Home/Rod Dreher/Oh Dear. We’re Losing The Emergents

Oh Dear. We’re Losing The Emergents

Emergent rock star pastor Tony Jones has had enough and is not going to take it anymore. Emphasis in the original:

The time has come for a schism regarding the issue of women in the church. Those of us who know that women should be accorded full participation in every aspect of church life need to visibly and forcefully separate ourselves from those who do not. Their subjugation of women is anti-Christian, and it should be tolerated no longer.

That means:

  • If you attend a church that does not let women preach or hold positions of ecclesial authority, you need to leave that church.
  • If you work for a ministry that does not affirm women in ecclesial leadership, you need to leave that ministry.
  • If you write for a publishing house that also prints books by “complementarians,” you need to take your books to another publishing house.
  • If you speak at conferences, you need to withdraw from all events that do not affirm women as speakers, teachers, and leaders.

That is, we who believe in the full equality of women need to break fellowship with those who do not. The time for dialogue and debate has passed. The Spirit has spoken, and we have listened. It’s time to move forward with full force.

Oh well, okay, if that’s how he feels about it. Somehow, I think the “anti-Christian” Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches will survive. Then again, we already were in schism from Protestant churches (and, alas, from each other), so maybe being skizzumed by Pastor Jones doesn’t really apply to us. Still, the idea that the women pastors issue is so fundamental that it justifies a visible and forceful separation from anything to do with any church that practices such “subjugation” of women is — well, it’s pretty funny, to be honest.

I certainly don’t doubt Jones’s sincerity, and I don’t dismiss the seriousness of the issues related to the role of women in ecclesial communities. But “subjugation” — honestly? Whatever saying that women cannot be priests or pastors is, it’s not “subjugation.” Plus, the idea that Tony Jones, a top leader in a niche Protestant movement that’s been around for maybe 20 years, is ready to pronounce clanging anathemas on all Christians who don’t share his theological innovation on the women-in-church-leadership subject strikes me as a grandiose delusion. For Jonesian Christians, it is impossible to share even a publishing house or a dais with people who believe more or less what all Christians everywhere believed for around 1,900 years. That doesn’t make Christians who believe in a male-only priesthood or pastorate correct (though obviously, as an Orthodox Christian, I think they are), but it ought to make Tony Jones just a leeetle more humble.

Honestly, comparing your proposed “schism” to the Great Schism of 1054 and the Reformation? Really? Goodness gracious. I’m not sure that a young freelance pastor in Minnesota who’s a big deal only among a narrow set of SWPL Christians living in a post-Christian world is in a strong position to anathematize over a billion Christians who belong to churches with a clear, two-millennia line of succession to the Apostles. But hey, I’m not emergent, so what do I know? Every man is his own Pope Michael.

Billy Kangas, a Catholic, respectfully and warmly calls b.s. Excerpt:

Proposal 1:“If you attend a church that does not let women preach or hold positions of ecclesial authority, you need to leave that church.”

A few years ago I read your book “The New Christians” in it you published the values and principles of Emergent Village, a movement you had no small part in forming and leading. If you recall you stated:

“We are committed to honor and serve the church in all its forms – Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Protestant, Pentecostal, Anabaptist. We practice “deep ecclesiology” – rather than favoring some forms of the church and critiquing or rejecting others, we see that every form of the church has both weaknesses and strengths, both liabilities and potential.”

another principle stated:

In order to strengthen our shared faith and resolve, and in order to encourage and learn from one another in our diversity through respectful, sacred conversation, we value time and interaction with other friends who share this rule and its practices.

From where I’m standing it looks like you have turned your back on both of these principles with this move. To honor the Catholic Church is to honor it’s own way of change, which is very different than yours. I will admit we still have a lot of thinking and praying to do about how best to honor women in ministry in our church, but it does not look like we will be meeting your standards for inclusion any time soon. If you truly value learning through diversity why cut out the diverse opinions that you might be able to learn from?

Though he doesn’t put it this way, Kangas discerns a principle of activist liberal Christianity: the principle of tolerance and diversity is good when it is useful for dislodging the hegemony of orthodoxy, but bad when liberal Christians feel the need to impose their own orthodoxy on those they’ve defeated. Neuhaus’ Law, and all that.

Anyway, I will ask my priest to send the grievous news to Kyrill, the Patriarch of Moscow,  that the Emergent Patriarch Of Edina, Minnesota, won’t talk to him no more. I predict wailing in Old Church Slavonic resonating within the onion domes of St. Basil’s. Or maybe not.

UPDATE: Re-reading Jones’s bull of excommunication, I notice this (emphasis in the original):

That is, we who believe in the full equality of women need to break fellowship with those who do not. The time for dialogue and debate has passed. The Spirit has spoken, and we have listened. It’s time to move forward with full force.

How interesting that it took only half a century of dialogue and debate for the Spirit to speak so affirmatively and to repudiate what He had been saying on the subject to almost all of the world’s churches for almost the entirety of church history. In fact, women’s ordination to the pastorate in the US was almost unheard of outside of marginal sects until the 1950s, when the Methodists and the Presbyterians embraced it.

I don’t think Tony Jones is listening to what the Spirit might have been saying for the previous 1,950 years. Even Elaine Pagels, nobody’s idea of an orthodox Christian theologian, concedes that by the second century, any role women might have played as priests — and she doesn’t claim that they did, mind you — was firmly ruled out by the Church hierarchy. In other words, if, for the sake of argument, you believe that women were priests in the first century (a position for which there is very little evidence), then by the second century, the Church had decided to go another way.

Anyway, I’m not really interested in arguing over women’s ordination. I am interested in pointing out the hubris and arrogance of Tony Jones’s claim that the Spirit has spoken so clearly to the Church over the last 50 years or so that everything that came before on the subject is now null and void.

UPDATE.2: A reader catches this from today, and sends it in:


Oh, well, okay. The problem is the Holy Trinity. It seems that we are getting a pretty good idea which dogmas are sacrosanct in Tony Jones’s view of Christianity. If he’s willing to toss the Trinity for the sake of gender egalitarianism in church leadership, that tells one all one really needs to know.

UPDATE.3: Ah, Dr. Jones’s blog page points me to a post of his called “Death To Homeschooling,” in which he says that Christians have no choice but to put their children in public school, else they’re not being faithful Christians. OK, so let’s see … you can (it appears) jettison the Trinity and still be a Christian, but disbelieve in women’s ordination, or choose a private, religious, or homeschooling option for your kids, and you get skizzumed by Dr. Jones, of the Church Of What’s Happening Now.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. A veteran of three decades of magazine and newspaper journalism, he has also written three New York Times bestsellers—Live Not By Lies, The Benedict Option, and The Little Way of Ruthie Lemingas well as Crunchy Cons and How Dante Can Save Your Life. Dreher lives in Baton Rouge, La.

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