Two New SVS Papers

This time next week (give or take the time difference, sorry!) I’ll have been sat through the first plenary and welcome and so-on for the 2018 gathering of the Society of Vineyard Scholars. I’m excited to have been invited to present two papers – one on the Vineyard’s place within/in-relation-to evangelicalism, and the other on a nascent Vineyard theology of place.

In lieu of delivering those papers next week (Though, American friends, apparently Cinicinnati [which is an hour from where the conference is taking place] is within a day’s drive of 2/3rds of the USA population), here’s a taster of what I’ll be talking about:

Being Vineyard, Being Evangelical: An English Perspective

The debate over what it means to be evangelical in English-speaking countries predates the ongoing discussion of what it means to be Vineyard. In the United Kingdom, the debate over what it is to ‘be vineyard’ and/or to ‘be evangelical’ is complex in both easily available and internally-focused thought/literature. This paper offers one perspective: to ‘be Vineyard’ is fundamentally to ‘be evangelical’. Regardless of how one might enter the Vineyard, regardless of a theological persuasion that informs one’s input into and on behalf of the Vineyard, to be Vineyard is fundamentally and minimally to be evangelical.

This paper is not ignorant of wider debates over what it means to be Vineyard; indeed, a fundamental concern is to curate and host a conversation that is both informed and constructive regarding this topic. Using Wilson and Nathan’s fundamental text Empowered Evangelicals as one example of what it means to be Vineyard, this paper seeks to suggest an English perspective on this important question.

This paper is one very dear to my heart – I honestly believe I am an evangelical – and I’m looking forward to a rich conversation in light of some of the questions I’ll raise and the vision I hope to cast.

Where are you Church? An Invitation to a Vineyard Theology of Place

Despite being historically rooted in the California Jesus people revivals, around key figures such as John Wimber, Lonnie Frisbee and Kenn Gulliksen, the Vineyard movement has spread across the world in a relatively short period of time, echoing the fundamental displacement of contemporary culture. As a relationally connected family of scattered servants, the Vineyard is agile and relatively quick to reproduce – with thriving churches in a wide variety of settings. In some places, local Vineyard churches exist in and around pre-existing ‘parishes’, particularly in the United Kingdom and other countries where forms of Christianity such as Anglicanism and Roman Catholicism have been prevalent.

As the Vineyard has spread from it’s Californian roots, and a generation of leaders emerges who have little or no experience of Wimber, Anaheim or Toronto, it is vital that the Vineyard considers the question of a theology of place. By asking the question ‘Where are you Church’, this paper offers some pointers to those seeking for reflection on the Vineyard’s ‘place’ within wider Christianity, it’s literal physical location in different neighbourhoods, and the motivating language of ‘movement’ that gives the Vineyard it’s distinctive flavour. Drawing on key voices from within and without the Vineyard, this paper proposes a Vineyard Theology of Place that echoes both Kingdom flexibility and historic rootedness.

This paper draws on a number of key themes I’ve been interested in. Firstly, it takes seriously the idea of location and geography – part of what it means to be human. Secondly, I hope I’ll be evangelically ecumenical, engaging with ideas from outside and beyond the Vineyard in an attempt to thinking theologically about what we can say (or not say!) about place and presence. Thirdly, I hope to offer some theological challenges to dominate models of church and presence, but we’ll see.

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