Saturday, May 06, 2006

Appendix One: Does Emergent/US Embrace Practicing Jews as Fellow Believers in the One True God?


An unsettling event took place this past month in New York City. Emergent-US leaders Doug Pagitt and Tony Jones were full participants in a Jewish Emergent Dialogue called Synagogue 3000.

From the website:

S3K – Synagogue 3000 is a catalyst for excellence, empowering congregations and communities to create synagogues that are sacred and vital centers of Jewish life.[1]

Promotional materials for the event copied off of the Emergent-US website read as follows:

S3K Senior Fellow Lawrence A. Hoffman... said... “It offers us an opportunity unique to all of human history: a chance for Jews and Christians to do God's work together, not just locally, but nationally, community by community, in shared witness to our two respective faiths."

According to Emergent-U.S. National Coordinator Tony Jones, this meeting has historic possibilities. "As emerging Christian leaders have been pushing through the polarities of left and right in an effort to find a new, third way, we've been desperate to find partners for that quest," he said. "It's with great joy and promise that we partner with the leaders of S3K to talk about the future and God's Kingdom."

Not only are many Jewish religious communities looking to the experiences of Christian innovators, especially in the context of worship that engages the unaffiliated, but they are seeing a similar paradigm shift from the Baby Boomer individualistic seeker mode to an emergent Generation X/post-GenX search for spirituality in community. S3K Director of Research Shawn Landres, himself a GenXer active in an emergent Jewish congregation, said, "We hope to learn from their experience and also to build bridges by engaging and challenging one another."[2]

The organization of this event was prompted by conversations initiated by Brian McLaren:

Prominent Emergent Christian theologian Brian McLaren (_A New Kind of Christian_) has met with Synagogue 3000's leadership three times in recent months to discuss shared concerns, particularly surrounding attempts by younger Christians and Jews to express their spiritual commitments through social justice. "We have so much common ground on so many levels," he notes. "We face similar problems in the present, we have common hopes for the future, and we draw from shared resources in our heritage. I'm thrilled with the possibility of developing friendship and collaboration in ways that help God's dreams come true for our synagogues, churches, and world."[3]

Reports by the 20-30 participants[4] in this event were, not surprisingly, quite positive.

From the Synagogue 3000 folks:

The Conversation Begins...

In January 2006, Synagogue 3000 first convened the S3K Working Group on Emergent Sacred Communities, a group of visionary Jewish leaders unbound by conventional expectations about what a synagogue is supposed to be. To enrich the conversation, S3K invited members of the Working Group to exchange ideas with leaders from Emergent-US (a network of forward-thinking Christian innovators), as well as three leading scholars of American religious life, Wade Clark Roof, Steven M. Cohen and Ryan Bolger.

This meeting of the Working Group on Emergent Sacred Communities also marked the first time ever that Emergent/U.S. had met with any religious group outside the Christian faith. It was exciting and inspiring, even historic. In addition, the members of the S3K Working Group on Spiritual Leadership - some of the most accomplished and creative Jewish rabbis, cantors, and artists in the country - were also in attendance.

What was learned during all this? A few things.

Not only are many Jewish religious communities looking to the experiences of Christian innovators, especially in the context of worship that engages the unaffiliated, but they are seeing a similar paradigm shift from an individual-oriented seeker mode to a relational conversation aimed at spirituality in intentional community.

The nebula of emergent Jewish communities is beginning to define itself and work out what kind of network they'll form. In many ways they are where the Emergent Christian group was in 1996-97, as it formed within The Leadership Network. The journey of Emergent-US up to this point in its existence was instructive and illuminating to the emergent Jewish leaders: time has helped the emerging Christian community become a relatively more tight-knit and well-defined group.

The conversation across traditions allows us to understand more clearly what the "Emergent" phenomenon is. Within each tradition, there are two broad streams: a congregational stream based in communities of practice, and an encounter-based stream based in individual spiritual expression.

The priorities of American spiritual communities are changing as Generation X comes of age and takes over leadership positions. The work of Wade Clark Roof, Steven M. Cohen and Ryan Bolger all points in a similar direction: younger people crave spirituality but they aren't interested in either rote rules or in lightweight, "easy" worship.

Instead, they are interested in a devotional experience that moves beyond congregational walls and buildings, that builds community and, perhaps most of all, gives them what they call an authentic connection to their traditions and to God. The emerging leaders at this conference, both Jewish and Christian, are actively attending to that desire.[5]

From an Emergent participant:

...with emergent synagogues and emerging churches moving to less institutional and more organic forms, new space is created for renewed dialogue. Our American form of faith community has largely been determined by modern culture with little critique from the respective traditions. Emerging synagogues and churches have deconstructed these forms, creating simple spiritual communities formed around texts (texts that share a good deal of common ground). Because of these similarities from one to another, I believe we will see much fruitful interaction between the two communities in the years to come.[6]

What is to be made of this?

If nothing else, it is clear that EC sees little difference between themselves and practicing Jews. Even if this is merely an effort to cooperate on social issues (what McKnight at least pleads for) then one has to seriously question the common sense of these men. Getting together to worship God with those who deny Jesus is God and do not look to Him for their salvation is foolish and misleading to those who follow you.

For example, look at how one EC observer runs with this:

What is Mitziut? Something positive and incredible is happening in East Rogers Park. Mitziut is a non-denominational Jewish spiritual community creating an amazing Jewish spiritual experience.

Pronounced "mit-see-oot," the name Mitziut comes from the Hebrew word for "reality." Comprised not only of people from the neighborhood, participants come from Evanston, Skokie, Wilmette, Oak Park, Lakeview, Edgewater, Ravenswood, Albany Park, and the Gold Coast as well as Hyde Park, Indiana and Dekalb. People from all Jewish backgrounds and friends from different spiritual paths are coming and finding a welcoming, participatory community.

The non-denominational services are inclusive, participatory, joyous, relaxed and feature wonderful music, sacred Hebrew chant, prayerful experience, meaningful Torah teachings and are infused with traditional kavanah ("intention") and ancient spirituality. Various activities such as a meditation drop-in group and a Jewish drum circle allow individuals to deepen their individual Jewish spiritual explorations within a group experience.[7]

Did Pagitt and all look around the room and weep at those who were lost without Christ? That is certainly not the impression one gets from reading the reports and looking at the pictures. Maybe he and his friends need to carefully read the New Testament book of Romans once more and remember what God says about those who trust in their own righteous deeds and not in Jesus Christ.



[1] http://www.synagogue3000.org/index.html accessed on April 1, 2006. S3K as it is called is kind of like “Rick Warren for Jews.” That is not meant to be offensive... WarrenSaddleback Church and the Emergent/US website are the only two “evangelical” websites linked to.

[4] From pictures accessed Ryan Bolger’s blog on http://thebolgblog.typepad.com/thebolgblog/2006/01/s3k_emergent_fi.html it doesn’t appear that there were more than 30 people at this event. Doug Pagitt, Tony Jones and Ryan Bolger were there. I could not determine from my research if McLaren was present. I note the numbers, because it demonstrates how misleading the internet can be. By reading the press reports and blog posts, you would easily gain the impression there were hundreds and hundreds in attendance.

[5] http://www.synagogue3000.org/emergentweb/ accessed on April 2, 2006.

[6] http://thebolgblog.typepad.com/thebolgblog/2006/01/s3k_emergent_fi.html accessed on April 3, 2006. What is rather surprising is the lack of much else on the web by way of reporting. A few brief searches yielded only Bolger’s comments. It could be that I just missed the reports, but I did scan the blogs of the rest of the major EC players and found nothing. Seeing that Bolger claims to not be EC, one wonders if there was a concerted effort to quiet down this event? That is pure speculation though. Scot McKnight sure seemed to be working hard to make little of the conference. See his blog posting here http://www.jesuscreed.org/?p=610.

9 comments:

Rob said...

Paul,

Emergent US doesn't speak for all us. In fact in this case they only spoke for a small minority of us. I happen to like what they did. I'm going to quote myself from my last comment in terms of sophistication of this paper:

What you must understand about the EC is we know way more about you then you do about us. Many of us grew up in conservative evangelical churches and hyper reformed churches. We know your arguments, we understand how you interpret scripture, we understand your liturgy and worship styles. We know who you are. The same can't be said in return, which is why our crticims of conservative evangelicals tend to be much more sophisticated then the reverse. Why did so many of us love a 'New Kind of Christian?' Because Mclaren created characters that we could all relate to. We had all of those spectrums in our churches. He also gave a voice to what so many of us had been talking privately about (because taling about it publically would have gotten us thrown out)and feeling for so many years. So when people say 'you have to come to our churches to understand us,' they're right. If you want to create as sophisticated a criticism as we've created about you. (Not you personally but conservative evangelical churches in general).

I'd love to see you do more research and keep updating this site. I think your criticisms would be much more valueable to us if you did.

Rob

Darrin said...

Rob,

You completely skirt the issue Paul brought up.

This type of anti-Christian ecumenism should be horrifying to you/those emergent types that claim any allegiance to Christ. Perhaps your criticsms of both this paper and evangelicalism (and I use the term loosley) in general would carry more weight if you guys would actually denounce something within your movement for a change.

To not be troubled by something like this: the overt denial of Christ as the only means of salvation by those involved in S3K is why people will continue to lump a bunch of you together, and rightly so. To say nothing when Christ is denied is to be complicit in that denial.

Rob said...

Darrin,

I skirted the issue because it's not a big issue for me. I think, frankly, that both you and Paul completely missed the point of the conference.

To point wasn't to deny Christ, the point was to engage in conversation with people whom we have much in common with. The point was how could we come together on common ground to bring about the Kingdom of God.

If, through that, our Jewish friends found Christ we'd really have something to talk about. If they didn't, at least we were trying in a fresh way to bring the Good News of Christ's Kingdom to people. And we have some new friends.

Accusing me of denying Christ while doing everything I can to talk about Him doesn't make sense. Again, Darrin it goes to my point of our critics really not understanding the issues that are driving us.

I know it sounds really arrogant, but I know you much better then you know me. So what am I supposed to do with your criticism, beyond saying do more research. Show some understanding of the nuances of this conversation, then come on back.

Or, if you'd like to engage in conversation great, but don't get too accusatory before you understand where I'm coming from.

That being said, there were lots among us who were just as disturbed as you about this conference. Which is why I'm saying I'm in the minority.

As for denouncing things, I'll tell you what I denounce.

Racism, war, violence, greed, disease, sin, cooercion, evil, lying, cheating, stealing, murder, lust etc.

It's not a comprohensive list, but it's a start. I won't denounce having conversations with those of the Jewish faith because they don't accept Christ as the Messiah yet. I also won't denounce worshipping God the Father with them.

Rob

darrin said...

The point wasn't to deny Christ

Of course no one is going to come out and admit it. That's obvious.

The point was how could we come together on common ground to bring about the Kingdom of God.

Outside of Christ, there is no common ground on which two can stand together in worship. That is the point.

Accusing me of denying Christ while doing everything I can to talk about Him doesn't make sense.

2 John 9-11

9Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. 10If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: 11For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds.

I think it is quite clear that anyone who does not abide in the doctrine of Christ hath NOT the Father. That would include the Jews. Anyone who welcomes that doctrine and encourages them in it becomes a partaker with them in their evil deeds (v.11). That is the complicity to which I alluded.

I know it sounds really arrogant, but I know you much better then you know me. So what am I supposed to do with your criticism, beyond saying do more research.

I had to leave a church over 4 years ago that was over run with this muck, so no, research won't do a lot of good when I was unwittingly part of the experiment and saw it first hand!

That being said, there were lots among us who were just as disturbed as you about this conference. Which is why I'm saying I'm in the minority.

I'm afraid 'disturbed' doesn't cut it. The Christian God is a triune God, the Jewish one is not. We do not worship the same God, therefore, to not denounce this ecumenism is sin; not something to converse about.

As for denouncing things, I'll tell you what I denounce.

Racism, war, violence, greed, disease, sin, cooercion, evil, lying, cheating, stealing, murder, lust etc.


Amen! But let's not turn a blind eye to something more egregious in the sight of God: a denial of His son.

I also won't denounce worshipping God the Father with them.

Again, these are not the same gods. Our God is triune Father, Son, and Spirit. the Jewish god is not. To believe otherwise is not to understand the uniqueness of Christ and the Christian faith.

The last word is yours.

Webmaster TBC said...

This is a great series. It would be nice, as in convenient for sharing with others, if you could provide a link to a single page containing an index of all the posts in this series. Is that something you might be willing to do? Thanks.

Rob said...

Darrin,

I think you and I are looking at this from 2 different persepctives that may never agree. I'm looking at this situation as a great opportunity to talk about Jesus to those who don't know him. I think, that we're just accepting of whatever belief comes across our path. (I don't want to put words in your mouth, so please correct me if I've misrepresented you in this statement).

I would also disagree with you about what God they are worshiping. I look at the Bible as progressive revelation. God reveals His character over many years. (Not that He changes but He shows different aspectso of His character). Unfortunately, some don't accept Christ as God, yet.

It really goes back to belonging before believing. That's not something most traditional evangelical's are going to agree with. I look at Acts 17, where Paul uses the Athenian pagan religion to introduce them to Christ. Paul also talks about becoming a gentile to win the gentiles all for God's Glory.

Anyways, I appreciate the conversation.

Rob

Rob said...

sorry,

I think, that we're just accepting of whatever belief comes across our path. (I don't want to put words in your mouth, so please correct me if I've misrepresented you in this statement).

Sorry I mean to say I think, you think we're accepting . . .

Jeremy Duncan said...

Darrin,
you said, "these are not the same gods. Our God is triune Father, Son, and Spirit. the Jewish god is not. To believe otherwise is not to understand the uniqueness of Christ and the Christian faith."

So who did the Jews worship before Jesus came into the earth? Did they worship the same God we do now? Or has God changed to become triune? Was God not always triune? Did the Jews in the Old Testament not worship the one true God that Jesus worshipped?

The issues go deeper than just dogma. That's why dialogue like this is important.

darrin said...

JD,

1. They worshipped God and had faith in the Redeemer who would deliver them, though they did not know Him by name. The old covenant situation is a red-herring and you're just trying to confuse the issue; it is irrelevant to the point for we are talking of Jews since the coming of the Messiah. Those saved in OT times were saved as we are: by faith in their Redeemer.

2. They did, but Jews today don't, for they reject the clearer revelation of God, namely Jesus.

3. No. He is immutable.

4. He always was and we have ample proof of it in the OT.

5. Not relevant. We are talking of Jews who reject Christ the Redeemer, not Jews who had faith in their Redeemer.

The issue IS doctrine, and it is the very doctrine of who God is and what He has done that Jones and McLaren subvert with their ecumenical actions. If your "dialogue" is not proclaiming their need of Christ to be reconciled to God, then it is worthless. See my reference to 2 John above.