Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Phyllis Tickle: "It won’t be 10 percent right now, but I would be floored if its not 20 percent next year."

Phyllis Tickle, editor of the religion department at Publishers Weekly, and author of several books on fixed hour prayer, has a new book coming out later this month, The Great Emergence: How Christianity Is Changing and Why. To get a whiff of what the book is about I recommend you read a couple articles out in a recent addition of Sojourners (available here and here, after you fill out their free registration).

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution had an interesting article out the other day related to the book’s upcoming release, and quoted Tickle several times. I thought I’d post a few extended excerpts here that I thought were interesting, and prophetic, from the article to see what any of you might think about what she’s saying.

The revolution has begun.

Quietly, maybe, but symptoms are bubbling up.

They include Bible studies in bars, friends starting their own churches in houses, or congregations trying a smattering of everything —- music of the Middle Ages and the latest rock anthems, Saturday morning and Thursday night meetings. Pentecostals are adopting liturgy and Episcopalians are speaking in tongues.

“[The changes are] led by all those who wish to remain faithful, but feel something is not quite right in the church,” said Tickle,

This new movement, which she refers to as emerging or emergent Christianity, will have as big an impact as the Reformation, Tickle predicts.

How many churchgoers know about what she is talking about?

“It won’t be 10 percent right now,” she said. “But I would be floored if its not 20 percent next year. The restlessness now is almost palpable.”

The movement is loosely organized, and often quiet. It is made up of people who have gotten to know each other through word-of-mouth, on Internet sites or at conferences where writer-pastors such as Brian McLaren and Tony Jones speak.

The movement’s members are passionate and experimental, socially conscious and ecumenical, deeply devoted to early church disciplines, such a prayer, but they feel free to question and reinterpret long-held beliefs, [Steve Hayner, a professor of church growth at Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur] said.

Troy Bronsink, a former Presbyterian pastor who leads a strand of the Atlanta movement, describes some involved as “refugees from ecclesiological abuse.”

Discussion groups and the participants’ relationships create a safe space for those willing to question the religion they grew up with and think and talk about new ways to live out their faith, he said.

Tickle said, “When somebody says they are relativists, I want to smack them upside their heads.”

One has to take belief seriously to question and reposition a faith so that it is meaningful in current culture, she said. And the critics should get used to these faithful who look back to the roots of the faith as well as lean into the future with it.

“Before it’s over, it’s going to be 60 percent of Christianity,” she predicted.

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