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In this issue...
Progressive, Emergents, Find Common Ground
BTX in Phoenix: Big, Bold, Exciting and Scary
The New Orthodoxy
Liberation, from Egypt: Portents of Change in American Christianity
Another Death Certificate for the Emerging Church
An Interview with Brian McClaren

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Big Tent Christianity

Progressive, Emergents, Find Common Ground 


By:Cynthia B. Astle   


PHOENIX, AZ - More than 300 participants-some self-identified as Progressive Christians, others as Emergent Christians-gathered Feb. 10-11 to meet one another for the first time in an event termed "Big Tent Christianity."


Co-sponsored by two local groups, the Arizona Foundation for Contemporary Theology and the Emerging Desert Cohort affiliated with Emergent Village, the conference was marked by three unusual characteristics:


~Christian leaders under age 35 dominated the event preparations, coordinating almost exclusively through social media.


~Prominent Progressive theologians met with Emergent leaders in what is believed to be the first such national event.


~The conference used an unusual, if not unique, process method, in which keynoters spoke for 12 minutes, followed by eight minutes of response from other event presenters, followed by another 20 minutes or so of questions that emerged after conversation between members of the audience.

The current declining state of organized religion in America both inspired and framed the conference, noted Philip Clayton, one of the primary hosts of the program.


Pluralism Sunday

May 2011

Sign up your congregations to participate in Pluralism Sunday, May 1, 2011!

On the first Sunday in May- this year, May 1, 2011 - (or other times during the year) churches around the world dedicate their worship to a celebration of our interfaith world. Progressive Christians recognize that other religions can be as good for others as ours is for us.  We can grow closer to God and deeper in compassion-and we can understand our own traditions better-through a more intimate awareness of the world's religions.  On PLURALISM SUNDAY, churches celebrate elements of other world faiths in their sermons, litanies, and music; many feature speakers and singers from other faith traditions. 


SIGN UP your congregation to be listed as a participating church for 2011 - by emailing Rev. Jim Burklo, Pluralism Sunday Coordinator for Progressive  

Can There Be a Big Tent for Christianity?


Reflections on the Emerging Church and the Big Tent Christianity Conference in Phoenix, AZ  


Feb 2011




butterly emerging

I did not want to go.  It took two phone calls from David Felten, with the "Living the Questions" organization, before I would reluctantly agree to help promote the event. It took a third phone call, one that required pulling off the freeway to argue with this dear friend. He insisted that I come to Phoenix to see what was going to happen when a bunch of young people get together and talk about what it means to be part of the so-called "emerging Christianity" or "Emergent church movement."  Please note that none of these labels have clear definitions or clarity in their meaning at this point. They are still in formation and if I am right, that is where they intend to stay... in the process of forming.


The event was something called the "Big Tent Christianity" (BTX) and was organized by a group primarily out of Claremont School of Theology, under the leadership of the Dean of the school, Professor Clayton Phillips and his right hand man, Trip Fuller...


The movement, if that is what it can be called at this point, appears to be made up mostly of former fundamentalist, conservative and evangelical Christians who are speaking, blogging, texting, tweeting and "Face Booking" about what it means to be a follower of Jesus today.



BTX in Phoenix: Big, Bold, Exciting and Scary

By: Cynthia B. Astle  

Looking over a mountain toward an unknown future can be both exhilarating and scary. That's where I've been for the past 72 hours in Phoenix at the Big Tent Christianity event: exhilarated and a little bit scared - but hopeful.

Big Tent Christianity, or BTX as it has come to be known, brought together two segments of American Christianity: Progressives and Emergents. Many things about these two groups were different, most notably their ages and where and how they practice their faith. What they share, however, is far more powerful than any surface differences. Both are in love with the holistic gospel of Jesus Christ in which salvation is not an insurance policy for the hereafter, but instead means following the way that Jesus taught for living eternally in the here-and-now.


At first glance, especially for the most rigid adherents among both groups, apparent differences might seem too great to converge toward their common passion.



the ladder of the divine 12th century The New Orthodoxy

By: Deacon Hall


Excerpt: We, claiming orthodoxy in our heresy, end up rejecting the "older" more "primitive" believers in their continued value of orthodoxy as a criterion of church inclusion.  I think Dr. Phillip Clayton and the bearded Tripp Fuller are empirically testing the waters of what inclusion means and how far it goes in their Big Tent Christianity project. I tend to think that we draw lines of inclusion and exclusion somewhere (after all, we heretics tend to be intolerant of intolerance, exclude the excluders, and despise those who despise persons beyond their own group, etc.), but I don't know where, and I won't say that we do so necessarily...or at least not quite. What I do know is that we can allow our own proclivity toward factually excluding persons-that we are always already excluding in some form- to humble us heretically orthodox, refraining  by means of this knowledge from the false belief that we are universally inclusive and tolerant (words made of gold for this particular brand of orthodoxy). At least this way, we do not merely pay lip-service to our desires for inclusion, we are simply honest with our inability to achieve such inclusion on our own.



butterfly in cocoon Liberation, from Egypt: Portents of Change in American Christianity
By: Jim Burklo

The word for Egypt in Hebrew is Mitzrayim, which means "narrow place".  Geographically, the name makes sense, since almost all of the Egyptian people live in a narrow band of fertile land on either side of the Nile River.  The rest of the country is mostly empty desert.


Metaphorically, the word Mitzrayim has been a rich one for the Jewish people.  Their Exodus from Egypt was indeed a liberation from the "narrowness" of life in slavery.  Escaping toward the Promised Land was an expansive experience, both physically and spiritually.


Last week, the people of the "narrow place" went to Tahrir (Liberation) Square in Cairo and finally got liberation from the "narrowness" of 30 years of dictatorship.  It was a largely non-violent movement of mostly young people who lost their fear and claimed their freedom.  The story is hardly over in Egypt, but what those young people have accomplished so far is a spectacular example for all the world's oppressed people to emulate.  The Egyptians got their own Exodus from bondage when a Red Sea tidal wave of popular resentment flooded over the Pharaoh Mubarak and his regime. 


In Scottsdale, Arizona last weekend there was another portent of Exodus from narrowness in American Christianity. "Big Tent Christianity" was an event that brought together evangelical "emergent church" leaders like Brian McLaren and Spencer Burke with "progressive Christian" leaders like Marcus Borg and Richard Rohr. 



water in sun Another Death Certificate for the Emerging Church
By: Carol Howard Merritt 


So the Wall Street Journal has proclaimed that Emerging Church has fizzled out. Brett McCracken has declared it a hipster trend and we're moving on, because the hipsters were never about Jesus.

I don't really want to talk about whether it's dead or not. I don't know. I know a lot of intelligent people who are still involved, and I think that it will have a huge impact on American religion for many years to come. My sense is that what died was "emerging" as an evangelical re-branding effort. The evangelical movement could not control the Gen Xers, so they will declare them dead. But the people who were writing interesting things are still writing. Those reeling from the after-effects of evangelicalism have not gone away. People who struggle to respond faithfully to postmodernism have not gone away. Whatever is happening, it's clear that a transition is occurring and there are things that we can learn right now.


A New Kind of Christianity An Interview with Brian McClaren
By:Rachel Held Evans


What is the overarching storyline of the Bible? What does it mean to say the Bible has authority? Is God violent? Who is Jesus and why is he important? What is the gospel? What is the function of the Church? Can we find a way to address human sexuality without fighting about it? Can our view of the future actually shape it? How should followers of Jesus relate to people of other faiths? What should we do next?


If you think these are stupid questions and the answers to them no-brainers, you probably shouldn't bother with Brian McLaren's latest book.


But if these questions intrigue you, if they get under your skin and keep you up at night, if they challenge your faith and make you want to learn more, then you will find fodder for the imagination and companionship for the journey in A New Kind of Christianity: Ten Questions That Are Transforming the Faith.


READ the interview HERE 

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