Tony Jones (theologian)

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Tony H. Jones
Portrait of Rev. Dr. Tony Jones
Rev. Dr. Tony Jones
Born (1968-03-31) March 31, 1968 (age 51)
NationalityUnited States
Other namesAnthony Hawthorne Jones
EducationPh.D., Princeton Theological Seminary (2011)
OccupationPastor, author, co-founder of the Emergent Church Movement
Years active1993–present
Spouse(s)Julie McMahon (1997-2009)
Courtney Perry (2011-present)
Children3 children (with first wife, Julie McMahon)
ReligionEmerging Church
(Progressive Christianity, Christianity)
ChurchColonial Church of Edina, (1997)
Solomon's Porch, (2008–present)
Offices held
Police Chaplain, Edina Police Department (1999-2008)
Emergent Village National Coordinator, (2005-2008)

Tony Jones (born 31 March 1968) is an American theologian, author, blogger, and speaker who is a leading figure in the emerging church movement and postmodern Christianity.[1][2][3]


Training and ordination[edit]

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 where he 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.[4] 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]

Theological educator[edit]

Jones serves as the Distinguished Lecturer in the Practice of Theology at United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities. He is also an adjunct professor at Andover Newton Theological School.[6] Jones has been an adjunct instructor at St. Cloud State University,[17] and served as the Theologian-in-Residence at Solomon's Porch, the church pastored by Doug Pagitt.[18]

Blogger and author[edit]

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[19] As of January 2015, Jones' blog has become self-hosted again.[20]

Jones is the author or editor of nineteen 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.[21] 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.[22][23][24][25]

Social media and digital media[edit]

Jones co-owns "The JoPa Group", a "social media consulting and event planning company" with Doug Pagitt.[6] They have "run dozens of social media workshops", or "boot camps", "for both pastors and leaders in other realms." [26]

Jones has also developed a mobile app, Ordain Thyself, which "lets you experience mock ordinations in more than two dozen religions".[27] Jones worked with Tim Urness (developer), Gerardo Obieta (graphics), and Matt Glatzel (project manager) to create the app.[28]

While Jones intended the app to be educational, a Lutheran minister has said that "the app "belittles" the ordination process,",[29] with Johnnie Moore of Liberty University saying "contributes to religious stereotyping."[29] The app contains "brief and humorous summaries of various world religions."[30] Jones has dismissed criticisms by saying: "Ordination, in a lot of ways, is in the eye of the beholders."[29] He also reacted by saying: "Honestly, I think that religious leaders often take themselves too seriously.",[28] "Religion is serious business to be sure, ... But it could use a little stand up comedy to lighten us up."[30] The app's website suggests that concerned users "find an app that can deliver you a better sense of humor."[29]

Others are concerned at the app's lack of depth, with Moore also saying, "I kind of wish that all of this effort had been put into something a little more educational.... Americans could really benefit from efforts to better understand world religions."[30] However, he has praised it for its ability "to start a conversation." As well as traditional religions, the app also explores popular-culture faiths such as "the Klingon religion from "Star Trek," the "Dudeist" faith inspired by the film "The Big Lebowski" and the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster."[29]

Political and social activism[edit]

Same-sex marriage[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.[31] 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."[32] Miller also criticized the likely outcomes of Jones' position, calling it impractical, "muddled and retrograde."[32] 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."[32] Tony Jones' ex-wife, Julie McMahon, was critical of Jones' political position, writing: "It is a total cop-out to have just a sacramental marriage ... I am old school and I think that loving someone wholly is to share in legal property and assets as well."[32] 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."[32]

Jones' concerns were that the U.S. 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.[32] 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."[32]

In 2011, Jones turned his blog posts on marriage theology into an eBook on Amazon, There Are Two Marriages: A Manifesto on Marriage.[citation needed]

Parental custody[edit]

In 2012 Jones testified before the Minnesota Senate, arguing for changes in the state's laws regarding parental custody following a divorce.[33] He has also described his views on equal parenting time, and how (heterosexual) divorce laws and courts favour the mother, on his blog.[34][35]

Personal life[edit]

Jones is divorced from his first wife, Julie;[citation needed] they have three children.[18]

Tony now lives in Minnesota with his second wife, Courtney.[36] 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.[32] Jones and his second wife were legally married in 2013, once same-gender couples could marry in their state.[37][38]


  • 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), withdrawn from Amazon by the author in 2015.
  • 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)
  • Did God Kill Jesus: Searching for Love in History's Most Famous Execution (HarperOne, 2015)

See also[edit]


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  4. ^ a b
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  6. ^ a b c
  7. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-12-23. Retrieved 2012-06-11.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  8. ^
  9. ^ Winston, D. (5 February 2006). "Religious Progressives: The Next Generation". Los Angeles Times.
  10. ^ Synagogue 3000 & Emergent. "Synagogue 3000 presents The Emerging Conversation" (video). YouTube.
  11. ^ The Emerging Synagogue? Out of Ur (blog).
  12. ^ Brister, Timmy (9 December 2005). "Emergent Embraces Ecumenism - UPDATED". Provocations and Pantings.
  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).
  17. ^ "St. Cloud State People Search". St. Cloud State University. Retrieved 2015-02-10.
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  23. ^,_again/?comments=view&cID=26792&pID=26690
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  27. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2015-05-18. Retrieved 2015-05-07.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  28. ^ a b
  29. ^ a b c d e
  30. ^ a b c
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  32. ^ a b c d e f g h
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