Archive for December, 2005

Emergent-S3K Controversy

Friday, December 30th, 2005

A little bit of controversy is a great way to launch S3K’s new blog….

The upcoming meeting of leaders in Emergent and the S3K Leadership Network Working Group on Emergent Sacred Communities has generated some unexpected controversy, even drawing the attention of The Revealer.

On the “pro” side, Ryan Bolger (who is a key particiapnt) is excited about the gathering. Among J-bloggers, Velveteen Rabbi’s Rachel Barenblat writes,

It’s easy to get bogged down in our divergent doctrines and theologies, but if we can acknowledge our differences and put them aside, we can learn tremendous things from one another. Three cheers for the people from S3K and Emergent who are brave enough to begin the conversation.

And what a conversation it’s been: Joe Kennedy has a comprehensive round-up of Christian bloggers’ reactions to the Emergent-S3K gathering. Timmy summarizes some of the key questions. Adam Cleaveland‘s post features some apparently Jewish comments. And Scot McKnight hosted a couple (1, 2) of particularly worthwhile conversations.

xphiles is broadly supportive though rightly warns that “for either group to neglect that which makes it distinctive from the other would be unfaithful to themselves, each other, and the God who called both Israel and the Church into being.” On that point, as I’ve written privately to a couple of people, it may be worth mentioning that this is not a “lets-get-together-and-hug” interfaith dialogue. I would not describe this meeting as a particularly fruitful opportunity for evangelism (by anyone), but neither should there be any expectation that anyone at the table compromise on his or her religious integrity.

Both Doug Pagitt and Tony Jones, two of my counterparts at Emergent, have jumped into the fray as well, defending the meeting. Doug observes,

It is interesting to see how off of reading a press release, not knowing any of the people involved from the Synagogue group that you would assume that ‘they cannot be part of the things of Jesus’. It just seems that this conversation would be benefitted by a gracious spirit …that wants to join with those who are working toward the things of God"s agenda in and for the world and not go through this word-play parsing of what part of the kingdom of God people are in.

Tony writes,

We"re simply meeting with a couple dozen rabbis who are trying to rethink American Judaism and synagogue life along many of the same lines that we are rethinking American Christianity and church life. We"re going to meet, talk, eat, hang out, and get to know one another. We"re going to talk about God, about how to plant a church/synagogue, about our lives and families and finances. We"ll probably pray together.

That’s all true, except that there probably is some disagreement about what it means to be “part of the things of Jesus” (who after all, was a Jewish rabbi, a liberal Pharisee, and thus in many ways a forerunner of the authors of the Talmud), and it probably is more accurate to say that many of us will be present for one another’s prayers. In our inter/trans/postdenominational Jewish group we have rabbis with a variety of opinions about whether it is permitted to pray with someone of a different faith, not to mention taking part in the prayer service of a different faith. We are planning some joint text study, specifically of Isaiah, the Prophetic reading for the week we meet. The point clearly will not be to arrive at some ultimate shared understanding of the text (impossible normally and clearly inappropriate here) but to tease out multiple meanings and learn about one another by learning how one another reads & interprets.

The interreligious exchange will respect the integrity of our respective faith traditions (not to mention our positions across the spectrum within each tradition). The individuals who are coming to the gathering — both Jewish and Christian — are congregational innvators, leaders in “out of the box” spiritual communities. The purpose of the meeting is to share experiences and to exchange ideas.

For what it’s worth to critics, supporters, and the simply curious alike, Synagogue 3000 will be making audio & video clips of the gathering available on a soon-to-be much expanded website after the meeting. There will be plenty of evidence to document the fidelity (or lack thereof) of any given Christian or Jewish leader to whatever position one might wish him or her to attack or defend. No doubt there will be a number of people saying, “I told you so”; I’m just not predicting who! (Check back in late January / early February for that.)

With that, we wish you a Chanukah sameach, Shabbat shalom, Rosh Chodesh tov, and happy new year 2006!

Socialized through Gregarious 42