September 23, 2014

FAQs/Rules

Hi, my name is Michael Mercer (aka Chaplain Mike).

A couple of years ago, I discovered this blog and began to participate through reading, commenting, and corresponding with its founder, Michael Spencer. In November, 2009, Michael became sick and was diagnosed with cancer. He asked me to keep the blog going as he dealt with his disease. Sadly, it progressed rapidly, and Michael Spencer passed away on April 5, 2010.

Before he died, we spoke personally and Michael said I should work with Jeff Dunn, his literary agent, to carry on this work which he had begun ten years earlier. I am humbled and honored to have this privilege, saddened that Michael is gone, hopeful that we will be able to carry on the iMonk’s legacy so that his voice will continue to be heard.

These FAQs and guidelines are in place as a means of making sure that the theological emphases and “rules” for discussion that Michael developed will be maintained.

That’s what I plan to do, by God’s grace, and with your help.

FAQS AND RULES

In the following FAQs and Rules, I have preserved some of Michael Spencer’s original answers (MS) in order that the reader might compare his answers with mine (CM) and have a better idea of where we are coming from on Internet Monk.

1. What do you believe?

MS: Apostles Creed. Nicene Creed. New Hampshire Baptist Confession of Faith.

CM: Apostles Creed, Nicene Creed, and an appreciation of various confessional positions expressed in each of the great Reformation traditions. I’m particularly fond of Luther and Calvin, but also appreciate some of the emphases in the Anabaptist tradition.

I also happen to think we are at a key moment in the history of the church and in Biblical and theological studies. People like Robert Webber, Eugene Peterson, and N.T. Wright have opened up wonderful new vistas of understanding for me. And I, like so many others, are gaining a renewed appreciation for the Fathers, the Catholic and Orthodox traditions. I am drawn to the paleoorthodox movement.

Bottom-line, if you can’t handle someone who simultaneously appreciates the Reformers and N.T. Wright, you won’t like me.

2. What denomination are you?

MS: I’m a Baptist. My church is associated with the Southern Baptist Convention and the Kentucky Baptist Convention.

CM: I am currently a member in an ELCA Lutheran church. I was a pastor for 25+ years in non-denominational, evangelical churches before taking up my ministry now as a hospice chaplain.

I am not settled in my long-term church affiliation. I am convinced, however, that I will only affiliate with a church that worships God every week through Word and sacrament, confesses its faith through the historic creeds, practices a worship liturgy that has stood the test of time, hears Scripture read from the OT, NT, and Gospels, prays the Lord’s Prayer, and emphasizes the grace of Christ that welcomes sinners.

UPDATE: I am currently in the process of seeking ordination in the ELCA.

3. What does post-evangelical mean?

MS: I believe the way forward for evangelicalism is the way back to the roots of the broader, deeper, more ancient, more ecumenical church, not forward into more of what evangelicals have been doing the last 50 years.

CM: I heartily agree. In addition, I would say that the reason this is the way forward is that “post-evangelical” for many at ground level evokes a deep disillusionment with the culture of American evangelicalism, a sense of exile or “wandering in the wilderness” in relation to the church, and a hunger for historical rootedness, community that cannot be found in programmed settings, and participation in mission that penetrates the world with the love and truth of Jesus.

4. What is a Reformation Christian?

MS: I believe the reformation was a tragic necessity and I embrace all the solas of the reformation.

CM: Likewise, though I think the understanding of “Sola Scriptura” needs to be clarified in our day to include a proper understanding of the role of tradition and general revelation. (Michael did also.)

5. What is a Jesus-shaped Christianity?

MS: A Christianity that Jesus would recognize as being like him, about him and formed around him, not religion.

CM: For further insights into this, read Michael’s book. It contrasts “Mere Churchianity,” a church-shaped spirituality, with a Jesus-shaped spirituality. I will also be doing a series of blog posts on my understanding of the concept.

6. What is the commenting policy at IM?

MS: Comments are welcome. Sometimes comments are held in moderation, but not most of the time.

I moderate assertively. I delete comments that are irrelevant, too long, off topic, selling things, pimping blogs and especially those that reject the Christian profession of other posters.

A primary commenting rule is to not engage in attempts to convert other Christians to your tradition or away from their own.

If I announce a policy in a particular thread, I will moderate assertively according to that policy.

Comments that denigrate the discussion itself or participants in the discussion will not be posted.

You do not need to be obnoxious, mean or profane to be placed on moderation or banned. If your comments consistently are obstructive to the conversation, I will moderate accordingly.

I have no problem banning commenters that offer no positive contribution to the discussion. I have a large audience and I moderate so they can have a civil discussion. I do not have any commitment to absolute free speech on my blog. I have worked hard for the success I have in this medium, and I do not share it or allow others to denigrate or manipulate it. You may participate, but I do not sponsor wars, slander, threats or pointless arguments.

I am not a perfect moderator, so if you want to accuse me of being hypocritical or inconsistent, I already agree with you and it doesn’t matter. You won’t win the comment war.

CM: Michael was a little more aggressive than I am in confronting commenters, putting them on moderation, and banning them. I am learning how to do this moderating thing, and I ask that IM participants be patient with me.

I welcome diverse points of view. The IM auditorium has seats on the right, in the center, and on the left. Why would I want to be part of a discussion that only includes people who agree?

The main things that tick me off are:

  1. Those who only care about spouting their opinions and don’t listen to others,
  2. Name-calling, hitting below the belt, or questioning someone’s salvation just because they disagree on some point of theology or interpretation,
  3. Those who try to hijack the comment thread and lead it away from the point of the post in question,
  4. Those who refuse to heed the warnings of the moderator.

I want to reinforce what Michael said above: “I do not have any commitment to absolute free speech on my blog.” This is not a place for people to say anything they wish. Like life, you may not think the rules are fair or get applied consistently all the time. And you’ll be right.

7. Where do you work?

MS: At a Christian ministry for students in Southeastern Kentucky.

CM: I work as a hospice chaplain in a non-profit health network in Indianapolis. Every day I have the privilege of going from house to house, and room to room in healthcare facilities visiting with patients and families who confronting issues related to the end of life, being a friend to those who are dying. This is the most “Jesus-shaped” ministry I’ve ever done. Before this, I spent many years serving as a pastor in small churches in Maryland, Vermont, Chicago, and the Indianapolis area. These were non-denominational churches in the evangelical and/or fundamentalist tradition.

8. Where did you go to school and get your theological training?

MS: I graduated from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1984. I returned for post-graduate work in 1987.

CM: I graduated from Lancaster (PA) Bible College in 1978. After getting my feet wet in pastoral ministry, I went to seminary at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (Deerfield, IL), where I received my MDiv. degree.

9. How did you know Michael Spencer and become involved in Internet Monk?

I was a regular reader of IM, and began commenting more a couple of years ago. I corresponded with Michael on occasion, and last fall invited Mike and Denise to dinner with my wife and me while we were on vacation in that part of the country. A short time later, when he was dealing with some issues related to death and how Christians handle the subject, he asked me to do an interview for the blog. When he became sick, our correspondence, phone and personal contacts increased, and I offered to serve as  “chaplain at a distance” for him and Denise to help them with what they were facing. He asked me to keep the blog going, and eventually requested that I carry it on after his death. We value and enjoy a continuing friendship with the family.

10. How did you get to know Jeff Dunn?

Jeff was the agent who helped Michael get his book contract. During the final season of Mike’s life, I talked to Denise and asked if she had taken steps to protect his writings. She contacted Jeff, and in his reply, he not only gave her counsel about that, but presented an idea for continuing the Internet Monk blog. We are still in the early stages of doing that together. Jeff is wonderfully gifted, enthusiastic, and compassionate, and it is his company that is administrating things here now. It’s a pleasure knowing and working with him. Oh yeah, he’s a Reds fan, but Jesus prayed that we’d be one, and it’s happening.

11. Will you continue to run the features that Internet Monk is known for?

In a word, yes. That is our plan. We ask your patience as we find our bearings and learn how to do this. Michael Spencer was a prodigious and prolific figure and writer, and trying to fill his shoes is an intimidating challenge. First of all, we want his words to keep speaking and reaching new readers, so regular iMonk Classic posts will be re-run. Second, Michael was always gracious about letting other voices be heard, so in addition to looking for new writers that will complement his voice, we will also have folks Mike appreciated, like Michael Bell, as regular contributors. We’ll be working soon on restarting the Liturgical Gangstas. Third, Open Mic will continue to be a regular feature, and we’ll try to keep a focus on some of the specific themes that were dear to Michael’s heart because they are key issues in the post-evangelical wilderness where many of us walk.

OLDER FAQS

These were some other answers Michael Spencer gave to some frequently submitted queries about him and Internet Monk when he was writing. They may help new readers understand some things as they go through archival material on the site.

Are you becoming a Catholic?

No. I appreciate other Christian traditions besides my own and I see the value in them. I also know why I am a Protestant, an evangelical and a Baptist.

My Catholic friends have evangelized me for two years, but I’m a solidly reformation Christian. Luther’s Gospel is mostly my Gospel.

Do you hate evangelicals?

No. Being realistically critical isn’t hatred. I am critical and honest about the issues in my tradition that are problems.

Do you hate megachurches?

No. I believe making the megachurch the single model of church growth and success was a big mistake. I know there are many good megachurches.

What is “The Coming Evangelical Collapse”?

Three posts I wrote in January of ’09 that became a single op-ed piece in the Christian Science Monitor in March of 09. The CSM piece was picked up by Drudge and got attention all over the world. It was my 15 minutes. (See the category CEC on the sidebar for these links.)

Why is there a rosary ad on the page?

Because my Catholic friend Alan is trying to make some income on the side and I’m supporting him. He’s been gracious to me and I support my friends.

A rosary, by the way, is a prayer that many Catholics pray. Protestants, orthodox and many other Christians don’t pray the rosary, but use prayer beads to pray scripture and classic prayers from their traditions. I like them because of the cross.

Are you a pastor?

I’m an ordained minister. I serve a local Presbyterian Church as supply pastor. I work with students in the classroom and preach in a school chapel. On Sundays I lead worship with the students I teach. I preach about 12x a month. When I can, I attend a Baptist church where I am a member. One Sunday a month, I visit a church off campus. Often it’s St. Patrick’s Anglican Church in Lexington, Ky.

Are you a full time blogger?

LOL. That’s a good one.

Why are there ads on your site?

Because 700,000 people will visit IM this year, and I’m not an idiot.

What do you use to make the podcast?

Garageband, Podsafe music, Wiretap Studio, Blue Snowball Mic or Belkin mic on my ipod Touch.

Critics say no one can tell you you’re wrong.

I’ll be sure and pass that along to several thousand IM commenters and emailers from the past 8 years who’ve told me I’m wrong and worse.

Critics say you don’t have a pastor.

I have a pastor I talk to every single day. I also have two administrative superiors, both of whom have no problem telling me to straighten up or lose my job. I’m accountable to a board of elected trustees, and the four members of my accountability group.

Did you write a book?

I have a book coming out in June of ’10.

Do you get paid to write book reviews?

No. Sometimes I get the book free, but frequently not. About 60/40 not.