Methodism and the New Monasticism
“Here are some church growth lessons we can learn from the New Monasticism. (Remember that when speaking of “church growth” you should think of Eph. 3:14-4:16, not only of Matt. 28:16-20.)
1. New Monasticism reminds us that the local church can be revitalized, not by numerical church growth, but by praying with, loving, and forgiving one another with intentionality. This is growing up in Christ. We’re called to make disciples of all nations, and that means the church should grow numerically. Yet how many local churches live depressed and in a rut because of the way occasional new faces seldom seem to stick around? New Monasticism, as a sign of communal holy love, shows us a biblical way of growth which, by God’s Spirit, may spill over into numerical growth. Or maybe not. God knows. But it sure beats living anxious and depressed.
2. New Monasticism reminds non-Roman Catholic and non-Orthodox Christians that we need to actually figure out how to get some straight up monasticism going. Speaking as a United Methodist: We need some monks and nuns and friars. Did you know that there is a Methodist-Benedictine monastery called St. Brigid of Kildare? May it flourish, and may others spring up.
Monasticism provides the Church with a kind of vitality and vibrancy that is unique. God be praised, God gives some people an all-or-nothing mentality about pursuing God and believing the Gospel. If we can’t offer those folks straight up monasticism — if we can’t welcome and manifest such radical diversity — we have nothing much to offer them. One of my dear friends left the Christian faith and later died in a stupid and tragic way. He had grown up evangelical. After leaving Christianity, he told me: “Growing up, I always felt like Christianity for me should be an all or nothing thing. In high school I wanted to become a monk.” Of course, his church, like most Protestant churches, would have nothing really to recommend to someone saying and feeling something like that. But that need not be. Check out what Greg Peters says about all this: http://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2014/03/the-new-monasticism-gets-older
I’ll say a little more on this point. We badly need some folks to embrace a disciplined celibacy. But we can also imagine monastic communities open to married non-celibates, and perhaps even singles looking to marry. John Michael Talbot (in addition to growing a great beard and making great church music!) has a monastic community going in which some of the members are married. His book “The Universal Monk: The Way of the New Monastics”. contains a lot of wisdom, including how his community does this.
3. New Monasticism reminds us that evangelism can happen kenotically. How exciting! A contemplative and prayerful stance towards life can really be evangelism. Read Elaine Heath’s books “The Mystic Way of Evangelism” and “Missional. Monastic. Mainline” and (with Scott Kisker) “Longing for Spring”. Or, O my goodness, “Naked Faith The Mystical Theology of Phoebe Palmer”, which I can’t wait to read.”
For the (Methodist) Saint Brigid of Kildare Monastery, see: http://www.kildaremonastery.com/
Elaine A. Heath “The Mystic Way of Evangelism. A Contemplative Vision for Christian Outreach” [Baker Book House, 2008]
“Although each generation searches for effective ways to be salt and light, Elaine Heath argues that the church is currently in an especially difficult place–a dark night of the soul. She calls the church to embrace, rather than ignore, its difficulties and find different ways of doing outreach.
Heath brings a fresh perspective to the theory and practice of evangelism by approaching it through contemplative spirituality. By looking to mystics, saints, and martyrs of church history–such as Ignatius of Loyola, Julian of Norwich, St. Francis, John Wesley, Mother Theresa, and Henri Nouwen–she suggests we can discover ways of thinking about God that result in a life of outreach.”
Elaine A. Heath and Larry Duggins “Missional. Monastic. Mainline. A Guide to Starting Missional Micro-Communities in Historically Mainline Traditions” [Cascade Books, 2014]
Here is the long-awaited volume that provides both the theoretical foundations and practical guidance for developing new monastic and missional communities in contexts that are theologically progressive, racially and economically diverse, and multicultural. This book contains the wisdom and perspectives of people who live and serve in missional, new monastic communities in United Methodist and other mainline traditions, and it describes new forms of theological education that are emerging to resource a new generation of Christian leaders. Heath and Duggins challenge Methodists, Lutherans, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, and other Christians to reach into their own robust, mainline heritage for resources to develop small, intentional communities that practice a rigorous life of prayer, hospitality, and justice.”
Elaine A. Heath is the McCreless Professor of Evangelism at Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University. She is also the Director of the Academy for Missional Wisdom, a non-degree program that equips clergy and laity to start and lead missional and new monastic communities, and is a program of the Missional Wisdom Foundation. She is the author of “The Mystic Way of Evangelism” (2008), “Naked Faith: The Mystical Theology of Phoebe Palmer” (2009), “Longing for Spring: A New Vision for Wesleyan Communities” (coauthored with Scott Kisker, 2010), “We Were the Least of These: Reading the Bible with Survivors of Sexual Abuse” (2011), and “The Gospel According to Twilight: Women, Sex, and God” (2011).
Elaine A. Heath and Scott T. Kisker “Longing for Spring. A New Vision for Wesleyan Community” [Cascade Books, 2010]
“Delving into the widespread, contemporary longing for a more serious and communal experience of Christianity, this book provides important theoretical underpinnings and casts a vision for a new monasticism within the Wesleyan tradition. Elaine Heath and Scott Kisker call for the planting of neo-monastic churches which embody the Wesleyan vision of holiness in postmodern contexts. This book also points toward some vital shifts that are necessary in theological education in order to equip pastors to lead such communities. “Longing for Spring” helps Wesleyans of all stripes understand the theory and praxis necessary for planting neo-monastic communities as a new model of the church that is particularly important in the postmodern context. The authors write in an engaging, conversational style that is conversant with postmodern culture, yet thoroughly informed by critical research. Heath and Kisker boldly challenge the imagination of the church, both within and beyond Wesleyan traditions, to consider the possibility of revitalizing the church through the new monasticism.”
Elaine A. Heath “Naked Faith.The Mystical Theology of Phoebe Palmer” [Wipf & Stock, 2009]
“Now and then through the history of the church a great light appears, a prophet who calls the church back to its missional vocation. These reformers are lovers of God, mystics whose lives are utterly given to the divine vision. Yet as Jesus noted, a prophet is often without honor among her own people. In the case of Phoebe Palmer (1807-1874), honor was lost posthumously, for within a few decades after her death her name all but disappeared. Palmer’s sanctification theology was separated from its apophatic spiritual moorings, even as her memory was lost. Throughout most of the twentieth century her name was virtually unknown among Methodists. To this day the Mother of the Holiness Movement still awaits her place of recognition as a Christian mystic equal to Catherine of Siena, Teresa of Avila, or Therese of Lisieux. This book locates Palmer’s life and thought within the great Christian mystical traditions, identifying her importance within Methodism and the church universal. It also presents a Wesleyan theological framework for understanding and valuing Christian mysticism, while connecting it with the larger mystical traditions in Catholic, Anglican, and Orthodox communions. While Palmer was a powerful revivalist in her own day, in many ways she could be the patron saint for contemporary Methodists who are drawn to the new monasticism and who long for the renewal of the church. Saint Phoebe is precisely the one who can help Methodists envision new forms of Christian community, mission, and witness in a postmodern world.”
Phoebe Palmer (December 17, 1807 – November 2, 1874)
For Phoebe Palmer, see further:
John Michael Talbot “The Universal Monk. The Way of the New Monastics” [Liturgical Press, 2011]
“”The Universal Monk” is about the monk in all of us. In today’s fast- paced and often fractured culture we all seek inner peace and unity. “The Universal Monk” is a powerful way for everyone of any state of life to find it. It is written from John Michael Talbot’s experience in public international ministry and as founder and spiritual father of the Brothers and Sisters of Charity, a new integrated monastic community of celibates, singles who can marry, and families who live in an integrated monastery or in their own homes. It walks us through a treatment of the current issues that face us? Such as the great recession, political polarization, and the sex abuse crises in the church? With real spiritual and lifestyle answers that come from a fully unified and integrated life in God. If you are tired of the same old, same old,” this book is for you
“John Michael Talbot was born in Oklahoma City in 1954 and grew up in Indianapolis. He moved to Arkansas and founded the Brothers and Sisters of Charity at Little Portion Hermitage in 1982, which he still serves as minister general.
He was a founding artist of Sparrow Records in 1976. After a successful career with Sparrow, in 1992 John Michael founded his own record label, “Troubadour for the Lord
, and is now recognized as one of Catholic music’s most popular artists. Talbot is author of “Reflections on St. Francis” (Liturgical Press). He has been married to Viola Talbot since 1989 and leads an active concert and teaching ministry from his home at Little Portion Hermitage Monastery.””
For Little Portion Hermitage, see:
For John Michael Talbot, see: