Tag Archives: gospel

A Cautionary Tale: Tony Jones’ Demand for a Schism

On November 22nd Emergent Christianity leader Tony Jones boldly declared that it’s time for a schism within the Protestant church.  If you don’t know who Tony Jones is, he’s a prominent figure within the Emergent Christian tribe.  He’s very smart and thoughtful and always provides an interesting perspective to the mix.  Don’t know what a “schism” is?  It’s when you willfully and intentionally break off (i.e. divorce) from a group on the grounds that you hold beliefs that are so radically opposed to each other that fellowship is simply not possible.

In his post he wrote the following:

The time has come for a schism regarding the issue of women in the church. Those of us who know that women should be accorded full participation in every aspect of church life need to visibly and forcefully separate ourselves from those who do not. Their subjugation of women is anti-Christian, and it should be tolerated no longer.

That means:

  • If you attend a church that does not let women preach or hold positions of ecclesial authority, you need to leave that church.
  • If you work for a ministry that does not affirm women in ecclesial leadership, you need to leave that ministry.
  • If you write for a publishing house that also prints books by “complementarians,” you need to take your books to another publishing house.
  • If you speak at conferences, you need to withdraw from all events that do not affirm women as speakers, teachers, and leaders.

That is, we who believe in the full equality of women need to break fellowship with those who do not.

**deep breath***

Ok, I need to be honest and say that the following thoughts are neither carefully thought out or overly prepared/edited.  I don’t have time to carefully address everything I’d like to within Tony’s post (or the Emergent church more broadly speaking).  So I’m going to throw down some visceral reactions and hope they are helpful as a word (or two) of caution.

Big Picture: I get that Tony Jones is passionate about the issue of women and church leadership.  It’s a very important issue.  It’s so important, I can’t imagine anyone (regardless of where they fall on the egalitarian/complementarian spectrum) being dispassionate about it.  However, it’s genuinely sad to see someone’s passion override common sense and basic Christian charity towards their brothers and sisters in Christ.

Here are some scattered thoughts and reactions:

1.  I’ve done my homework on the egalitarian/complementarian debate, and while I hold to strong egalitarian convictions, issuing a clarion call for schism (i.e. an intentional act of division) from churches and other Christians who don’t not hold the same conviction is shamefully short-sighted, self-serving, and ungracious.  Doubly so when you throw around terms like “misogyny” and “subjugation” which are words that do nothing but build upon a caricature of the complementarian position.

2.  If you’re going to call for a schism from a large section of the church, you better know what and who you’re dividing from.

“Having grown up in a church that ordained women, allowed women to lead, and had women preachers, it is honestly shocking to me to continue to run into so-called “complementarians.” I don’t meet them in real life — I just see them in the blogosphere, on Facebook and Twitter. And friends of mine like Rachel Held Evans and Sarah Bessey assure me that they exist.”

Let’s divide from a group of people who I have little to no contact with relationally, simply because their views strike me as “obviously” dumb and anchored in hate and ignorance.  Talk about an unwise and totally uncharitable posture towards other Christians who hold differing convictions to you.

3. Be very wary of anyone who upholds a core value of Jesus, only to immediately sidestep its radical and difficult implication.

“I very much take Jesus’ prayer for unity in the Fourth Gospel seriously…But…”  

Many people reading  Tony’s post would have been justified in closing the tab on their browser after that second sentence.  Especially after the rest of the post shows no willingness to work towards unity with complementarians.

4.  Think (deeply) before you declare.

“I don’t know what a schism looks like in the 21st century.”

Don’t call for a schism when you haven’t thought through what–exactly–you’re inviting people into.  If you don’t have a handle on the shape a schism would/should take, then don’t call for one, because you evidently haven’t thought through any systemic ramifications.  That’s immature and reactionary, not mature and visionary.  Throughout Tony’s post I was haunted by the wisdom of Richard Rohr: ” It’s so much easier to be over and against something than to be in love with something.”

5.  When you disagree with the convictions of another Christian, don’t resort to caricatures of their position that demean, dismiss, or ridicule.  Tony Jones’s post is laced with language (e.g. “subjugation,” “mysogony,” “archaic”) that is designed to frame the entire complementarian camp as anti-women and hate-fueled.  It’s profoundly disappointing to see a thoughtful leader like Tony Jones resort to that kind of tactic.  Then again, if he would have actually listened to the best arguments from complementarians (and maybe spent more time in dialogue with them–see point #2!), he’d realize most complementarians are neither anti-woman nor driven by hate.

**deep breathe**

Let me reiterate: I do not agree with the biblical convictions complementarians reach.  I am, like Tony Jones, passionate about my convictions.  However, I do believe that I can hold to my convictions passionately while extending respect and grace to those Christians–male and female–who hold to the complementarian position due to their desire to love and honour God.  I don’t think that is too much to expect from other Christian leaders.  It’s certain what I would have expected from Tony Jones.

For more thoughtful and robust reactions to Tony’s call for schism (and his subsequent back track), check out the following:

“Are your really calling for schism Tony Jones?” by Billy Kangas

“Tony Jones’ curious call for schism” by David Hayward

“This schism was cancelled” by John Mark Reynolds




Prayer as Incubator of Intimacy

I believe each of us wants and needs a meaningful connection on two levels: with God with others.  Prayer is an incubator for both.

Intimacy with Others

“28 About eight days after Jesus said this, he took Peter, John and James with him and went up onto a mountain to pray” (Luke 9:28)

Notice Jesus takes a few close friends with him to pray.  Have you ever prayed with someone in a really meaningful way?  It’s a very powerful and humbling experience. It connects us to others in a way that nothing else can.  When prayer is sincere and vulnerable we can’t help but become closer to those we pray with; we can’t help but deepen our love for them.  In fact, prayer is so powerful in creating intimacy between people the campus ministry Young Life includes as part of its training program the mantra, “the couple that prays together lays together.” It’s their way of warning dating to be careful about spending too much time alone in prayer, because when your heart connects with someone on that level–if there’s an existing foundation of attraction–your body will want to follow suit.  Prayer is a powerful incubator for intimacy with others.

Intimacy with God

“32 Peter and his companions were very sleepy, but when they became fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men standing with him. 33 As the men were leaving Jesus, Peter said to him, ‘Master, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah’” (Luke 9:32-33).

During his time of prayer Peter has an experience of Jesus that is so awesome, he immediately tries to figure out  a way to hold onto the moment forever.  Peter’s experience of Jesus’ glory is so pervasie, so good, so restorative, so deep, that he’s willing to stay on the mountaintop forever.  Those kind of profound personal experiences of God’s immanence (i.e. closeness) don’t happen very often in the context of prayer (at least for me).  But sometimes God allows His presence to be experienced in a profoundly powerful and personal way.  Those encounters are a gift, and often only happen within the incubator of prayer.  They are beautiful and mysterious and build your faith and intimacy with God by leaps and bounds.

But if I want to experience that level of closeness with God, I need to follow Jesus’ way and consistently seek out places of voluntary under-stimulation (i.e. “wilderness”) where I can just be with God.  Unhurried.  At ease.  Open.

In that environment–in that incubator–intimacy with God is generated, sustained, and deepened.


A Spirit-Saturated, Gospel In-Breaking Day

Yesterday was a Spirit-saturated, gospel in-breaking day.  It was intense.  It was beautiful.  And it took everything out of me.

I woke up this morning feeling absolutely wrecked, but in a gospel, life-giving way.  I told Heather I felt like I was experiencing a worship hangover.

I think.  I’ve never been hung-over. I’m inferring from my friends’ experiences (who shall remain nameless).

Sunday morning at Grindstone we shared our intention to start a church in Hamilton and our plans to begin exploring what that may look like this fall.  Sunday afternoon was filled with great, relaxing family time (even a nap!) and then some errands that allowed me to process my emotions around the morning’s announcement.  In the evening, our family was blessed to have Sam Lycklama drop off a fantastic meal, and Sunday evening I attended 541 Eatery and Exchange’s worship and communion night, which was absolutely stunning.

During the worship session at 541, I was introduced to a song that will become my personal anthem for the next phase of the journey: Oceans (Where My Feet May Fail).

You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep
My faith will stand

And I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine

Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sovereign hand
Will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You’ve never failed and You won’t start now

So I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior

I will call upon Your Name
Keep my eyes above the waves
My soul will rest in Your embrace
I am Yours and You are mine

I shared on Sunday morning that Isaiah 43:1-19 makes it clear that at the same time God calls us out, He draws us in.  God always counters the push of greater mission with the pull of  greater intimacy and grace.  Yesterday felt very much like that to me personally.

Jesus is glorious.  His gospel is beautiful.  I want to know both in their fullness.

Wherever You would call me.