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Phyllis Tickle addresses middle governing body leaders

In a time of great upheaval, there’s ‘every reason to be at our prayers’

July 4, 2010

Photo of a woman at a podium

Phyllis Tickle addressed the Presbyterian Foundation's breakfast. —Photo by Dennis Sanders

MINNEAPOLIS

“This is a lot like coming home,” author Phyllis Tickle told a gathering of middle governing body leaders at a Sunday morning breakfast hosted by the Presbyterian Foundation. Tickle, author of more than two dozen books including The Great Emergence: How Christianity is Changing and Why, recounted how she grew up as a Presbyterian prior to becoming an Anglican as a young adult.

“The Presbyterian heritage has made all the difference in my life – your ability to teach the Word of God is unsurpassed in all denominations,” she said. “You know how to get ’em young, and teach ’em well.”

Since The Great Emergence was published, Tickle said, she’s discovered a few points she wishes she had included in the book. “I conflated the Great Emergence the world is experiencing with emergence Christianity out of total innocence,” Tickle said.

Tickle maintains that the world is increasingly “glocalized”: If “Greece gets a cold, the entire world catches pneumonia.”

“There were only 18,000 cars in 1900; now there are 18,000 cars in the parking lot. And we are so removed from our source of supply that there are 200 steps between you and the lead pencil in your pocket, if you still have one.”

Every 500 years, Tickle maintains, the world has gone through a seismic upheaval – the Great Reformation in the 1500s, the Great Schism in 1054, and 500 years before that, Gregory the Great, who formed the monastic orders that preserved the church through the Dark Ages.

The other development since the publication of her book in 2008, Tickle said, is a more profound awareness that emergence Christianity has been around long enough to differentiate into many streams. “Most interesting are the hyphenateds, the Presbymergents and the Anglimergents.  They wish to keep their natal corpus and add to it their new experience.”

But emergence Christians do have some characteristics in common, including an aversion to hierarchy, a passion for social justice, and an emphasis on radical obedience and Trinitarian experience.

In the face of this shift, Tickle said, there is no need to be anxious. “There is every reason, faith-wise and historically, to be at our prayers. We need to move through these next few years with enormous sensitivity.”