Living Faithfully in a Fragmented World and Longing for Spring, both due for publication this June, explain the importance of new monastic communities and claim the necessity of a new role of church within Christianity, which according to the authors, it is in grave danger of compromising its faithfulness to the gospel.
Regarding the significance of new monastic communities in the Western culture, we have taken this subject into consideration to have a deeper understanding about the new model of the Christian church in the postmodern culture.
New Monasticism, or Neomonasticism, is a modern day iteration of a long tradition of Christian monasticism that has recently developed within certain Christian communities.
The notion and terminology of “new monasticism” was developed by Jonathan Wilson, in his 1998 book called Living Faithfully in a Fragmented World, which The Lutterworth Press has the privilege to release a new revised edition. The new edition includes responses to critics of the new monasticism such as D. A. Carson, an entirely new chapter on the Nietzschean temptation, an afterword on properly understanding the new monastic movement, the dangers it faces, and the work yet to be done, as well as an appendix on the supposed post-modern agenda of Jonathan Wilson and Brian McLaren.
Wilson was, in turn, building on ideas of theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who said in 1935: “the restoration of the church will surely come only from a new type of monasticism which has nothing in common with the old but a complete lack of compromise in a life lived in accordance with the Sermon on the Mount in the discipleship of Christ”and philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre.
Calling the vision a “new monasticism” he proposed four characteristics that such a monasticism would entail:
- It will be “marked by a recovery of the telos of this world” revealed in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and aimed at the healing of fragmentation, bringing the whole of life under the lordship of Christ.
- It will be aimed at the “whole people of God” who live and work in all kinds of contexts, and not create a distinction between those with sacred and secular vocations.
- It will be disciplined, not by a recovery of old monastic rules, but by the joyful discipline achieved by a small group of disciples practicing mutual exhortation, correction, and reconciliation.
- It will be “undergirded by deep theological reflection and commitment” by which the church may recover its life and witness in the world.
The summer of 2004 became a defining moment for the movement, when there was a gathering of a number of existing communities and academics in Durham, North Carolina, where they drew together something like a “rule of life”, referred to as the “12 marks” of new monasticism. The gathering took place at a new monastic community called “Rutba House”, of which some founding members were Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove and Leah Wilson-Hartgrove.
The “12 marks” of new monasticism are:
- Relocation to the “abandoned places of Empire” [at the margins of society].
- Sharing economic resources with fellow community members and the needy among us.
- Hospitality to the stranger.
- Lament for racial divisions within the church and our communities combined with the active pursuit of a just reconciliation.
- Humble submission to Christ’s body, the Church.
- Intentional formation in the way of Christ and the rule of the community along the lines of the old novitiate.
- Nurturing common life among members of an intentional community.
- Support for celibate singles alongside monogamous married couples and their children.
- Geographical proximity to community members who share a common rule of life.
- Care for the plot of God’s earth given to us along with support of our local economies.
- Peacemaking in the midst of violence and conflict resolution within communities.
- Commitment to a disciplined contemplative life.
Longing for Spring authors, Elaine Heath and Scott Kisker, report the new monastic movement within United Methodist Churches, but also present a strong case for a Wesleyan monastic rule of life. Both authors share their own spiritual stories and express what the New Methodists want. In addition to this, the book also contains the “12 marks” of the new monasticism, as well as appendices with a reflection guide for groups, recommended resources and the role of the anchor church.
According to the Rev. Dr. Andrew Kinsey, senior pastor of Grace United Methodist Church in Franklin, Indiana, “Heath and Kisker want to engage the church in how the new monasticism may contribute to this ongoing conversation in the church and how the new monasticism may deepen life among what they call the “New Methodists.” Their work grows out of ongoing contact with this movement, along with a deep desire for renewal in the church”.
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