R-E-S-P-E-C-T

So, our General Assembly’s meeting this week in San Jose. My husband’s there, and I stayed home so that my daughter could live out her final days of being a first-grader. I’m in D.C., keeping track via the blogosphere, twitter updates, emails, and facebook status updates.

From what I can tell of the one-line testimonials, it’s been a fun GA, so far. Bruce Reyes-Chow was elected moderator. There’s a presbymergent booth and activities set up. A lot of people who have been talking a lot over the Internets are meeting each other face-to-face. As Shawn Coons twittered, “I met two of my imaginary friends so far.”

Most people who go to GA know what it’s about. We make statements as a denomination, and then we try to act on them, lobby for them, live them out. Sometimes we make big mistakes, and other times, great minds come out with some pretty amazing positions.

We’re doing what Christians have done since the first council of Nicea. Gathering to think about who we are, what we believe. Asking how we can best live out our faith in our current context. Praying and worshiping together. Asking for God’s guidance. It is often too political. It’s often frustrating. We are well aware that our statements have very little legislative muscle nationally. We often ask, “Why even bother?”

But I tell you, there is a warm and wonderful feeling when the assembly comes up with a masterpiece statement of social justice…. Words matter. And sometimes it’s important to say things, even when you know that nobody’s listening. I don’t expect anyone outside of our denomination to understand this. I’m just letting you know what it’s like.

Anyways, one of the main Presbymergent activities was the Church Basement Roadshow, a book promotion for Tony Jones, Doug Pagitt, and Mark Scandrette. The promo was located at a Presbyterian Church about a mile away from where the GA met, so the good folks at the Presbymergent booth publicized the books, passed out hundreds of flyers, blogged positively. They bought the books, recommended the books. They put Jones’ book on display. All-in-all, they worked tirelessly getting the word out for the event.

In response to the love, Tony Jones blogged about the GA, briefly, on beliefnet:

We’ll have lunch over here before we head down to San Jose for tonight’s show. I’m looking forward to seeing how many PC(USA) pastors show up from their nearby General Assembly debacle meeting.

Now. That’s…awkward.

I’m not sure how to respond. Is this the vestigial tail of evangelicalism? Evangelicals have spent a couple of decades putting down the mainlines, saying that we’re an irrelevant social club. But I thought we were getting beyond all that with the whole emergent movement.

I just gave it a good, old-fashioned eye rolling and moved on.

But then I went back. Perhaps it’s my sense of humor that has not evolved enough. But… you know… I do a lot of book signings. I know how much goes into them on both ends. After all the work the Presbyterians put into promoting Jones, hosting him, hyping his work… I don’t know… is it too much to ask for a little respect?

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23 thoughts on “R-E-S-P-E-C-T

  1. I wish I was in San Jose hanging out with Brian and all my imaginary friends. I sort of feel left out. Sad Sad…
    On the Jones respect note, I wish that we all could focus on transformation of this world instead of cool games. The rules are changing again with a shift to “missional” over emerging. It seems that the longer standing folks in the conversation want their club back and seek to abandon the mess as denominationals enter the fray.
    Respect would be good. I would rather have compassion and love as we all work to be the Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.
    Blessings Carol!

  2. Perhaps Tony’s comment is just example of the allure of being evocative on blogs, but yeah, not exactly building up the body.

    I’ve felt the Spirit moving at huge “fights” and heart-wrenching votes at GA more than almost anywhere. Sure, GA is easy to knock, but it’s something different to be open to the Spirit’s movement in a context other than your home.

  3. Ok, while I’m on it, I’ve also become increasingly suspicious of huge book events and shameless promotions coming from some emergenty books these days. It’s one thing to be proud of your work and hope the church finds it helpful. It’s another to take folks’ money for the sake of profit and hits.

  4. I saw the Jones’ remark differently. I thought he was saying, “I thought it would be a debacle. But now I think better of it; and I believe it’s a meeting.”

    You, folks, know him better than I. Could that be his intent?

  5. Ooh! So edgy!
    Isn’t that how it’s supposed to read?
    Instead it sounds rude.
    But I’m an old lady of 47 and probably belong out on the curb anyway.
    (If I line through part of that will it become funny? Just sayin’.)

  6. I think its just Tony being Tony; he’s got an abiding skepticism for institutional church and denominations as it is. I echo your thought, Carol, and I’ve had other occasion to receive this critique from Tony, but I didn’t think much of it. And who knows, GA might turn into a debacle…

    I think the deeper question that he meant to ask (that we’re not focusing on) is the first half of his quote: how many in the PCUSA would know about and go out of their way to attend the roadshow, and I gather underlying that is some kind of barometer for how many would be interested in emergent-y things. As for that, I think a better gauge would be the election of Bruce as Moderator and whatever kind of reception the presbymergent folks are receiving.

  7. We need to kick his butt. Is that “edgy” enough as a response?

    I mean, really. I think we could take him. Have you seen Jan Edmiston’s roundhouse kick?

    Here’s the thing: The Book Ho Road Show is a cute concept, but it isn’t really a “presbymergent event.” It’s an event that presbymergents go to. If we want cred with the Jones of the world, we’re going to have to do some of our own programming. Maybe if he needles us enough, we might actually do it.

  8. That event I believe happens next week at Montreat, Church Unbound. I agree we should kick some ass, our own. We are far to afraid to be Presbyterian. Where are we today with this model? I love the church, I have great hope for it to be witness to Gods dynamic and unending love. But we end. How can we die to the old and rebirth in the new? I think the entire emergent/emerging thing is a lot of hype. Well in our presby context it fights a lot of stagnant tradition. In the evangelicall circus it is a different beast. All of the folks on the roadshow and else where that are involved in the emerging thing have got to be good people. WhyTF would they be so prosperous. They have a message that applies to us. I think that we also have a message for them.
    I do get the feeling of clubhouse BS when dealing with emerging folks. I admit it may derive from inadequacy as a Johnny come lately. Look to my deal about “Punker then you on my site.” I know a lot of folks that want change. A lot of folks that are missional without the f’ing bling. It is the socs and the greasers dusting it up at the old park. Mean while America could care less. When does the Kingdom of God become relevant/organic/fluid/[other buzz word]? When we submit and stop giving a shite about self and move into responsibility and proximity to the other. There is no power present at the feet of Christ, just blood, hurt and responsibility to your neighbor.

  9. Just having a little fun, Carol. I’m thrilled that Bruce was elected, but I’m on the record with what I think is the future of bureaucratic denominations.

    And, to the other commentors, if you come to our show, I think you’ll see it’s abundantly clear that the roadshow is a way that poke a bit of fun at ourselves, our books, and our “selling out.”

  10. @David: I’m not interested in getting cred from the Jones of the world. Just another “keeping up” move in my book. The only people I want cred from are the least of these.

    @Chad: Jones was down right rude, and his assumption that those PCUSA folks NEED to come out to the Roadshow is the height of arrogance. I realize its just Tony being Tony, but that doesn’t excuse the fact that he’s being a prick. My wife said that to me once ad it was the best thing that could have happened to me.

  11. I think most of us have some perceptions of GA and the PC(USA) that would fall under the debacle category. I guess I’m not too worried what uninformed observers think of our gathering. I know the good and bad of GA, and whatever clever label Tony wants to use doesn’t hurt me.

  12. @landon: Well, unless we get up off our ever-expanding tushies and actually do something, we’re not going to get any cred from the “least of these” either. Jones’ critique is that we are paralyzed and irrelevant as an institution.

    The only way to prove him wrong is to not be that thing.

  13. Two of the last three moderators the General Assembly has elected were 40 and 39 years in age at the time of election. This is certainly an important symbol (the moderatorial choice has always been a highly symbolic decision) about the denomination’s desire to take folks in the 35-45 age bracket seriously as leaders. However, the leadership that counts in today’s church is not denominational/judicatory but congregational. The judicatories are fading into the role they had for most of Presbyterian history—relatively minor. Congregations are re-emerging in the role they have had from the day of Paul—huge. So we need to remember where the locus of social change is in our society. It isn’t at the top. It is in the grassroots. All the more reason to get involved and stay involved in the leadership of congregations. For 2000 years they have been the heart and soul of the Christian movement.

  14. I sat next to Tony at dinner on Friday, we spoke a lot about our denomination in that conversation and it was quite clear that he affirms alot of the good work of the PC(USA) but as he said he also has a very healthy skepticism of beuraracy.

    That at least in my estimation was the root of his comment and I will take him at his word. I don’t think it was disrespect, but the challenge of a prophet.

  15. I just got back from the pool. Went there to write my sermon (creative pastoring/parenting)…then ran into a friend…then had dinner…and fit some Harry Potter and a magic show into the chronology…. All that to say, I’m just now catching up with the conversation on my blog. Which is a bit more heated than I expected.

    (Hee hee. Jan’s roadhouse kick. Now that’s funny….)

    I didn’t know whether to delete the name-calling, but seeing that Landon’s willing to put his name and link to it, and he was humble enough to say that his wife called him the same, I left it. For the sake of free speech.

    Thank you, Tony, for defending the defense. I always appreciate your willingness to respond.

    I think most of us have a skepticism toward bureaucracy. It’s not the bureaucracy I’m defending, it’s the people.

  16. I am sorry, Carol, that I put you in that oh so awkward, “should it stay or should it go” position. That’s not fun, and I don’t want to ruin the forum you’ve given us to respond.

    But while I’m comfortable with critiques of actual policies of (or happenings at) GA, the “debacle” comment was a shot at our very nature as Presbyterians – those who gather in a deliberative, ordered manner. Jones may not understand (and that’s fine), but for us to overlook his snarky comments in an attempt to hear a prophetic voice (not directed at you, Jim) dies him no good.

    To be sure, Jones is a brilliant thinker and I am thankful for his work (http://www.thephoenixjournal.org/2008/03/tony-jones-dispatches-from-emergent.html), but to not call him on his misbehavior is not in my nature, nor good for the Body as a whole.

  17. No problem, Landon. I thought about just editing the comment. You know, just putting a line through the word…

    I love The Phoenix Journal, by the way. Great work. And A Pilgrims Hymn, it’s beautiful.

  18. Jones’ interview on The Phoenix Journal seems to smack of anti-intellectualism and hyper-individualism that I see neither in the Gospel nor in the traditions of representative yet collective church governance of the Reformed church.

  19. Tony Jones does not fear the Lord so why would he adhere to the gospel? He off on some other trip that is no longer christian. Who cares what he thinks? He is irrelevant.

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