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Mike hopes to see the world turned upside down through local communities banding together for social change, especially churches which have recognized the radical calling to be good news to the poor, to set free the prisoners and oppressed, and to become the social embodiment of the reign of God on earth as it is in heaven. He lives with the blessed memory of his wife, in Durham, NC, and has three adult children living in three different states. He also shares his life with the Mt. Level Missionary Baptist Church in Durham, the faculty and students of Shaw University Divinity School in Raleigh, NC, and the faithful fans of Duke and Baylor Basketball in his neighborhood.

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Monday, May 21, 2007

When I first heard of the simple way, I was intrigued and eager to learn more. Since that time, I have had opportunity to participate in meetings, visit several of the New Monastic communities, read their writings, and make friends with leaders from new and older communities.

As a young man, I would hear stories, seemingly legends, about Clarence Jordan and Koinonia Farms. That group struggled to survive under pressure from the KKK and a culture of white supremacy. They ultimately bore a new form of fruit with the birth of Habitat for Humanity.

On one hand, there has always been a kind of romantic attraction for me to the idea of living in community. On the other hand, the outcome of such living as a witness to the gospel used to seem vague and even ambiguous. This new movement, rooted in older movements in the 20th century U. S. (Koinonia, Reba Place, Antioch House, CCDA) and in the long history of Christian monasticism, has found ways to articulate its purposes in a more public way. Moreover, its insistent public commitment to ministry among the poor has situated it clearly in the camp of the best of recent theological reflection on scripture and practice.

If you want to learn more about this movement and one of its leading public figures, The New Monasticism was featured on Speaking of Faith from American Public Media on May 10. It is a well-edited and captivating program.


haitianministries said...

Shane did quite an interesting interview, Mike. I've been reading bits and pieces of stuff by and about him for the past year and am very impressed with his ministry. I think that he's clearly my generation's successor to the progressive evangelical voices of Campolo, Wallis, et al.

rpaynter said...

Mike, I just finished Shane Claiborne's book. very passionate, creative, faithful....I was deeply moved by this community and what they are attempting.....I was also disappointed in a couple of things: I found no mention of grace as a theological foundation for a community; I found a quick dismissal of anything approaching the "established church" who, by the way, may actually be attempting to be faithful; and finally, like most movements like this, not much sense that there are folks who have walked this way before them except in the most passing way...but I am putting the book in the hands of our college students and young adults this summer...

Mike Broadway said...

Thanks, Roger,

I have not finished the book, but I have had quite a few conversations with Shane over the years. There is an edge that he and some of his contemporaries fight back. You and I remember that edge when we were students and seminarians. We were sure we had seen the light and no one else had seen it. I hope I am mostly over that.

The kind of discipleship that this young movement calls out is about rigorous obedience. Yet it is also about opening our hearts to the people our culture tells us to despise. There is in that a strong dose of grace, which gets expressed in the recognition that serving the poor becomes God's grace turned back on those of us who thought we had it made.

More than once I have seen Shane trying to fight back against the kind of attitude that sees only the need for rigor. There was an interesting interchange between him and Tony Campolo, in CrossCurrents, that included a strong acknowledgment of grace. Shane wrote,

The Scriptures are filled with God choosing the most unlikely places to dwell. God uses the brothel owner Rahab, the pagan nation of Assyria, the adulteress king David, the zealots and tax collectors, even old Balaam's donkey as instruments of the Kingdom. It seems that Jesus is constantly extending the boundaries of grace and enlarging our vision of the Family of God, telling stories where Samaritan heretics and Syro-phoenician outsiders are invited into the Kingdom. We can see this in Peter's second conversion when he realized that God's grace is even extended to the Gentiles. Jesus' own image of the eternal banquet says that the guests the King invited are all preoccupied with the concerns of this world, and commands the servant to go into the alleys and margins to bring in whoever will come.

As for the acknowledgement of what has gone before, they are involved with communities such as Reba Place which have been around for a long time. They have ongoing relationships with the Bruderhof and Catholic Worker Houses. They admire and participate in the Christian Community Development movement of John Perkins and folks like him. In a book like School(s) for Conversion, they are examining some of the historic roots of monasticism that can shape their movement. The local Durham community, Rutba House, maintains a website that accumulates some of this effort.

But it is a youthful movement. At 49, I am sometimes called an "elder." It is a new thing, a breath of fresh air, a spring in the desert.

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