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.
Inigo Montoya: You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.
Some movies yield many memorable lines.
Crash, Eddie: Were you killed?
Buck: Sadly, yes. — But I lived!
Sometimes I start to wonder if we even know what we’re saying anymore.
But let’s clarify.
I think Andrew meant unorthodox as in unusual or breaking with convention, rather than unorthodox as in a doctrine at variance with the officially recognized position. But I could be wrong. I do know that we’re losing our grip on the meaning of the word “marriage” — not for talk of extending it (or not) to gay and lesbian unions, but for talk of whether it represents a spiritual or a legal union and whether it’s a contract or a covenant and what technicalities facilitate their binding constitution or allowable dissolution.
Note: there has been some further dust-up in the discussion between the Joneses. I want to comment on that, and I want to say something about what I think the future holds for the church on the brink of a new decade. But before I get to those items in my next post(s), I’ve decided to publish the following one, which I wrote and left in draft form after Tony Jones posted his rebuttal and before Andrew Jones posted his response to Tony. And if you’re not following that thread, just ignore this preamble and pay attention to what follows.
Yesterday I posted an overview of the Didache to introduce what it is and where it came from, but essentially it’s an early Christian document from around the same time that the New Testament itself was still being written. “Didache” means “teaching”, and the document provides a compilation of (probably) oral tradition about what the apostles taught concerning community life. Today I’m blogging on Chapter 6 of Tony Jones‘ newest book, The Teaching of Twelve: Believing & Practicing the Primitive Christianity of the Ancient Didache Community. The Didache is not a long document, but it is instructive for the fact that it deals with practical community matters during a time of liminality when the church was just coming to birth. We ought to imagine that it will offer us insight for a time when the church is undergoing a rebirth.
Philotheos Bryennios was born in March of 1833 at Constantinople. He was educated at the Theological School in Chalce of the Great Church of Christ and the universities of Leipsic, Berlin, and Munich, and in 1861 became professor of ecclesiastical history, exegesis, and other studies at Chalce. He was appointed master and director at Chalce in 1863, though he soon resigned these two positions. In 1867 he was called to Constantinople to be the head of the “Great School of the Nation” in the Phanar, or Greek quarter of Constantinople. He remained there until 1875 when he was sent by the Most Holy Synod of metropolitans and patriarchs to the Old Catholic conference at Bonn, where he receved a patriarchal letter announcing his appointment as metropolitan of Serrae in Macedonia. In 1877 he was transferred to the metropolitan see of Nicodemia, and in 1880 went to Bucharest on behalf of the Eastern Orthodox Patriarchal and other independent churches to participate in a commission dealing with Greek monastaries that had been plundered in Moldavia and Wallachia. In 1882, at the instance of the Holy Synod of Metropolitans in Constantinople and the patriarch Joachim Il., he wrote a reply (published by the Holy Synod) to the encyclical letter of Pope Leo XIII concerning the Slavic apostles Cyrillus and Methodius. The man was no theological slouch, and despite this list of accomplishments, none of these are the thing for which he is most remembered following his death in 1914 or 1918.
Big changes at EV, and I heard it first on Twitter, wouldn’t ya know it? “MINNEAPOLIS, November 1, 2008—Emergent Village today announced a major change in structure that will position it less like a traditional non-profit organization and more like a social networking organization.” (from the press release). The Letter from the Board to Friends of Emergent Village has more information, including the results from their survey last year. I really liked this bit as they process their future:
First, we need to be, as our name suggests, a village, which means we need to create and defend safe space in which people can have needed contact and conversation. The “city limits” for the village should be the four values (or rules of the order) that emergent has developed:
Perhaps I’ve said my share already as I’ve seen the comments that others have been making about the shift — for some — away from using emerging/emergent terminology. Having had a couple of my posts picked up and linked around, I thought I’d be done, but it turns out I’m not — even if it turns out I’m saying more than my fair share. I’ve been pondering the bigger picture of it though, and late last week something clicked as I began to see the whole matter from a different angle, and I’ve decided there’s an alternate interpretation to be applied. This post, I think, is my most important observation of the discussion, and one which I hope time will prove to be accurate. And as I’ve said before, language is important to me, even if others tire of the talk of words. Eventually I do as well though, so hopefully this week will wrap up all that I feel I need to say about this battle of words. And anyway, I’ll point out that it’s not about words anyway, nor is it about people de-friend-ing one another.