Thursday, April 08, 2010

Emergent in Boston: John Franke at The Gathering and Gordon-Conwell

Theologian, Professor at Biblical Seminary, and Author John Franke came to The Gathering Tuesday night April 6th.  This was the first of three days of Emergent activity in the Boston area.

The event was organized by Jesse Browning, Matt Miller and "The Church which Meets in Beverly."  I did not count the people who came, but it was a little over 15 people I think.  Some of us from The Gathering, others from The Church which Meets in Beverly.  Adonis Vidu, a professor at Gordon-Conwell joined us as well.  Adonis teaches a class on the Emergent Movement, and John lectured there as well.

Before the evening began, we stood around talking about topics such as the people who think that John is a heretic and deserves to be taken outside and stoned (with rocks that is).

Then we gathered on the couches in our little library corner, and John taught for about 45 minutes.  He wandered around a few points, and then followed up with a discussion time.  He discussed the following things (my words not his, because I did not take notes, and my brain is little):  1)  Christians should be learning to serve together in God's mission with people from other Christian traditions - there should be a plurality of witness,  2)  The Mission of God is what we are to be about (and this is "Mission" as a singular word - not "missions." God is about one mission and what we do should be a part of that one mission), and 3) Our enlightenment informed perception of truth and the Gospel is problematic in contemporary society.

At one point during the teaching, John compared enlightenment thinking, and modernity to "The One Ring to rule them all and in the darkness bind them."  This was one of the last points before the discussion time began.  I could not help but laugh - I loved the illustration, but also shared my uncomfortableness with the fact that the illustration was similar to saying that enlightenment/modernity thinking was Satanic.  Hmmmmmmmmmm... not comfortable with that myself.  John admitted he may rethink the use of that illustration.  But, his point was well made that an individual who believes they hold uncorrectable, absolute truth stands in a position attempting to intellectually rule over others - great point.

Once the discussion opened up Megan DeFranza presented a challenging point.  She suggested that perhaps modernity versus post-modernity were not as critical delineations as more important categories as humility and pride.  Jesse jumped in and questioned what the bottom line actions, and motivations of our missional engagement ought to be.

Caroline topped off the evening with a wonderful little testimony/sharing moment.  She talked about not fully understanding the whole conversation, but identifying with the direction of it, and feeling as though it offered her a solid footing for her transition out of the days of a Fundamental Baptist background in which she "could not wear pants."  That might have been my favorite part of the session.

There was about 45 minutes of discussion, and following the event, most of us hung out at Gulu-Gulu Cafe for a couple more hours.  Once again as the last meeting at Gulu-Gulu I was joined by Jesse and The Unidentified Baptist dude.  As well Matt the Pirate, Michael Giobbe, and Caroline.

This afternoon, I also went to see John speak at Adonis Vidu's class at Gordon-Conwell on the Emergent discussion.  This is a photo of Dr. Vidu giving the introduction.

During this discussion John shared his holiest moment in the Boston area:  Going to a game at Fenway Park.  Then he wandered into a discussion, which I am assuming comes from his book Manifold Witness: the plurality of truth.

He discussed his view of plurality as something God is leading us toward, and part of the plan of redemption.  He framed his understanding of truth in Barthian terms, and discussed the difference between Truth and truth.  Some of the gang from Tuesday night were there as again:  Megan, Jesse, and Ben the Tattooed Mystic (as The Prof. Carlos Z. calls him).

There was some good Q and A afterward including a question about Scott McKnight distancing himself from Brian McLaren recently.  John described his position on the issue:  He does not agree with some of the premises of Brian's most recent book, but even more so does not agree with Scott's choice to disengage from mission with Brian.  For some reading on the McLaren/McKnight debate check out John Armstrong' Blog.

After the class at Gordon-Conwell students lined up to talk with john and get his autograph.  Students at Gordon-Conwell getting his autograph - now that's interesting. :-)


Kieran Conroy said...

Props to the Gathering, and to Gordon Cromwell for hosting such interesting events. REALLY annoyed at my kidney stone now, but happy to hear things are going so well. :)

As a side note, you should really start a reality show at the Gathering, Phil. So many interesting folks. :)

Pastor Phil said...

Hey Keiran,

Hang in there bro, and health to you. We are a reality show without the television aren't we?