[1.1 update: I wish I had chosen a better name and genre for this. An open post should only be used after interaction, and i did not get any email response from my requests in Sept 2004 - a better and less threatening post title would have been "Some questions I Would Ask Dr Don Carson if We Met in a Coffee Shop." My apologies if i stirred up unrest in the Body by using a genre that is too formal. AJ]
Hi Don. Your book "Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church" comes out in June and I am awaiting my copy [after listening to the 3 tapes on which the book is based] But some clarification before then would help me. We bloggers are sticklers for the truth . . as Dan Rather found out.
Hey – I hate open letters . . . they are too long, too formal and they assume a personal enmity that is not always there. I thought an open blog post would be a little less formal, and would carry an extra level of communal accountability – for both of us. Readers would be welcome to say if my post was unfair or inaccurate, and they could also hear you say something (anything you want) as a response. Or you could ignore it and no one would ever know if you read it or not - then you could maintain your reputation without resorting the demands of us bloggers.
Sorry to bring you over to our new media world. I requested your email address on September 3, 2004, hoping to send you a personal email, but was denied by Christway Media - they said you would respond before Christmas in your book - and now we have to wait until June . . and even then we don't know if you will be responding to our concerns or not. Forgive me if i am impatient, but there is a lot at stake.
Firstly, you need to know that YOU ARE LOVED. People credit your character whenever they mention you. Many of the leaders in the Emerging Church were trained by you. Your books are on their shelves and you have brought people closer to the Scriptures and their Author. Please do not assume disrespect in this blog posting. I just want to clear up a few things so that I know the skinny on where you stand and can be truthful in what I say about your tape series (which I listened to) and your book “Becoming Conversant with Emergent" (which I have already ordered). Under different circumstances, you and I would get on really well, apart from you being a well known Bible teacher and me just a poor missionary who blogs instead of sending a traditional monthly prayer letter. I write this as a leader in what is now known as the emerging church or emergent church. We are not committed to that name, but there is much criticism towards it at the moment and I feel that standing into the criticism rather than running from it will do us good in the long run, even though it may tarnish our reputations in the short term. But if the name was taken from us, we would no doubt continue starting church planting movements in the emerging culture in the same way, but then we would have to wait for a new identity to build, so that people could criticize us . . and why should we wait that long? Much better to accept the current criticism and respond to it. It sharpens us like iron, and righteous people welcome criticism.
I also write this as a blogger with a loud voice on the internet. When people type “Don Carson, emerging church” into their Google search engines, the postings on my blog (tallskinnykiwi.com) have been coming up in the Top 3 listings – well ahead of your tapes or book, making me somewhat of a doorway to your material. This was not intentional. Just a perk of being a new media publisher rather than an old media book person. (You wont find my writings in a book store). For the record, I had a Sleepless Night when I first listened to your tape and then responded with The Skinny on Carson's Emerging Church Tapes. You also made it into my Emergent Criticism Hall of Fame and I responded to you and Al Mohler in
Are We A Threat to the Gospel? These posts are worth reading, simply for the intelligent comments from people - which may serve you as an accurate reflector of the response to your upcoming book.
After thinking on your tape series for 5 months, I return to what i initially stated after my sleepless night:
"Regarding the accusation that emerging church people do not believe in truth or moral absolutes and that they tolerate everything, my response is this . . .
1. That is not true.
2. That is not right.
3. I will not tolerate it.
4. Because of answers 1-3, either Carson's description of someone in the emerging church is not correct, or I am not a part of the emerging church." Link
I also write as a leader inside Emergent, and one who gave the thumbs up for Brian McLaren to join the group. We were called Young Leaders back then, as you know, and were sponsored by Leadership Network. At the time, the group was getting negative press for an angry spirit (partly true – but certainly not me!) and I thought Brian would add some gentleness to the group and help with image management. Which happened! I am glad to have Brian as a friend, even though his theology is different than mine. I see him not as THE leader, but as one of the many players in the group, although he has become more famous because of his books. Brian does not represent the group's theology, anymore than I represent the group's ecclesiology (I have been bugging Brian about simple organic church for years but so far he hasn't heard me). Actually, I think diversity in the group is more a strength than a weakness and we have been criticized for lack of it. I also write as a missions consultant, working to connect the global emerging church with the traditional mission and denominational structures. I have been involved in dozens of countries and am happy to report that there are great inroads into the emerging cultures with the gospel. There are new churches being started with little or no resources in Europe, Asia, South and North America, and these new wineskins are finding much in common with emerging churches around the globe. Your tape series and book may discredit their ministries and threaten their connection with those who sent them. I feel somewhat responsible to defend them against your accusations, since I have recommended this particular course of ministry to their leaders and to the young people on the ground,. I don’t want to argue your points or your criticism. I have done so briefly, half-heartedly, as have many others. There is a lot of talk. Traditionals say that Emergents don’t believe in truth and Emergents say that Traditionals are not honest. I don’t want to add to it. But I do want to ask you a few questions, so that all of us will have greater access to the Truth, truth that is absolutely true as much as is possible in this murky blogosphere of ours.
4 QUESTIONS FOR DR. DA CARSON:
1. It has been said that you have never visited an emerging church, and yet you have written a book called “Becoming Conversant with Emergent”. Earlier on, we assumed (and I WRONGLY stated) that you had attended the Emergent Convention but now people say that you did not attend that either. I have since recanted my statement, in accord with the truth, and have apologized for my misinformation. But the question remains. So . . . have you ever been to an emerging church or gathering, and if so, which one?
2. By not responding to any of us, you seem to have risen above mutual accountability in the Body of Christ. We would consider this dangerous and would not tolerate such behavior if we encountered it among our own leaders. Such behavior could lead to heresy or worse. So . . . have you responded to anyone in the emerging church who, like me, have offered a defence and a reason for the hope within us, and can we read what you have written? This may be the single most important issue for some of us.
3. Our friends in the Vineyard Movement say that your unwillingness to reconsider or even respond to critics is a pattern. They apparently feel that you misrepresented them in one of your earlier writings and, just like now, you would not respond to their questionings and demands for truthfulness. So . . . did you ever respond to them, recant or apologize for mistakes or at least write something for them that we could read or link to?
4. We admit that some of our churches suck. And there are thousands of them around the globe, many of them brand new, immature, unwise and adolescent, so finding the ones that suck is not that difficult. But you have not yet given us a good model of church to compare ourselves to, or a direction to take if we choose NOT to start emerging churches out of our new believers instead of traditional churches. Please bear in mind that many of us in global ministry are starting churches in VERY non-Christian countries, and often with no budget or support, and therefore buying a building or renting one is not always an option – neither is paying a full time pastor, or paying for a seminary education. So . . .
before we tell our emerging house churches to look for real estate, and
before we tell our front line missionaries to leave the drug addicts on the streets and return to the suburbs, and
before we shut down our web-sites and move back to books and articles, and
before we retool our simple church training at festivals and drum up funding to rent conference centers and hotels, and
before we take ministry out of believers homes and place it in an A-Frame building with a big parking lot . . .
please tell us about the local church you give leadership to and why you think it would make a better model than the churches we are starting. Don, I wish you every rich blessing in our Lord Jesus Christ, and I ask you to pray for me that God will teach me his ways, and that I will always remain open to the Truth of his revelation,
April 15, 2005
THE WHOLE CARSON SERIES
1. Carson and My Sleepless Night
2. The Skinny on Carson's Emerging Church Tapes
3. The Skinny on Emergent Criticism
4. Are We A Threat to the Gospel?
5. Open Blog Post for Don Carson 1.0
6. The Carson Chronicles: Where Now?
7. The Book of Dr. DA Carson
Update: June 2006 - Still no word from Dr DA Carson but thats OK. He doesn't need to contact me about anything. But I kinda did think he would send an email or something.