round-table church

October 22, 2007

I’ve started this post a few days ago, but never finished it, so now I’m just restarting.

I gave some thoughts on Dwelling in the Wordlast time, what I’m writing here follows on this. The idea of the Round-table church is that everyone can participate on equal level, like sitting around around table, rather than in the pews. In systematic theology, but only for the Dutch (and Afrikaans) reader, the practical/systematic theologian Dingemans has used this idea in ‘De stem van de Roepende’. Doug Pagitt tried to make this practical (although working from a different tradition than Dingemans) in some of the chapters of ‘Church re-imagined’.

We arrive at the idea of a Round-table church from a number of directions. I’ll try and touch upon some of them.

Let’s start out with the most difficult one, which might also be the most important one. Philosophically, when we work with a new concept of truth, the this idea of church make sense. If truth is no longer something absolute which can only be retrieved by those most smart, or in a position of power (I think usually it was actually the second one that was at play), but something that is relative and relational, this idea will make sense. Truth is relative. This must not be mistaken with being relativistic, truth being relativistic would mean that there is no truth, since that which you consider to be true can be true, without regards of anything else. If you think of the spacial meaning of relative, it might help, I think. You can try to give my current position in cosmic coordinates at the moment, or else you can see where I am relative to something else. I’m currently at a certain position relative to the city of Twane, of the N1 highway, or the Kameeldrif church building. What I consider to be true is relative to my own experience, my upbringing, my current emotions etc. Everyone of us look at things through these, and other, lenses. We see truth relative to this, and therefore, since our lenses differ, we don’t arrive at exactly the same answers. And the answers of those in positions of power, is also scene through lenses. Truth is also relational, in relation with each other, in conversation with each other, seeing each others opinions, looking through each others lenses (as far as that might be possible), we arrive at answers. Thus we can really listen to everyone, and not only to the trained theologian.

The ease with which people can nowadays get information also play a role in forming this idea. It’s not only the trained theologian that have access to information, anyone can google a topic and get info, both good and bad. Theology is not only for those trained, but everyone can take part.

On a very practical point, I have a feeling that communicatively (is that a word???), the real questions and answers in a community are better addressed in dialogue, rather than monologue. When one person has all the speaking rights, they tend to get so high up in the clouds, that the real question isn’t addressed, or keep to some pet topics, which miss questions which some are asking, or simply don’t know what’s going on in people’s minds. Also sometimes, what is needed isn’t answers, but a place to ask questions, to connect with others that ask the same questions. The way in which we are currently doing church services is not addressing these needs.

However, I’ve been contemplating the role of pastors and trained theologians, and this post brings me to this questions. So I’ll address that in a following post.

Oh, and just for interest sake, I just discovered that my previous post was number 100! This is post number 101.

4 Responses to “round-table church”


  1. […] to finish it up. It started out with some thoughts on dwelling in the word, and then some on the round table church. I’ve been thinking a lot about the role of pastors in churches the last year or so. One of the […]


  2. […] a general mistrust of churches, no matter what their history, and natural knowledge that truth is relational (a word I think closer resemble the epistemological viewpoint of an emerging generation than […]


  3. […] then hear things like all truth is relative (something which I think I agree with, wrote about it here), or that we should make room for different opinions (another thing I’m very fond of), and […]


  4. […] easy thing. I’ve had many thoughts in this in the past (see posts on the round-table church here or here), but more and more I realize that the utopian ideal of having 57 people coming together in […]


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