Opening Church Windows

John XXIIIHere is an excerpt from a letter by a minister of the Roman Catholic faith, Dennis Teall-Fleming. It was sent to Tony Jones, the National Coordinator for Emergent Village and he included it in today’s newsletter. It’s a pretty obvious analogy and helps someone like me, having been raised Roman Catholic, to put the Emerging Church idea into a better perspective.

The Second Vatican Council took place in the Catholic Church from 1962 to 1965. Called by Pope John XXIII, finished by Pope Paul VI, it was the first time in over four centuries that the Catholic Church really took a look around and said, “Hey, there’s a whole wide world out there, that isn’t so bad….maybe we oughta find out what’s going on in it, and see if it has anything to do with our community of faith”. The opening lines of The Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (in Latin, Gaudium et Spes) set the tone for this new way of being church: “The joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the people of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, these are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ. Indeed, nothing genuinely human fails to raise an echo in their hearts”. No longer would, or could, Catholics remain isolated, insular, or reactionary to the world, or others in it. The Catholic Church’s new mission became the world itself, and its transformation would transform the Church as well.

That seems to be what’s happening in Emergent. The people involved seem to all of a sudden see that there’s a big, wide world out there that we all live in- and most of it isn’t even considered “Christian”!- and somehow they have to do everything they can to learn more about it. Somehow everything they’ve learned up to this point – about being a Christian, about being part of the Church – has to change, so that they can truly be a follower of Christ every day of the week. Emergent seems to be a kind of Evangelical Vatican II, for many Christians that got their institutional start a hundred years ago- and maybe not even that long for others!

Pope John XXIII’s legendary quip about Vatican II was that he convened the Council because he wanted to let a little fresh air into the Church by opening up a few windows. I hope the Emergent conversation can do the same for my Evangelical friends, and I look forward to being a part of it for those in my own neighborhood.

I particularly like that line of Pope John’s about fresh air. With all the attention, both positive and negative, that has been given some of the leaders in the Emerging Church as well as some of the hysterical fears of the “movement” itself (I am now officially declaring ‘conversation’ as being too vague of a description – take note) I think that it is prudent to remember the impact that Pope John’s Vatican council had on the Church. To this day there are elements within the Roman church that think of John XXIII as a pawn of Satan, yet most Catholics and Protestants would fervently disagree. Perhaps the Emerging movement is just picking up where Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli left off ; opening up windows and doors for a church that suffers from the symptoms of long term theological OCD.


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  1. #1 by Jason on October 26, 2007 - 12:10 pm


    “When it is accepted as fact that God is Love yet also claim that he has a vengeful and violent side to his nature as portrayed in a certain interpretation of the Revelation of John of Patmos”

    OK, both are in the bible, tons and tons and tons of times, in the gospels as much as anywhere, and you saying it is John of Patmos reveals the narrowness of your interpretation, not your broadness or openness, and in fact, the wrath of God from the OT is absolutely tied to righteousness of God, as in the saving power of God. When it is spoken of in the OT, it defines how he achieves what is just, even in not imputing one’s sins, as he would be perfectly right to do. But it also defines how he achieves what is just in applying his wrath.

    It absolutely isn’t an issue of accepting anything. It is having the intellectual honesty to know that righteousness, as borne out in all acts of judgment and redemption, is the whole picture. The whole picture.


    in this salvation/Kingdom of God concept. As with the summary of why the cross and how God could pass over sins previously commited at all by anybody at all in Romans 3:21-26

    The language you use is reflective of Christ saying “you have heard it said” correcting some teaching, when in fact what should be said “it is written.” Because it is.

  2. #2 by Jason on October 26, 2007 - 9:23 pm


    Well goldarn, if your bible study notes say it then it must be true. Credulity rocks.

    It is possible, but totally speculative that gnositicm existed at all as we understand it until the middle, possibly early part of the 2nd century. Yer study notes can speculate all they want, but THAT is making the bible say something that it simply does not say.

    The fundamentalism definition you gave is:

    1: Temporally incorrect by liberal or conservative standards. The origins of what this is referring to is a response to neoorthodoxy which, though it hit its stride in the early 20th century, had its origins in the 19th century. Warfield, late 1800s, would be from this group, a Princeton guy smarter than all of us put together, is commonly put into the fundamentalist file.

    So the historicity is off. hmmm

    As well, it is a mischaracterization because I have said, this dreaded literalism (which is not at all a monolith, but those who want to maintain broad religious prejudice aren’t bothered by this) is hardly a “movement”. In fact Schleiermacher’s “the word is what the reader sees in it” stuff, borne of course of the illusive self determinism resultant of enlightenment thinking, was the “movement”, and much of the anti-intellectualism within cerrtain Christian denominations, (which was a small fragmented thing, not a big THEM) was an overreaction in the same direction in which 1900 years of Christian theology and praxis had already been heading.

    Regarding what has occurred regarding poor interpretation since the enlightenment. First, see above with Schleiermacher and how his “What I see in the bible is what is there” neo-orthodoxy and how, again, the self determinism of enlightenment thinking plays into such a hermeneutic. I actually am not an Enlightenment basher, although ideas have consequences and much of what we enjoy from the age of reason comes at a great cost. Schleier’s POV is no more tethered to to anything in particular than Nietzsche, and Nietzsche is just as much reflective of the I-set-the-agenda subjectivism of neo-orthodoxy. Check out “religion and its cultured despisers”. After reading chunks of this, it is easy to understand why people, especially desiccated 1800’s Lutherans, were drawn to it. But his core worldview is attached to nothing at all. Just as interestingly is that the first quest for the historical Jesus, and all the baggage carted in by what were mostly frauds, partially resulted in neo-orthodoxy because the historical research was so selective that the picture of Jesus drawn by these people was mostly self-deterministic. Which fits Schleier’s neo-orthodoxy: see what you want to see, what floats yer boat, and ignore what gives you the shivers or what, based on your feelings, couldn’t possibly be true.

    Like wrath.

    Like what happened on the cross.

    Like what Jesus said he came to do.

    Like eternal judgment.

    Do you want more? Perhaps I should blog on this myself.

    Lastly, C, you are not able to tell me what it means to you? You have been using that word all this time and you really can’t say what it means to you?

    “You keepa sayin thata word. I do nota think ita means what you think ita means.” -Indigo Montoya

    So don’t tell us what you think it means.

    No, don’t.

    But maybe consider stop using it.

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