Forge Cuts From Gospel Moorings

We invited Steve Timmis of The Crowded House in Sheffield to join us at the recent Forge festival and I found his session on Sunday morning very helpful. I have really appreciated Steve’s insights as a church planter and long term practitioner.

Today I was reading the reflections of Johnny, a bloke who accompanied him on the journey. You can read his full post here, but this is a summation of it.

“Forge is a large boat, filled with evangelical and non evangelicals cut off from gospel moorings enjoying the jerks and jolts of the rough seas of dodgy doctrine as if it were part of the gospel ride. There are many lovely gospel hearted people in Forge but I can’t help feeling they have lost their way.” download trois 3 the escort

These are very strong (and deeply offensive) words and I don’t have time to respond to them properly right now.

If we have “cut ourselves off from the gospel” and are ‘enjoying dodgy doctrine’ then I’d really like to hear about it. I am happy to accept that we all have our blind spots and maybe Johnny knows something I don’t.

I’m very open to hearing thoughts, comments and reflections from those who know Forge as to whether we have “lost our way”. No prizes for guessing my opinion, but given that the question has been raised I am happy to hear from those who know us as to what we need to hear.

33 thoughts on “Forge Cuts From Gospel Moorings

  1. Hey Hamo,

    I dont know much of forge except for the stuff I read by the likes of yourself, Jarrod etc. My only comment therefore is to point out that there is perhaps a hint of theological conservatism in the background of the Crowded house guys…

    “robust evangelical orthodoxy, separate from the contaminating influences of false ecumenism…”

    I’m not making a value judgement here, just suggesting that it may have some influence on their view of who you are/what you are doing.

    blessings, Simon

  2. Hamo,

    I have read your blogg since early ’05. You have said things that have really spoken to my heart and others that have made me wonder if we are on the same planet. Your questions have made me wonder and search my own faith and I face some truths about myself that I wasn’t proud of. I thank you for your honesty, brutal honesty. Through all that time of reading I have never doubted that jesus is you Lord and Saviour and your roll in life was to lead people to him in a sincere and enduring way;

    Scholars have always and will continue to argue about what the “gospel is”. I think that the fruit of ones work is what remains. For what it’s worth your fruit in my life as been a stronger more enduring faith. I worry less about the “fluff” and try to concentrate on what’s important. Don’t always agree with your thoughts but think the doctrine OK.



  3. Hi Hamo. I know Jonny is going to contact you directly, but I wanted to let you know that the blog has been pulled. This is not because it is a retraction, but simply because we want to avoid unnecessary hurt or offence. There was no desire on Jonny’s part to offend; he was simply telling it like he saw it. He wasn’t claiming exhaustive knowledge of Forge either; just responding to what he heard during the conference. I was always going to write to you about my concerns Hamo, and hope Alan and I can get together when he’s in England in July. For my part, when I read Jonny’s blog I had hoped it would spark some honest and necessary discussion. Your fairly forthright in how you express your views; I can’t quite see where or how Jonny has crossed the line? Enjoy grace mate, and let’s keep talking.


  4. Hi Hamo,

    I’m someone who, from a theological standpoint resonate with people from both ends of the spectrum. For example, I love reading and being challenged by N.T. Wright on the new perspectives of Paul and his texts about the historical Jesus. Equally I love listening to John Piper and his preaching on sin and holy living. I enjoy the theology of the Calvinists, the Mennonites, the Annabaptists, the Orthodox faiths, Pentecostals, and many others. I am shaped (for the good) by all of these. And I believe that you guys at Forge are on the same journey. Some of you will probaly say something that will frustrate the heck out of me at times (as does Piper and Wright), but for the most part I think we share a generous orthodoxy and you shouldn’t be overly concerned by what others think. Just be soft toward God and willing to admit error when you are convicted of it.

    (P.S., the only thing I know of Forge is from what I read on this blog and the bit that I know about the people who are involved, i.e., Hirsch).

    That’s my two cents.


  5. Like most here thus far, my interest here is not with Forge, but with what you have to share – and it is very motivational stuff, and I thankyou for it.

    I would suggest too critque an organisation, a weekend away at the Festival would hardly provide time and opportunity for a critque.

    Blessings and peace.

  6. Steve – if its not a retraction then stick it back up and lets thrash it thru.

    Seriously if you stand by it then its done the damage in terms of causing offense, so repost it and allow people to interact.

    We might as well thrash it out and Johnny might as well hear from the people he is writing about.

    Yes, I do try to be honest and talk straight and if I’m frank that was one of the most condescending descriptions of our movement, based on the most limited experience that I have ever read.

    You wouldn’t get pissed off if someone said that you had wandered away from the gospel, had dodgy doctrine etc?…

    A few quotes (directed at Forge):

    “We’re now in Tasmania hanging out with friends who share the same values as TCH. I’m feeling at home here, not simply because of the similar values but because we’re all wanting to derive our ecclesiology from the gospel.” (implication being?…)

    “What happens when you don’t base practice on the transforming power of the gospel? At least four things-

    1) Our church planting isn’t gospel empowered but powered by something else like guilt or wanting to be cutting edge, etc.

    2) If the gospel doesn’t bind us together and shape our church planting then something else will, either a new collection of missional Guru’s to copy and aspire to be like, a me-centred gospel of mans self importance or some form of utopia movement with a Christian veneer.

    3) Our church planting isn’t gospel shaped and controlled, but context shaped so that contextualisation stops being about making the gospel message understood and becomes more about letting the culture set the agenda.

    4) Our Church planting becomes about complex strategising and generating new vocabularies and exchanging endless missiological insights and methodologies rather than being the people of God in our context, transformed by the gospel.”

    when you don’t base practice on the gospel?… really, what is this based on?…

    Give me a break mate. The whole post either directly states or insinuates that Forge is not based on the gospel. But its from one x 2 day exposure.

    I was happy with the tone of the conversation we had at lunch on Sunday but this was lame.

    Happy to keep talking, but you need to know that was a truly offensive piece of writing. If you can’t see it then I’m stunned.

    I am genuinely happy to hear critique and we (the forge crew) are often are own biggest critics, so it is not simply a defensive reaction, although that was my first response. I would be more than happy to debate the issue, but you guys just need to know the tone was pretty deprecating.

  7. Thanks Hammo – I found Johnny’s post very annoying and Steve’s defense of it lame! Johhny’s critique was not of the Festival, but a cheap shot at the “FORGE movement”.

    By what authority do Johnny & Steve [if he supports Johnny’s claims] make the assessment that we have disconnected from the gospel and have dodgy doctrine.

    As a part of the FORGE network I find it wholly untrue and remarkable that a person – invited as a guest – would make such sweeping accusations with such limited personal experience.

    Thanks for following it up with them – I tried to post a response on Johnny’s blog but it wouldn’t allow my post to go through & then it was pulled down. Brad Buchanan

  8. Putting aside the offensiveness of it, what does this mean..”but powered by something else like guilt”

    why would he say this? guilt over what? Honest question from someone who did not attend Forgesong :), but is interested.

  9. I read the post before it was pulled and it honestly left me with a poorer view of the TCH than it did Forge (and I have followed developments of both online up till this point).

    Lets not forget that none of us has a monopoly on being right (or wrong).

    so, while I think we should all be prepared to hear criticisms it think it far more important that if we feel called to give criticism that it’s done with grace.

  10. Hi all,

    I’ll post again to explain where I’m coming from in more detail. I just wanted to try to calm some of the reaction by setting out a few things on motives and targets. Id on’t think there is any point in reposting the post. I’ll rephrase some stuff and post it here if that’s OK.

    I genuinely am sorry for causing offence. That was not my aim. I was also not commenting on forge as a whole or the leadership. My comments were restricted to reflections on the conference. You are right. How could I know about Forge as a whole from 2 days!!! I’m sorry that wasn’t clear from the post. However I would like to know why with a leadership who are Gospel hearted people that some of the things said at the conference that in my humble opinion jar with the gospel went by without public comment. The tone I tried to ‘hit’ was loving but deeply concerned. Sorry that didn’t come across. I accept the rebuke but lovingly want to ask those of you who raised that issue to check your own tone. Phrases like “pissed off”, and “lame defence” don’t add up to gracious tone and I don’t think anger is a right response to the critique that the gospel might have been left behind. Rebuke a wise man and he’ll thank you for it. Also the answer to my comments doesn’t have to be a slur on TCH. They are my comments. The list of 4 results was not a description of Forge but where things could go if the gospel is left behind.

    While I was in tassie I was at home because we were talking about how the gospel indicatives shape the imperatives. As a practitioner who has a sinful tendency toward strategising and leaning on other things other than grace (even missional church) I need to be reminded of the gospel of grace. At Forge I didn’t experience that conversation. That was my concern. I am thankful that you guys are all open to criticism and I hope to get into a discussion with you all that will be mutually beneficial.

    Being reformed in theology and radical in ecclesiology is difficult in the UK. No one knows quiet what to do with you. We need to stick together and work hard at equipping a new generation with the gospel for radical missional incarnational church. That last thing I want to do is alienate brothers and sisters who want the same.

    I want us to ask hard questions of ourselves in the right spirit.

    Lastly for now (I have to go to dinner) I am a practitioner of missional church. I lead a house church that we planted and have just planted a second. I am as fiercely missional as you guys. My concern then is that we don’t in anyway jeopardise the argument for missional church by, accidentally or otherwise leaving the gospel out of our conferences (my question is did that happen at grassroots).

    Genuinely Your brother in Christ and sorry for causing unnecessary hurt.

    Jonny (the bloke that travelled with Steve)

  11. Johnny & Steve – it’s great that you are wanting to share with us & call us to gospel focus. You may suggest that our responses are angry or strong – and they are reactive.

    Let’s not forget this comment – “Forge is a large boat, filled with evangelical and non evangelicals cut off from gospel moorings enjoying the jerks and jolts of the rough seas of dodgy doctrine as if it were part of the gospel ride.”

    You wrote it Johnny – it does not say “the FORGE Grassroots festival” and it is nothing like loving, gracious or friendly conversation.

    Yes we’ve reacted and yes we need to work our way back from here through discussion. However let’s be right up front and say this is a highly inflamatory accusation.

    So before you guys take the moral high ground of love & grace – this comment is the start of the conversation. It does not read graciously or lovingly and it is an accusation made out of very limited observation that reads as a slur against the FORGE movement not the Grassroots Festival.

  12. About to walk out the door camping…

    Thank you for your apology Johnny. Much appreciated. There is nothing I’d like more than to see it as a little misunderstanding and move on.

    But, I guess my subsequent question is ‘do you still stand by your words?’ as I get the sense that you do.

    Can you please tell me which things were said at conference that jarred with the gospel?

  13. A clayton’s apology with a sermon thrown in.

    How condescending, ‘we don’t know what to do with you” – well it’s not up to you Jonny to do anything.

    You say we need to ‘stick together’, how come it’s you – who is definning the rules for this dialogue? Stick together? I thought we already were together, it’s remarks like yours that cause disvision.

    By the way ‘pissed off’ and ‘lame defence’, in your neck of the woods maybe ungracious, over here, these terms can be considered a part of normal conversation, that’s unles once again you set the moral standards.

    As I said on your Blog, I have met Andrew once for a weekend intensive a few years ago, I am not associated with Forge nor do I want to be, but I found your remarks and your apology ill informed, condescending and shallow.

  14. What I’ve discovered in my time here on this earth is that this thing called “The Gospel” has many different meanings. People seem to use it to talk about their core message. Some make it smaller, some larger.

    I met Jonny at the airport on monday arvo before flying out and found him to be a likeable fella. He didn’t appear to have horns or a red suit, so we don’t need to make him the enemy. But I’d think it’d be great Jonny if you gave some specifics for the generalisations you’ve put forward.

  15. I was surprised at your comments Jonny, considering the nature of the event that Forge was running.Grassroots was a Festival and was not one of our Intensives where we download probably a lot more of our DNA and heart and soul. The nature of events like this, which I’m sure you have in UK, and that aren’t tightly controlled theologically like some of our more conservative fundamentalish brethren might do in other western countries, is that you will hear from a varying perspective on the nature of the Gospel imperatives and how they impact ecclesiology.

    I use a quote by Steve Timmis about Forge as an endorsement, eg,”Forge Mission Training Network is building an excellent and deserved reputation for encouraging and equipping people to to think and act missionally. This is such a pressing need, which is why I am thankful for the contribution that Hirsch and the other Forge guys are making.”I trust Steve’s words[even though I don’t know him personally] as he knows Hirschy and others and has read the books that the people closely associated with Forge have written.I imagine you haven’t read any of these.The point is that we know each other and trust each others work and recommendations.

    At Grassroots I heard Jesus being talked about a lot as the one we need to be like. Forge, from my time of the last 6 years, has not been about ‘sexy ways of doing things’, but about being incarnational, and living the life of Jesus in the marketplace. Living the life, sharing his life and good news and discipling those who respond. At the same time encouraging all believers to do the same.

    Your blog’s beginning about ‘feeling at home now’ in Tasy,among people just like you,having somewhat luckily it appears, fled from the Forge Festival where we have set ourselves free from Gospel moorings to “enjoy” the jerks and jolts of the rough seas of dodgy doctrine are such interesting observations, I wonder who you were talking too on the weekend or who else you heard speak.

    I have been discipling people for a long time and in fairly diverse towns and cultures and have seen a lot, and I find those comments about the people I work with in Forge[which is really what Forge is] so far from the truth for a bunch of people who live what they believe and pay the price on a daily basis. We don’t enjoy dodgy doctrine mate!

    Granted there were people at the Festival from all over and around 60 electives and workshops, with practitioners from all over, and some fairly out there people, but all participating on the basis they were involved in incarnational mission. Not there to say that mine is the best way, but, this is how I follow Jesus and practically do mission and your welcome to try some.

    Blogs are helpful but they put you out there and vague specifics from brief observations should be kept as vague generalities until you are better informed by facts than murmurings and possibly some of your own presuppositions.

  16. “I apologise to him (Braun) without any reservations. I am truly sorry for the hurt and trouble I have caused him (Braun). I just hope one day he can forgive me for the trouble I have caused”. Jason Akermanis.

    A high profile (AFL) sportsman’s apology to another, who he tainted with a drug slur, which had brought distress to the sportsman wrongly accused, his family, his club and his fans.

  17. Johnny,

    You are probably not the first one with concerns about Forge and probably won’t be the last but as someone who seems to be an intelligent man, it appears to me anyway that your whole approach/process to raising concerns about a missional network of PEOPLE seems to me to be quite unwise and I would even go as far as saying slanderous and deeply hurtful!

    I don’t usually comment on bloggs or in a public forum much but this has compelled me to speak. I am not a scholar and at almost 31 still have much to learn but it seems to me you have made a blunder in how to bring an issue up. To voice what you did in a public forum with the words you chose disappointed me greatly as a fellow Christian and particulary as someone who does know those you are accusing…some for many, many years!

    From my experience these people involved in such a revolutionary ongoing, loving conversation spanning years with decades of selfless practise and humble servant hearts, would have been more than willing to hear, converse and work through ANY concerns you had – which any research into Forge and it’s history would show. They are by no means perfect, never have been, never will be, but they are people who DO listen!

    From what I have read it seems you may have a little bit of work to do to restore and re-build a fractured relationship.


  18. Jonny neither of us know each other, so I will tell you, I don’t have the sharpest Theological mind, but I do have a deep heart and desire for the things of God. I guess I just want you to know that your post is discouraging. We are all striving toward the goal and we get kicked in the guts from time to time – thats expected. But not from those striving with us. We do want to hear warnings from God in whatever way he chooses to get them through to us. Your ungracious, broad sweeping comments do not serve to do that. They serves to allienate. Can I suggest many more questions should have been asked before judgements made.

    Your sister

  19. G’day all,

    Well as someone who has copped some hurtful stuff in ministry, as well as caused hurt along the way at times, firstly can I say that you will all be in my prayers as you sort this stuff through.

    Second, keep in mind that what we type on a screen (specifically the media of weblogs and emails) can have a harder whack than we intend, if we’re not careful. Like it or not, “the medium is the message” (Neil Postman).

    So, if it all gets a bit hard and threatening online… go on, change the medium and pick up the phone. 🙂

  20. Mike, that was a great a timely comment. There was a commendable gentleness about it. Thanks for being a peacemaker, for that is a true son of God!

  21. Johnny I am keen to close the book on this issue. I imagine all of us have better things to do with our time.

    Before I go any further I owe you an apology for ‘outing’ your post. I should have emailed you privately and expressed my concern on it. My response was from anger and not from any desire to be more like Jesus. Pretty poor form on my part so ‘sorry for that’.

    I have also written inappropriate posts on occasion and needed to apologise for them. Such is the nature of the online world that sometimes we get it wrong. No grudge borne on that score.

    I am genuinely not offended when people offer well framed criticisms. I have two emails in my inbox at the moment I need to respond to and I greatly appreciate those who have taken the time to offer them as it helps us grow.

    I don’t particularly want to dwell on this, but I do still feel its important to resolve whether you stand by your words.

    I can’t back away from the strength of my concern on that front and the disappointment I feel at the way we have been portrayed.

    I am happy to take this offline, close the comments and do it via email or phone if you wish.

    If I don’t hear anything from you I will simply close the comments and leave it where its at.

  22. Hi,

    I’ve read all the comments. I’ve been deeply reflecting. I’m not going to make any qualifying statements- I screwed up! Big time! I’m more than happy to retract the statement about Forge enjoying dodgy doctrine and cutting itself from gospel moorings. I only had two days exposure. I did hear some things from the front that resonated with some organisations in the UK that have lost their gospel moorings. My own presuppositions kicked in. Those things have been communicated to the forge leadership who I know constantly reflect on these things and haven’t lost their gospel moorings. A Blog wasn’t the place for those comments, besides, my comments were knee jerk, vague and generalised, of no use to anyone and I see now they were hurtful. I really enjoyed the warmth and hospitality of the forge tribe and I’m ashamed that my comments have hurt those people. This is a genuine request for forgiveness from brothers and sisters in Christ. What I said in no way reflects the opinion of TCH. They were the comments of (as one correspondent has put it) “an opinionated 31 year old.” I agree.

    I would like to be part of on going conversations about missional church and how the gospel shapes what we do. I realise that for me to be part of that conversation with Forge I need to mend bridges.

    In Christ


    p.s. Just read your posting Hamo. This has been a valuable lesson for me so from that perspecitive I’m happy it was ‘outed’. I’m going to e-mail you and Alan directly.

  23. one last thing- someone misread my applogy on this site above. i didn’t mean that I don’t know what to do with you (forge). i mean’t that being ocnservative and missional is a rare thing (i hope i can say that without offending conservative types). I meant that becuase of that the UK conservatives don’t really know how to respond to those of us doing conservative theology in missional churches. Iwas just trying to underline that i feel like i’m in your camp- which makes my commetns al the more regretable.

  24. Johnny,

    Thanks for having the courage and humility to do this online.

    We all bugger up, but it takes integrity to cough to it and respond in the way you have here.

    I look forward to continuing a healthy relationship between each other and our respective movements.

    You have my respect mate.


  25. Johnny,

    Thank you for your very generous apology.

    I confess that my own presuppositions fueled my response to your post [reacting to what I perceived as another “ill-informed criticism” [my subjective thoughts] of people I love [we’ve had quite a few along the journey and I think you copped the heat for some that I didn’t respond to along the way – transference!!]. Sorry.

    It’s one thing to make comments – it’s a whole other thing to stay with those comments and to see the effect on & response of others, retract them, apologise and ask to stay in relationship. This is courageous and commendable. I respect your apology very much. For me your comments re-build the bridge.

    I look forward to keeping touch with your reflections on the TCH blog – I know about it now!!!

    Brad Buchanan

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