“After” the Vineyard

On listening to the Podcast Beyond the Pale Episode 100, I really resonated with David Hayward’s insight:

“The bus (the Vineyard) is going in the following direction and if you want to go there, hop on; but if you don’t, get off. Because this is the bus (the Vineyard) and its going in this particular direction and if you don’t like it, then you don’t belong.”

David Hayward, The Naked Pastor

As someone who has had this very conversation with a board member of the Vineyard Movement in my own country, I resonate on so many levels. And you know what, I never returned to the bus in 2016 and instead only to the relationship with the bus. It has been in recognition that the bus is going in the wrong direction. It was of immense relief to step off that bus back in 2006 and of equal relief not getting back on it in 2016 when returning to my calling. I can happily acknowledge that whoever is driving is the one responsible. I’ve had enough conversations with the retiring leaders around this with my Dissertation as excuse and acknowledge there to be too little respect and relationship between the next generation of leaders and myself for us to move forward together. I‘ve made enough noise about the bus going in the wrong direction, enough to have crossed the “invisible line” a number of times. I’ve met them half-way between making too much noise for them to be happy and too little noise for me. But, again, its their bus. And their bus is all about the church not as the Ekklesia but as the institutional Church. In some senses the success and tragedy of the movement is in the hands of phenomenal people like the Mitchels, Mumfords and Strouts. Here Protestantism has been Renewed and also Settled. Here they have innovated on Protestantism only to never have escaped the gravity well of Institutionalism. It is they who hold the Vineyard in tension between the vibrancy of a movement and death of institutionalism. And when they pass, who is going to hold this in tension? There is a deeper problem that’s not yet resolved. And without it being resolved, “it’s all about the church” (cf. AVC Conference 2018, SA).

In fairness, the retiring leaders never had in mind to escape it. So I don’t unfairly judge the retiring leaders. They are products of Modernity and their institutions belong to Modernity and well serve the people. But I do believe that it is the responsibility of the next generation to escape it. After all, it is always the next generation within Modernity that Settles the movement after Renewal into institutionalism. And it would be irresponsible of me not to hold them the expectation that they address this. But I can recognize that I’ve unsettled them too much. That my noise is not welcome, that I don’t fit and that if I don’t want to be on this base that I should just get off. And that if I’m not on the bus that they want me to stop arguing that they’re going in the wrong direction. I can recognize when asked to “pray about whether I fit in” that it’s a subtle get the f•ck off the bus if you’re not going to belong and behave and believe along with everyone else.

And though there is a trend from institutionalism toward communalism, neither model of the institutional church yet resolves the tension between Renewal and Settlement. Here the institutional paradigm defines the institutional church as necessary and scripture as sufficient and makes faith into, well, faith rather than relationship. Communalism is an innovation on Institutionalism that holds to a relational model within the members of the institutional church and between the institutional church and the community. But it is only a relational ecclesiology as desperately in need of a relational theology and spirituality as any and every other institutionalism. I wonder if institutionalism will ever become that?

So I’m on a different bus. I’m on the one after Modernity that is both after Protestantism and after the Vineyard. It is a bus that is headed toward a relational theology seeking to discover a relational spirituality for individuals and communities without institutionalism. And the relational spirituality as one rooted in a relational theology paradigmatically centered in the relational presence of God. It’s a bus on the frontiers of a new civilisation already in existence around the world that is the post-Modern as in the after-Modern people. So, if you’re in the Vineyard or the like, wondering why the bus hasn’t taken you into a deeper relationship with God post-Renewal, maybe get off that bus and book a ticket on this bus. I’m eager for a new destination, one other than the institutionalism of Modernity.

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