Monday, October 24, 2011

Hanging Out with Brian McLaren at Clergy Conference

The blogging well has been running a bit dry lately, so I'm hoping that taking a few days away from the parish for our annual clergy conference at the Duncan M. Gray Episcopal Camp and Conference Center will provide rest and renewal, and perhaps some inspiration for future postings.

I note that this year's speaker for clergy conference is Brian McLaren, the founding pastor of Cedar Ridge Community Church, a leader in the so-called Emergent Church movement, and the author of such books as A Generous Orthodoxy and A New Kind of Christianity. Given the controversy that McLaren has stirred up in some quarters, it will no doubt be interesting to spend a day with him.

To be honest, I'm frankly not sure why so many Episcopalians groove on McLaren's work. What's he got that's so spectacularly awesome that others don't have? And my hermeneutic of suspicion kicks in whenever I hear folks talk about our need for a "new" kind of Christianity. Besides the fact that such language sounds a bit Spongian, all too often the "new" Christianity on offer is not any newer than Enlightenment and post-Enlightenment critiques of traditional Christian faith and practice. Plus, talk of a "new" kind of Christianity can come dangerously close to throwing out the baby of the Church's core faith with the bathwater of non-essentials. (Note, for instance, Scot McKnight's review of McLaren's A New Kind of Christianity in which he concludes: "I read this book carefully, and I found nothing new. It may be new for Brian, but it's a rehash of ideas that grew into fruition with Adolf von Harnack and now find iterations in folks like Harvey Cox and Marcus Borg. For me, Brian's new kind of Christianity is quite old. And the problem is that it's not old enough.")

My reservations notwithstanding, I plan to listen to what Brian has to say. And I'm particularly interested in what he thinks might be the best approach to addressing the elephant in the Episcopal Church's living room.

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