Monday, June 1, 2009


June 1, 2009

An interesting article in The Christian Century (June 2, 2009 p.20-22) is called ‘Seeds of Doubt’ and is an interview with Peter Rollins about an emergent church gathering in a Belfast pub called ‘Ikon’. I am interested because this is the first example of the emergent church movement that does not seem to be young adults discovering ancient tradition and packaging it as new and trendy. (I have no objection to this aspect of the movement, but am not clear that there is much that is ‘emergent’ about it.) Ikon, by contrast is looking to be a group ‘beyond belief’ (and I’m not clear whether the pun is intended or not.) Peter Rollins expresses the goal of the group to speak of faith as “something that brings life, that brings transformation.” He explains: “I think that this understanding of faith resonates with people who are tired of a religion in which believing the right thing is what it’s all about.”

Much of what he proclaims about Ikon are things that we could claim for All Saints’ (indeed for much of the Episcopal Church.) He is looking for a way between belief and rejection of belief that puts ‘the experience of transformation’ at the center rather than doubt. They seek to achieve this through the use of art (called “anarchic experiment sin transformance art”) and drama (called “theodramatic events”). Anyone can gather at the appointed time to plan the gatherings. Rollins is clear that this only ‘works’ for someone who is rooted in a religious tradition, apparently including those rooted in a rejection a specific religious tradition, and sees Ikon as “like the warning on the side of a package of medicine tablets. You can’t have the tablets without the warning, but the warning without the tablets is nonsense.”

You can get more flavor for this experiment here:

My response is that much of what draws people to Ikon might also draw them to All Saints’. Where they talk of ‘transformation’ as being at the center, we might ask transformation from what to what else and why is that a good thing? We are more likely to talk of ‘right relationship’ as being the center and goal and talk about why the story and person of Jesus are liberating (or transformative) in our lives. To the degree that worship is an enactment of salvation history and so transformative drama, we could probably develop much more creative and ‘alternative’ possibilities than we do now for engaging the imaginations of those who are not yet here.

Where Ikon emphasize personal responsibility and decline to hold out any expectation that they will “meet needs’ for community friendship and the like, we would rather say that if you find friendship, community or any other expression of love it is a gratuitous gift of God’s grace that may or may not be granted, but you will miss it if you are not paying attention.

Our program staff enjoyed an interesting conversation flowing from The Christian Century article, which I intend to share with our strategic Thinking Group and Vestry as well.

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