Donation plea: Brian McLaren Responds

by | May 26, 2013 | Best of!

Brian McLaren (foreground) and Tony Jones, Yal...

Brian McLaren (foreground) and Tony Jones,

Last week on his blog, Emergent guru Brian McLaren asked for large sums of money to go to a project to be named later. (See: Brian McLaren asks for significant cash for mystery project)  Those who were interested could write to him at a “Happy To Help” email address. Here is the response email I received this evening:

Dear friends …
Thanks so much for responding to my recent request for help. What follows is general information and requires no action now. I’ll be back in touch in a week or so with a more personal note and information about next steps.
Here’s the big idea.
For some time I (along with many others) have been seeing the need for some kind of small, non-competitive hub to serve – not control – the many networks that are spontaneously forming and developing in this general space we’ve all been opening but haven’t figured out how to name yet … Emergence Christianity, Convergence Christianity, a new kind of Christianity, Christianity for the rest of us, missional Christianity, progressive Christianity, generous orthodoxy, Red-Letter Christianity, Just Faith, etc.
I believe that for this conversation to develop and mature towards being a lasting and effective movement leading to concrete action for the common good, we now need some coordination, facilitation, and behind-the-scenes encouragement and support. I want to continue doing what I’m doing – writing and speaking and networking, and I don’t want to run anything. But I want to find some ways to help others use their gifts to help all of us move forward with more intentional synergy, shared positive identity, and joyful collaboration.
I’m envisioning two or three people working full time, along with a number of stipended part-time people spread around the country. Grace and I are making a large personal financial commitment to this project (basically, it will be our tithe of gross income for the next three years), and I’m hoping you will join in doing what you can too.
I don’t think we need one organization trying to bring everybody under their umbrella. I do think we need some people who aren’t trying to build anything on their own, but rather build alignment and synergy among the many good groups who are exploring the leading edges of what is emerging in and among us.
Here’s what I’m hoping we could make happen initially: a website, a preliminary face-to-face gathering, a “press office” (to provide media-trained spokespeople to represent the movement as it continues to grow), perhaps a speakers bureau (or network of speakers bureaus), and positive participation in a global network that is forming as well.
I’d also like to see us scout out a cadre of diverse younger leaders who would be the face of this movement. Established/older leaders (like me) would do all we could to support, mentor, encourage, and promote a new generation of emerging leaders – young women and men who demonstrate the racial and denominational diversity that we need to move forward.
Many of us have been talking about this for quite a while now, but I wanted to let you know that I’m ready to do what I can to help next steps to happen, and of course I hope you’ll be a central part of this.
One reason I believe we need to move ahead now is what’s happening in terms of a global movement.  A number of grass-roots “emergence/convergence” movements in Africa, Latin America, Asia, and Europe have found one another and come together under the name Mesa. They’ve announced a preliminary gathering in Bangkok, Thailand, October 24-30. I’m planning to go. (There’s more info on Mesa here:
I like Mesa’s emphasis on ethos, since we know we’re very diverse and flexible in terms of culture, theological frameworks, church forms and structures, etc. Mesa has no money, but it is rich in relationships with grass-roots networks that are part of this “emergence” around the world. I’m very impressed with the group, and grateful they’re moving forward in this way.
Mesa’s development globally has meant that we need to take some new steps here in the US. As you can imagine, it’s important for us not to dominate this global group, but to model humility and service and collaboration.
Nothing is set in stone, but I’ve been working with some others on a first draft of a document that describes a network hub for the US. (The document is included below.) Our placeholder name is “NewNet.” We’re considering the name CANA (something I’d love your feedback on – more information is in the document).
That’s what I’m working on, and what I’m asking you to help me get started.
Dr. Philip Clayton ( of Claremont Lincoln University ( has graciously agreed to help us get started by receiving tax-deductible donations. We’re getting the logistics worked out and will be able to receive your donation soon. When NewNet (or CANA initiative or ???) is up and running as a 501(c)3 entity, funds will be transferred there. Obviously, we’ll be sure that all funds are handled ethically. And just to reiterate – I’m giving funds to this cause, not receiving funds from it.
If you have additional questions or suggestions, please let me know at this email address.
Grateful for your partnership –
PS: Here’s the draft document. Feel free to share it with interested individuals who may want to help, but I ask that it not be posted anywhere publicly, since this is really just a starting point.
FIRST DRAFT (not for public distribution)
(Potential Name: CANA Initiative)
NewNet is a collective of faith-engaged organizations, individuals, institutions and networks rooted in a generous Christian tradition, who seek to embody a new Christian ethos leading to constructive collective action in the United States.
NewNet seeks to create a healthy ecosystem for connection among existing and emerging individuals, organizations, and networks and will serve as an influential “network of networks”.
NewNet is comprised of Roman Catholic, Evangelical, Mainline Protestant, Orthodox, and other Christians who believe the future for Christian life and mission will be different in many ways from the past and present.
NewNet brings together innovative leaders from all streams of the faith to collaborate in the development of new ways of being Christian…new ways of doing theology and living biblically, new understandings and practices of mission, new kinds of faith communities, new approaches to worship and spiritual formation, new integrations and conversations and convergences and dreams.
NewNet participants share a sense of exploration, creativity, challenge and opportunity in this pivotal and dynamic moment.
Because we are rooted in a generous Christian heritage, we are eager to collaborate with people of other faiths, and those seeking the common good. Our networks of dialogue and action thus extend beyond Christian communities to persons of all faiths, as well as to communities that are not themselves faith-based. We welcome allies and allegiances wherever we find common cause.
NewNet seeks to translate critical thinking about the past and present into creative collective action for the future, and to do so in a spirit that is positive, irenic, sympathetic, and generous.
In this way, NewNet seeks to support and encourage what is often called Emergence Christianity. The word emergence means coming into view, arising from, occurring unexpectedly, requiring immediate action (hence its relation to emergency). It often involves crossing boundaries (as between water and air) and evolutionary processes. All these meanings resonate with the spirit and vision of NewNet.
We welcome people from a wide spectrum of theological, political, and ethnic traditions. We encourage a wide range of ecclesial structures. NewNet sees this diversity as a sign of health and vitality.
NewNet Convenes, Advocates, Networks and Acts (CANA)
Convene – Provide the context for people and organizations to more publicly identify with the movement and collaborate within the United States.
We aggregate and promote events and conversations for the the generation of friendship, shared thought, and collective action among organizations and leaders around the country.
We provide online resources – to connect related organizations, affiliates, allies, resources
We build and strengthen alliances between leaders, organizations, and networks who together build the movement
We provide a means by which “NewNet” can relate to parallel regional networks around the world.
Advocate  – Speak on behalf of the movement to potential participants, the press, critics, and opponents.
We produce key documents – to identify values, ethical standards, questions for conversation, and proposals for action.
We develop a press office – to provide secular and religious media with trained, responsible spokespeople for this emerging Christian ethos.
We disseminate movement news and provide an edited news/commentary aggregator
We select and support a group of gifted, trained, committed, and diverse leaders to represent and advance the movement.
Speakers’ Bureau – to provide growing numbers of spokespeople for Emergence Christianity.
Network – Champion Ideas and help insure voices have what is needed to articulate bold and meaningful proposals for collective action
Create transparent communication and decision-making structures
Welcome and include new participants into the network
Assist fundraising for participants by telling the larger story and inviting financial participation
Help people find churches, organizations cohorts, staff, jobs, etc., to promote the larger goals of the movement.
Identify issues and opportunities of participation among NewNet participants
Act –  Collectively collaborate more consciously and effectively in six areas that are essential to vital movements
Understand opportunities and challenges
Articulate our message
Engage in strategic collective action
Mobilize people and resources
Build movement culture
Enrich participant lives
Encourage new, expanding, generative and meaningful expressions of Christian faith in North America
Create exposure for media and other practitioners to learn about and access the movement
Highlight more attractive public opinion of Christian faith, spirituality, and mission
Connect with and inspire new generation of leaders
Generate a collaborative environment for shared participation among leaders
Network with parallel networks globally
Create pathways for a new kind of interaction between faith traditions
Generate pathways for faith-based organizations to collaborate with non-faith focused endeavors
Support systems that generate new innovative initiatives – communities, churches, learning centers, media organizations, causes, etc
We are moving from largely independent innovative entities to a more collaborative eco-system
We are not asking existing efforts to be part of our whole, but asking existing efforts to see what they  are doing as contributing to a larger whole
We are in transition from a generative conversation to an ecumenical spiritual movement
We need a hub that is not seeking to compete or control, but coordinate and serve
If we maximize the larger system, we will maximize the sub-systems
More and more of us are ready for a collaborative rather than competitive philosophy of ministry
This is not about a polarized “right or left”, but about a polarized past, a convergent now, and a future full of collaborative possibilities.
NewNet will not:
Provide funds, but will seek to link to others who do
Advocate particular expressions of faith, but will support a wide variety of expressions
Start new churches, but will encourage their development
We need a variety of people to bring NewNet into being:
Spokespersons – Shared Participation:
Give voice of NewNet within their networks
Give voice of their network within NewNet
Identify with NewNet in bio and social networks
Participate in National Gathering of NewNet
Movement Representatives – Additional Participation:
Participate in a strategic twice-a-month call/video chat
Meet in twice-a-year in face to face national working group meeting
Contribute to setting the direction and strategy of NewNet
Host “invitation/recruitment” meetings among their network
NewNet will operate a lean and effective budget. We will support a small staff, provide stipends for Movement Representatives, underwrite meeting and travel costs, and develop and curate an interactive website. Toward that end, NewNet is based on a $200,000 a year budget.  Funders can help us by making one-time initial contributions, providing monthly support, and introducing us to potential funders.
Proposals: (From the Mesa Friends Working Document: “Mesa Friends“ is a global conversation among emerging Christian Leaders in which NewNet will be a partner)
We seek to new engagement in the following areas, making demands upon ourselves and others:
1. The Bible: In light of how the Bible has been abused in the past and present, we know that we need a new way of describing what the Bible is, how it reached its current form, how we should interpret and teach it (especially to children and youth), etc.
2. The Church: A vision of integral mission and missional church prompts us to challenge the church to move beyond institutional maintenance towards forming Christ-like people who become a blessing to the larger community, and thus embody the message we proclaim.
3. The Poor: The growing gap between rich and poor calls for a multi-faceted partnerships that expresses compassion, seek justice, confront exploitation and marginalization, and create opportunity, especially in a global economy.
4. The Planet: The environmental crisis must evoke from us proposals that will benefit the birds of the air, the flowers of the field, and the ecosystems that maintain them, so that followers of Christ will pioneer a new lifestyle and help create the regenerative economy the planet needs.
5. Pluralism: To love our neighbors in today’s world means to learn to appreciate our neighbors’ diverse religions. We must propose new ways of encountering the other the provide alternatives to both combative fundamentalism on the one hand and loss of Christian identity on the other.
6. Peace: After two thousand years, it is time for the Christian faith to distinguish itself not just by advocating for war with less injustice, but by proclaiming an attainable ideal of peace, along with equipping Christians as practical peacemakers.
7. Equality: Women and men, minority and majority, alien and native-born, unbeliever and believer, gay and straight, occupied and occupier, one percent and ninety-nine percent  – our world is torn by divisions that put some in a position of of privilege and power, and others in a position of disadvantage and danger. Sadly, our churches are often laggards, not leaders, in confronting prejudice and standing for the dignity and equality of all people.
8. Families, Women, and Children: Families face multiple challenges today, including greed-based economies that corrode humane values, exploitive entertainment industries that undermine human dignity, and patriarchal religious systems that reward a crude form of masculinity. We must challenge churches to propose and embody family life that can overcome these challenges.
9. Business/Economics: We must challenge business and economic leaders to create new forms of business that seek a triple bottom line – lasting social, environmental, and economic benefit, not just maximized short-term profit. In a world of rising population and increasing mechanization, we must also challenge business leaders to seek to maximize employment along with profit, and to discover new ways to reduce economic inequality by expanding opportunity.
10. Personal Dimensions: In what way must those who articulate demands like these make demands on themselves? How can those demands be sustainable and life-giving rather than burdensome and restrictive? And how can we model gracious collaboration in some areas when we maintain honest disagreement in other areas?