I haven’t said anything for several weeks now, though I know others have said things, and there has been some general chatter. I know that some have reached out to Julie McMahon with encouragement. It seemed like things have gone quiet, though really, nothing had changed. Tony Jones remains a bastard NPD out to get what he wants in the spotlight, at any cost. This single short statement holds a few things that deserve a bit of unpacking.
Now I’m no David Hayward, but this is what came out on the last one as I was wondering what it was going to take for “leaders” like Brian McLaren, Doug Pagitt, and Rachel Held Evans to revoke their support for and endorsement of Tony Jones. I call this one #WhenTony.
I’ve always had a kind of love-hate relationship with Emergent Village. I liked how EV sought to push what we called “the conversation” in emerging circles and help to bring it to the foreground. I liked that they helped bring some books into more popular consciousness. This would have been back around 2004 through 2006, say, back in the earlier days of this blog. Back when I had begun my church exodus and detox, when I was deconstructing and reimagining and exploring.
I have never displayed the “Friend of Emergent” badge on my blog. Oh, I considered myself Emergent-friendly, but it always stuck in my craw that displaying the badge came with a price tag — literally. If you contributed to EV, became a member, whatever, then you were invited to display the badge. You couldn’t “just” be a friend. You had to buy it. I never liked that whole concept, and as time went on, I became a Friend of Missional instead. That was free, thanks to my friend the Blind Beggar. I didn’t have to join anything, pay anything, or buy anything — I just had to be friendly.
My last post laid out the situation surrounding the divorce of Tony Jones and Julie McMahon, and introduced the matters which were brought to light concerning not only Tony Jones, but Emergent Village. It’s clearly evident that Tony lied concerning the details of his divorce, and has misrepresented the facts at points to skew public perception in his favour. While conclusive evidence of an affair with Courtney Perry has not (yet) been made public, those who have viewed it seem generally convinced that an affair began while Jones and McMahon were still married (and indeed, perhaps while Perry was still married). Having seen some of it, I’m convinced an affair took place, and the psych eval makes it clear that the evaluator also believes this to be true. Let’s set aside the affair though. Affairs happen, people lie, people get divorced, dog bites man. Nothing to report there, so far as it goes. Sad though it may be, this is still true in Christian churches and in those engaged in Christian ministry. Even through the midst of the public debate of Julie’s story, it had been stated repeatedly that this was not about the divorce. So what’s it about? Let’s begin with Tony’s behaviour through the affair, divorce, and subsequent relationship with Julie. For our purposes today, whether he was a good husband or father is not germane, and let’s be honest, very few of us want to be judged on that question alone.
So it’s now public knowledge that the Golden Boy of the Emergent Village has lied about almost all of the facts surrounding his divorce from his first wife, Julie McMahon. R.L. Stollar bravely published excerpts of the documents, including those indicating the injury that Jones denies causing to McMahon’s shoulder. There remain two things which are not immediately clear. (1) Why certain leaders continue to support Jones; and (2) How the leadership of Emergent Village could have allowed an environment where this could take place while they feigned ignorance.
I’ll back up. There are a lot of summaries of this mess out there already, and even more commentary upon the matter. But I’ll recap some “highlights” with a few notations of my own, after which I’ll explain why this matter catches my attention enough to resurrect this blog and comment publicly, and I’ll pose some questions around what I consider to be the larger issues at play. As has been said all along, this is not just about the breakup of one family — as painful as that was and continues to be for them.
Brian McLaren’s new book (A New Kind of Christianity: Ten Questions That Are Transforming the Faith) has just been released, and it’s already causing a bit of a firestorm. I’m still awaiting my copy, but plan to look through it at his ten questions and interact with those once I’ve been able to consider them in more detail. In the meantime, there are a few things upon which I really feel the need to comment, and since I have a ready-built platform, there’s nobody to stop me. I apologize for the length of the post — I went back to see if I could split it up into two parts, but it just doesn’t work very well to do that. It’s long, but I think it’s important. Thanks in advance for bearing with me, and reading on. And if you get bored, skip down — I summarize at the end.
Well, I started out with some prognostication, and then I got distracted. It’s easy to get lost when you’re talking about the future, which is inherently hard to see anyway. But let’s get back on track nonetheless. As I was saying, the emerging church was set to become more mainstream, and it has done so in the past couple of years. This is not to say that the self-fashioned heresy-hunters are happy, but that’s not something that’s about to happen anyway. (Not ever, that’s their schtick.) Evangelicalism, however, has become more comfortable with certain forms and contributions from the emerging church. For those who followed along in the past year, you might think this is convenient, because evangelicalism is dead as well as the emerging church, or they’re at least on side-by-side deathbeds. What a pretty pair they make, gasping for breath to tell you that rumours of their demise have been greatly exaggerated. The precise meaning of the word “greatly” in this instance is still in some dispute.
I’m reaching back a little with this one, but I’ve had a partially-drafted post on this for a while and wanted to finish it up and publish it rather than just delete it and let it go. The topic I think is an important one currently.
Mark Sayers’ much-linked post “The Emerging Missional Church Fractures into Mini Movements” now has a followup, “The Emerging Missional Church is Greenwich Village — More Thoughts on Fracturing.” In the sequel, Mark offers some further insightful thoughts on the emerging/missional movement and the fragments thereof. He says, in part,