Phyllis Tickle

Phyllis Tickle (www.phyllistickle.com) was the founding editor of the religion department of Publishers Weekly and author of The Words of Jesus: A Gospel of the Sayings of Our Lord and The Great Emergence: How Christianity Is Changing and Why.

Posts By This Author

The Great Emergence

by Phyllis Tickle 08-01-2008
Every 500 years or so, the church—and the world—experience huge social, political, economic, and cultural shifts. What does this revolutionary evolution mean for the church?
Inga Locmele / Shutterstock

Inga Locmele / Shutterstock

Rt. Rev. Mark Dyer, an Anglican bishop known for his wit as well as his wisdom, famously observes from time to time that the only way to understand what is currently happening to us as 21st-century Christians in North America is first to understand that about every 500 years the church feels compelled to hold a giant rummage sale. And, he goes on to say, we are living in and through one of those 500-year sales.

While the bishop may be using a bit of humor to make a point, his is nonetheless a deadly serious and exquisitely accurate point. Any usable discussion of the Great Emergence and what is happening in Christianity today must commence with a discussion of history. Only history can expose the patterns and confluences of the past in such a way as to help us identify the patterns and flow of our own times and occupy them more faithfully.

The first pattern we must consider as relevant to the Great Emer­gence is Bishop Dyer’s rummage sale, which, as a pattern, is not only foundational to our understanding but also psychologically very reassuring for most of us. That is, as Bishop Dyer observes, about every 500 years the empowered structures of institutionalized Christianity, whatever they may be at that time, become an intolerable carapace, or hard shell, that must be shattered in order that renewal and new growth may occur. When that mighty upheaval happens, history shows us, there are always at least three consistent results or corollary events.

First, a new, more vital form of Christianity does indeed emerge. Second, the organized expression of Christianity that up until then had been the dominant one is reconstituted into a more pure and less ossified expression of its former self. As a result of this usually energetic but rarely benign process, the church actually ends up with two new creatures where once there had been only one. That is, in the course of birthing a brand-new expression of its faith and praxis, the church also gains a grand refurbishment of the older one.

Bible Stories Your Mother Never Told You -- and One to be Told Differently

by Phyllis Tickle 07-27-2008

Bible Stories Your Mother Never Told You -- and One to be Told Differently

by Phyllis Tickle 07-27-2008

Summer Sundays with Phyllis Tickle

Folks in my line of work ... i.e., writers in the field of religion ... do a lot of talking and lecturing during the fall, winter, and spring months when schools are in session and everyone more or less agrees that vacation time is over and done with for another [...]

A Crash Course in Jesus Studies

by Phyllis Tickle 07-20-2008

Summer Sundays with Phyllis Tickle

JesusA Sunday or two ago, I made mention of -- more to the truth, wrote a whole

The Great Experiment and the Great Commandment

by Phyllis Tickle 07-13-2008

Summer Sundays with Phyllis Tickle

Tomorrow is Bastille Day. We Americans don't take much notice of that these days, but once there was a time when we did. Once was the time, especially as the storm clouds of World War II were gathering over us, when school children and working folk alike [...]

Preachers, Poets, and Storytellers

by Phyllis Tickle 07-06-2008

Summer Sundays with Phyllis Tickle

July 4 weekend! Now this is a holiday! We won't have another one until Labor Day, but that doesn't even matter right now. What matters is that this is the last day of a glorious three days of blessed interruption. Thank goodness for all such favors.

I [...]

Forbidden Revivals and the Birth of Bluegrass

by Phyllis Tickle 06-29-2008

Forbidden Revivals and the Birth of Bluegrass

by Phyllis Tickle 06-29-2008

Summer Sundays with Phyllis Tickle

In the days of my childhood, summer was the season of the big-tent revivals. More than any other of the myriad things that summer could be and was, it was the revivals that were for me the major descriptor of what a complete and proper summer was. This rather [...]

Pagans and Patriarchs

by Phyllis Tickle 06-22-2008

Summer Sundays with Phyllis Tickle

Welcome to summer. Officially and totally summer in the Northern Hemisphere. It's certifiably summer by every means of our accounting, be it psychological or [...]

A Warm Welcome to Summer Sundays

by Phyllis Tickle 06-15-2008

Summer Sundays with Phyllis Tickle

Officially speaking and despite what we may all be thinking about the June heat wave the nation is plowing its way through right [...]

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