Todd Hunter’s recent interview with Christianity Today, entitled Accidental Anglican, has stirred up a bit of conversation on the interwebs! I hadn’t read the interview before I saw Keith Gile’s response on Facebook. I was a little surprised that Keith, who by the way is a great fan of Todd’s, was as upset about a couple of comments that Todd made in the interview:
“When you left the Vineyard leadership, you connected to the early emerging church movement. What did you learn?
I linked to the emergent thing because I loved these young Christians who were trying to figure out church and what it means to be a follower of Jesus in this new era. We coached church planters all over the world who were trying to create communities of faith that made sense to their postmodern, post-Christendom friends.
Now you can’t broad-brush the emergent movement. But I saw two big problems in the emergent world.
First, the emergents are so sensitive to issues of community, relationship, egalitarianism, and being non-utilitarian in their relationships, that evangelism has simply become a synonym for manipulation—a foul ball, relationally. If you and I were work colleagues and I built a relationship in which I could influence your journey toward Christ, that would be considered wrong in these circles. I cannot be friends with you if I intend to lead you to Christ.
Second, after 10 or 12 years of the emerging church, you have to ask where anything has been built. Evangelism has been so muted and the normal building of structures and processes hasn’t moved forward because there’s no positive, godly imagination for doing either evangelism or leadership. Such things are by definition utilitarian, and so they were made especially difficult.”
You really need to read Keith’s entire post to get a complete grasp of his exception to Todd’s observations. However, let me try and reduce them to just a couple of sentences. One, Giles’ agrees with the premise that friendship for the sake of evangelism is manipulation. Two, Giles’ disagrees with the need for leadership as merely a precursor for the continued preservation of the clergy-laity division. And Three, Buildings and Processes should not be the end product of our kingdom activities.
Let me interject my standard confession: I am a baby boomer (like Todd Hunter). I am also a lawyer and a former real estate developer, so I tend to think in a linear process. This is probably why Todd’s comments did not spark the same reaction in me that they did in Keith Giles. You see, if I have one complaint with the emerging church it is that it seems that in reaction to the excesses of standard evangelical evangelism, there doesn’t seem to be much evangelism happening. The other observation that I would make is that the emerging church conversation hasn’t produced sustainable networks of communities of faith.
I know for sure that Todd wasn’t talking about building cathedrals, but like a typical baby boomer, he expects there to be some kind of leadership emerging. It’s true, it could be that so much of what is happening is grass roots and below the radar that the outlines can’t be discerned.
Thinking about this I saw two disconnects. One was generational, the disconnect between baby boomers and the emerging generations in terms of style and approach. The other was in the area of spiritual gifts. Todd Hunter is an evangelist, with a large dose of the apostolic. He is at the root of a great deal of church planting that happened in the Vineyard. If the Vineyard movement in the US is healthiest in the Midwest, then Todd Hunter is at the core of it. For years he has been on a mission to reach young people through church planting. It is not surprising that given the opportunity and the resources to plant 200 churches to do just that, that he would jump at it, vestments and all. While the emerging church conversation has certainly has emphasized the prophetic, teaching and pastoral gifts, the apostolic and the evangelistic have been the overlooked gifts.
In any case, I extend my blessing toward the accidental Anglican, Bishop Todd Hunter, as he continues his journey responding to God’s calling on his life. And I also look forward to what God will do with the emerging church conversation in the years to come.