant American emergent import; we just might’ve learned such inquiry and concern from you all in the UK.

  • brambonius says:

    I tried to give a reply to the debate about marriage, but it became a blog post…: http://bramboniusinenglish.wordpress.com/2010/01/05/the-emerging-joneses-and-my-anarchist-marriage/

  • Bill Kinnon says:

    Your voice is strangely absent in critiquing Tony’s tone.
    At least I can claim consistency, now can’t I. 🙂

  • andrew says:

    hey its late and i need to go to bed now but
    . . .
    why did i find tony’s post unorthodox and disturbing?
    unorthodox because the VAST majority of church leaders would probably NOT join Tony in his crusade to “refuse” legal marriage. its what they train for and its what they do.its a pretty cool part of the job, actually.
    disturbing because the idea of sacramental wives and legal wives sounded just like the heresy in Germany that has decimated a particular ’emerging’ church movement and taken away a few thousand of their numbers into this wacky movement that promotes, among other things, a way for leaders to add spiritual wives to their harem.
    having said that, i asked a German friend from the movement (Peter Friesen is here with us right now) that saw this heresy and there is actually no connection at all with USA or Tony but warning bells went off anyway and and the post seemed to lessen the value of the legal wife which is always a concern to me . . . then one of the commenters on tony’s post says that divorce is what needs to happen for people to heal, grow and truly love for a moment there I thought I smelt something so yes, it was disturbing . . . and unorthodox.
    anyway, good night everyone.see you tomorrow.

  • becky says:

    Can I put a vote in for Monty Python as my go-to guys for theological reflection? IMNO, “Life of Brian” is one of the best flicks in depicting the dangers of following “the next big thing.” I cringe when I think of those times I worshiped someone other than Jesus. Like the obno black knights in “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” I hate when I go “ni, ni, ni” instead of opening myself up to what the Holy Spirit might have in store.

  • becky says:

    I meant IMHO. Oops.

  • Julie Jones says:

    ———— [deleted]————-
    Julie. Sorry. I decided to delete your comment (no one asked me to.) Feel free to try again but leave out the personal stuff.

  • brambonius says:

    I never heard about the situation you describe, and I would never make a dualism between ‘spiritual’ or ‘legal’ marriage if you’d read something like that in my blog post. I believe in one marriage (2 persons becoming one, lifelong) and my point is only that I see the legal side of it as culturally relative and not absolute… God is the definer of marriage, not any state or system.
    spiritual harems? Sounds more like a weird movie about cults to me. Not anything I would ever associate with Tony’s proposal to refuse to let do the marriage…

  • John Umland says:

    I appreciate your attempt to sharpen iron in this post. Faithful are the wounds of a friend.
    God is good

  • Perhaps every Christian tag tends to gather unwanted baggage from the moment it is created. I really appreciate the emphasis on finding creative ways to express our faith and be relevant and influential in the lives of people around us that the ’emerging church’ has brought us. But I now wonder if this term has in some quarters become too associated with some of the extremes of this movement. Rather than spend so much time and effort defending the label might it be better to abandon it?
    I much prefer the term missional.
    When it comes to the GLBT community I was very impressed reading Andrew Martin’s book Love Is An Orientation over the Christmas break. I get the impression that his writing comes out of practical missional engagement with that community. And I love the way it gives the ‘third alternative’ to what as been a two sided debate.
    On the issue of marriage I don’t see any problem with a distinction between legal marriage and a celebration of a union in a faith community. We got married in a register office and then had a celebration of this with our church. I can see that some people might want to role the two into one if they have a licensed building. But I was kind of glad that we didn’t as it did bring into focus these different aspects of marriage.

  • Mike Morrell says:

    Ah – well that explains a lot, Andrew – thanks for clarifying. I’m not familiar with the Germany situation, and that does sound odd. However, Tony’s not advocating that ministers stop doing “what they train for” and “a pretty cool part of the job;” in my reading he’s simply asking that Christian ministers consider doing so outside the aegis of the State.
    And – this is no slight to Tony’s originality in many areas – this is something that’s been suggested in America for at least 20 years by various mainstream – even stodgy – voices, and not by fringe cultic ones as far as I know. Postconsservative and postliberal scholars like Stanley Haerwas & Will Campbell, more popular teachers like Tony Campolo and others have responded to US Christian angst about different aspects of State marriage by suggesting that marriage is the sacred province of the Church to begin with, and that perhaps churches should exercise their consciences by performing marriages in line with them.
    In this way of re-visioning marriage (you could say re-traditioning marriage), probably 97% of people would still be married in the eyes of the Church (where granted), and the eyes of the State (where legal). I can’t imagine most people of faith – myself included – forgoing the tax benefits of State marriage. But disentangling to two would allow for greater integrity on both sides. In other words, if the State (or various individual states) wanted to recognize LGBT marriage, they could do so without the unnecessary stigma that some religious voters would seek to impose. On the other hand, more conservative congregations (and denominations) could restrict their marriage performance as they see fit, according to their consciences and reading of Holy Writ – that might include no gay marriage, and it might also include no divorcee marriage! Etc. And if that’s what the collective of members want, more power to them. And of course, more mainline churches or what have you can perform LGBT marriage ceremonies to their heart’s content. Which many are already doing, though they’re legally obliged to call them ‘blessings’ in states where outright marriage is still illegal. And it’s that corralling of conscience by the State – no matter where you fall on the ‘marriage issue’ – that rankles a diverse group of US Christians, whether flaming liberal or bible-beating fundamentalist. God bless the U S of A.
    Which is why, far from wife-swapping German cults, I don’t see this as a trojan (heh-heh, no pun intended) horse leading to unbridled polyamory, but rather something I’ve already witnessed from my growing-up homeschooled years. I’ve known people ranging from hipster anarchist Anabaptists to 6,000-year-old Young Earth creationists who have refused State marriage and opted for Church-only marriage. These marriages have all stayed together, polyamory-free. 🙂

  • sonja says:

    The problem with Tony’s post on marriage is that his whole argument is made null by his assumptions.
    Assumption 1 – only clergy can officiate weddings. Not true. A justice of the peace or other marriage officiant can sign that license. Or … you can be married right there on the spot and have the Clerk of [insert city or town here] sign it for you. My marriage license is signed and made official by the Clerk of the Town I was in. Our officiant (who happened to be a pastor) is nowhere on the document. One of my brother’s got married in a similar fashion, but his wedding officiant was a NPRanger. The other one pursued a more traditional route and their marriage was not official/legal until the wedding when the pastor signed it. A Universalist/Unitarian pastor.
    Assumption 2 – because of assumption 1, all clergy are therefore agents of the state. This would only be true if all a clergyperson did was to perform marriages. However, we all know that is not the case.
    Here’s a radical notion … let’s (in the church) make a stand for marriage by making all of them more valuable. I’m out on limb theologically because I don’t have a problem with same sex marriages. I don’t find it a problem. But if we church folks found a way to restore the sacramental/covenental role of marriage within our communities, we might have a voice worth listening to.
    It might just be that marriages could be more difficult to get into and (importantly) more difficult to get out of that would make them more valuable. Grandstanding only gives the rest of our society another excuse to discount the voice of the church.

  • tito says:

    I think rumours about Tony’s personal life will continue to cloud the conversation until he goes public with the reason for his divorce. It’s a sad fact and perhaps unfair. However it is reality that people will always speculate unless they know the truth.

  • Paul Roberts says:

    Whew, this has ignited some of the mightiest debates in/on ECM for ages! FWIW, I’ve posted my bit of liturgical church history on church/state/marrage relationships on Tony’s original post. As a liturgical history geek turned EC community facilitator, this is intriquing to me. However, some of the nuances of the US situation are, I know, passing me by.

  • Me says:

    ————– deleted ——————
    sorry. personal stuff. lets keep on topic.

  • Barry says:

    What makes a marriage in the eyes of God? Does it need to adhere to the culture in which it exists? Does some ’set-apart’ priest need to perform some ritual? Or can a man and a woman [or same sexed – not getting into that debate] just decide to consummate themselves to each other?
    As the ‘un-churched’ Christianity continues to grow, with the emphasis on the equality and the priest hood of all believers, is there a possibility that this is being raised or will be raise?
    Just some thoughts that were raised as I read these blogs.
    I do not think that what you have labeled assumptions on the part of Tony have anything to do with his post. He never said that ‘only clergy can officiate weddings’ or even that ‘all clergy are therefore agents of the state’.
    What he did say, IMHO, is that when a clergy officiating a wedding fulfills the states requirements in order for the marriage to be legal in the eyes of the state, in that moment they become ‘agents of the state’.

  • sonja says:

    Barry …
    Here’s the paragraph I took that assumption from … underlining is mine for emphasis.
    It is very odd to me that in the U.S., clergy act as agents of the government at weddings. In my state, for instance, the bride and groom apply for the marriage license at the county court house, but they don’t actually sign the license. Instead, it’s signed by a member of the clergy and by two witnesses.

      And, of course, without the clergy signature, it is invalid.

    The implication here is almost silly, that only clergy can be officiants. Or that only marriages performed in a church by clergy are somehow valid. Neither of these are true.
    It is somewhat more debatable about whether clergy are agents of the state when performing weddings. But since he uses this as a lynchpin of his argument, we must take it at face value.
    The rest of his argument hangs from these two premises and his call for clergy to stop performing weddings may have some value, but not based upon those premises. Personally, I don’t think it does. I tend to think there are other (albeit more difficult) ways in which we can support marriage (even marriage among same sex couples) that do not rely on grandstanding. But that’s all just my opinion … I was commenting on the logic, or lack thereof, in his argument.

  • Carl A. says:

    Wow, another space where Julie was silenced. You owe her an apology, if you haven’t already given her one.

  • Andrew says:

    Carl, thanks for your concern. I apologized to Julie a very long time ago and put up something more public on my new blog last June. http://tallskinnykiwi.com/2014/06/emergent-dust-storm/ Julie’s response is also there.

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