Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Disorganised Christianity?

Having posted yesterday about Theo Hobson's recent Guardian articles on Pete Rollins and Kester Brewin, and begun an interesting conversation on the question of institutionalism, I found (via Jonny Baker) another in The Spectator which reviews a Grace event from a view months back: "In Search of Disorganised Religion." And here's another one on alternative worship from Ship of Fools,"Anyone for Really Alternative Worship," where Hobson raises the question of radically re-thinking ritual to detach it from institutionalism and explains a personal park ritual that he engages in with his family. At the end of the Ship of Fools feature, he writes:

Some will say that my rejection of institutionalism is naive: if this ritual in the park were to catch on, then surely it too would become a sort of institution, with a tacit orthodoxy.

And this is the danger that Kester has been warning about in his recent posts on retreating into institutionalism. How do we avoid the fetishisation of permanence? But I've also asked Kester what his thoughts are on the intimately connected question of: How do we avoid the fetishisation of the temporary?

Exploring this question might forestall the concerns of many that a valid criticism of the structural violence of institutions is being translated into a critique of the personal choice some have made to become ordained.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Emerging Church Article

My Expository Times article, "'I Hate Your Church; What I Want is My Kingdom': Emerging Spiritualities in the UK Emerging Church Milieu" gets a mention over at The Immanent Frame, a communal interdisciplinary blog that posts about secularism, religion and the public sphere.

Emerging Beyond Institutional Christianity?

Two recent articles have appeared in The Guardian reflecting on the "new recipe/model" for Christianity "frustrated" with institutional and establishment Christianity. Theo Hobson's first piece, "A New Recipe for Christiainty," is on Pete Rollins and his second, "A New Model Christianity," is on Kester Brewin's use of Hakim Bey's notion of "temporary autonomous zones" in his book, Other: Loving Self, God and Neighbour in a World of Fractures.

The mentions in the UK press come at a time when Kester has been debating with others in the emerging church blogosphere the question of the possibilities for relationship between emerging and established forms of church and theology. Here are the posts that I've been reading recently:

Having also read Other, I've been slow to write my own response. But I'll post about it as soon as I can.

What these posts and responses also show is how hard it is to articulate a critique of the structural move back into institutional roles without offending the people's life choices.

Anyway, some choice quotations from the posts by Kester:

"I sense that because things have been hard, people have retreated back to the safety and security of the institutions. The leaders that emerged in the previous decade have ‘gone higher’ and tended more towards liturgical forms, and typically found some kind of route into ordination – even if that be some ‘new’ form of ordained leadership." (from here)

"it is the incredible hard work that movements have to do (not being ignored, opposed or co-opted is a big battle against large institutional momentum!) that is the problem. So many movements with so much going for them simply don’t make it. And while it is good that institutions do have some inertia to stop them being swayed by every little current, I do think that the balance is currently wrong – and this is why I would look for the TAZ influence in institutional processes: taking things down every once in a while and rebuilding" (here)

"An alternative reading could be that the institutions have ‘caught up’ and are now offering styles of training and inclusion into formal leadership that were previously unavailable. My concern is that this could be a political move on the part of the powerful: they can’t afford for a generation to up sticks and leave, so they find new ways to hold on to them, offering certain compromises in the knowledge that once they’re ‘in’ they can be ‘in-stitutionalised’ – made part of the firm." (here)

"this is not about the prodigal son going away and coming back to his good home. Here are prodigals with genuine issues about a dysfunctional family life, and what should be done in response to that." (here)

"We are communal people. We like to gather, to have community. And institutions – incorporations of our values and shared goals – are an inevitable part of life. I am not arguing here – contrary to Jonny’s interpretation – for a life beyond institutions, as we both know this is not possible. I am arguing for a new approach to corporate life though, at whatever zoom level you might take: small local groups and beyond." (here)

"In other words, I’m not arguing that relationships should be short-lived, nor that institutions – some formalising of these relationships around a shared goal or project – should not exist. Rather, I sincerely believe that while relationships are maintained in the informal work of eating and sharing lives together, the structures that form around them should be regularly deconstructed, and this will probably require the move away from full-time professionalised clergy." (here)

"TAZ does connect with the permanent [narrative of Christianity], but by emphasising the temporary, it avoids the violence that inevitably comes with attempting to build and defend permanent structures" (here)