Tony Jones (theologian)

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Tony Jones

Tony Jones is an American theologian, author, blogger, and speaker who is a leading figure in the emerging church movement and postmodern Christianity.[1][2][3]


Jones graduated from Dartmouth College in 1990 with a B.A. in classics. He then studied at Fuller Theological Seminary, earning a Master of Divinity and specializing in systematic theology and postmodern philosophy. He then attended Princeton Theological Seminary, but left the school after finishing the coursework for a Ph.D, leaving with ABD status. He later completed his Ph.D. in 2011 with a dissertation on the ecclesiology of the emerging church, which was then edited and published as The Church is Flat.[4] Jones is ordained within the National Association of Congregational Christian Churches.[5]

Jones began his career as the Executive Director of YouthWorks Missions from 1994 to 1997.[verification needed] He then served as a youth pastor at a church in Edina, Minnesota and a chaplain to the city's police department.[6] From 2005 to 2008 Jones was National Coordinator of The Emergent Village, an organization in the emerging church movement. Jones left Emergent Village in 2008 after his position was phased out when the organization tried to create more grassroots involvement, but is still actively involved in the movement.[7][8]

In 2006, Jones co-convened the first meeting[9] of Emergent church and "Jewish emergent" leaders;[10] he recounted the episode, which drew criticism from conservative Christians, in his book The New Christians: Dispatches from the Emergent Frontier.[11][12][13][14][15][16]

Jones serves as the Distinguished Lecturer in the Practice of Theology at United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities. Jones is an adjunct professor at Fuller Theological Seminary, although his Christian Spirituality Cohort is currently postponed.[17][18] Jones is formerly an adjunct instructor at St. Cloud State University,[19] as well as serving as the Theologian-in-Residence at Solomon's Porch, the church pastored by Doug Pagitt.[20] Jones' blog was hosted by Beliefnet in 2009, then self-hosted for a time, then hosted by Patheos. When hosted by Patheos in April 2014, it was 31 in the top 300 Christian blogs online according to[21] As of January 2015, Jones' blog has become self-hosted again.[22]

Jones is the author or editor of eleven books and dozens of academic articles, writing on subjects such as postmodernism, youth ministry, ecclesiology, the emerging church, spiritual formation and theories of the atonement.[23] He has argued in favor of René Girard's interpretation of the atonement as well as advocating for equal rights for those in the LGBT community.[24][25][26][27]

Political Activism[edit]

In 2010 Jones encouraged Minnesota clergy to stop performing legal marriages, as a show of solidarity with LGBT people who could not be legally married in the state at that time.[28] Lisa Miller of the Washington Post questioned whether Jones' position was influenced by his acrimonious divorce from his first wife, and "a wish to avoid legal entanglements the second time around".[29] Miller also criticized the likely outcomes of Jones' position, calling it impractical, "muddled and retrograde".[29] Miller's concerns were that an absence of legal safeguards was "bad for the financially vulnerable partner (historically the woman) and for children", "a promise to God will not make a deadbeat parent pay child support."[29] Marriage historian Stephanie Coontz also criticized Jones' refusal to issue state marriage licences because it “penalizes heterosexual couples who are coming to the church without actually winning anything for same-sex couples”.[29]

Jones' concerns were that the US same-sex marriage debate "has been bogged down … by a blurring of religious and legal definitions of marriage". Two factors contribute to these blurred definitions: religious groups' activism against same-sex marriage, and clergy acting as both religiously sanctioned and state-sanctioned agents during a wedding.[29] Jones advocated for a European model of marriage, where the religious and legal elements are administered by separate authorities at separate times and locations. The advantage of this model is that the state could grant couples marriage licenses regardless of gender, and then "individual churches or denominations could decide to bless the committed, loving union of same-sex couples. Or not."[29]

In 2012 Jones testified before the Minnesota Senate, arguing for changes in the state's laws regarding parental custody following a divorce.[30]

Personal life[edit]

Jones is divorced and has three children.[31] He lives in Minnesota with his second wife.[32] In 2011, they participated in what Jones called a "sacramental marriage", a ceremony without a legal marriage contract. They wished to show solidarity with same-gender couples, who could not be legally married in Minnesota at the time.[29] Jones and his second wife were legally married in 2013, once same-gender couples could marry in their state.[33][34]


  • Postmodern Youth Ministry: Exploring Cultural Shift, Cultivating Authentic Community, Creating Holistic Connections (Youth Specialties/Zondervan, 2001)
  • Soul Shaper: Exploring Spirituality and Contemplative Practices in Youth Ministry (Youth Specialties/Zondervan, 2003).
  • Pray (NavPress, 2003).
  • Read.Think.Pray.Live (NavPress, 2003).
  • The Sacred Way: Spiritual Practices for Everyday Life (Zondervan, 2005).
  • You Converted Me: The Confessions of St. Augustine, editor (Paraclete Press, 2006).
  • Divine Intervention: Encountering God through the Ancient Practice of Lectio Divina (NavPress, 2006) (revision of Read.Think.Pray.Live, 2003).
  • The Most Difficult Journey You’ll Ever Make: The Pilgrim’s Progress, editor (Paraclete Press, 2006).
  • The Practice of the Presence of God, editor (Paraclete Press, 2007).
  • An Emergent Manifesto of Hope, co-editor with Doug Pagitt (Baker Publishing House, 2007).
  • Ask Seek Knock: Prayers to Change Your Life (NavPress, 2008) (revision of Pray, 2003).
  • The New Christians: Dispatches from the Emergent Frontier ( Jossey-Bass, 2008).
  • The Teaching of the Twelve: Believing and Practicing the Primitive Christianity of the Ancient Didache Community (Paraclete Press, 2009)
  • There Are Two Marriages: A Manifesto on Marriage (The JoPa Group, 2011)
  • The Church Is Flat: The Relational Ecclesiology of the Emerging Church Movement (The JoPa Group, 2011)
  • A Better Atonement: Beyond the Depraved Doctrine of Original Sin (The JoPa Group, 2012)
  • Questions That Haunt Christianity: Volume 1 (The JoPa Group, 2013)
  • Phyllis Tickle: Evangelist of the Future (Paraclete Press, 2013)

See also[edit]


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  9. ^ Winston, D. (2006). Religious Progressives: The Next Generation. Los Angeles Times, February 5.
  10. ^ Synagogue 3000 presents The Emerging Conversation (video).
  11. ^ The Emerging Synagogue? Out of Ur (blog).
  12. ^ "Emergent Embraces Ecumenism - UPDATED." Provocations and Pantings (blog).
  13. ^ Flaccus, Gillian. (2006.) Disillusioned Jews, Christians share ideas on 'emergent' faith. (Associated Press.) Orange County Register, January 21.
  14. ^ Haji, R., & Lalonde, R. N. (2012). Interreligious Communication. In Giles, H. (Ed.). The Handbook of Intergroup Communication. Routledge.The Handbook of Intergroup Communication, p. 285..
  15. ^ Jones, Tony. (2008). The New Christians: Dispatches from the Emergent Frontier. Jossey-Bass.
  16. ^ Chia, L. (2010). Emerging faith boundaries: bridge-building, inclusion, and the emerging church movement in America (Doctoral dissertation, University of Missouri--Columbia).
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  19. ^ "St. Cloud State People Search". St. Cloud State University. Retrieved 2015-02-10. 
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  25. ^,_again/?comments=view&cID=26792&pID=26690
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  29. ^ a b c d e f g
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