Joran Slane Oppelt’s Integral Church: A Handbook for New Spiritual Communities is one of the most important books regarding spirituality yet written in the 21st-century. Co-authored with other members of an emergent spiritual community, it is one of the first books to suggest a new coherent social structure for harnessing the power of spiritual evolution.
And timely, too! The old religious traditions are showing their inflexibility in the face of new insights from mystics and other spiritual higher achievers. Even relatively open churches like the Unitarian Universalists have closed their eyes to spiritual development beyond postmodern pluralism. But the integral or evolutionary or metamodern spiritual movements are aiming to meet the needs of our world at this time.
I pray that Integral Church is widely read and that anyone inspired by its vision of evolutionary community ought to receive a calling to integral ministry in our time. There are other handbooks for interfaith ministry that are useful as well, but Oppelt’s book contains unique information that should interest all integrally-informed leaders in emergent religious communities.
As I’m sure Oppelt would be sure to acknowledge, the book has its limitations. Some shortcomings are inevitable in a pioneering work of this kind, limited as it is to the author’s particular tastes and predispositions. Joran is foremost a boots-on-the-ground minister and community organizer, not a scholar of ecclesiology (the discipline of Christian theology devoted to Church).
As a result, it sidesteps many difficult issues and questions regarding the ways in which the structure, symbols, and practice of Integral community enact the transcendent. For example, Catholics and other Christians wanting to know how sacraments function and relate to Christology and Ecclesiology will not find discussions of that depth within the pages of this book.
Given the complexity and severity of the challenges faced by all species in an interconnected globe, the time is short for our civilization to evolve or perish. Don’t let the book’s limitations dissuade you from readingIntegral Church. Along withCohering the Integral We Spaceby multiple authors, it is truly a worthwhile pioneering effort at creating communities of faith and dialogue that can be a part of an emergent Global-Mind.
In the future, I want to write again about the Integral Church model for ecclesiology and propose some possible areas for mutually enriching dialogue to Joran. Meanwhile, I am working to wrestle with some of these issues atan organization of my own inception. Perhaps our organizations will partner or align in the future, but until then, I wish them the best in fulfilling their mission and pushing the envelope forward.