This is the fourth part of a multipart interview with Ian Cron about his novel, Chasing Francis, which after three years is garnering more acclaim than it did in year one! You can keep up with Ian on Twitter @iancron.
Mike Morrell: Chasing Francis features this protagonist Chase Falson, who starts Putnam Hill Community Church in New England. In the process of transitioning from a professionalized Evangelical persona, he rediscovers mystical and activist faith. Along the way he loses the congregation he started. So, you too, started a thriving congregation in New England and recently left the church you co-founded. Dare I ask, what are the parallels between you and Chase, and where do these similarities end?
Ian Cron: I once heard someone say that everybody’s first book is, to some degree, autobiographical. There are pieces of Chase that are definitely a part of my own personal narrative. 3 years before I started Trinity Church, I began to feel a great sense of dis-ease with the Evangelical culture I had been living in. I remember reading The Post Evangelical by Dave Tomlinson and nearly crying. About 3 years later Brian McLaren wrote A New Kind of Christian and the journey to something new really began for me.
There are definitely pieces of Chasing Francis that are autobiographical. Trinity, during my 10 years, however, was not anything like Putnam Hill, the church in the book. If anything it started off evangelical and became much more of a haven for orthodox progressives as we went on over time. I was thrilled at the kind of theological questions we were asking as a staff and as a community toward the end of my time there.
MM: Isn’t orthodox progressive a contradiction in terms though?
IC: I don’t think it has to be either/or.
MM: Do tell, because a lot of people out there seem to think it does.
IC: I don’t think orthodoxy has to be static. I think orthodox progressives tend to have more theological fluidity and openness than other traditions. I think orthodox progressives recognize that we should always be self-criticizing our own theology, always interrogating our own assumptions, and when we do that, we’re going to make theological adjustments throughout the course of our lives and that’s OK.
MM: So, did you go on a pilgrimage to Italy yourself? I figured you’d almost have to have because of the way you describe the sights, the sounds, and especially the tastes and flavors of Italy.
IC: Yeah, I was there for 3 weeks on a pilgrimage with a group Franciscan nuns and friars. It was remarkable. A lot of them were elderly and had never been to Assisi before, so they were “coming home”, some of them at the end of their lives, to the place where their founder had lived. It was really moving because everywhere we went was such an “aha”, eye opening moment for them. It was very, very beautiful. It was a great experience.
This concludes part four.
Part One – Why Won’t This Book Go Away?
Part Two – Would Francis be Medicated Today?
Part Three – Mystics and Prophets
The Chasing Francis interview is to be continued..!
Thanks for sharing these! I really need to read this book.
I totally agree that orthodoxy need not be static – that it is rather dynamic, rich, and progressive. I hear Ian giving voice to the “progressive” side of the equation here but how do you think he’d describe “orthodox” side of this?
IOW, the idea of being fluid and critiquing our own theology, etc., is good – and is progressive – but where in that is the “orthodox” piece? Am I missing it?
Yeah. I completely agree that Orthodoxy doesn’t have to be Static.
And btw, I have been lurking your blog for about 30 minutes now and you have got really good posts! I’m going to subscribe to your feed!