Wikiklesia: book on the global interconnected Church

Book Wikiklesia Volume One: Voices of the Virtual World: Participative Technology and the Ecclesial Revolution. By Len Hjalmarson and John La Grou. Wikkiklesia Press, 2008

Another gem from Lulu, which discusses the intersection between technology and faith, and how peer to peer dynamics influence global christianity.

The abstract explains:

VOICES explores the growing influence of technology on the global Christian church. We hear from more than forty influential voices, including technologists and theologians, entrepreneurs and pastors… from a progressive Episcopalian techno-monk to a leading Mennonite professor… from a tech-savvy mobile missionary to a corporate anthropologist whom Worth Magazine calls “one of Wall Street’s 25 Smartest Players.” Voices is a far reaching exploration of spiritual journey within a culture of increasingly immersive technology. 517 pgs (e-book).”

In one of the introductions, co-editor John La Grou gives a flavour of what the book’s various authors will explore in depth:

This e-book, the first Wikiklesia Project, is but one milestone among many in a quickly accelerating, virtually connected church.

Wikiklesia brings together a diversity of writers exploring a single theme: the intersection of technology and faith / religion. Professional and nonprofessional writers share with equal voice in this pioneering cooperative experiment. The Internet is allowing us to congregate and communicate as never before possible – in ways that just a generation earlier would have been impossible, and inconceivable.

Global Christianity is experiencing a profound structural shift born of Internet convergence. For lack of better terminology, allow me to call this emerging phenomenon the microclesia – a shrinking of diverse, worldwide ecclesial / faith communities into a participatory “global town square” – a virtual-ecclesial conversation facilitated by the microprocessor.

Microclesia (e.g., this e-book) represents a new global voice in which ideas and imagination, not structural or positional power, moderate religious dialogue. Wisdom (see Proverbs) is the new gatekeeper as spiritual community is reborn in a rapidly growing network of conversations. In this pioneering microclesial community, “everyone is a piece of the puzzle; everyone is essential.”

The global-virtual ecclesia is:

* bridging superficial sectarian and denominational divides
* exploring commonality as much as difference
* maintaining creative relevancy to diverse cultures
* remaining sensitive to our shared humanity and common need for grace
* giving voice to those who had no voice
* re-making institution into imago Dei.

The Wikiklesia Project mirrors an epochal transformation from passive religious consumers to engaged co-creators.

As participants, we are becoming less intimidated, and less impressed, by the inherited dualisms of:

* lay vs. clergy
* sacred space vs. secular space
* religious affiliation vs. unaffiliated outsider
* expert and amateur

We are:

* freely integrating as a global body
* learning how to recreate ourselves in unmediated connectedness
* less separated by physical or ideological barriers
* seeking spontaneous questions rather than habitual answers

A kind of collective intuition seems to be shifting our hopes and dreams from centralized ecclesial management to shared ecclesial distribution. Nature itself shows us that virtually any attempt at artificially “organizing” an inherently selforganizing system will ultimately fail.

By and large, our inherited religious framework (catholic, protestant, orthodox, etc.) have operated independent of one other – each cloistered within their own theological ghetto. It’s not so much that they co-exist harmoniously. Rather, they’re just rarely required to talk and work with one another. And that’s been just fine with “them.”

But the Internet is changing the rules of engagement. There is no longer a “them.” Virtualparticipatory community is tearing down centuries of man-made barriers that have kept the Christian family artificially separated. What will happen as previously insulated ideologies are increasingly forced into ecumenical daylight?

What will the church look like when:

* institutional power is diluted by waves of collective intelligence
* power centers are shifted from inherited hierarchy to distributed wisdom
* local communities begin to synthesize a globalvirtual array of insight – far beyond the walls of their inherited network

Our Wikiklesia authors intuitively “get” the bigger picture of an emerging virtual ecclesia. It’s not a new church franchise or an insular faction, but a shrinking of the universal body into a true global town square – a “global home church” where people congregate 24/7/365 on the strength of empathy, ideas, and friendship rather than institutional allegiance or religious programming.

As techno-social tools continue to shrink the global church – ultimately into a “single place of meeting” – our collective empathy will increase. New doors of relational understanding will continue to open.

”Church” becomes less of a Constantinian model where we “go” for a “service” – but rather emerges as a glocal community that is always engaged in “being” church – 24/7. Local-physical meetings become more of a celebration and reflection of what’s been happening in our missionally and virtually engaged lives throughout the week.”

John La Grou’s intro ends with the following important and ominous question:

Is there a downside to this marriage of technology and faith?

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