Here are some excerpts from a Christian Century interview with Ikon’s Peter Rollins.
(Peter Rollins is a prominent figure in the emergent church movement in the UK.)
I found both the similarities to and differences from IT to be quite interesting.
Seeds of Doubt
What does Ikon do beyond the performances at the pub?
We try to disrupt people’s understanding of Christianity and get them to think differently. For example, we take on atheism for Lent. We read all the great atheistic critiques of religion, such as those by Feuerbach, Marx, and Freud.
There’s a big thing in the UK called the Alpha Course – it’s a 12-week introduction to Christianity. Ikon offers the Omega Course – it’s about how to leave Christianity in 12 weeks.
We have a group called the Evangelism Project that goes out to be evangelized. We visit other religious traditions, both within Christianity and outside Christianity – Buddhism, humanism, Jewish traditions, Scientology. We go to listen and learn and to be transformed.
We also have a group called the Last Supper. Twelve of us meet in a supper room in a bar, and we invite public figures to come and talk to us about what they believe and why they believe it. If we don’t like what they say, it’s their last supper with us.
It appears that in some ways you are interested in sowing seeds of doubt.
When we come to doubt the interventionist God, as we all do when we encounter suffering and death, we generally go one of two ways. One way is to say, “I’m not sure there is a God, because of all of this suffering.” Or we say, “ I believe there is a God who got all of this started, the God of the philosophers, but I don’t think God intervenes.”
There’s a third way: to maintain one’s doubt about God, but also to believe in God’s intervention. That is, once can say, “ I don’t know who or what or if God is, but something happened in my life. I was reconfigured. I was rebooted. Something happened to transform me, and I want to live in fidelity to that.”
What kind of people make up Ikon?
Atheists and theists, liberals, and conservatives, Protestants and Catholics, gays and straights – the whole works.
Who are its leaders?
I like to think of Ikon as a donut with a hole in the middle. Usually a church is more like a Danish pasty: you’ve got the jammy center, which is your leadership. We try to have a hole in the center so that we are all on the edges.
…Some people think that Ikon is crypto-evangelistic or neo-evangelical. Other people think it is crypto-atheistic, trying to keep young people out of the church. Think of two people sitting over a beer and one of them is saying, “I’m going to convert you to Christianity,” and the other one is saying, “I’m going to get you out of Christianity.” I love that as long as neither one is colonizing the space.
Would you call Ikon a community?
No, because as soon as you say that word all of the people who need community come out – the group turns incredibly needy, and suddenly the whole thing is on its way to vanishing. The best way to forge community is not to call it a community. We call Ikon a collective, a gathering or a crowd. People naturally make connections, and community happens.
….The most important part of our gatherings are pre-Ikon and post-Ikon, but you can't have either of those without Ikon itself. We have about 45 minutes before an Ikon meeting starts where people just have a drink and chat, and the same for a couple of hours afterward.
Paradoxically, I say, "Ikon doesn't care about you. Ikon doesn't give a crap if you are going through a divorce. The only person who cares is the person sitting beside you, and if that person doesn't care, you're stuffed." People will say, "I left the church because they didn't phone me when my dad died, and that was really hurtful." But the problem is not that the church didn't phone but that it promised to phone. I say, "Ikon ain't ever gonna phone ya." Pete Rollins might. But if he does, it will be as Pete Rollins and not as a representative of Ikon. Ikon will never notice if you don't come. But if you've made a connection with the person sitting next to you, that person might.
What is Ikon’s relationship to the church?
Ikon is like the warning on the side of a package of medicine tablets. Yu can’t have the tablets without the warning, but the warning without the tablets is nonsense.
Often I say the Ikon works only if you are rooted in a religious tradition. Ikon doesn’t make sense if you are not located somewhere, because it is fundamentally a rupture and a provocation. We have to have something to deconstruct. Ikon has led some people to church, and it had led some people out of church.