Mennonites Walk Barton’s Bridge

Ruth Haley Barton, founder of The Transforming Centre[1], was trained at the Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation which teaches: “This mystical stream [contemplative prayer] is the Western bridge to Far Eastern spirituality … It is no accident that the most active frontier between Christian and Eastern religions today is between contemplative Christian monks and their Eastern equivalents.” —Tilden Edwards, Shalem Founder[2]

Barton, who could not find peace or direction in her Baptist roots or through reading the Bible and praying, found fulfillment through spiritual direction. Now she incorporates a blend of Eastern and Roman Catholic contemplative spirituality and monastic practices in her retreats and books on practicing the presence of God in the silence and sacred rhythms of prayer. Lately she has been very instrumental in leading entire Protestant and Anabaptist church congregations and their leaders into these same practices through spiritual direction and discernment seminars.

This year, the Mennonites have once again[3] brought in Ruth Haley Barton to help them make decisions in the silence regarding some very important upcoming issues that include LGBTQ and anti-Israel BDS resolutions. How tragic to see an entire church delegation over looking all that is necessary in their discernment process (the Bible), thereby shunning to declare the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27) in seeking guidance from an apprentice of Thomas Merton and Tilden Edwards. Surely Menno Simons is rolling over in his grave.

“But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.” Acts 6:4

Here are two articles for the remnant to read and pray about…

CLC discerns delegate agenda and offers counsel to Executive Board
Posted on March 30, 2015
NORTH NEWTON, Kan.—“We are here and we’ve been gathered by God, and the truth is gathered, too,” said Chuck Neufeld, conference minister for Illinois Mennonite Conference, during a plenary session at the March 26–28 meeting of Mennonite Church USA’s Constituency Leaders Council (CLC) in North Newton, Kan.
CLC members spent time in prayer and worship; received input from Ruth Haley Barton on tools for discerning God’s will for the church; and offered counsel to the Resolutions Committee and Executive Board (EB) of Mennonite Church USA on churchwide statements to bring before the Delegate Assembly in Kansas City, Mo., this summer.
Neufeld’s reflections, offered after a half hour of silent discernment and prayer, were joined by those of other CLC members who called for mutual forbearance and care across the church in the midst of disagreements on how LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer) individuals should be allowed to participate in Mennonite Church USA. Marco Güete, conference minister for Southeast Mennonite Conference, closed the sharing time with observations from his long career in the Mennonite Church, saying, “My reflection to God during this time was, ‘I love your imperfect church. Thank you for this opportunity to be a part of it.’”

More here:
http://mennoniteusa.org/news/clc-discerns-delegate-agenda-and-offers-counsel-to-executive-board/

Discerning spirit
God’s will can be found, even in when we disagree
Apr 13, 2015 by Paul Schrag

The rest of the world makes decisions, but the church discerns. If that were just a choice of words, it wouldn’t be important. But Ruth Haley Barton believes the difference goes much deeper. To discern is to find the will of God.
“Christian leaders have an idea that their decision-making should be somehow different from the rest of the world,” Barton said in a presentation to the Mennonite Church USA Constituency Leaders Council on March 26 at Bethel College in North Newton, Kan. “But sometimes we reduce that to just having a prayer and devotions at the beginning of the meeting.”
Discernment is more than a nod to God.
At a time when MC USA is experiencing conflict over same-sex relationships and church polity, Barton’s message was timely. Though she spoke to leaders dealing with major issues, her ideas apply to every Christian and to all of life.
Barton is a teacher and writer about Christian formation and church leadership at the Transforming Center in Wheaton, Ill., who will speak to delegates at the MC USA convention in Kansas City in July.
She defines discernment as “the capacity to recognize and respond to the presence and the activity of God in both the ordinary moments and the larger decisions of our lives.”
Discernment is the habit of noticing where God is at work and how God is speaking. Barton believes it is possible, in any situation, to “have a sense of whether God is at work or the Evil One is at work.” This needs to happen even in the interior world of our own thoughts and motives. 1 John 4:1 advises us to “test the spirits.” Are we willing to test our own spirit?
To do this, we need to listen to God in solitude and silence.
“Many of us are trying to give spiritual leadership without having much of a spiritual life,” Barton said. We must not let our busyness — even our Christian busyness — keep us from being aware of what is going on in our own soul. We need to be quiet and hear the voice of God as distinct from our own voice.
To whom does God give the spiritual gift of discernment? To those who are on a spiritual journey, Barton says. To those who let God transform them into a better version of themselves.

More here:
http://mennoworld.org/2015/04/13/editorial/discerning-spirit/

________

Endnotes:

1] (www.transformingcenter.org)
2] Ruth Haley Barton, Contemplative Prayer, 
and the Spiritual Formation Movement
http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/ruthhaleybarton.htm
3] Ruth Haley Barton Trains Mennonites to Discern in The Silence
https://mennolite.wordpress.com/2014/02/18/ruth-haley-barton-trains-mennonites-to-discern-in-the-silence/

*** UPDATE JULY 3, 2015

Mennonites delay vote on divesting from Israel for 2 years
http://www.israelhayom.com/site/newsletter_article.php?id=26609

The Thin Place Trend Continues

The contemplative trend continues to surface in Mennonite publications, as recently shown by a two part article called Moving thinward[1] in the Canadian Mennonite by Troy Watson[2]. It’s about ‘thin places,’ believed by some to be places where we can feel God’s presence more readily because the barrier between the spiritual realm and the material is thinner than in other places. Another article about ‘thin places’ was recently published in the MB Herald, called Find Yourself a Thin Place this Christmas[3].

Could this growing interest in Celtic spirituality and thin places be the fruit of a concern back in 2007 about Lilly Endowment grants that were being given to congregations and their pastors? These grants for pastors to go on sabbaticals with contemplative/emerging overtones have been as recent as 2012.

“. . . according to the Lilly Endowment document that lists the winners of the 2012 grants, pastors will:

. . . seek to regain spiritual vitality through the ancient Christian practice of walking as pilgrims in several countries—the path of Jesus in Israel, the path of the Exodus, some or all of the 500-mile Camino de Santiago (the Way of St. James) in Spain, the missionary journeys of the Apostle Paul in Greece, Turkey and Italy—and making retreats in Benedictine monasteries, walking the labyrinth at Chartres Cathedral, and living in sacred space on the Isle of Iona and other Celtic spiritual destinations.

Winners represent various denominations including Southern Baptist, Independent, Presbyterian, Reformed, Episcopal, United Methodist, Lutheran, Nazarene, Evangelical Free, and Mennonite.”

SOURCE: Question to the Editor: What’s Up with Lilly Endowment – Funding Pastoral Sabbaticals with a Contemplative Agenda
http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=11280

Whether or not Troy Watson’s recent visit to the contemplative community of Iona was due to a grant, he writes that he’s always been drawn to environments that evoke ‘a sense of sacred space.’ In part two of Moving Thinward he says that “…for Abraham, Jacob and their descendants, Bethel was a thin place” and of Mount Sinai, “This mountain was clearly a very thin place.”

Are there such places to be found today? We know from the Bible that the holy place (the temple) was the only place on the entire earth that God dwelt after sin and death entered the word and man was separated from God. Sacrifices ceased in the Temple in Jerusalem when it was destroyed in 70 AD, but access to the Holy of Holies, where God met man, was already no longer available by then because Jesus was the final sacrifice, once and for all, and the veil to the Holy of Holies was torn.

“Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh” Hebrews 10:19,20

Because Jesus is the only way to enter God’s presence, any so called sacred space we now make or attempt to find in order to enter that realm is idolatry. There can be no places on earth where the veil between us and God’s presence is ‘thinner.’ Where ever there are efforts to find thin places where God meets man, such as the contemplatives making their sacred spiritual spaces to sense God’s presence, or the practice of the presence of God through prayer techniques – it is idolatry. The God of the universe already made a way to dwell within each believer, by the power of the Holy Spirit, whom Jesus sent after His ascension. Those who believe are now called the temple of the Holy Spirit. No place on earth is worth making the effort to find. He lives in us. Praise the Name of the LORD!

Endnote:

1] This is part one:

Moving thinward (Pt. 1)
By Troy Watson
Feb 25, 2015
Viewpoints
I’ve always been intrigued with “thin places” long before I ever heard the term “thin place.”
Since childhood, I’ve been curiously drawn to old churches, temples, cathedrals, monasteries, ruins, holy sites, natural “wonders,” remote wilderness, solitary night skies—anywhere that evokes a sense of sacred space. Part of the appeal has been the beauty and mystery I so often find in these environments, but occasionally I’ve been so overwhelmed by divine energy in these places it was as if I’d stumbled upon holy ground.
I’m not the only one. Countless people have experienced God in places like these. Sometimes in exactly the same place.
Almost two years ago, I had the privilege of visiting the Island of Iona. Iona has long been considered a thin place by people from various religious and spiritual backgrounds. . .
*More here:
http://www.canadianmennonite.org/stories/moving-thinward-pt-1

Here is part two:

Moving thinward (Pt. 2)
By Troy Watson
Mar 25, 2015
(Volume 19 Issue 7 Canadian Mennonite):
http://www.canadianmennonite.org/stories/moving-thinward-pt-2

2] Troy Watson is pastor of Avon Mennonite Church (www.avonmennonite.com/troywatson.htm) in Stratford, Ontario. He is the founder of the Quest Christian Community (www.questchristiancommunity.ca), an alternative faith community in St. Catharines, ON. (a Mennonite Church of Eastern Canada affiliated initiative) whose aim is ‘Christ Consciousness.’ Pastor Watson recently reviewed The Naked Now, a book by Franciscan priest Richard Rohr that explores the lost tradition of mystical Christianity. Of this book, Watson said “I highly recommend this book to anyone who has been reading spiritual authors such as Eckhart Tolle.” (See: http://www.mcec.ca/content/naked-now-richard-rohr)

3] Find Yourself a Thin Place this Christmas
https://mennolite.wordpress.com/2014/12/08/should-you-find-yourself-a-thin-place-this-christmas/

*Photo of Altar in The Chapel The Chapel at Iona Abbey by James Denham

What does meditation, Jungian psychology and the labyrinth have to do with the Mennonite Brethren?

Can nice people who create beautiful music be sincerely deceived and lead other well meaning people astray? When reading about the following retreat which is taking place today, keep in mind that this ‘Christian mystic’ is one of the retreat leaders at the Mark Centre which is affiliated with the Mennonite Brethren Conference of BC.

Saturday, March 28 Soul Care Day Retreat
Soul Care Day Retreat – with a theme of Receiving Forgiveness for self and Extending Forgiveness to others
When we can receive love and forgiveness in greater measure for ourselves,we are able to extend that in greater measures to those around us. Aligning with Love is a way to guide us into a deeper journey of forgiveness in our lives. Forgiveness is a key to bring greater transformation in all our relationships.
A full day of care for the soul – for 12 women.
Our day will be a flow of group time and personal time, including lunch and snacks.
Group times will include music meditation, stories, forgiveness teaching and meditation, poetry and sharing together.
In your free time you can choose to rest, do journaling meditations that will be available for you, walk the outdoor labyrinth, or sit at an art/icon station.
$85 for the day. If finances are a difficulty, please indicate what you are able to afford on your registration. Please pay $25 registration down below to reserve your spot and the remainding $60 upon arrival by check/cash/credit.
 Cathy AJ Hardy is a Christian mystic and the retreat will hold elements of Jungian psychology, Celtic Christianity, poetry, and art. Cathy has been leading retreats with the Mark Centre in Abbotsford, MCC in Abbotsford, and at the Westminster Abbey in Mission. She also leads day retreats through her home. She is a singer-songwriter, poet, and retreat facilitator.
(cathyajhardy.com/events/saturday-march-28-soul-care-day-retreat/)

What does Christian mysticism, meditation, Jungian psychology and the labyrinth have to do with the Mennonite Brethren? Biblically and theologically, these have absolutely no place in any Christian ministry. This information has been posted simply to create awareness in the hearts of the remnant of believers within the Mennonite Brethren denomination. Pray for those who have taken the contemplative path. The teachings of contemplative spirituality seem inviting, but are leading many astray.

Note: The goal and strategy of the (Mennonite Brethren affiliated) Mark Centre is serve thousands who will inspire millions to embrace a lifestyle of contemplative listening to God. Those who want to learn more about the Mark Centre or the labyrinth may use the search box on this blog to find previous posts.

RELATED:

The Mark Centre and Silent Prayer – Strategy to Affect Millions
https://mennolite.wordpress.com/2011/01/14/the-mark-centre-and-silent-prayer/

What is Jungian analytic psychology, and is it biblical?
http://www.gotquestions.org/Jungian-analytic-psychology.html

Carl G. Jung
 Man of Science or Modern Shaman?
http://www.crossroad.to/articles2/08/nathan/jung.htm

LABYRINTHS, Prayer Paths That Promote the Occult
http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/labyrinth.htm

What is Christian mysticism?
http://www.gotquestions.org/Christian-mysticism.html

The “New” Evangelical Traditions

Are Lenten abstinences a rejection of the completed substitutionary atonement of Christ?

Former Roman Catholic T.A. McMahon writes:

I trusted in relics of dead so-called Saints; holy water; making the sign of the cross; votive candles; baptism for salvation (infant or otherwise); a “transubstantiated” piece of bread alleged to be Christ; apparitions of Mary; a scapular; a “miraculous medal”; statues and images of Jesus, Mary, and the saints; endless Rosaries, Novenas, the Stations of the Cross; abstaining from meat on Friday; Lenten abstinences; the Last Rites to get me into Purgatory and indulgences to get me out of Purgatory; Mass cards; graces dispensed from Mary; the confessional, with absolution of my sins by a priest; penance and personal suffering to purify me of my sin; worshiping a piece of bread at the Eucharistic Holy Hour; the Holy Father as the Vicar of Christ on earth, etc., etc. Therein lies a bondage that few evangelicals understand.
Many brush these things aside as non-essentials of the Christian faith or minor theological aberrations unique to Catholicism. Not true. They are essential to the gospel that Rome declares-a gospel of meritorious works that the Bible condemns (see Galatians, Romans, Ephesians, et al.) as a rejection of the completed substitutionary atonement of Christ our Savior. Catholicism’s Tradition, which is declared to be equal in authority to Scripture, is made up of those things (such as cited above) that are necessary for, or supportive of, a Catholic’s entrance into heaven.
According to the Word of God, anything that is added to Christ’s finished work on the cross is a denial of the gospel: that Christ paid the full penalty for the sins of humanity.

Source: Evangelical Mysticism?
McMahon, T.A
http://www.thebereancall.org/content/evangelical-mysticism

Why Lent?

Once again the Mennonite Brethren are promoting their new ancient tradition of Lent. In the February 2015 issue of the MB Herald[1] are two plugs. The first is an article by Norm Funk, founding pastor of Westside Church, Vancouver, B.C. (Canada). He begins with a very good question . . .

Why Lent, why Now?

There were certain traditions in my Mennonite Brethren upbringing; Lent wasn’t one of them.
So why Lent, and why now?
I’ve wrestled with this. Here’s my answer: my main motivation is birthed out of what I see as a lack of preparation and thoughtfulness connected to the Easter season.
Lent helps battle that tendency. Lent doesn’t just remind us of the cross; it prepares us for it.
Lent invites people to join Jesus on the way to the crucifixion. Fasts – one or many – assist in that process. Obviously, the joy of Good Friday comes because the tomb was empty Sunday; however, in the sacrament of communion we are called to remember Jesus’ death. . .

More here:
http://mbherald.com/lent-now/

[Note: The comment thread following this article at the above link is quite informative.]

We also discover in this same MB Herald issue that the MB Biblical Seminary Canada has produced a devotional resource for the MB family this Lent and Easter called “Waiting for the Resurrection: A Collection of Readings for Lent and Easter”.[2]

Turning toward the resurrection

“The resurrection changes everything,” says Jeff Peters, director of advancement at MB Biblical Seminary Canada. “Christians should spend time contemplating and celebrating this pivotal event.”
The seminary has produced a devotional resource for the MB family this Lent and Easter.
Available for download, “Waiting for the Resurrection: A Collection of Readings for Lent and Easter” contains forty-one 300–400 word devotionals reflecting on a Scripture passage.
For each of the six Sundays of the Lenten season, a poem, song, reflection or prayers from the history of the Christian church foster excitement about the coming resurrection.
Contributors are Canadian pastors, scholars and leaders from MB and other traditions.
The seminary resources the MB family in Canada with training and special initiatives like this devotional. A limited number of hard copies will be sent to churches and supporters. Donations to cover costs are welcome.

SOURCE: http://mbherald.com/turning-toward-resurrection/

The Mennonites who download the recommended devotional will now be taught through a collection of meditations about the new traditions of Lent (Lenten Season, Ash Wednesday, Maundy Thursday, Holy Saturday). The contributions of these Lenten Devotionals are from various Mennonite Brethren pastors and seminary leaders, and a few surprises, including one by Rachel Twigg Boyce[3], Pastor of House Blend Ministries in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Why Lent? The answer appears to be obviously simple. The spread of ecumenical yeast seems to have spread through the whole lump of Mennonite dough.

____________

Endnotes:

[1] http://mbherald.com/february-2015-issue/
[2] http://www.mbseminary.ca/devotional
[3] For previous blog posts on Rachel Twigg-Boyce, see:
WHY IS THE MB HERALD FEATURING “A RADICAL PRAYER GATHERING” LED BY RACHEL TWIGG-BOYCE?
https://mennolite.wordpress.com/2011/01/19/why-is-the-mb-herald-featuring-a-radical-prayer-gathering-led-by-rachel-twigg-boyce/
Is the MB Conference Knowingly Condoning Ecumencial Inter-spiritual Practices?
https://mennolite.wordpress.com/2011/03/03/is-the-mb-conference-knowingly-condoning-ecumencial-inter-spiritual-practices/
More House Blend
https://mennolite.wordpress.com/2011/03/22/more-house-blend/
MB Herald promotes Ecumenism, New Monasticism
https://mennolite.wordpress.com/2011/01/10/mb-herald-promotes-ecumenism-new-monasticism/

____________

* Related blog posts on Mennonites and Lent:

Bent on Lent
https://mennolite.wordpress.com/2011/03/19/bent-on-lent/

Mennonites, Lent, and Spiritual Direction (Updated)
https://mennolite.wordpress.com/2011/03/21/mennonites-lent-and-spiritual-direction/

Lent, the New Mennonite Tradition
https://mennolite.wordpress.com/2014/03/05/lent-the-new-mennonite-tradition/

Also of interest:

The pagan goddess behind the holiday of ‘Easter’
http://www.timesofisrael.com/the-pagan-goddess-behind-the-holiday-of-easter/

Mennonites and the Eco-Gospel

A new collaboration of Mennonite Church Canada and Canadian Mennonite University called the CommonWord Book Store and Resource Center[1] just opened at the beginning of this year. On their website they state that they are “passionate about Anabaptist resources for the home and congregation,” however, what can be found there is a plethora of spirituality, from earth worship and indigenous peoples resources to contemplative spiritual formation curriculum and resources by emergent church leaders. Within the virtual walls of this library are enough non-anabaptist resources to make Menno Simons roll over in his grave. For example, the closest Brian McLaren (whose materials fill their web pages) comes to “anabaptist” is his Plymouth Brethren roots.

Shortly after opening, the top ten most popular resources[2] at CommonWord included Heaven is for Real: Based on the incredible True Story DVD[3], Buffalo Shout, Salmon Cry: Conversations on Creation, Land Justice, and Life Together[4], Sacred Pauses: Spiritual Practices for Personal Renewal by April Yamasaki[5], and Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life (Curriculum) by Richard Rohr[6].

While there may be some biblical resources to be found at CommonWord, more commonly there appears to be a lack of materials that teach the power of God and His Word. For example, Becoming an Energy Saint is a video that was promoted this January on CommonWord’s New Resources page[7]).

Is this environmental message of eco-theology truly what some Mennonites want in their church congregations as a teaching resource?

Carl Teichrib, researcher and writer, confirms that the interfaith green gospel has not only invaded Mennonite organizations, but many church denominations.

“Today’s Christian community is rife with green social and political messages, eco-theology, and interfaith action on the environment. Examples abound, such as the G8 World Religious Summit of 2010, a major interfaith meeting with strong representation from across the Protestant/evangelical spectrum, working in cooperation with world religions to push global green governance and a form of eco-spirituality.
Another example is the commissioned Mennonite Central Committee report, Earth Trek: Celebrating and Sustaining God’s Creation. In it we discover a combination of questionable theology, pantheistic-based messages, troubling political and social activism, mystical meditations and texts on the sacredness of Earth, the promotion of family planning through the United Nations Fund for Population Activities (part of the global abortion industry), favorable connections to The Earth Charter Foundation and Friends of the Earth – and at the end of the book we find this suggestion; “this week, make an offering to the earth, in the form of a prayer or some other gift.” (bold in original)
In Canada, the United Church sings “O Beautiful Gaia” – a song to the Greek goddess of Earth – as found in their More Voices hymnal. Across North America congregations hold Earth Day services, hear sermons on global warming, and engage in environmental campaigns. Example after example could be given. It’s like we’re facing a tsunami of green.”

SOURCE: Bridging Faith and Earth
By Carl Teichrib (www.forcingchange.org)
https://forcingchange.wordpress.com/2015/01/24/bridging-faith-and-earth/

Have some Christians, perhaps in name only, gone so far from their roots that they don’t know who they truly are in Christ? One can only pray that such souls will turn away from the earthy green gospel and turn their hearts to the Maker of heaven and earth.
_____

Endnotes:

[1] http://www.commonword.ca/Home
[2] http://www.commonword.ca/MostPopularResources
[3] Is “Heaven Is for Real” for Real?: An Exercise In Discernment
http://www.thebereancall.org/content/heaven-real-real-exercise-discernment-0
[4] http://www.commonword.ca/ResourceView/2/16064
[5] See: Pausing to Examine Sacred Pauses https://mennolite.wordpress.com/2013/07/27/pausing-to-examine-sacred-pauses/
[6] This book by Franciscan Priest Richard Rohr is endorsed by Dr Mehmet Oz, Brian McLaren, Cynthia Bourgeault
http://www.amazon.com/Falling-Upward-Spirituality-Halves-Life/dp/0470907754
[7] http://www.commonword.ca/ResourceView/48/17430

Mennonites Promoting the Mesa Document – the New Direction of the Same Old Emerging Conversation

My son, fear thou the LORD and the king: and meddle not with them that are given to change
Proverbs 24:21

For ninety years, Mennonite World Review has independently published a newspaper to serve Mennonites and the Anabaptist movement. In more recent years they began publishing a website and The World Together Blog. This Anabaptist-themed blog contains articles written by Brethren, Brethren in Christ, Mennonite Brethren, Conservative Mennonite, Quaker and other “Anabaptist-influenced thinkers”. This blog seems to be one of the ways that Plymouth Brethren defector Brian McLaren has been making inroads into Mennonite circles. One of the current articles on The World Together Blog by change agent McLaren concerns the direction the emerging conversation has taken and how it has led to his latest project, the Mesa Document.

Here is an excerpt of McLaren’s article as it appears on the Mennonite blog:

What’s happening in the emergent church conversation?
Nov 19, 2014 by Brian D. McClaren

I was asked recently for my view of what’s happening in the emergent/emergence conversation in North America. Here’s a very short overview, from my perspective.
The conversation continues to grow, not by creating a new slice of the pie, but by seasoning nearly all sectors of the pie. Even where the word “emergent” is not used, ideas from emergence leaders are being considered and adopted, leading to new experimentation and openness.
Influence in the Roman Catholic world is still relatively small, but growing numbers of Catholic scholars and leaders are listening, reading and engaging, from lay people to (yes) the Vatican. Catholic influence on the emergence community continues to be strong, especially through the spiritual practices of the monastic and contemplative traditions.
Much of the Mainline Protestant world has opened its arms wide to the emergent conversation, from bishops to parachurch organizations to denominational leaders to local pastors to grassroots activists. A few years down the road, I think Mainline engagement will become even more overt and significant, but already most Mainline Protestant denominations are experimenting with creative new approaches to church planting and worship/liturgy renewal. Key next steps may include the creation of a national, trans-denominational campus ministry, collaborative and transdenominational church planting and “branding,” new approaches to theological and ministry education, and the development of a new genre of progressive Christian worship music.
The evangelical community has, by and large, decided to double down against LGBT inclusion and equality, and because many emergence leaders see equality as a natural and unavoidable expression of the gospel, their voices have been marginalized by prominent gatekeepers. But beneath the surface, influence continues to expand, especially among young evangelicals and those uncomfortable with the marriage between American evangelicalism and the religious right. Along with LGBT equality, surprising numbers of evangelicals are quietly but consistently moving towards greater concern for the full equality for women, the environment, racial and interfaith reconciliation, the elimination of torture, peacemaking, poverty reduction and related issues. And theologically, they are eager to engage with questions that have been suppressed — including rethinking penal substitutionary atonement theory, biblical inerrancy and interpretation, and the violence of God. For practical reasons, it will often be best, in the short run at least, for these conversations to happen without association with the term “emergence.”

SOURCE:
http://mennoworld.org/2014/11/19/whats-happening-in-the-emergent-church-conversation/

After perfectly describing what the one world church of the anti-Christ might look like, McLaren goes on to explain in this article that, as the first wave of the emerging church leaders are aging, a new wave of young (politically correct, sin tolerant, atonement rethinking, Bible doubting) leaders is rising. These radicals are “making room for Catholics, Mainline Protestants, Evangelicals and others to work together for the common good.” Since this new unstructured wave of emergent spawn requires new structuring, McLaren recently got a group together to make a global document of sorts, detailing their new ideas and goals. In May of 2013, Brian McLaren asked for large sums of money to go toward this project which was yet to be named[1]. What he has to show for this effort is called the Mesa Document.

The Mesa Document pdf[2] explains how the goals for this restructuring were formulated in Thailand, based on conversation, dreams and friendships around the world, and is dated Halloween, 2013. An excerpt describes:

“The journey was often frightening and difficult. Whenever we found someone who shared our questions, desires, and dreams, we gathered around a table for conversation. Through conversation, we became friends on a journey. And from our friendships, we gained the courage to try new things. . . We chose the name Mesa, the Spanish word for table, because it suggested a space of conversation, companionship, and nourishment for life, work, and action.”

They are always attempting to try ‘new things,’ but had they consulted the Bible for wisdom, they might have save themselves a lot of time and resources, for as the wisest man in the world said, “The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun. Is there any thing whereof it may be said, See, this is new? it hath been already of old time, which was before us.” (Ecc. 1:9-10) Then in the book of Acts we saw the wise Bereans who studied in contrast with all the Athenians and strangers who spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing. (Acts 17:21). All scripture is written for our benefit, but only to those who study and take heed.

Although McLaren and friends say they believe in Jesus, nothing is mentioned about the Holy Spirit’s guidance in the re-writing of this new kind of church (because they don’t believe the written word is inspired or inerrant). According to McLaren’s perspective, here are the new directives on the Mesa Document:

• We believe in Jesus and the good news of the reign, commonwealth, or ecosystem of God, and we seek for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven by focusing on love — love for God and neighbor, for outsider and enemy.
• We seek to know, serve and join the poor in the struggle for justice and freedom . . . through advocacy, relationships and action.
• We seek to honor, interpret and apply the Bible in fresh and healing ways, aware of the damaging ways the Bible has been used in the past.
• We seek to reconnect with the earth, understand the harm human beings are doing to it, and discover more responsible, regenerative ways of life in it.
• We seek the common good, locally and globally, through churches of many diverse forms, contexts and traditions, and we imagine fresh ways for churches to form Christlike people and join God in the healing of the world.
• We build inclusive partnerships across gaps between the powerful and vulnerable – including disparities based on wealth, gender, race and ethnic identity, education, religion, sexuality, age, politics and physical ability.
• We engage conflict at all levels of human society with the creative and nonviolent wisdom of peacemaking.
• We propose new ways of encountering the other in today’s pluralistic world and we collaborate with other religious and secular groups in alliances for the common good.
• We host safe space for constructive theological conversation, seeking to root our practice in theological reflection and seeking to express our reflection in practical action.
• We value the arts for their unique role in nurturing, challenging and transforming our humanity.
• We emphasize spiritual and relational practices to strengthen our inner life with God and our relationships with one another.

Why did McLaren and friends travel all the way to Thailand to re-define words into a language the new kind of gatekeeper-phobic church will be comfortable with? As much as McLaren has been preaching that everything must change, these “new” concepts sound like the same old ways the emerging church has been using to integrate ideas the world already accepts: reconnecting with mother earth, social justice, the new tolerance, politically correct peace building, ecumenism, interfaith, LGBT inclusiveness, transformation of humanity through the arts and inner spiritual disciplines. The world drinks this church blend the same way it accepts the New Age message of Oprah’s tour with Rob Bell.[3] In their process of redefining terms for the new kind of church, McLaren and friends have ignored the words of Jesus (whom they claim to believe in) when He said to His beloved friends, “If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.” (John 15:9)

What began in Thailand in 2013 will be completed in 2017 with a final Mesa gathering. Meanwhile, more gatherings and conversations will take place until then.[4] Other emergent friends of McLaren associated with Mesa are Doug Pagitt, Frederick Buechner, Phyllis Tickle, Steve Chalke and Tony Jones. In fact, partnering with Mesa is Oasis, where Steve Chalke is founder of the Oasis Charitable Trust.[5] McLaren’s friend Chalke denies the penal substitutionary atonement by Jesus Christ on the cross, calling the cross ‘cosmic child abuse’.

McLaren ends his article on the Mennonite blog by expressing interest to see where others would add, subtract or differ. In answer to that, Menno-lite would like to propose that these new leaders add the words that God has already said (in the Bible), from which McLaren and friends appear to have subtracted. But that would just start another never ending conversation out of which a barrel of semantic monkeys would emerge.

In conclusion, those who call themselves Mennonites and point to such false teachers would do well to read the words of their founder and namesake, Menno Simons, who said…

“it should be observed that the church of anti-christ is brought forth by faithless preachers, who are actuated by the spirit of anti-christ … who, with the false prophets preach Peace, Ezek. 13:16”
-Menno Simons [6]

*To find out more about Brian McLaren and this project, read here:

The latest diabolical ideas to ‘EMERGE’ from BRIAN McLAREN
http://www.takeheed.info/pdf/current-concerns-2013/McLaren_and_Mesa.pdf

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Endnotes:

[1] DONATION PLEA: BRIAN MCLAREN RESPONDS
http://standupforthetruth.com/2013/05/donation-plea-brian-mclaren-responds/
[2] The Mennonite blog article has a link to the Mesa Document entitled Mesa Friends in Pattaya, Thailand (31 October 2013)
http://www.mesa-friends.org/downloads/Statement%20from%20Mesa%20Pattaya%20October%202013%20FINAL.pdf
[3] Rob Bell and Oprah Wrap Up New Age Tour—EQUALLY YOKED
http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=16411
[4] http://mesa-friends.org/
[5] http://www.oasisuk.org/changemakers
[6] Menno Simons, CONCERNING THE CHURCH, AND AN INSTRUCTIVE COMPARISON HOW WE MAY DISTINGUISH BETWEEN THE CHURCH OF CHRIST, AND THE CHURCH OF ANTI-CHRIST.
http://www.mennosimons.net/ft068-concerningthechurch.html

Related:

Brian McLaren and a New Era of Bible Reading
http://www.thebereancall.org/content/brian-mclaren-and-new-era-bible-reading

Brian McLaren’s Platform at Menno Weekly
https://mennolite.wordpress.com/2011/09/20/brian-mclarens-platform-at-menno-weekly/

MB Herald Promotes Brian McLaren
https://mennolite.wordpress.com/2010/12/09/mb-herald-promotes-brian-mclaren/

MB Herald calls A New Kind of Christianity “a book on freedom”
https://mennolite.wordpress.com/2010/06/14/mb-herald-calls-a-new-kind-of-christianity-a-book-on-freedom/

The Morphing of the Emergent Movement: Can You See It Now
http://standupforthetruth.com/2014/11/the-morphing-of-the-emergent-movement-can-you-see-it-now/