Another Important Postscript on the Wild Goose Festival

A few weeks ago, I wrote a “post-op” piece on the recent “Wild Goose Festival” that included a variety of reports about how the conference went. It turned out to be a kind of would-be-Woodstock for Emergent church types. The speaker line-up was a list of progressive all-stars: Brian McLaren, Jim Wallis, Shane Claiborne, Tony Jones, and many others. Musicians included Derek Webb, Jennifer Knapp, and others. A reporter from The Economist said that about 1,500 people showed up, and they included “artists and musicians, nonconformists, post-Christians, non-Christians, disaffected evangelicals and a liberal evangelical subset known as the ’emergent’ church.”

Recently I came across another report on the conference that I that was particularly interesting. This one comes from Brandon Morgan, who was invited by Roger Olson to write on Olson’s blog about his experience at the Wild Goose Festival. Morgan is a participant in the emergent church and a leader of “The Void Collective,” yet his take on the Festival and the entire Emergent “conversation” is pretty critical. There is nothing in his critiques that hasn’t been said before, but these remarks are worth noting because they come from an insider. Here’s a piece of what Morgan wrote:

Upon returning from the Wild Goose festival, I felt that the festival was, among others things, a blatant attempt to show how well Emergent folks and mainline folks get along (particularly regarding the LGBTQ community) and how they generally have the same enemies (conservative evangelicals)…

Have Emergent folks succeeded in transcending the evangelical-progressive division in American Protestantism. Have they formulated a holistic theological approach able to include the benefits of both sides and jettison the negative aspects? Some may question whether this is actually the goal of Emergent folks. If this is not their goal, at least peripherally, then my personal understanding of being involved with the Emergent conversation is perhaps questionable. But more importantly, if this is not at least a tertiary goal, then my question is: why haven’t Emergent folks joined the mainline denominations? Why have the negatives of evangelicalism been so easy to describe and virulently rebuke, while the negatives of the mainline denominations have barely shown up in Emergent concerns?…

Another issue is the inclusion of the LGBTQ community. Many Emergents unquestionably advocate the way Mainlines have dealt with this issue, which is to see the church as a tool for social justice in America whose goals, therefore, tend to be ineradicably tied to the maneuverings and structures of the American nation-state. While I have deeply sympathetic opinions about the LGBTQ community and its relationship to the church, and while I also have my opinions about economic investment in Emergent projects, my more fervent concern is to ask if Emergent folks are really going to question the Mainline denominations’ political and theological liberalism in a similar way they criticize evangelicalism’s theological and political conservatism. If not, then it’s a question whether or not Emergent folks have anything new to offer to American Protestantism.

Read the rest here.

(HT: Scot McKnight)


  • donsands

    Sad about Jennifer Knapp. She truly ia a tremendous artist, and song writer. I pray she would be convicted of her sinfulness, and ask our Lord to help her struggle through it. Shame on these Emergent enablers of sin. Man, they need to read JC Ryle’s book, ‘Holiness’. Then perhaps they will see how black and wicked sin is toward God. I at least acknowledge sin is hateful, and deadly, and will be judged with hell’s fire for all who take it so lightly.

    Jesus said to sinners, “It would be better if you had a milestone tied about your neck, and you were thrown in the sea.” You would be better off! Listen to those words. He also said to sinners, “It would be better if you were never born.” Incrediblely scary words indeed. I wish and pray I would come to fear these words as God wants me. And so i will be even more grateful for my salvation, and so I may continue to grow in this fear, so that all my fears are released!

    Thanks for the post. I shall have to share this sad and really horrible event.

  • Derek

    Thanks for posting this, Denny. Surprising amount of candor here, candor I’ve never witnessed from Tony Jones or Brian McLaren. Even Scot McKnight has only picked at the edges of this band-aid, but Morgan has ripped the band-aid completely off. It is refreshing to hear an admission that the emergent community is largely, if not completely defined by and co-opted by a political vehicle that is uniquely connected to a specific brand of American politics – a political vehicle that also happens to reinvent itself with every election cycle. Brandon is right to concerned that this vehicle is made of very flimsy material, destined for the junkyard of history.

    I also like this quote at the end: “Emergent folks will
    have to start distinguishing themselves from progressive Christianity if they
    want people to think that something new and important is really happening.”.

  • Paul

    Oh man…I have to agree with Derek on this.

    I like the idea of the emergent church (or conversation, to use their words) in theory. The idea of “nobody’s getting it right, let’s figure it out on our own” can be both cathartic and rewarding if the goal is to go through the Texts with a fine tooth comb and make sense of it all. But that hasn’t been the emergent church at all. They’ve talked about broad concepts in more and more theologically liberal terms, and I’m just waiting for them to go the Spong or Borg route turn into “Christians because we say we are.” One of our pastors at church is fond of McLaren, and I bristle whenever said pastor quotes him, because I would hate to see our church go down that road, and in the back of my mind, I am quite afraid that it might.

    I agree that the emergent church seems to be more about trying to view God through the lens of progressive politics. Which gets it backwards. And that’s a tragedy.

  • Donald Johnson

    Mat 26:24 The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.”

    This is pretty specific to Judas.

    Mar 9:42 “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.

    This is specific to those who cause believing children to sin (Jesus is holding a child when he is saying this, see Mar 9:36).

  • donsands

    Anyone who dies without Christ, and is condemned to eternal separation from Jesus Christ and is in torment forever, might they be better off never being born?
    Surely when our Lord is specific, these truths carry much more with them. We could look at many specific principles of Christ, like love your enemies, show them mercy etc. but there’s much more to this truth.

    I pray with all my heart for many souls I know who reject Christ, and so they will suffer everlasting darkness and pain, unless they come to Christ. A quote from CH Spurgeon where he said:

    “”He lifted up his eyes” and gazed all around, but he could see nothing except that which caused him dismay and horror; there was no trace of joy or hope, no trace of ease or peace. Then, through the awful gloom, there came the sound of such questions as these: “Where are you, sinner? You were in a house of prayer a few weeks ago, and the preacher urged you to seek the Lord; but you procrastinated. Where are you now? You said that there was no such place as hell; but what do you say about it now? Where are you? You despised heaven and refused Christ; where are you now?” The Lord in mercy preserve all of you from that!” -Charles Haddon Spurgeon

  • Ranger

    Some, like Tony Jones, tried to say that Morgan isn’t an insider by his use of “they,” but others vouched that he is part of their Void Collectives cohort. This is shocking, since they are at the most extreme end of the Emergent spectrum. Many of their cohort are outright atheists, some are Christian atheists and many are Christian in self-identification and believe in God, but are noncommittal on any set of beliefs. They are heavily influenced by the work of Peter Rollins, an openly atheist Christian (who sadly publishes with Zondervan). He was also a speaker at the WGF. For someone in this particular cohort to call foul on the politicization of the movement makes it much stronger. I like the honest reflection.

    To be honest, most of my friends that were deeply in the movement with me 10-12 years ago went one of three ways. Some of us re-embraced our evangelical heritage being convinced that it was true. Others, becoming too old for the largely twenty year old crowds, joined mainline churches. Finally, some left the faith altogether. Back then, and still today, it was largely an anti-evangelical movement. No, we didn’t say that out loud, but it defined who we were. We criticized those who were constantly excluding others for their political, sexual and moral choices, but our group was largely defined by what we were not. We were not evangelical, and anything but an evangelical was welcome in the conversations.

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