06 Theological: Spiritual versus Legal Marriage, and Other Issues

On This Page:

  • Overview
  • Two Marriages: Spiritual Versus Legal Marriage
  • Emergent Theologies, and Theological Issues with Emergent

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This page provides a chronological and topical resource bibliography with links to primary source materials produced by Tony Jones about his view on “two marriages” (sacramental and legal), as well as interactions with his ideas by others in reviews, critiques, and comments. It also has a starter bibliography on larger critiques and commendations of Emergent theology.

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Two Marriages: Spiritual Versus Legal Marriage

This bibliography section brings together posts by and about Tony Jones on his views of two marriages (sacramental/spiritual and legal) and marriage equality, as he ties the two issues together. It also includes other entries on marriage and divorce. He and Courtney Perry held a “sacramental marriage” ceremony on July 13, 2011. And, as a matter of social justice, they decided not to get a “legal marriage” until marriage equality was available for LGBT communities in Minnesota. That happened and was signed into law on May 14, 2013. So, on November 11, 2013, Tony Jones and Courtney Perry legally married, with Jay Bakker as their witness, in a double ceremony along with same-sex couple Rachel and Ratchet, with Tony officiating their marriage union. Tony posted posted more about it on November 12, 2013.

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August 29, 2008. Julie McMahon Jones is served with divorce papers.

September 9, 2008. Tony Jones’ divorce petition is officially filed and first entries made in the court Register on the Jones’s divorce proceedings. [Source: Online Register for Case Number 27-FA-08-5921.]

December 3, 2008. 53: Homosexuality – The Evangelical Temptation, by Dr. Peter Jones (truthxchange). This article helps pinpoint when Tony Jones declared a shift in his doctrine on marriage equality. Quote:

On the same day as the E–Harmony affair emerged, another “evangelical” surrendered to the gay agenda. Tony Jones of Emergent Village publicly declared: “I now believe that GLBTQ (gays, lesbians, bi–sexuals, trans–sexuals, and queers) can live lives in accord with biblical Christianity… and that their monogamy can and should be sanctioned and blessed by church and state.” I guess it all depends on what you mean by “biblical.”

[…] In 2006 Jones invited people who think like him to join Emergent Village, but not to expect “a position paper on homosexuality.” Well now, thanks to his changing experience, we have one—an unabashed endorsement and consecration of sexual perversion, and the apostle Paul be damned.

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January 8, 2009. Christopher Hamilton and Courtney Perry’s divorce was finalized. [Source: Texas Divorce Records, 2009, Dallas County, File Number 000777.]

August 20, 2009 – and comments in September and October 2009. On Ken Cook’s blog post about Tony Jones and Gay Marriage, Video Blog, posted on August 20, 2009, an anonymous commenter(s) posted three comments between September 11 and October 12, 2009, about Tony’s situation. In between, Ken asked for documentation. The comments:

Anonymous said… Please note that Tony Jones DOES NOT live with his wife Julie and 3 children. Due to his sin, he now lives alone and away from his once intact family, and they are divorcing. (Sep 11).

Anonymous said… why is the truth about Jones and his marital situation not public? The situation re: “his sin” has been happening for long enough (Sep 13). Ken Cook said… Anonymous – Can you support your accusations? I would love to see documentation of this. As to this point, I don’t know if what you are saying is true. (Sep 13).

Anonymous said… Tony Jones has a girlfriend, Emergent church staff photographer, Courtney Perry. Emergent National Coordinator, Tony and wife Julia are still married. That is adultery, but the Emergence brand of Christianity would consider it to be alright. Is anything a sin? (Oct 12).

November 13, 2009. Tony Jones And Courtney Perry Et Al, by Ken Silver (Aprising).

November 17, 2009. Tony Jones and Julie McMahon’s divorce was finalized. [Source: Online Register for Case Number 27-FA-08-5921.]

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January 4, 2010. A Call to Clergy: Stop Performing Legal Marriages, by Tony Jones. There are some comments from Courtney Perry (#27 and #28) on this post, and comment #38 posted by Julie Jones (on January 5, 2010, 12:31 am) was deleted. Julie’s comment:

A legal marriage does not assure one that their [sic] will be any more monogamy than any other relationship…as in our case, it did not. I agree the First Amendment is great and necessary, as I am exercising it here. I think the same pastor and Catholic priest who co-officiated our wedding should have had us gone through a rigorous reverse process to divorce, complete with the gathering of our family and friends in a holy place, and publicly denouncing our commitment…or in this case…your commitment.

January 5, 2010. A Response to Tony Jones by Andrew Jones (TallSkinnyKiwi).

January 6, 2010. Here’s a Thought, by Bill Kinnon.

January 6, 2010. Well, 2010 is Unorthodox So Far, by Brother Maynard (Subversive Influence). This is the post that had “dueling comments” between Bill Kinnon and Tony Jones, and it appears to me that Tony deflects attention away from the questions and issues at hand. (Sidenote: In my opinion, Tony Jones seems to exhibit similar patterns elsewhere when comment threads apparently become uncomfortable for him, as with the 2014 post on NakedPastor, where he participated briefly.)

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July 13, 2011. Tony Jones and Courtney Perry had a “sacramental marriage” ceremony, as noted in his September 6, 2011, blog post, There are Two Marriages. They decided not to get a “legal marriage” at that time, citing justice issues as part of their reasoning. Since same-sex couples could not yet obtain a legal marriage and enjoy the legal, financial, and tax advantages of married couples, Tony and Courtney used this to demonstrate their solidarity for the equal marriage movement. They later obtained a “legal marriage” on November 11, 2013.

August 23, 2011. Tony Jones’s sacramental (but not legal) marriage, by John Umland (The UmBlog).

August 24, 2011. the fallacy of the recent legalization of marriage, by John Umland (The UmBlog).

September 6, 2011. There Are Two Marriages, by Tony Jones.

September 6, 2011. There Are Two Marriages – Part One, by Tony Jones.

September 7, 2011. There Are Two Marriages – Part Two, by Tony Jones.

September 7, 2011. There Are Two Marriages – Part Three, by Tony Jones.

September 8, 2011. There Are Two Marriages – Part Four, by Tony Jones.

September 13, 2011. There Are Two Marriages – Part Five, by Tony Jones.

September 14, 2011. There Are Two Marriages – Conclusion and Video Chat, by Tony Jones.

September 14, 2011. There Are Two Marriages: A Manifesto on Marriage is published as an eBook. This 15-page essay is available as an ebook on Amazon, published by The JoPa Group. Here is a description, from Tony Jones’ website:

An essay by theologian Tony Jones on the nature of marriage in American society and the church. Jones argues that there are two marriages in America — civil marriage and sacramental marriage — and they serve two distinct functions in our lives. Thus, they should be separated.

September 15, 2011. Separation of church and state in marriage? by Lisa Miller (The Washington Post). The same article also appeared that day in OnFaith.

September 16, 2011. “There Are Two Marriages” eBook, by Tony Jones.

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May 14, 2013. On the Right Side of History on Gay Marriage, by Tony Jones.

July 24, 2013. Are There Really Two Marriages? [Part 1], by Jeff Gissing.

July 25, 2013. Are There Really Two Marriages? [Part 2], by Jeff Gissing.

November 11, 2013. I’m Getting Married Again, by Tony Jones. After marriage equality laws took effect in Minnesota, Tony Jones and Courtney Perry had a “legal marriage” ceremony, along with same-sex couple Rachel and Ratchet. Jay Bakker was their witness. Tony posted about this on his blog on November 11 (I’m Getting Married Again) and November 12 (Made It Legal).

November 12, 2013. Made It Legal, by Tony Jones.

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January 21, 2015. How To Dump Your Wife and Keep Your “Ministry,” by Michael Newnham (Phoenix Preacher).

March 2, 2015. Tony Jones & the Multiple Marriage Proposal, by Brother Maynard (Subversive Influence).

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Emergent Theologies,

and Theological Issues with Emergent

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Overview of “Emerging,” “Emergence” and Emergent Theologies

Historical Works

In Search of Authentic Faith: How Emerging Generations Are Transforming the Church, by Steve Rabey (WaterBrook Press, 2001, ISBN 1-57856-319-4). Steve Rabey is a former Associated Press reporter, and he was present at many of the earliest Young Leaders Network events, including the first summit, held in 1996. To my knowledge, this is the only source for a broad-based and accurate presentation on the early history and prominent people involved in the Young Leaders Network and “emerging church/ministry movement,” before it morphed into the Terra Nova Project and other streams.

So, Rabey has given us an important book, written during the early fragmentation of evangelicalism and before the various streams were apparent. He captures well the decade of shifts in the 1990s, and he highlights a range of people involved in this movement. His book is particularly intriguing, because there was no way of knowing at the time that some of the more obscure people would potentially become Christian “celebrities” in their particular evangelical stream, and that some of the seeming celebrities might fade into obscurity. Fascinating to read his research and conclusions, with a decade more of hindsight to evaluate now what he was seeing then!

The New Christians: Dispatches from the Emergent Frontier, by Tony Jones (Jossey-Bass; April 20, 2009). This shares the history of the emerging movement and the evolution of the Emergent/Emergent Village movement, from the perspective of an Emergent insider. Tony Jones was an early Emergent Village Board Member (2003-2005), and its eventual Foundation Manager and National Coordinator (2005-2008). Besides sharing recollections of some of the earliest years of what became the Emergent movement, from his perspective, this book contains some important documents in the Appendices. These include Emergent Village’s core tenets and structure, and responses to some of its critics. Although these important documents may still be found on the internet, the Emergent Village website is defunct, including on the WayBack Machine.

Big-Picture Perspectives

Phyllis Tickle is often referenced for her larger perspective on “emergence,” with its roots and fruits in both mainline and evangelical wings of Christianity, and as part of larger historical patterns. Her two books along this line of “global perspective” are:

The Great Emergence: How Christianity Is Changing and Why, by Phyllis Tickle (Baker Books; October 1, 2008).

Emergence Christianity: What It Is, Where It Is Going, and Why It Matters, by Phyllis Tickle (Baker Books; September 1, 2012).

However, please note that Ms. Tickle was not so much an insider in the emerging ministry movement, nor to the controversies in 2009 about “the demise of Emergent.” So her version of the events in 2009 and the supposed role of Andrew Jones (aka TallSkinnyKiwi) in that crucial transition point are reportedly inaccurate, and have been perpetuated in The Deconstructed Church: Understanding Emerging Christianity by Gerardo Marti and Gladys Ganiel.

For an important correction to her misinformation, see Emergent Dust Storm, written by Andrew Jones, June 24, 2014. In it he also critiques The Deconstructed Church: Understanding Emerging Christianity by Marti and Ganiel, and their apparently uncritical repetition of Ms. Tickle’s opinion about Andrew’s relationship with the end of the Emergent ethos in 2009. His entire post is key to interpreting many issues and aspects of the decline of the Emergent Movement, and it is also significant for opening the way for Andrew to speak of unfinished business from the foment of late 2009 and early 2010 in the situation of Tony Jones and Julie McMahon.

From Brian McLaren

Brian McLaren was a key figure in the earlier years of the emerging ministry movement, and then also as it evolved into Emergent. He was a member of the Board of Directors for Emergent Village (Emergent Incorporated) from its inception in 2003 through 2008. He also served as Chairman of the Board from 2006-2007. His book, A New Kind of Christian (2001), had a profound impact on many who were trying to figure out back then where they fit in the world as it was becoming. Several of his many follow-up books had been particularly anticipated, and turned out to be similarly influential. Many readers would identify him as a key influence in their theological development. I have selected three titles that seem to have had the most impact and that show some of the unfolding of McLaren’s theological point of view.

A New Kind of Christian: A Tale of Two Friends on a Spiritual Journey, by Brian McLaren (Jossey-Bass; March 28, 2001).

A Generous Orthodoxy: Why I am a missional, evangelical, post/protestant, liberal/conservative [etc., …] Christian, by Brian McLaren (Zondervan/Youth Specialties; February 1, 2006).

A New Kind of Christianity: Ten Questions that are Transforming the Faith, by Brian McLaren (HarperOne; February 9, 2010).

A fourth title may not have gotten as much traction, but I believe it is important for making wider connections for the common good on social justice, ecology, and a just economy:

Everything Must Change: Jesus, Global Crises, and a Revolution of Hope, by Brian McLaren (Thomas Nelson; October 2, 2007).

From Emerging/Emergent Authors

An Emergent Manifesto of Hope, edited by Doug Pagitt and Tony Jones (Baker Books; April 1, 2007). This book is particularly important for its breadth of perspectives on presentations about theological concerns in the Emergent Movement. This book is also historically important as the inaugural title in the ēmersion series by Baker Books, and perhaps 2007 could be considered as one the high-point years in the development of Emergent Village/Movement. (It began having problems in 2008, and by the end of 2009, some key long-time watchers and participants in the emerging ministry movement considered Emergent to be crippled, if not deceased. Emergent Village shifted organizational structures dramatically in 2009.)

According to the back cover, “An Emergent Manifesto of Hope is a coming together of divergent voices into a collection of writings that will bring you into the latest thinking of the emerging church. You will have a front-row seat as both established leaders and up-and-comers in this influential international movement grapple with how to be faithful Christians in today’s ever-changing cultural context. […] topics like spiritual formation, social justice, sex, church and community, evangelism, racial reconciliation, postcolonialism, and the Bible.”

The 25+ emerging and Emergent authors include: Carla Barnhill, Ryan Bolger, Troy Bronsink, Rodolpho Carrasco, Adam Walker Cleaveland, Tim Conder, Chris Erdman, Dwight J. Friesen, Tony Jones, Tim Keel, Dan Kimball, Heather Kirk-Davidoff, Deborah and Ken Loyd, Sherry and Geoff Maddock, Brian D. McLaren, Brian Mitchell, Sally Morgenthaler, Thomas Malcolm Olson, Doug Pagitt, Will Samson, Nanette Sawyer, Mark Scandrette, Samir Selmanovic, Karen E. Sloan, Anthony Smith, Barry Taylor, and Randy Woodley.

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Theological Issues with Emergent

I may eventually add a section of select titles here, but in the meantime, there are many books and blogs readily available that have critiques of Emergent theologies at various stages and phases of its evolution.

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