Meet the New “Punk” Powerhouse of the Emergent Movement

on November 7, 2013

Raffling off a honey-baked ham to raise support for charity is not the typical introduction one would expect to precede a seminar on the future of the church at Washington D.C.’s Calvary Baptist Church. However, Rev. Nadia Bolz-Weber, the most intensifying figure of the “emergent church” movement, has clarified that she is not the typical public theologian. The tattoo-ladden “punk Lutheran” is the founding pastor of Denver’s House of Sinners and Saints five-year-old church plant and speaks out on behalf of the “underlings” of society who have either been hurt by church or self-ejected from “modern” organized religion.

Bolz-Weber’s pastoral style combines liturgy and community, beer and hymns, foul language and sexual innuendos. All this is coupled with a determination to transcend the bounds of both the religious right and progressive left, making her a vibrant power-house for the evangelical left.

In addition to the ham, Bolz-Weber also raffled off a $500 tattoo gift-certificate to an enthusiastic crowd before sitting down with Calvary Baptists’ pastor Amy Butler to discuss how to build up the urban church in a time when “institutional churches are in decline.”

Despite such a decline, however, Bolz-Weber’s following seems to be on the rise as the crowded audience ranged in spectrum from middle-aged lesbian women, gay young couples, straight white older couples, young and old evangelicals and the “nones,” aiding to increase her public success and influence.

Departing from the “progressive” church, Bolz-Weber does not believe in catering to a “customer-friendly” environment in order to attract young Believers. During her discussion at Calvary Baptist she stated, “I don’t feel responsible for what people in my church believe, but I feel really responsible for what they hear.” “If a community has a more ‘progressive’ ethos and is open and affirming, then they start to sort of soften the edges” and “the proclamation of the Gospel.” She quirked, “Those are the only two things going for us.” and, “We should get t-shirts that say ‘don’t turn down the Jesus.’”

In her own commentary responding to an interview question posed by Faith and Leadership, Bolz-Weber noted:

I reject the premise I often hear in progressive Christianity that in order to be down with multiculturalism or with peace and social justice you have to jettison the Bible and Jesus. I think those are the only two things we have going for us.

But do not let Bolz-Weber’s words and unconventional style fool you. For her values identify closely with the borderless disorganized emergent movement skewing orthodox Christian doctrine. Evidenced on her own church’s website, Bolz-Weber denounces the unchanging authority of the Bible, writing that, “Scripture is honored enough to be faithfully questioned and struggled with.” In her own memoir, she even cites the Bible as simply a “cradle for Christ” but not the ultimate Gospel.

Continuing her discussion at Calvary Baptist, she recalled her former practice of Wicca and worship of “the goddess” (who she calls “God’s aunt”). Bolz-Weber explained that she never turned from God during those years or had to have a recommitting session with Him. Only that God can embody various forms and symbols and may be found in many different ways and means.

Unsurprisingly, Bolz-Weber heralds the Left-leaning political issues that we have seen permeate the emergent movement: social justice, Big Government and the embrace of homosexual lifestyles. In her blog for Jim Wallis’ God’s Politics blog, Bolz-Weber noted her uncertainty with “how divine love or healing or redemption could possibly happen in Christian communities where there is so little concern for equality and inclusion…”

Still, listening to Bolz-Weber preach is like how many conservative Christians feel watching the Ellen DeGeneres Show. You do not condone her lifestyle, or theology in this case, but you cannot help but want to be her friend. Bolz-Weber’s spirited appeal is largely because of her refreshing transparency due to her staunch determination that, “Pastors should not pretend to be something they’re not.”

In the end, Bolz-Weber’s down-to-earth personality and genuine zeal will allow her to share the Gospel with the individuals who have been hurt in the church, and as our hope, lead them to Jesus Christ. So let it be our prayer that she abandons the hollowness of emergentism in exchange for the pursuit of absolute truth in Scripture.

  1. Comment by Donnie on November 7, 2013 at 8:04 am

    By this time it’d be revolutionary if an emergent pastor *didn’t* use foul language and tell dirty jokes.

  2. Comment by cleareyedtruthmeister on November 7, 2013 at 11:09 am

    Ego in action.

  3. Comment by Christian on November 7, 2013 at 1:16 pm

    Perhaps you should spend some time with Nadia to see how truly orthodox she is.

    This is nothing more than a thinly veiled mean-spirited hit piece.

  4. Comment by Adam on November 7, 2013 at 3:27 pm

    Disagreeing with someone is not a “thinly veiled mean-spirited hit piece.”

    I actually find some of what she says, and her approach, refreshing. She seems to be trying to go to the people Jesus would have approached.

    That being said, Theology matters. Doctrine matters. We should be very careful that we do not jettison biblical truth in the name of modernity.

    What I find very disheartening is that disagreement to some equals intolerance, bigotry, and danger. Rather than discuss ideas, these folks seem to want to silence their detractors. That truly is dangerous.

  5. Comment by Harvey on November 8, 2013 at 9:06 am

    Agreed. The pharisaical spirit shines more than anything in this piece. Note how the author, Ms. Vicari, plays to her audience’s prejudices when she writes about the “middle-aged lesbians” and “young gay couples” in the congregation. The implication here is supposed to be that this couldn’t possibly be a Biblical church with these “kind” of people feeling welcome in the congregation. And I don’t think it was accident that Ms. Vicari failed to mention that Ms. Bolz-Weber is married in a heterosexual relationship. From the very title of the piece to the entire article, she is playing to the hang up that is rampant in the church over its bizarre obsession with the particular sin of homosexuality. I find it spiritually greiving every time I encounter these kind of divisive views that have nothing to do with Jesus. Particularly poisonous is this nonsense of the political terms of “left” & “right” entering the discussion about how Ms. Bolz-Weber is bringing the Gospel to new audiences. Ms. Bolz-Weber is proclaiming the saving grace of Jesus and the power of the Word yet Vicari criticizes her for writing that we are supposed to “faithfully question and struggle” with the Bible. I’m confused. How else are we to grow?

  6. Comment by Steve on November 7, 2013 at 3:45 pm

    A fair commentary, with one needed footnote. When Rev. Bolz-Weber refers to the Bible as a “cradle for Christ,” she is actually paraphrasing Martin Luther. (“The Bible is the cradle wherein Christ is laid.”) The original quote is not dismissive of the importance of Scripture. Rather, it points to the truth that all of Scripture exists to proclaim Christ’s coming, and that Jesus is the fulfillment of Scripture. While there is reason to be critical of Rev. Bolz-Weber on a number of fronts, I don’t think this quote is one of those reasons.

    A pretty fair and honest assessment from someone who considers Nadia a friend (and whom she indicates as such in her book, Pastrix:

  7. Comment by Dan Skogen on November 7, 2013 at 4:44 pm

    She is not orthodox and she belongs to a denomination (ELCA) where most leadership holds to the doctrine of universalism and in which its missionaries do not seek to lead anyone to Jesus. (see here – )

    Here are some comments from the mouth of the ELCA pastor, Nadia Bolz-Weber. Talking in an interview about the Apostles’ Creed, Rev. Bolz-Weber states, “oh my god, nobody believes every line of the creed.”

    And “. . . I think that there is a really insipid message to girls when you use the exclusive male pronoun for God . . . So whenever you sort of attribute a human characteristic to God, that some people have and some people don’t, it becomes problematic.”

    Talking about her children Rev. Bolz-Weber says, “We are not the kind of family that does a lot of like family devotionals. We don’t pray together as a family. We don’t do this faith stuff in our home. You know why? My kids are around it all the time. And so I just feel they need a break at home, you know. So I know it’s a big deal to like build faith in home; we don’t do that.” (quotes from

    Bolz-Weber also said, “And just to be clear: The cross is not about God as divine child abuser sadly sending his little boy off to be killed because we were bad and well, somebody had to pay.” (see here – )

    She conducted a transgender renaming rite at her church ( )

    This is not just one pastor’s heresy. The ELCA has abandoned the Truth of Scripture and they are leading people away from the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

  8. Comment by Donnie on November 8, 2013 at 2:52 pm


    Thanks for posting this. A lot of people have no idea just how far the ELCA has fallen away from the truth. I had no idea it was this bad.

  9. Comment by Didaskalos on November 8, 2013 at 5:19 am

    When Jesus started His earthly ministry, Mark records His first words as, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”

    The ELCA [Evangelical Lutheran Church in America], whose blessing Bolz-Weber enjoys as one of its pastors, now spreads its counterfeit “gospel” (Galatians 1:8) with essentially the same PR campaign the serpent employed to tempt Eve: “The kingdom of God is here. Stay in your sins (our ELCA convention voted to reclassify them, after all) and accept our worthless assurances that you’re saved.”

    Contrary to emergent-church universalists, Christians’ unity comes through becoming God’s children by repenting of their sins (all of them, even the ELCA-approved ones) and receiving the crucified and resurrected Jesus Christ as Savior. “He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.”

    Bolz-Weber doesn’t believe that. Witness her heretical sermon on, of all days, Christ the King Sunday: “And just to be clear: The cross is not about God as divine child abuser sadly sending his little boy off to be killed because we were bad and well, somebody had to pay.”

    It ain’t primarily about the tattoos and the vulgar cussing, Nadia. It’s about your blatant, in-God’s-face heresy. None of your apologists can put lipstick on that pig.

  10. Comment by gary on November 12, 2013 at 3:42 pm

    well said teacher!

  11. Comment by Dave Gingrich on December 3, 2013 at 10:41 am

    I heard her interview on NPR. Although she stands on some theological sandy ground, she seems genuine. She is smart. I believe her theology will improve over time. May God bless her and her ministry.

  12. Comment by George Waite on December 12, 2013 at 7:21 pm

    About the language-Luther was one of the foulest-mouthed writers of his time.
    Fortunately she doesn’t follow his dismissal of Judaism or denounce the Pope.

  13. Comment by Stephen on May 16, 2017 at 10:10 pm

    Women cannot be pastors. Period. tattoos are forbidden. Sodomites are an abomination.

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