Engaging the Gadfly: A Process Homilecclesiology for a Digital Age
Sigmon, Casey Thornburgh
Homileticians have felt the pressure and the apathy of emerging postmodern cultures about the church and its preaching. From Clyde Reid to Fred Craddock, John McClure to David Lose, Lucy Rose to Sarah Travis—the hunch has been that something needs to change. The solutions have revolved around conversational sermonic forms—tactics for inhabiting the troubled space of pulpit and pew. This dissertation uses the process philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead to dismantle the pulpit/pew binary in order to invite homiletics to novel vistas for the ministry of preaching in the midst of Web 3.0. Web 3.0 is a global network that with ever-present and evolving tools. This “gadfly” has lured hundreds of millions of people into a daily reality known as X-reality, with relationships and connections and conversation informing and forming us in a constant flow blurring the lines between “virtual” and “conventional” reality (another troubled binary). The novelty of this moment offers to homiletics new ways in which to preach for those who are willing to embrace the new possibilities within technoculture for reimagining the event, spaces, and media in which we preach. In other words, the way in which we preach (from a pulpit to a pew, rooting preaching in the liturgical event, a pulpit-pew monologue, and aural-oral media) could now be reimagined (homiletics) through Web 3.0 At the same time, the way we understand congregation and neighbor (ecclesiology) also undergoes a transformation in this age of globalization and the World Wide Web. This project seeks the defining essences preaching so that it can dialogue—not debate—with Web 3.0. Then it develops a theological ethic for relationality under the rubric of touch. This norm resists strategies of the young and powerful system of social media that run counter to the Imago Dei revealed in the person of Jesus Christ. Finally, some models are identified for preachers who wish to practice homilecclesiology in their ministry contexts, guided by the theological ethic of touch.