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The New Christians

Cornerstone.pngFor the rest of the week, I’m going to look back on my experience of the legendary Cornerstone Festival. What many are going to want to hear are my thoughts on the panel on which I sat which dealt with the issues of GLBT persons in the church. That’s coming, for sure, but I’m going to sleep on it a couple more days. In the meantime, iMonk, who moderated that panel, has posted about it.


Going into Cornerstone, I really didn’t know much about it. I’ve never been to a Christian music festival of any kind before, and I couldn’t imagine that I’d like the music. As it turned out, I heard very little music since the area of the speakers’ tents is far removed from the bands. I did walk around with my friends, the Stegalls, and heard a bit of thrash metal. I also went to the main stage one night and heard mewithoutYou, whom I loved (more about that later).

I didn’t know much about JPUSA, either. Of course, I’d heard of the Jesus People, and I remember going to see the passion play at the Jesus People Church in downtown Minneapolis in 1983 with my church confirmation class, the same year that Doug saw it, as he recounts in his book. I’ve also heard a number of people tell me over the last decade, “Oh, I’ve seen you emergent folks before. In the 70s we called you the Jesus People. You’ll grow out of it, just like they did.”

A couple points to mention here. First of all, there are some important differences between emergent and the Jesus Movement, which I confirmed when talking to my new friend, Brad Culver. Of course, the era of the Jesus Movement was different — for all of our outrage, Irag is no Vietnam. Brad also mentioned that if the Jesus Movement had had 1) the theological interest and 2) the social media technology that emergent has, they probably would have been a bigger force for a longer time — or at least they wouldn’t have been tempted to join with the conservative Calvary Chapels of the world.

But, more importantly, Brad and many others at Cornerstone are testament to the fact that the death of the Jesus Movement has been greatly exaggerated. There, in the Underground Tent that Brad organizes every year at Cornerstone were veterans like Brad and young guns like Peter Wohler and Chris Heuertz.

But this is not the world I come from. I hadn’t even heard of Francis Schaeffer, the patron saint of Cornerstone, until a couple years ago. And I still haven’t read a word that Schaeffer wrote — I’ve only read the memoir of his son, Frankie. So I don’t have a lot to judge Cornerstone by.

However, I will say this: I think we can see Cornerstone as a sort of belwether of evangelicalism. Five and ten years ago, the seminar tents were populated with seminars on modern, evidential apologetics (Norman Geisler was a name I heard a lot) and pro-life stragegy sessions. Today, the seminars are on creation care, developing new monastic communities, centering prayer, and human rights. Phyllis Tickle and I talked about the great emergence. And, for the first time at Cornerstone, Christians who favor gay rights and GLBT inclusion in the church were allowed to speak alongside those from “ex-gay” ministries.

This is the shift that’s taking place in evangelicalism, people. Get ready for it.
 

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