Rankin File

Ruminations, fulminations, and cogitations on the spiritual life

Thank You, Tony

We just finished Builders in Ministry Week at Southwestern College.  It is our third annual and we’re excited about how this event is developing.  (Next year, it’s scheduled for February 23-25.  I hope you’ll consider coming.)

Our featured speaker this year was Tony Jones, author of The New Christians: Dispatches from the Emergent Frontier.  As usual, he provoked some stimulating conversation.

My takeaway from Tony’s time with us: (1) Emergents are really sensitive about how power is exercised in the church. To pick just one topic where power implications surfaced, Tony made what some would say are pretty extreme statements about ordination. Because they take the priesthood of all believers so seriously, Solomon’s Porch, the congregation to which Tony belongs in Minneapolis doesn’t ordain, or, more precisesly, they’ll ordain anybody. Reason? They don’t believe that anyone in the church should be invested with such sacerdotal power, so they subvert the notion of “clergy” with their views and practices on ordination.

(2) Emergents are very concerned about ingrained assumptions in both traditional denominational churches as well as independent evangelical churches. Since every ministry has to be thoroughly rooted in its context, assumptions about who does what and why (see #1, for example) must not go unexamined. Everything must be thought about, even the kind of seating arrangement you have in worship.

(3) Emergents are exceedingly nervous about cookie-cutter anything, so don’t go copying them. Solomon’s Porch has become famous because of their approach to discipleship. But the last thing that Tony (or Doug Pagitt or any of the Solomon’s Porchers – be careful how you read that word!) wants is for the rest of us to do church the way Solomon’s Porch does church. Maybe one of the biggest mistakes of modernism is the fixation we have on copying somebody’s method. I think the Emergent leaders are telling us, “Don’t do church the way we do. Do church the way God is calling you to do church in your community!

For these reasons, I say, thank you, Tony. I’d still like to pick a few bones with you, but, for now, thanks.

(For another view of Tony’s time at Southwestern College, see “A Long Obedience,” ashleealley.blogspot.com.)


February 21, 2009 - Posted by | Religion, The Church | , , , , , ,


  1. steve – i’m saddened about having to leave early. any more expounded thoughts from the q&a session?

    Comment by Todd J | February 21, 2009 | Reply

  2. We ought to talk. Yes, some good insights came from the Q and A, but not all of them are happy thoughts!

    Comment by steverankin | February 21, 2009 | Reply

  3. Steve:

    I was blessed to be there. I’m glad you found some things to disagree with — what fun would unanimity be?!?


    Comment by tony jones | February 21, 2009 | Reply

  4. Here’s hoping our paths cross again.

    Comment by steverankin | February 21, 2009 | Reply

  5. I identify very gutturally (if I can say that) with these three points that you have summarized from the week. This is one of those times when although you and I both love Wesley and perhaps even Methodism I feel that I am of a different stock essentially. These three points, even from my Evangelical days, resounded with me. And as Aaron would quickly point out, I am VERY wary formulas dealing with people because formulas are for numbers not people (and even in math there is no guarantee that the formula corresponds directly to reality). This (I think, I hope) is what PoMos and emergents feel on the matter in many cases and I’m sure you know all the philosophical underpinnings that I am woefully uneducated on.

    Next, I would like to ask you about what you disagree with in his views. Maybe I should set up a meeting with you about that. That’s what I’ll do. Also, we need to talk about church (and Methodism again).

    Comment by John B. | February 24, 2009 | Reply

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