When will they update the 12 marks?

In class we’ve been studying a lot about New Monastics. Lots of good stuff that you can read about it in many places, some even on this blog. Since it’s a fluid movement, I was wondering when they are going to update, change, or adjust their 12 marks. I have some comments on a few, and I’m sure others do as well, so when is the next conference? Or do we just email somebody like Johnathan W-H?

I agree (in thought and action) with a lot of what is said in the 12 points and what I see in the daily lives of the community around me and my interaction with some of these folks. But my particular question is spurred with regards to mark 1, which says that they relocate to abandoned places of Empire.” Some think that I am doing the “new monastic thing…” I’m not sure about that, but I do know that I am in my home area…and it fits many of the descriptions, but it’s not abandoned by Empire. Or do they mean that it’s abandoned by Empire because no (or hardly any) white people live in the area? There is a beautiful organic culture here and I don’t want to discount that by saying it’s abandoned. I think it is important to affirm the initiative of persons rather than possibly falling into “white savior” complexes again. I see that many New Monastics are very aware of race and class dynamics, so I’m hoping that mark 1 can be articulated in a more antiracist way.

The other question is about gender and sexual orientation. Point 9 (below) states support for only certain types of intimate human relationships. I know that many of the people concerned about gender and sexual orientation and re-thinking family systems were away at the “Word and World” conference the same weekend that the 12 marks were produced and so were not in Durham to contribute to the 12 marks conversation. We just DON’T need another macho-left. Thinking about gender and the historical control of women’s bodies and sexuality at the foundation of the religious establishment, I hope that New Monastics are willing to articulate explicit feminist/antisexism and antioppression convictions. If not, I don’t think what they are doing is very radical. Rethinking how we have traditionally understood sex, gender roles, gender identity and sexual orientation is a crucial step (or are crucial steps) to creating the sufficient space to form right relationships towards shalom contexts and holistic societies.

Moved by God’s Spirit in this time called America to assemble at St. Johns Baptist Church in Durham, NC, we wish to acknowledge a movement of radical rebirth, grounded in God’s love and drawing on the rich tradition of Christian practices that have long formed disciples in the simple Way of Christ. This contemporary school for conversion which we have called a “new monasticism,” is producing a grassroots ecumenism and a prophetic witness within the North American church which is diverse in form, but characterized by the following marks:

1) Relocation to the abandoned places of Empire.

2) Sharing economic resources with fellow community members and the needy among us.

3) Hospitality to the stranger

4) Lament for racial divisions within the church and our communities
combined with the active pursuit of a just reconciliation.

5) Humble submission to Christ’s body, the church.

6) Intentional formation in the way of Christ and the rule of the
community along the lines of the old novitiate.

7) Nurturing common life among members of intentional community.

8) Support for celibate singles alongside monogamous married couples and their children.

9) Geographical proximity to community members who share a common rule of life.

10) Care for the plot of God’s earth given to us along with support of our local economies.

11) Peacemaking in the midst of violence and conflict resolution within communities along the lines of Matthew 18.

12) Commitment to a disciplined contemplative life.

May God give us grace by the power of the Holy Spirit to discern rules for living that will help us embody these marks in our local contexts as signs of Christ’s kingdom for the sake of God’s world.

Comments (6)

  1. Mark Van Steenwyk

    I don’t see the 12 Marks as definitive, but as a helpful set of convictions. After all, it wasn’t as though the book represents a full consensus of younger intentional communities that drew from the monastic tradition. The 12 Marks draws from a network of communities that is mostly concentrated around the East Coast. It is, in my mind, not helpful for people to treat it as a sort of prescription for doing new monasticism. Rather, it should be seen as a faithful attempt by a handful of communities to discern a faithful trajectory in 21st Century USA.

  2. ST (Post author)

    Awesome. Thanks. Yeah, I appreciate your summary of the intent of these marks. But do you know when people are getting together to look at them again? Even the East Coast communities have probably adjusted somewhat since these were written–faced new challenges, etc. Even if a community I am in does not “agree” with a point or two (though that is too simplistic of a way to conceptualize conversations surrounding life and these marks) if I do something that is different then them perhaps I am giving the marks an authority that they never wanted to have… I was just wondering if the people who made these wanted to (and how to) be in conversation with others who are learning of these marks and were not in the original conversation.

    Again, I find your succinct summary helpful.

  3. Danny

    Did you mean number 8 when you said number 9 in your article?

  4. ST (Post author)

    Yeah. 8. thanks.

  5. Tim Baer

    I don’t think the 12 marks are set up as a sort of rule among all monastic communities. They are, or at least appear to be, the way some groups see their own groups, and others they choose to work with, living out the message of the Gospel. Most of the marks do not even begin to preach a clear doctrinal message.

    Number seems to be saying: We we not hide away in rural communities. We will go to the places society has forgotten.

    (I tend to dislike the word “Empire” because it’s used, more often than not, to be a way to point fingers and as some sort of put down…)

    2, 3, & 4 are generic ways of living that most Christians would probably agree with.

    5 is too vague to really discuss.

    6, 7, & 9 map out the way they see their communities looking logistically.

    8 is clearly an issue they see in moral terms. But perhaps rightly so, in the 60s intential christian communities had of problems with the sexual revolution, people using sex to control others, etc, etc.

    10 is perhaps a little too focused on the new liberalism, anti-global capitalism, sorta stuff you read about in local rags.

    11, 12 sort of sum up why monastic communities have ever needed to exist.

    I like the marks, for the most part. They are specific enough without being too specific, while not being too vague.

  6. SteveK

    I found this article really helpful on the subject of racism and new monasticism:


    (Was this posted already here? I can’t remember where I found it originally)

    Steve K

Comments are closed.