by Louise Brooks, Integrity's Lambeth Press Officer
“Three or four years ago, I spied a book with an interesting title in a bookstore”, explained the Archbishop of Canterbury, as he introduced Dr. Brain McLaren, a nondenominational Maryland pastor and elder statesman of a movement called the “Emerging Church”. That book was titled, A GENEROUS ORTHODOXY “It had the longest subtitle I’ve ever seen,” he continued. (Why I Am a Missional, Evangelical, Post/Protestant, Liberal/Conservative, Mystical/Poetic, Biblical, Charismatic/Contemplative, Fundamentalist/Calvinist, Anabaptist/Anglican, Methodist, Catholic, Green, Incarnational, Depressed-yet-Hopeful, Emergent, Unfinished CHRISTIAN.)
“After I finished his book, I knew he was someone I wanted to speak to us here tonight.”
The title for McLaren’s talk this particular evening was somewhat shorter but still provocative: CHANGING CONTEXTS: BREAKING OPEN OUR MODELS OF EVANGELISM. His targets for this new model of evangelism are “those who never show up in churches; those who are created in the image of God but have never known the spirit of God.”
To a nearly SRO audience in the “big blue tent”, McLaren announced to the crowd, “We are called to create a new understanding and a new evangelism. Are we making disciples of reconciliation and transformation on earth.? Or, are we just selling tickets to heaven?” McLaren proposed that the Gospels gave us information on how to get to heaven but little information on how to live on earth. “On earth”, he pointed out, “is what The Lord’s Prayer talks about.”
McLaren defines evangelism as an outward mission and believes it is the only hope of saving the church from irrelevance. He urges the bishops and their spouses to be part of a paradigm shift where they preach a gospel of reconciliation and transformation by Jesus, rather than a gospel of “evacuation” which only includes some.
When asked a question about how young Christians are affected by the decision to exclude Bishop Gene Robinson, McLaren said it is important to see how Christians love each other when they disagree. He also suggested that the issue of homosexuality be dealt with as missiological concern rather than a theological concern.
McLaren’s greatest hope is that Christianity will become a movement rather than a religion. “What would happen if we rediscovered and reprioritized our mission to be the hands and feet and eyes and ears of Jesus in the world? What would happen if every Christian was a beacon of light and hope, not judgment? What would happen if we transformed the world with the message and teachings of Jesus Christ?”
What would happen? Can our bishops make that happen? Only time will tell.