New Monasticism

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Time Period
6/1/2004
Description
New Monasticism is a modern adaptation of traditional Christian monasticism, whereby devotees form communities and dedicate themselves to spiritual pursuits over worldly ones. Many view the revival of monasticism as a response to individualism and consumerism in the Christian church. The "12 Marks" that define New Monastics include: disciplined contemplation, communal sharing of economic resources, hospitality toward strangers, peacemaking resolutions, racial reconciliation, and environmental care.

Many trace the origins of the movement to June 2004 at the Rutba intentional community in Durham, North Carolina. Academics and leaders from 14 diverse communities (e.g., Mennonites, Catholic Worker, and Mainline Protestants) recognized a unifying vision of a "grassroots ecumenism" and prophetic witness in the United States. During that meeting, they adopted the phrase "New Monasticism" and developed the aforementioned "12 Marks of a New Monasticism."

Diverse and spread across the United States, New Monastics are united by dedication to community and spiritual transformation.
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Narrative
The New Monastic Movement is a reappropriation of monasticism, a "post-modern outworking" of an ancient witness, partially in response to the church’s individualism and consumerism in the United States.

History

Although the formal induction of the New Monastic Movement in the United States is considered to be June 2004, there are other intentional communities both the United States and Europe stretching back decades: the Catholic Worker Movement in the U.S., the 24-7 Prayer movement in England, and even older ones such as Taize in France, Bruderhof in Germany, and Iona in Scotland (Carter 2012: 269).

Theological, Philosophical, and Practical Foundations

The theological and philosophical foundations of the movement are often rooted in Alastair Macintyre’s call for "another Benedict" in his book After Virtue in response to the fractured state of Western culture. Jonathan R. Wilson, in his book Living Faithfully in a Fragmented World, grapples with this idea by exploring what kind of Benedict would be appropriate for the times and calls for a "new monasticism" planted in local communities as a witness of hope to the world (Carter 2012: 271). Others point to Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s prophetic writings linking the church’s restoration to a "new kind of monasticism." (Wilson-Hartgrove 2008: 25) Wilson-Hartgrove points to modern movements that have helped shape the more recent New Monasticism such as the Catholic Worker Movement, Koinonia Farm, and the Christian Community Development Association (Carter 2012: 276).

In June 2004, at the Rutba intentional community in Durham, North Carolina, a gathering of academics and leaders from 14 old and new communities assembled including Mennonites, Bruderhof, Catholic Worker, Evangelicals, and mainline Protestants. Although the communities were quite diverse in practice and doctrine, they recognized a unifying vision of a "grassroots ecumenism and prophetic witness within the North American Church." (Wilson-Hartgrove 2008: 39) During that meeting, the phrase "New Monasticism" was adopted, coined from Jonathan R. Wilson’s book, and "12 Marks of a New Monasticism" were developed, drawing from church tradition and the older communities’ wisdom.

Distinctive Beliefs or Practices

Distinctive to the New Monastics are the adoption of the "12 Marks:" "Relocation to the abandoned places of Empire," sharing economic resources with the community and the needy, submission to the church, living near community members, hospitality to the stranger, fostering common life, peacemaking and conflict resolution, lament and reconciliation for racial divisions within the church, attention to creation care and local economy, support for celibates and married couples, intentional spiritual formation, and disciplined contemplation (Wilson-Hartgrove 2008: 39-40).

Notable People

Shane Claiborne, along with six friends, began the Simple Way as an intentional community living in a low-income part of Kensington, Pennsylvania, in 1997. Now he is an author, speaker, and activist, most known for The Irresistible Revolution (2008).

Influenced by the Simple Way and his time as a Christian Peacemaker in Iraq, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, son-in-law to Jonathan R. Wilson, became cofounder of the Rutba House in North Carolina. Author of several books on the New Monastics, he has played a significant role in shaping the movement in the United States. Among other significant influences on the New Monastics theology and praxis are John Howard Yoder, Martin Luther King Jr. Mother Teresa, Dorothy Day, John Perkins, and Stanley Hauerwas. The New Monastics also have a relationship with the Emergent Church (Carter 2012).

Works Cited

Carter, Erik C. 2012. "The New Monasticism: A Literary Introduction." Journal of Spiritual Formation & Soul Care 5 (2): 268–284.

Wilson-Hartgrove, Jonathan. 2008. New Monasticism: What it Has to Say to Today’s Church. Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press.
Photographs

New Monastics with Thomas Keating- Wikimedia Commons- photo by Newmonastic (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Prayer area, The Simple Way house- Flickr- photo by Robert Terrell (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Shane Claiborne 2- Flickr- photo by Christliches Medienmagazin pro (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Book/Journal Source(s)
Kurian, George Thomas, and Mark Lamport (Eds.), 2016. The Encyclopedia of Christianity in the United States. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.
Web Source(s)
https://rowman.com/ISBN/9781442244320/The-Encyclopedia-of-Christianity-in-the-United-States-5-Volumes
If you enjoyed reading this entry, please buy the Encyclopedia of Christianity in the United States at the link above.
Web Page Contributor
Melody J. Wachsmuth

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