Today was day one in The Great Emergence conference.  To a large extent it was a deeper summary of each part of the book, including some of the keys dates, pivotal moments and events that helped create what we’re experiencing now. She made a significant point about how this turn is deeply affecting the concept of Sola Scriptura.

One of the things that caught my attention was Tickle’s comment that there are forty-four specific events that underline the move away from Sola Scriptura.  I would love to see what those 44 are but that would be like icing on the cake.  The final subject in the turn away will be how we address homosexuality in the church.  She reiterated that it’s not if Sola Scriptura ends but when.

I’ve heard Tickle talk about the faulty logic of Luther’s choice for Sola Scriptura and the inevitable consequences of it but she mentioned something today that really caught everyone’s attention.  She went extensively into the concept of division and how Sola Scriptura is naturally bent towards division, which is eventually a recipe for chaos and unending conflict.  She mentioned the 26,000 Protestant denominations on record.  The choice for Sola Scriptura had a positive consequence in that it did foster literacy in order for people to read Scripture on their own, but it also took away a central authority in the Pope which allowed everyone to have an opinion. Outcome: Instant division.

The lingering questions I have are two specific issues which Tickle intimated she will address tomorrow.  One, is it possible that the Internet will drastically speed up the potential for change thus driving it faster and more often; meaning, it is likely that we could see every typical stage of these shifts condense into 50 years as opposed to 500?  Two, is it possible that the outcome of The Great Emergence will be the opposite of the previous shifts and drift/slide towards convergence as opposed to a split? I say this because the central drawing of Tickle’s book is the flower which everyone I talked to today (regardless of background) found themselves drifting towards the center.

A couple of other really great things.

Nadia Bolz-Weber, author of Salvation on the Small Screen? 24 Hours of Christian Television, got to open each session with sections of her book.  If it’s half as good as her dead pan delivery you need to buy this book (or book her for a comedy routine).  She also blogs at Sarcastic Lutheran.

But something happened that really caught my attention.  The central point of Tickle’s book is, “Where is our authority?” And much of the underlining question for those in this conference is the step and subsequent journey out of traditional church expressions and into new ones.  Much like Luther’s choice, or anyone who chooses the lesser path and away from tradition, this move away is filled with tension.  And it hit me today that what people are looking for in the conference is the permission to take that risk. So, as Nadia was reading, at one point she said the word “shit” and you could see the heads rock back.  Yet afterward, it hit me that Nadia had found the permission to be real in what had traditionally been seen as a restrictive space.  It was weird in a good way.

One of the real blessings of the conference was when Doug brought up five attendees and asked them to share some of their own story away from traditional expressions of church.  It was interesting to hear their hearts and how they were wrestling with what they had come out of but still looking at what they were moving in to.  You could really sense that they took it very seriously and that they had not walked away from faith.

The last session of the day was the long list of authors who have written on subjects in the emerging church.  You can see the list here. They shared a brief history and background, and then we broke up into groups to engage what was humorously called, “speed dating.”  Each author spent five minutes giving a speed pitch of their subject matter, and then groups of about twelve to fifteen spend six minutes with each author peppering them with questions.

Peter Rollins absolutely captured everyone’s attention.  (He’s still looking for West Coast dates by the way.)  He talked at about six hundred words a minute and shared some of his parables and his experience at ikon.

They all really had a great message to share but two stuck with me, probably because they affected community and discipleship. Will Samson, member of Communality (Lexington, Kentucky) and co-author of Justice in the Burbs: Being the Hands of Jesus Wherever You Live really shared some great insights on slow growth in discipleship and community.  Real community can’t be manufactured. Joseph Myers, author of Organic Community: Creating a Place Where People Naturally Connect shared about the shift away from agrarian to technological community (Facebook).  We choose our friends and the barriers to non-traditional community are crumbling.  In a lot of ways he echoed Tickle’s grand question of authority that people get really tense when the normal barriers shift or disappear.

You can also see all the photos from today here.

That’s it for tonight.  Much love.