Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Theologizing with Tickle – 3 – Open Source Theospirituality (Bruce Epperly)


In the world that is emerging, our experiences are more often taking place in an open-source context.  People have more freedom than ever to explore and interact in creative ways -- if we're open to it.  This blog is an open source platform.  I can contribute my own thoughts and energy to the wider conversation.  I've published several books, which I'd love everyone to read, but they don't reach the same audience as the blog.  Social media offers other avenues.  If we're open, our experiences in life will broaden, our horizons expanded.  Bruce Epperly brings his conversation with Phyllis Tickle to a close by introducing us to what he calls "theospirituality."  I invite you to consider Bruce's offering, perhaps engaging it with him, and we'll see where this goes.  I expect this isn't the last we'll hear of this "neologism" (new word).  

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Theologizing with Tickle – 3 – 
Open Source Theospirituality
Bruce Epperly



I recently coined the term “theospirituality” to refer to the holistic interplay of theological reflections and spiritual experiences and practices.  Transformative theology involves the interplay of vision, promise, and practice – our interpretation of reality, our place in the universe, and understanding of the divine; the promise that we can experience our deepest understandings of the universe in ways that are life and community changing; and practices that enable us to experience the ultimate realities shaping our lives.

Phyllis Tickle positively quotes Doug Pagitt on the nature of emerging spiritual leadership: “The ability to teach and preach and lead is taking a backseat to the pastor’s capacity to create and facilitate open-source faith experiences for the people of the spirit.”  Tickle continues, noting that “everything is open-source for those of us alive and functioning in the Great Emergence, or at least it is at a practical level.” (Great Emergence, The: How Christianity Is Changing and Why, 122)  The Great Emergence welcomes truth and growth wherever it is found, even beyond the boundaries of Christian faith. 

Today, we need open source spiritualities and theologies.  Open source theospirituality embraces the diversity of religious experience as essential to a growing faith.  Such faith is large spirited and spacious, evolving in relationship to the spiritual, cultural, and theological currents of our time.  It assumes global inspiration and revelation, a democracy of revelation in which the heavens declare the glory of God and so do toddlers and senior adults, spiritual leaders and lay persons.  Spiritual leaders are not the sole conduits of divine revelation, but are called to share divine inspiration with all humankind.  Their task is not to define the nature or place limits on the scope of divine revelation, but to encourage everyone to experience God as a personal and intimate reality.  Open-source leadership welcomes diverse and multiple spiritual experiences and sees diversity as an opportunity for growth rather than polarization.  Open source faiths reflect what Brian McLaren calls a “generous orthodoxy," comfortable with contrast, pluralism, and paradox.  Moreover, open-source leadership requires that leaders make theological reflection, personal growth, and spiritual practices central to their vocation in providing pathways to spiritual experiences for others.

Open source faith is also a growing and emerging faith.  Faithfulness to Christ opens us to the many faces of revelation within and beyond Christianity.  It inspires a global spirituality, a confessional and integral pluralism, committed to Christ but equally committed to the quest for truth and healing – God’s Shalom – in partnership with scientists, physicians, poets, seekers, and persons of other faith traditions.

Theospirituality is always evolving.  It sees Christianity as a living faith, evolving in many forms throughout its twenty-one century adventure.  Comfortable with the best of tradition, its embrace of tradition is the beginning of an adventure and not its endpoint.  Here and now, we are creating new forms of faith just as our parents did before us – and the creators of faith are not just popes, bishops, cardinals, and pastors, but toddlers, seekers, doubters, parents, grandparents, friends, and strangers.   Open to the emerging sources of life, our own experiences reflect and shape God’s vision for healing the Earth in our time and place.


Bruce Epperly is a theologian, spiritual guide, pastor, and author of twenty four books, including Process Theology: A Guide to the Perplexed, Holy Adventure: 41 Days of Audacious Living,  Philippians: An Interactive Bible Study, and The Center is Everywhere: Celtic Spirituality in the Postmodern World.His most recent text is Emerging Process: Adventurous Theology for a Missional Church.He also writes regularly for the Process and Faith lectionary.  He recently served as Visiting Professor of Process Studies at Claremont School of Theology and Claremont Lincoln University.   He may be reached at drbruceepperly@aol.com for lectures, workshops, and retreats.  His latest book is Healing Marks: Healing and Spirituality in Mark’s Gospel (Energion).

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