Outlaw (re)Union

Hey folks, I am Connie, some of you know me by my twitter handle @conniejoh2o or “Momma Outlaw” a nickname lovingly given to me by many of the #outlawpreachers. I date back with a few others to the original outlaw tweet by my beloved friend Jay Bakker.

I would like to say just a few things about the growing pains that we are experiencing, from my perspective.

Over the past two years I have watched God do some amazing things in my life. I opened a twitter account and the first 5 friends I made where @revolutionnyc, @hookersforjesus, @glowbird (my friend Lisa who told me about twitter) @emergentvillage and @existentialpunk.  It didn’t take me long to be hooked to the diversity of ideas, experiences and lives that I saw as I raided everyones “Following” list for new people to meet. Over the course of that first year the idea of social media became hotter and hotter and more and more folks came into this everboiling pot of 140 character soup where ideas and dreams, concerns and celebrations soon became community.

It was about a year and a half ago that the first ever Outlawpreacher tweet happened…it was Jay Bakker’s fault…he identified with the idea of Merle Haggard welcoming a fallen cousin into the “outlaw club”. Several of us for different reasons also identified with this idea of being outside the traditional community.  So with a hardy “me too, me too” the #outlawpreachers where born.  This baby came screaming into the world full of questions about where it belonged and who was a part of it. Each day I would meet a new brother or sister who first watched, then interacted and found a place to rest, heal, learn, listen, care, love, argue or honestly flat out bitch…and it was met with love and prayer and concern and validation.

A twitter hashtag has turned into a community.

It became apparent in July of 2009 that we needed to get this ever expanding family together in person so we could see what in the world it looked like. And around my kitchen table a plan was hatched for May of 2010!

I come from a long line of women who have the gift of Southern Hospitality in my family, I am less an event planner then I am the Momma that hosts the family for holidays. I had no real idea of how to do a “conference” so I talked with Tony Jones and he assured me from my discription that this was not a conference and that I would be perfectly fine, he had since checked on our progress and has been a wonderful encouragement, he wanted to come hang out, but unfortunately will be at a conference in Dallas that some weekend.

The original conversation was that we would have it in Denver at Nadia’s church and I would finally get to see Colorado.  But along came Transform, one week before our preposed date and through prayerful concideration it was decided that we would have the event later and as many as could would meet at Transform to support that community. A little before Transform, it was apparent that there was a need for more folks to be involved with planning and Brandaon Mouser, Nar Martinez, Phil Shepherd, Marcus Gibb and several others stepped up and offered help in any way they could…I welcomed help with Technical and Computer support, promotions and anything I had missed thinking about,  At that point NYC was selected as the new sight for a fall 2010 retreat.  I began talks with Brian McLaren (who knew about us through Jay Bakker) to set a date that would work for him NOT so that he could bless us with his presence but so that he could attend and offer guidence as we searched together to find out what God was doing with Outlawpreachers.  September wouldn’t work,October was too crowded for everyone, there was no way November would work for me, so Dec 3-6 where selected understanding that not everyone could come during advent but at least some of us could, and it was just our first of hopefully many so we decided to move forward instead of postponing yet again because the family had continued to grow!!

From May of this year on, it seems that every conversation that I have had has included inviting friends who are involved with the outlawpreachers on Twitter – men, women, people of color, and lgbt OPs, be a part of this gathering.

If you look at the facebook page you will see that 51 have RSVP and many more have said maybe. I moved the gathering to a larger retreat center just in case, knowing that I could reduce that number without financial penalty. Also as the numbers began to rise, our original idea of having a couple folks speak to generate conversation had to expand as well. The (re)union  has expanded. A very incomplete list of speakers ended up on Brandon’s blog for a short time. Knowing that the list had to be worked on and seeing that without the knowledge that it was incomplete created an unexpected issue that was already being corrected even before the first critical tweet was posted.  I do see the diversity in story, sexual orientation, church context (denomination, outside denomination, not quite Christian) and am encouraged by our initial steps towards radical inclusion but know we have miles to go even as we take out first steps. The good thing that has come from this situation is we have had folks step up and offer to lead like never before in ways that give service to the community, some have offered to speak, others to cook, others to show hospitality.

Additionally, you should know that it has always been my intent to speak at this event from the get go because I am aware we need women’s voices.  I have always been uncomfortable with my name in print, so I never asked for it to be added to the list. My presence adds to the gender diversity of the event. There is also a woman’s panel that I had planned but had to get confirmation of those who where attending before I asked folks to be a part of that panel. In hinedsight maybe there was a better approach.

There has been much discussion about this gathering in December, about what it is and what it will be. The purpose of the event is threefold. First to see each other face to face and spend quality time together. Second, to figure out our definition and structure moving forward (beyond a simple hashtag on twitter). Third, to begin to think about what the future of OPs will be.

The first session is a Q and R via Skype with Brian McLaren where we can ask questions about where he sees the church, Christianity, Christ followers and those who aren’t sure where we are headed next…the hope is that this will give us things to talk about as we seek to define what we are becoming together…there will be the voice of Adele Sakler to challenge us further towards inclusion and understanding.  Phil and Jeremy will weave their words into new challenges and conversations for us.  I am personally planning a session to talk about how to pastor maternally in a postmodern world, I will ask other women to join me for a time of sharing the challenges of broadening the understanding of the role of pastor to include women naturally at that table.  Finally, Jay Bakker is going to lead us as we talk about the future of OPs. We MUST figure out “Where do we go from here?” This is an answer in process that will likely not be fully answered at the end of the (re)union but it will have a response.

So, let’s talk, let’s interact but more importantly let us DO…Instead of asking what is being done, help us to make it happen.

If you have input, I would love to hear it. Send me a message on twitter and I we can talk on twitter, by email, text, phone, etc. My twitter handle is @conniejoh2o.

Blessings and Peace,