November 24, 2017

Where Is “Emerging” Now, and Where Is It Going?

By Chaplain Mike

According to Rick Bennett, aka DJ Word, the obituary for the Emerging Movement has already been written:

MINNEAPOLIS — The Emerging Church, the controversial Christian movement that inspired many to plant churches, leave behind their faith and question authority, died in her sleep Thursday following a short illness. She was 21 (according to some sources).

The cause was cardiac arrest, according to spokesperson Steve Knight. According to police, foul play and suicide have not been ruled out at this time. According to person of interest, Andrew Jones, she was ready to die and beyond any life-saving treatment.

Mrs. Church was the “reason for the failure of many church institutions and the paved the road to Hell with good intentions”, according to critic Ken Silva. While she has many enemies in established and institutional churches, many of whom were distant relatives, according to supporters, Mrs. Church was instrumental in the advent of many advances in the Christian church, including facial hair, tattoos, fair trade coffee, candles, couches in sanctuaries, distortion pedals, Rated R movie discussions, clove cigarettes and cigars, beer and use of Macs, as well as the advancement of women’s issues, conversations about sexuality, environmentalism, anti-foundationalism, social justice and the demise of the Republican party’s stranglehold on young Christians.

Is this true? Or have rumors of “Emerging’s” death been greatly exaggerated?

Andrew Jones (Tall Skinny Kiwi) pronounced the same conclusion at the end of 2009, observing that, “In 2009, the emerging church either grew up, stopped being offensive, switched gear from experimental to normal, became the new mainstream, or a bit of each.” In a follow-up post, he opined that such once eyebrow-raising innovations as culture-based churches, new monastic orders, house churches, online communities, pub churches, and “churchless” Christians are no longer causing a stir, but have been accepted and even integrated into mainstream ministries and denominations.

In April, Anthony Bradley at World reported,

Rob Bell, the founding pastor of Mars Hill Bible Church in Grand Rapids, Mich., delivered an April 4 sermon on the Resurrection that marks, in my opinion, the end of an era. Bell recounts how Mars Hill started out to be a different kind of church without the baggage of watered-down “seeker” churches and the religious legalism of “traditional” churches. In a moment of wonderful honesty Bell admitted that Mars Hill had become a big institution that wounded people in similar ways as the churches many Gen-Xers swore they would not mimic.

A few years ago, when Scot McKnight was asked to look forward and predict where it might be heading, he suggested that those within the movement would gradually move in one of three directions. “Some emerging Christians will become mainline liberals (or progressives as many prefer to be called now), some will retreat a bit by assuming their old seats in evangelical churches, and others will continue to impact the evangelical movement in a missional or expansive, robust gospel direction.”

Question…
What do you see as you hear, read, and observe what is happening NOW and NEXT among those who have identified themselves as part of the Emerging community these days?

Apparently, the next big thing on the agenda for some in the movement is a conference that will be held in Raleigh, NC on September 8-9, 2010, called “Big Tent Christianity.” Among the speakers will be: Philip Clayton, Brian McLaren, Shane Claibourne, Phyllis Tickle, Wesley Granberg-Michaelson, Nadia Bolz-Weber, Bill Leonard, Keith Ward, Tripp Fuller, Gareth Higgins, Hugh Hollowell, Anthony Smith, Tim Conder, Terence Fretheim, Jo-Ann Badley, Jay Bakker, Brian Ammons, Tim King, Spencer Burke, Tom Oord, Christopher Copeland, Frank Green, Peter Rollins, Greg Boyd, Stephanie Spellers, and Ian Cron.

According to Brian McLaren:

There’s a new ethos emerging. It’s a Christian identity that hasn’t fully discovered itself yet, but knows it doesn’t fit in a lot of the standard categories…

…What happens if you’re a fundamentalist who starts asking questions, or an Evangelical who is tired of having to defend yourself from a fractious right flank, or a mainliner who dreams of a faith that is more mission-driven than institution-bound, or a Catholic who has more affinity with St. Francis and Mother Teresa than Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly, or an Eastern Orthodox who wants to share their ancient treasures and receive gifts from other newer traditions too?

I think some folks – not all, of course – who know they don’t fit in with these established spaces are seeking a more expansive and open space – to think and dream together, pray and worship together, serve and reach out together. The “big tent” image works beautifully for this because it evokes both the American revivalist phenomenon of the Pentecostal tent meeting and the more “liberal” sense of hospitality and welcome. As well, a tent suggests something portable – more suitable to a movement of the Spirit. It’s more of an Exodus-in-the-wilderness thing than a Solomon’s-opulent-temple thing.

Is Emerging moving toward a “new ecumenical movement”? Is that the next step? And how “Big” is this “Big Tent”? The following video by Phillip Clayton gives some indication:

Comments

  1. About 6 months ago, my friend Jonathan Brink has posted a good summary regarding where the movement is currently at, on the emergent village website:
    http://www.emergentvillage.com/weblog/brinkdeathofemergence

  2. I think tall skinny kiwi is right. Lots of what the emerging church brought to evangelicalism is now mainstream in many churches. But I think there is still a lot of questions and challenges emerging from those in the emerging, post evangelical, and progressive streams of evangelicalism.

    • Please elaborate. What did Emerging bring to evangelicalism?

      Because as I understand it, all the influence has flowed in the other direction — from evangelicalism to Emerging.

      • Kenny Johnson says:

        I think the emerging church challenged Evangelical culture, including its connection to the Republican party and conservative politics. I believe it challenged the Evangelical church to get more serious about social justice issues. I believe it challenged the seeker-sensitive church model. I think it challenged Evangelical consumerism and fundamentalism.

        I think it challenged the Evangelical church church to look at its historical roots — some even challenging the assumption that the Reformers got it all figured out.

        And in its more controversial streams, it challenged many long held theological assumptions.

        • All that might be true, but don’t you think it is a little generation bound still? I don’t know many Evangelicals in the 30-40 range still seem fairly lock step to me.

  3. I think most of the point (at least originally) was to reconsider and think over things done “for the sake of being done.” I had a teacher in high school who said postmodernism is as far as you can go before you start the whole philosophical cycle over again (because it asks questions; it doesn’t and can’t deliver answers). I think in a sense, this movement is the same way; and I don’t know that it was really meant to be self-sustaining. At some point, you have to answer the questions. Or dismiss them as bad questions, which is also a means of answering them.

    • Isaac (the poster formerly known as Obed) says:

      I recently heard a teaching by NT Wright that said something similar. He said that postmodernism was a necessary reaction and protest to the arrogance of modernism, but that its very nature makes it something that’s merely transitional. That, of course, begs the question: What is it a transition into?

      The following completely needs the caveat that my preferences and biases may have unduly contributed to the conclusions to which I’ve come. That said, the recent stuff I’ve seen that has me most excited is an increasing tendency toward consulting the “Great Tradition” (including our oft-ignored Eastern brethren). This means questioning (and sometimes rejecting) some of the theological baggage that we’ve acquired over the centuries.

      • Isaac (the poster formerly known as Obed) says:

        Something else I might add is that Robert Webber (the guy that really kicked off the ancient-future movement) said that the last couple centuries of the Roman Empire were very similar culturally to the Postmodern West.

        • So we’re transitioning into the barbaracy, chaos, and superstitious darkness of the early middle ages? That’s an encouraging thought. And after that? Neo-feudalism?

          • Isaac (the poster formerly known as Obed) says:

            Well, I don’t think that one necessarily flows from the other. We’d have to have an Empire fall first :p

          • I’m curious what that’d look like in a church context. *ponders*

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            So we’re transitioning into the barbaracy, chaos, and superstitious darkness of the early middle ages? That’s an encouraging thought. And after that? Neo-feudalism?

            Well, there are barbarians waiting in the wings for pillage…

            And as for supersitious darkness, we’ve got Celebrities not getting up out of bed in the morning until they “take the omens” from their spiritual adviser’s channeled entities. “Spiritual Warfare” types blowing rams horns and rebuking the Demon of Burned Out Lightbulbs. “Islamic Medicine” consisting of reciting Koran over the patient while beating him with rods to drive out the Jinn possessing him. Can-you-top-this Conspiracy Theory du Jour, including shape-shifting cannibal Reptoids and their Organic Robotoid slaves. The same combination of cynical pragmatism and rank superstition you found among the Romans.

      • Anonymouse says:

        Ah, even more, this Lutheran-Presbyterian hybrid feels drawn to the Orthodox church!

        I’m beginning to think we evangelicals really need to get back to “square one”… The apostolic church, which most definitely was an “emerging” fellowship, emerging from the Hebrew synagogues in the Lord Jesus’s day.

        The more I read about the evangelical church, the more tired I feel.

        • Jonathanblake says:

          This young Pentecostal is and has definitely been feeling the same. Whether I will ever become Orthodox or not (my wife is not feeling it so much) in membership I will most definitely be Orthodox in my heart and mind though I personally do wish to be a real part of the local parish. The people there are truly a “different kind of Christian” in all the right ways in my opinion

      • “I recently heard a teaching by NT Wright that said something similar. He said that postmodernism was a necessary reaction and protest to the arrogance of modernism, but that its very nature makes it something that’s merely transitional. That, of course, begs the question: What is it a transition into?”

        I think I’ve read McLaren saying something likewise in A new Kind of Christian… Another reason to read him? :p

        • I think I’ve read McLaren saying something likewise in A new Kind of Christian… Another reason to read him? :p

          Hehe. I honestly know little more than the name. Somehow, I manage to bypass most “trends” because I live under a rock under a park bench across the street. 0=) I wouldn’t mind reading him; but you have no idea the stack of just non-fic in my room right now.

          Hey, I have The Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita, and Ramayana (for research, but still). I think it’d be a bit dishonest to be willing to reading that, but not McLaren. Know?

      • Sorry, this format is really hard for me to keep up with.

        I recently heard a teaching by NT Wright that said something similar. He said that postmodernism was a necessary reaction and protest to the arrogance of modernism, but that its very nature makes it something that’s merely transitional. That, of course, begs the question: What is it a transition into?

        Excellent question, my dear Watson.

        I’d have to look at their references to see where they got the definition from (I quoted Understanding the Times in the previous iMonk entry), but they may well have used him as a source. Not sure.

        The following completely needs the caveat that my preferences and biases may have unduly contributed to the conclusions to which I’ve come. That said, the recent stuff I’ve seen that has me most excited is an increasing tendency toward consulting the “Great Tradition” (including our oft-ignored Eastern brethren). This means questioning (and sometimes rejecting) some of the theological baggage that we’ve acquired over the centuries.

        I’ve seen a trend for simplicity and straightforwardness, either returning to or revamping older traditions into a modern context. I can’t speak much on EO or RCC, simply because part of my reason for joining the iMonk community was to learn about both and “squelch my ignorance,” as a former prof would put it.

        My concern, however, is that while I’ve seen some good things, I’ve also seen things thrown out that really shouldn’t be.

        Something else I might add is that Robert Webber (the guy that really kicked off the ancient-future movement) said that the last couple centuries of the Roman Empire were very similar culturally to the Postmodern West.

        Thank you. I had no idea what “ancient-future movement” meant or who Robert Webber was.

        • Isaac (the poster formerly known as Obed) says:

          In that case, my fellow Church Brat, let me recommend two of Webber’s books: Worship is a Verb discusses the worship patterns of the early church and some ways those concepts can be applied in a variety of modern churches. Ancient-Future Faith is more cerebral, but really outlines the reasoning behind looking back to what he calls “Classical” Christianity for cues on how to deal with Postmodernism. Worship made a huge impact on my ecclesiology, though it took years for the concepts to really work their way to the forefront. Ancient-Future has been a book I consistently turn back to for reference in school papers, proposals at church, etc.

          • Thanks. I admit, there’s enough in my room right now that it’ll be some time before I get to it. I’ll let you know, though.

  4. “There’s a new ethos emerging. It’s a Christian identity that hasn’t fully discovered itself yet, but knows it doesn’t fit in a lot of the standard categories…”

    I agree. There is some restlessness, and that restlessness cuts across the American religious spectrum. This creates the possibility for a conversation, and I think its great that the emerging church wants to hold that conversation.

    However, I am not sure (based on the descriptions I am reading) if this is the beginning of a ‘new ecumenism’. I am still struggling to understand exactly what happens in an emergent church on a Sunday, but the reference in the above post to couches in the sanctuary raises some doubts in my mind. If the children of the business conference, rock-concert hybrid known as the seeker-friendly church are solving their problems by dragging couches into the sanctuary (literally or metaphorically), then it might be time for them to admit that they’re sound an awful lot like dear old dad.

    A related question: Does anyone know whether the emerging church movement is has attracted exiles from a variety of traditions? I wonder if the influence of people from multiple backgrounds is being felt in how the emerging church sees it identity and mission, or if the movement is primarily made up of evangelicals who are experiencing that exhilarating rush that comes with reading some forbidden book for the time and discovering that you like it.

    • As far as I can tell, as they’re not concerned with (and often hostile to) tying down to a specific denomination, they’re at least borrowing elements of various traditions without necessarily taking in the entire theology that goes with it. Or they’ll use one branch of theology to better understand another.

    • From what I can see, I do think that the Emergent movement is being filled with an influx of people(s) that are burnt out on the traditionalism of their respective denomination(s).

    • I have noticed a few people in “emerging churches” who come from the traditional WASP denominations and even a few curious Catholics.

      However, I think the paradigm is still very much “slightly adjusted evangelical worship” The following things haven’t changed:
      1. Sermon is still the center piece of the service.
      2. Sing contemporary worship songs.
      3. Non-Paedo baptists.
      4. Non-“real presence” in the Eucharist

  5. Dan Kimball, a regular player in the early emerging church and author of The Emerging Church, had these thoughts:

    “If you were to have asked me about what the core of the emerging church is, I would have responded with “evangelism and mission in our emerging culture to emerging generations”. And from that, other things were of course included, alternative worship, discussions on ecclesiolgy etc. as a means for fruitful growth of disciples of Jesus. But evangelism for me was underneath it all. Today, I certainly sense if you asked someone what is “the emerging church” it would mean a whole lot of of different things than that. In fact, I don’t even think the word “evangelism” comes up when I start hearing about “the emerging church” for the most part anymore. It also means so many different things theologically today….over the 10 years the emerging church world has also become so theologically diverse that it has become understandably confusing. I can’t defend or even explain theologically what is now known broadly as “the emerging church” anymore, because it has developed into so many significantly different theological strands.”

    He, like Andrew Jones, has pretty much stopped using the term “emerging”. It is interesting that in the names you mentioned there seems to be more of an “emergent” representation, rather than the overall “emerging” representation.

    Meanwhile, people like Dan Kimball (and Scot McKnight, McManus, etc…) have gone one to start a new network, Origins, which seeks to involve more evangelism.

  6. BTW, has anyone watched the video yet? I think it will give folks a bit of a scare about the direction things are going.

    • Scary indeed. I’m not sure though if he is being so dangerous instead of maybe bitter, I have on occasion said things like ‘i am whatever pat is not’, and the vocal nature of those like him (on either side of the fundie / progressive split) has caused me great social anxiety. If removing the label ‘christian’ is all it takes to distance the faith from “the crazies”, maybe I am in. If only so I can stop explaining myself to coworkers (you believe that?!)

    • Isaac (the poster formerly known as Obed) says:

      I’ve watched it twice now and am not really sure I get the video’s point. Is he advocating reconciling the extremes within Christianity? Or is he advocating redefining the terms so that such reconciliation isn’t linguistically necessary? Or is he saying that the diversity within the faith traditions had made the term “Christian” meaningless? And of course, it’s completely rhetorical anyway. Spong is a heretic and Robertson’s a pharisee. They couldn’t give a crap about reconciliation or church unity. They’ve already demonstrated that such things are VERY low on their list of priorities.

      I think what we’re seeing is the logical unfolding of what happens when authority becomes meaningless. I’d advocate a “Great Tradition”-style Council, but at this point it would only mean something to those who have already decided that it should mean something. And everyone else will only accept it if it ends up agreeing with their pre-conceived opinions.

      • Unfortunately, this vague direction has become the direction of the emerging movement.

        I remember early in its inception (the Bush years) that many of the emerging/emergent authors were putting out some really good literature and talks that asked good questions and pointed out deeply held evangelical assumptions.

        The problem is that many did not follow out their questions and honestly seek answers. Some have become content to just sit on the sidelines, questioning everything (the downside of postmodernism – a nihilistic skepticism) and criticizing evangelicals and others for not living up to their ideals.

    • Kenny Johnson says:

      To be honest, I didn’t know enough and Spong. I was shocked by what I read on Wikipedia. I guess I knew he was a liberal theologian, but didn’t quite get what that meant. Wikipedia said that Spong believes that Christianity should abandon theism! I’m not sure what he thinks it should be replaced with though (deism?).

      I had heard about the Big Tent event, but honestly, I assumed it was more about Big Tent evangelicalism or possibly even Big Tent historic faith. I have my doubts that there is anything fruitful to be gained by including fundamentalists and people like Spong in the same tent. Though I don’t think it “scares” me. Can you elaborate on why you find it scary?

      • Richard Hershberger says:

        The other key fact about Spong is that he is an extreme outlier. Walk into a lefty Episcopal church with a woman priest with a suspiciously butch haircut and you are still very unlikely to hear Spong’s positions put forward. He is routinely used as the liberal church boogeyman, but this is at best bordline disingenuous. Since he seems to be presented here as the liberal equivalent to Pat Robertson, it is worth asking how do the two’s influence compare?

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Oh, Spong’s been a froot loop for some time. I live in SoCal, and Spong’s a standard deviation beyond the froot loops we get out here in La-La Land.

        Anybody who claims “Christianity should abandon theism” has obviously missed the entire point of the exercise. How did this hooplehead ever get the title of “Bishop” outside of the Universal Life Church’s diploma-mill?

        • cermak_rd says:

          He was elected by the people of his Diocese in New Hampshire of course.

          I like Spong’s work. He creates a Christianity that a skeptic could believe in. No miracles. I like that as in my own life I don’t see massive miracles (the sun doesn’t stay still, seas don’t part in a fantastic way, people aren’t risen from the dead…) just the small miracles of everyday life. So to me, a sea of reeds that the chariots sank in is a whole lot more acceptable than a magical parting of the sea. I require that stories make sense, it’s the way my mind works.

          In one of Spong’s works, he does a pretty good job of explaining to which Tanakh stories the stories in the Christian Scripture refer. So Mary and Joseph become archetypes representing that Jesus was from the lineage of Moses (Miriam) and Jacob (Joseph). I find that an interesting concept, it’s why I would think of the story of Peter and Ananias and Sapphora and correlate it to the story of Elisha and the mocking children after whom he sent a bear. In both cases, a lesson on with great power comes great responsibility.

          In his last work, he talks about the question of can a lean faith help a person to die well and how that is the great test of a faith system. It’s a neat question but perhaps specific to his Christian faith. In my own branch of faith, concern about an afterlife is not all that germane. In Buddhism, it’s not overly important. In Hinduism, it’s just another go-round on earth.

    • Pardon my cynicism, but …the fact that this is posted on YouTube suggests to me that it is pure promotion. Publicly dare two famous cage wrestlers to a match on your stage and ticket sales could soar (or, at least, visibility of the event increases). Consider the publicity this blog has now generated. This is Haystack Calhoun vs. Bobo Brazil, or at least Clayton would like it to be.

      This is not to say that Clayton has nothing to offer, or that the event itself may not be worth attending. But this is free advertising.

      Fact is, we paint with a broad brush when we use labels …”Christian” and “Emergent” are both labels. If we can’t identify the commonalities the labels are useless except for book titles. The name “Big Tent” alone speaks of glittering generalities and no committments.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        I’d pay to see a Steel Cage Smackdown between Robertson & Spong, and I don’t even watch pro wrestling! Just be sure to inform Wrestlecrap beforehand so they can cover it on their website.

    • Just watched it. I know enough about Pat Robertson to think he’s a crazy person; but pretty much nothing about Dunn, Spong, or Clayton. As a result, my unbiased opinion is Clayton sounds a little crazy himself.

      I’ve watched it twice now and am not really sure I get the video’s point. Is he advocating reconciling the extremes within Christianity? Or is he advocating redefining the terms so that such reconciliation isn’t linguistically necessary? Or is he saying that the diversity within the faith traditions had made the term “Christian” meaningless?

      He’s pretty deadpan, but yeah. I also don’t particularly think banking the meaningfulness of the word “Christian” on whether or not two people agree to show up on a radio show is a brilliant idea.

      I still don’t know what you mean by “Big Tent.”

    • Chaplain Mike, thanks for posting this and opening up the conversation about “Big Tent Christianity” here. I’m curious if you’d be willing to elaborate more on what you think is “scary” about “the direction things are going”? How do you interpret what Clayton is saying in the video and doing with Big Tent Christianity? Where do you think things are headed, if it doesn’t look good to you? Thanks.

  7. Honestly, I am not what Clayton is proposing.

    Does he want:

    (1) An organization that can encompass both of them and nurture a variety of people? (Doesn’t that already exist in the form of the Protestant mainline?)

    or

    (2) A concession from both them that allows them to come together? (Sweet! Wait, what is it?)

    or

    (3) He thinks there is a unifying concept that can bring them together? (I’m confused: is this concept Christianity with cool new label, since the word Christian us all dirty and used up? Or is it a brand new concept?)

    • Reg. #2: what is it , exactly, that we would have to concede that would bring Marcus Borg in the fold ?? I’d like to know what’s on the check before I sign it….

      Greg R

    • I thought it was (3) He thinks there is a unifying concept that can bring them together? (I’m confused: is this concept Christianity with cool new label, since the word Christian us all dirty and used up? Or is it a brand new concept?)

      What is the unifying concept? What ever he’s trying to sell! A book, a dvd, a movie something will bring us all together! You won’t know unless you go the “Big Tent” event!

      • @Nina: funny, by playing the “I’ve got something (sorta secret) to sell you” game, they become MAINSTREAM, and not at all different than the usual suspects they are trying to distance themselves from. Except for more tattoos and more body piercings.

  8. I watched the video before I saw the Chaplain Mike post about watching the video. My conclusion is that there is no way I would like to be in Raleigh, NC in September, unless it is to visit our daughter, here husband, and a granddaughter.

    The challenge is quite an interesting one, either we relativize all with which we agree or disagree, or we throw away the term Christianity and admit that it does not exist. It begs the question as to whether there is such a thing as Truth that is worth passing on, a deposit that we have received, and a faith that can be articulated and is worth dying for. It is also one of those questions that can be posed in which neither answer is the right answer, like the famous, “when did you stop beating your wife” question.

    I agree that post-modernism is a reaction that was clearly needed as over against the unsupportable certainties of modernism. But, too much of the emergent movement is a reflection of an American culture that prizes change as being the definition of “progress.” Too much of the emergent movement is based on the idea that “rebellion” against what came before is the proof of self-identity.

    Yet, in quite a few countries, cultures, people groups, of the world, faithfulness to what one has received is the mark of maturity and responsible adulthood. Can this be a problem? Well, of course, any cultural attitude taken to an extreme can be a problem. But, I am merely pointing out that too much of the emergent movement appears to have more in common with culture than with Holy Spirit.

    Where is the emergent movement headed, and is it merely a transitional phase? I do not know, but given American culture, I fear that the emergent movement is doomed to head the same way as the charismatic movement. Someday there will be 60 year old emergents singing their version of “They will know we are Christians by our love,” while their grandchildren move on to the next great “transitional” move of the Holy Spirit.

    • Agreed!

    • See, I don’t even think it’s much of a challenge, because a real challenge would have a clear intention. As this guy’s as clear as the Mississippi, I dun think so. It’s kinda like, “Oh. Great. Just what we need, one more disgruntled, disillusioned, dechurched Christiany-type person of some variety.”

    • Fr. Ernesto,

      Where have you been!! I’ve been missing your insights and perspectives here at IMonk! Very well articulated.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Where is the emergent movement headed, and is it merely a transitional phase? I do not know, but given American culture, I fear that the emergent movement is doomed to head the same way as the charismatic movement…

      Or all those dying country churches out where my writing partner preaches. All time-stopped in the year of their glory like they were sealed in Foreverware, generations aging in place, getting smaller from “homegoing” attrition every year.

      …Someday there will be 60 year old emergents singing their version of “They will know we are Christians by our love,” while their grandchildren move on to the next great “transitional” move of the Holy Spirit.

      And while I and my successors attend Western-Rite Mass and you and your successors celebrate Eastern-Rite Divine Liturgy.

  9. I considered myself “emerging” for a couple of years but, like others have noted, “emerging” refers to a transitional stage rather than a place where we put down our roots. Through prayer, fellowship, talking with others in the same transition, and deeply reflecting upon the scriptures, I decided to commite myself to the denomination I grew up in, the UMC. The emerging folk were criticizing evangelical churches for individualistic, having no focus on spiritual growth and godliness, and severely lacking in efforts to do good in the world and their communities. I agreed.

    But that was the problem: too much talk. It eventually turned into an arena in which “enlightened” Christians went on and on about how ignorant evangelicals are. I got sick of hearing the self-righteousness. I grew up in a tradtion that is evangelical in doctrine but also has been deeply engaged in social issues and doing good for years. They act like they’re the Christopher Columbus’ of a balanced personal/social Christianity!

    Anyway, I don’t believe that any heallthy form of Christianity can survive without a tradtion to live within. We need discipline to hinder sin and personality worship, liturgies to shape our imagination and prayer, creeds to remind of us what we believe, who God is and what he has done, and we need order, structure, and consistent worship with other believers.

    Like others, I “emerged” from an unhealthy evangelical tradition to a tradition that was healthy in doctrine, ministry, and life together. I suspect that most who have “emerged” or are “emerging” will do.

  10. I am tired. I have examined or been a part of several movements over the past 20 years, and I realized none of them are really reaching anybody new. Evangelical life is more like this blob of people moving from church to church, and from movement to movement. Membership in a church has no meaning.

    I now live in a neighborhood with lots of senior citizens, and I was shocked at how many have been left behind by their home church because they got older and couldn’t keep up with the latest fads. As they entire their twilight years, their church moves on, and they get left behind, with no one even left to visit them in the hospital or officiate at a funeral.

    I am ready to jump out of the blob of humanity moving from movement to movement, and church to church. I want out! Christianity is 2000+ years old, and the Judeo world view has been around since at least Abraham. We should have it figured out by now! Why are we so arrogant to think we can create something new.

    But then, if I am jumping out of the blob, where do I jump to?

    • Jonathan Hunnicutt says:

      I think you might want to check out an Anglican church.

    • Kenny Johnson says:

      Our church is made up of many previously unchurched and dechurched people.

    • My husband and I had the same experience, Allen. We came home after seven years on the mission field to a church we didn’t recognize and didn’t recognize us. We don’t go there now.

      • Christiane says:

        Something about your statement makes a lot of sense: seven years goes by, you have had a tremendously live-changing experience, and everyone at the home Church had seven years to change themselves.

        But it sounds sad, too. I mean, it shouldn’t be that way, should it?
        It sounds like some of the changes were ‘growing apart’ changes, as people on divergent pathways.

  11. ISTM that Clayton’s argument for eliminating the term “Christian” seems to be a form of the Continuum Fallacy (aka “Fallacy of the Beard”).

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      It’s also so not gonna work.

      Changing your name to differentiate yourself from crazies is a losing proposition. Nothing prevents the crazies you’re trying to get away from from adopting your new name themselves, and the process just repeats.

      Like in that George Carlin skit about language, where Shell Shock becomes Combat Fatigue becomes Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Cripple becomes Handicapped becomes Differently Abled becomes Handy-Capable.

  12. Cedric Klein says:

    Wherever this guy is, I am not there, nor do I want to be. And I will keep calling myself & those who share the faith in Jesus as Son of YHWH God, Crucified Savior, Rising Lord & Reigning/Returning King by the term ‘Christian’. The BIg Tenters can call themselves whatever they want.

    And I’d love to see Clayton, Spong & Robertson all go on Colbert so he can eat all their lunches.

  13. You know what this all sounds like to me? It seems to mimic the purely western argument about politics, progressive and conservative. What I think is happening is that this “emergent”/”emerging” shift/suggestion is just a reflection of western cultural angst.

    If I am not mistaken, in the USA the most influential (read: “largest”) “emergent”/”emerging” groups are are located on both coasts where liberal/progressive thought is most pervasive. There may be small pockets in the deep south and in the vast middle of the country, but my impression is that they are composed of mainly young Christians and/or disaffected evangelicals.

    Could it be that they are reflecting the rejection of the Republican/conservative thought that has permeated our “Christian” culture where individuals are surprised or scandalized that a fellow church member actually votes Democratic? It sure looks like it to ME!

    Like it or not, the form that Christianity takes most often reflects the culture in which they find themselves. Just read accounts of Christians in China, for instance. I’ll bet there is no talk of “emergent” THERE!

    • cermak_rd says:

      It’s not just the coasts unless you want to call Chicago, Minneapolis-St. Paul and Milwaukee coastal. Plus all those college towns (looking at you Urbana, IL & Ames, IA) seem to be hotbeds of Christianish-angst.

    • You know what this all sounds like to me? It seems to mimic the purely western argument about politics, progressive and conservative. What I think is happening is that this “emergent”/”emerging” shift/suggestion is just a reflection of western cultural angst.

      That’s one of the greatest ironies of the entire thing, to be perfectly honest.

  14. Why I am I getting the impression the Internet Monk is just another community of people who think they have all the answers?

    I don’t have all the answers. I don’t have a seminary degree. I know little but I’ve met God through great personal suffering and so great was his love and rescue, I am changing–being transformed. So wounded and misled have I been through organized religion that fit faith into American lifestyle rather than teaching me to loosen my grip on everything (even to hate my family if I have to in order to follow Jesus), that I don’t look to church leaders, movements, friends nor family to tell me how to act and be. God is real to me. Jesus’ own words are my mentor. And above all, he said love God and love my neighbor as myself.

    I

    • I hear you kris, and there are lots of people who feel the same.

      One thing I have learned through the years is the Christianity is not about me doing it alone. I won’t grow unless I am with others. We need each other.
      The old an new testament are about the history of God working with a people, not just individuals.

      Perhaps you won’t find it in denominational labels, maybe you will. But each of us needs to find a community or tribe that we can call home.

      • Thank you, KenL. I agree with you.I desperately want to find like-minded believers. Unfortunately, I think I’ll lose friends who don’t really know me anymore, and my family doesn’t even understand me.

        I never paid attention to these conversations before early 2010. I just lived my good Christian life and didn’t worry about my “neighbor.” Since I’ve been reading Jesus’ own words, I find myself identifying with people who care about the poor and the unloved. I feel conviction in church sometimes when I try to picture Jesus there and I think he’d be down at the homeless shelter around the corner we are ignoring. In my town, there are 32 homeless families on a waiting list for shelter. How many Christians have empty beds and rooms? How many of us have more food than we actually need while our neighbors are hungry?
        As I’ve been rescued by God’s love, he’s given me friends in the margin. I’m a white, wealthy (American middle class), educated, intelligent-enough woman. I have been able to help my friends in real ways because of my social standing alone, but more because I love them.

        By saying that, am I now “emergent” or a “social Christian”? I do not want any label or movement accept that as true Christian, follower of Jesus Christ. It seems a lonely path where I live. But I’ll go (thankfully with a like-minded husband) because God is leading us both to sell our custom-built, one-year-old home to greatly downsize our mortgage and move downtown where many children are fatherless and, yes, even hungry right here in my American town. I won’t do it out of obligation, guilt or pride. I do it because as I love God and seek to love my neighbor, he gives me more neighbors to love (and they don’t go to my church unless I bring them with me). I pray for like-minded Christians to walk with. And I’m finding them, just not where I expected to.

    • Kris,

      I can’t speak for any of the community except myself. I’m here because I don’t have all the answers. I’ve stayed out of this series because of my own lack of knowledge, and the fact that my branch of Christianity has different problems.

      It sounds that you are “working out your own salvation” to quote St. Paul. And that is a decent place to be.

      Perhaps we are trying to find out what doesn’t work for us.

  15. “Mrs. Church was instrumental in the advent of many advances in the Christian church, including facial hair, tattoos, fair trade coffee, candles, couches in sanctuaries, distortion pedals, Rated R movie discussions, clove cigarettes and cigars, beer and use of Macs, as well as the advancement of women’s issues, conversations about sexuality, environmentalism, anti-foundationalism, social justice and the demise of the Republican party’s stranglehold on young Christians.”

    Now that I’ve picked myself up off the floor and stopped laughing, let me just pick one or two plums out of this.

    The Emerging Church Movement (and why do I feel I should slap on a “TM” every time I use that?) was instrumental in the use of candles in church? Really? Hmm – and here was me imagining I’d been lighting candles before the side-altar of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour long before I’d even heard of “The Emerging Church”.

    Social justice? Didn’t we Catholics have something along those lines? Sorry, obviously Pope Leo XIII must have cribbed “De Rerum Novarum” wholesale from That Dude With The Tats, Goatee And Fair Trade Coffee.

    May I remind you, gentlemen, that over here in Non-America 99% of us have never even heard of The Emerging Church Movement, much less had our churches, faiths and devotional practices shaken to their foundations by it?

    🙂

    • Kenny Johnson says:

      That’s no surprise. The Emerging Church movement was mostly an American Evangelical movement. And part of what it was doing was purposely borrowing from other traditions.

    • Martha,

      I, too, got a laugh about some of the mischaracterizations of Catholics, must not know too many. At least, where I stand, many would be horrified to even know the name of Sean Hannity or Bill O’Reilly.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Baby Boomer mentality, Martha.

      If WE didn’t come up with it, It Never Existed Before Us.

      Our Generation, Our Movement, Our Clique is Alpha and Omega. Nothing could possibly have existed before us, and nothing can possibly exist after us except us.

  16. David Cornwell says:

    “Emergent” is bringing some conversation. Real Christian unity will be based on the creeds, sacraments, and tradition. This is the real tent. You don’t hear much about any of those from evangelicals or liberals. To the extent we gain real unity, it will be based at least partly on these elements, in my opinion.

    In about 100 years it will all become clear, maybe.

    • But is that primarily coming from Emergent, or from the Ancient-Future coalition/influence (not that there isn’t some overlap)?

    • Great post; only thing I’d add to your unity list is charity (but your list comes first, or simultaneous to charity) . Tozer said men are always looking for better methods (movements)….GOD is looking for better men/women….

      GREG R

  17. Okay, I can’t resist. Two more items from that list.

    Facial hair and religion – let me point you to the Orthodox (all their clergy) and from our side, the Franciscans. Lots of facial hair there, guys.

    Beer? Allow me to indicate the seven Trappist monasteries that brew famous beer. I believe one brand of it is called Chimay, which some of you may have heard of? 😉

    Make that three items (me and Monty Python’s Spanish Inquisition sketch, huh?)

    Women’s issues – we’ve just celebrated on August 15th the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin (our Eastern brethren will recognise this as the Dormition). Certainly women’s issues such as this were a vital part of the discussion during the Reformation, viz. that we gave too much veneration to a woman.

    🙂

    • David Cornwell says:

      Google front page says “Celebrating 90 years since the ratification of the 19th Amendment, guaranteeing women the right to vote.” Just look at our progress, we might have Sarah Palin vs Hillary Clinton yet! (sorry I couldn’t resist)

      • Hey, as an outsider, I strongly felt that Obama should have picked Hillary for his Vice President.

        Anyone think that she might be in the running for the next Presidential election?

        Oh, and we’re on our second woman President over here in Ireland, so you Americans still have a lot of ground to catch up on *is smug*

        🙂

    • LOL…..are we building a beer platform ??……where do I sign up ?? 🙂

      • Definitely beer is an ecumenical effort. Just take the example of Uncle Arthur’s finest, the black wine of the country; Guinness.

        The Guinness family were and are Church of Ireland (Anglican); the brew is now synonymous with the predominantly Roman Catholic nation of Ireland.

        As A.E. Housman put it in his verse “And malt does more than Milton can/
        To justify God’s ways to man.”

        😉

        • Finish the poem, Martha!

          “Ale, man, ale’s the stuff to drink
          For fellows whom it hurts to think:
          Look into the pewter pot
          To see the world as the world’s not.
          And faith, ’tis pleasant till ’tis past:
          The mischief is that ’twill not last.
          Oh, I have been to Ludlow fair
          And left my necktie God knows where,
          And carried halfway home, or near,
          Pints and quarts of Ludlow beer:
          Then the world seemed none so bad,
          And I myself a sterling lad;
          And down in lovely muck I’ve lain,
          Happy till I woke again.

          No proof texting with poetry, either, even for the excellent past-time of praising Guiness!

    • Four items. You’re forgetting how comfortable some of those “presider’s chairs” are…we pioneered the couch in the sanctuary too. 😉

  18. SearchingAnglican says:

    Like last year’s fashions, the movement can’t be dead until it hits the midwest (she says somewhat sarcastically)….

    I was thinking something along similar lines of Oscar – that perhaps this is a movement located primarily on the coasts and more urban centers….and perhaps that’s exactly where it will emerge into something else. In the rural, conservative midwest where I live, in a town of about 20K, there is only one “community” church in the sense of the Six Flags over Jesus phenomenon. Unless I am blind, there isn’t much emerging/emergent anywhere to be found, other than some of the ancient/future activity going on a few places and the conversations a few of us who like to read a lot of theology seem to get into.

    McClaren’s words above ring true to me – mainliners talking more about missional and being drawn to the words and practices early church fathers and mothers, new monasticism, etc.
    However, in my sheltered corner of the heartland, most of us aren’t looking to break away and start something new.

    We have come to appreciate the importance of intergenerational worship/fellowship on Sunday morning – and many of my friends feel it is important that church community isn’t a bunch of 30-40 year olds like ourselves. However, I know that I talk a foreign language to my bothers and sisters in their 70’s and 80’s when I even mention ancient/future, or intentional community, or missional, or many other terms that fall into the emerging bucket.

    But, frankly, where does ecumenical conversation under the big tent really get anyone? A lot of people with varying levels of dissatisfaction with the status quo preaching to the choir? I guess it’d be the fun to watch Spong and Robertson go at each other, although that would just be a sideshow, not serious dialogue.

    • David Cornwell says:

      Hey I’m 72 and I’m not totally out of it yet, but I do know what you mean. But one of the most progressive voices in our church is 102 and has been a member of that church since he was 24.

    • A major intergenerational problem here is jargon. I read this blog daily, and I still have difficulty with words like “missional” and “intentional”. Are other churches accidental?
      Why do you use those words when you talk with people? Explain what you mean, and you are likely to find common ground. They are just confused by the buzzwords.

      • SearchingAnglican says:

        In my experience, most aren’t confused, they aren’t really interested.

        It’s not that they don’t understand certain terms or ideas when we use them (and yes, we are careful about how we present new or new-to-our-church ideas – it’s easy to throw buzzwords around here).

        It’s just that a good number of the more senior people in my dear, sweet mainline congregation aren’t really interested in some of the things that some of us think are important and meaningful for a vibrant, Jesus-shaped community – including some of the things that the emerging/emergent folks hit on, such making a more significant investment of their time and energies in local mission activity (or becoming a church known for it’s outreach to the hungry, for example) or spending more time together beyond Sunday and the occasional book or scripture study a la sharing our lives together in a deeper, more meaningful way.

        For many (but not all – we have an 86 year old Irishman who’s right there with me), they feel they have either given their time or have never been interested in that sort of community. Nonetheless, those senior members ARE an important part of the body, have their own faith stories and wisdom to share, and we have much to learn from them.

        All I’m saying is that I believe separating based on age or particular preferencest is NOT always good for the body.

        Hope this clarifies the point I was trying to make.

  19. Since you’re talking about the Emergent Church, I thought I’d post the “statement” which the Church of the Nazarene put out about it this month. If you’re not familiar, there is a group called “Concerned Nazarenes” who have been raising hell about all kinds of “emerging” influences in our denomination, /including/ such “dangerous” things as referring to the Lord’s Supper as the Eucharist and taking the elements by intinction. (??) Anyway, so the General Board put out this statement to address people on both sides, and I think takes a fairly objective view. (Full disclosure: I’m neither “emergent” nor “concerned”.)

    My prayer is, May the Lord bless all “emergents” and all Christians who seek a positive and hopeful expression of what it means to be the Church, to genuinely come to terms with ministry in a complex and rapidly-changing culture, and to demonstrate the relevance of biblical truth through incarnational and transformational living. By the grace of God, the authority of the King, and the power of the Spirit, may we be committed to change lives, communities, and nations, engaging with the brokenness in society through active, compassionate ministries working diligently to bring renewal, conversion, and transformation. “Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus Christ who lived, died, and was resurrected to save the lost and broken of the whole world. He is coming again, to set to right all things. The mission He gave to His Church was to announce and embody the Kingdom, to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, and to visit the sick and imprisoned. His mission is our mission as well.”

  20. These young, often single pastors and people have grown up. They got married and had kids. The movement is no longer an unrealistic teen. Some are going their own way, others are sticking together. They entered the mainstream without even realizing it, or they are the guy who is in his 10th year of college and should just go ahead and declare a major of General studies so he can graduate. They had some valuable things to say to the broader church. Some of us have listened. But those important messages were coupled with arrogance (framed as humility) and with hip ideas that aren’t so hip anymore. So some have accepted that and are growing up and others are holding on to what was or looking for the next big wave. The Big tent thing looks like an attempt to catch (or worse create) the next wave.
    I’m not being nasty, I really do appreciate the emphasis on mission, evangelism, and the emphasis on Jesus. But I got tired of the rest of the movement early.

    I don’t know that I’d write their obituary, but rather a diploma. Now what?

    • linebackeru says:

      well said. I would add that a big part of the success of the post war evangelical movement was the baby boomers who, in large numbers, represented a next generation of evangelicalism. They mostly failed to raise up a generation after them. They woke up one day and realized they were all old and most of the young people had left. The emergent movement is facing the same thing. The once twenty somethings of 1998 have grown up and there is no generational momentum to carry the movement. I think there wasn’t mentoring or looking out for those who would follow in either case.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        I would add that a big part of the success of the post war evangelical movement was the baby boomers who, in large numbers, represented a next generation of evangelicalism. They mostly failed to raise up a generation after them. They woke up one day and realized they were all old and most of the young people had left.

        That’s because of their attitude of “BUT *NOBODY* WAS EVER SUPPOSED TO BE YOUNGER THAN US! THAT’S! NOT! FAIR!”

        Back in the Seventies(?) there was this SF TV-movie, an underground ecological dystopia titled L.A.2017. In one scene, two main characters duck into some sort of club in the underground city for some reason. Inside, it’s a Sixties Head Shop Concert — long hair, love beads, “Stick It To The Man — Get Out Of Vietnam!!!” protest songs, pot-smoke haze. Then you get a good look at all the Sixties Hippie types in their Love Beads & Tie-Dyes — and they’re all at least Eighty Years Old (and not aged well), still dressing and singing and behaving like it was still The Summer of Love and the Year of Woodstock.

        The Gift of Prophecy…

  21. If you are new to the whole thing of the emergent (many are not, I can see from your posts), Jim Belcher writes a book called Deep Church and he deals with the emergent with fairness.

    The real problem I tend to have with both of Evangelical and emergent is that both have really become an expression of our culture. The Evangelical movement did well at embracing modernism and adapting to a rationalistic world view. Because the reformation threw out much that came before it, when modernism is stressed, what do people turn to?

  22. “What happens if you’re a… Catholic who has more affinity with St. Francis and Mother Teresa than Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly”

    To be serious here for a moment, then if you are such a Catholic, you become a saint. You emulate Francis and Teresa, both of whom were faithful to the Church – Francis sought permission from Pope Innocent III to found his new religious order, Teresa was obedient to her bishop and also sought permission from the Vatican for approval of the Missionaries of Charity.

    I have only the vaguest notion of who Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly are, but if you are such a Catholic, then you remember they are also your brothers in the faith. And bad Catholics, when they prefer their own opinions on politics or culture over the teaching of the Church.

    And guess what – so are most of us. Even the Pope has to go to confession. We’re all sinners.

    A Catholic like that in the quote above remains in his or her parish (unless it’s actively heretical, and that does not mean guitar Masses, wreckovated churches and ‘call me Joe not Father’ priests; it means teaching heresy as truth) because that’s your community. You don’t go “Hey, let’s all meet in Bill’s sitting room instead and talk about Lady Gaga’s latest video as a teaching tool for De Yooot”.

    • Said first and better…

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      I have only the vaguest notion of who Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly are…

      Two high-profile celebrity anchors on the Fox News cable channel. Fox News has become a media rallying point for those fed up by the regular media.

      You don’t go “Hey, let’s all meet in Bill’s sitting room instead and talk about Lady Gaga’s latest video as a teaching tool for De Yooot”.

      Don’t suggest that, Martha! Somebody will try it for real!

      • Did you get a load of the tripe the directorthat did her “Alejando” video came out with?

        Apparently the part where she’s dressed up as a nun in the latex fetish outfit swallowing rosary beads signifies her desire to “take in the holy”.

        No, mate, it means you never got over seeing Madonna’s video for “Like A Prayer” with St. Martin de Porres and you tried to go one further *rolls eyes*

        And yes, someone will be idiotic enough to try and discuss the higher meaning of it all.

        • Actually, speaking of Madonna and “Like A Prayer”, remember all the media analysis kerfuffle over the “Black Jesus” in it and what this could possibly mean?

          And I was all “It’s not Jesus, it’s St. Martin de Porres! Sheesh, get caught up on your Catholic iconography before you start in on how this means something new and extraordinary in the developement of the modern understanding of Christianity!”

          Makes me wonder how much interpretation of Scripture or Tradition has gone off the rails because of misunderstandings like that 🙂

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          Did you get a load of the tripe the directorthat did her “Alejando” video came out with?

          Apparently the part where she’s dressed up as a nun in the latex fetish outfit swallowing rosary beads signifies her desire to “take in the holy”.

          If we’re talking Lady Gaga (who has inexplicably rose to celebrity godhood on “Who Can Get Weirder?” and playing the “Am I a Guy?” androgyny angle), it sounds like an attempt to out-Madonna Madonna. As in “Can You Top This?”

          (And the types who go gaga over Lady Gaga call ME weird…)

  23. “What happens if you’re…a Catholic who has more affinity with St. Francis and Mother Teresa than Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly?”

    Hmm. Make a note that St. Francis is St. Francis, that Mother Teresa is as often referred to as Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, and that Hannity and O’Reilly are two guys with American political talk shows who happen to to be Catholic? Two of these have “established space” within the Catholic Church. Two don’t – or, no more than any other Catholic out of a billion or so.

  24. linebackeru says:

    The death process accelerated when the “emergant church” went from enraging and shocking people to just being ignored. The movement thrived on shock value. Many folks enjoyed watching unsuspecting christians react to different assertions. That has worn off. The fact that a “noncomformist” movement has a “conference” means the end is near.

    • The fact that a “noncomformist” movement has a “conference” means the end is near.

      *snicker*

      Sorry, that was funny.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Conformity in Nonconformity is nothing new. Remember the “uniform regs” of both the Beatniks (1950s counterculture) and Hippies (1960s counterculture which stayed on to become The Establishment)?

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Problem is, when someone who “thrives on shock value” finds themselves ingnored, the tendency is to become Even More Shocking.

      • linebackeru says:

        agreed. My thought is they would have to say things that are more divisive to be more shocking. I don’t wish them any ill will because what they think doesn’t change what I think in the least. I’m not shocked or concerned. I have a family to raise, resources to be a steward of and people to tell about jesus. God hears our prayers equally. he doesn’t put me on hold while he learns new things about himself from the emergent church. The most disconcerting thing you can do is tolerate many of their views. it drives them crazy. A movement based on always questioning other peoples assumptions, without any foundational, easy to understand staements of faith probably wont continue to thrive. They probably will have some good stogis in the smoke room at the conference though.

    • Um, we’ve been holding conferences since the late 1990s – nothing new here. Though they *do* tend to be much more fun than your typical big-box xian conference.

      Big Tent Christianity is going to be loads of fun – and yes, engaging, etc…it’s right here in my hometown…and there’ll be an after-party at our house one night! You’re all invited. 🙂

  25. I can’t speak for the movement, but as one who formerly identified himself as emerging, I would say that I have lost interest.

    I liked a lot about the emerging movement–it expressed Christianity in terms that resonated with me, I liked the emphases on community, authenticity, social action, a bigger gospel, a richer tradition, and the arts. However, many of the leading voices have found their own hobby horses–different ones than the previous generations’, but just as distracting from the gospel. The king is dead; long live the king.

    Also, five years ago, when I was fully committed to the movement, I was a twenty-something seminary student living in the city and dreaming about the future and the way things could be. Now I am a thirty-something parent of two, ministering in a suburban church, and facing the reality of the way things are. My idealism has given way to realism. I am firmly established as part of “the system,” and I understand better why things are the way they are. I am more interested now in finding my place in my community and in my tradition than I am about changing the world. I am more concerned about the pursuit of community and meaning than I am about making church relevant and being an early adopter of the next big thing.

    Basically, I am getting old.

    Rob Belcher’s Deep Church pointed the way forward to me. I own my conservative evangelical heritage, but I seek to branch out and embrace the strengths of other traditions. I find N.T. Wright to promote all of the positive aspects of the emerging church movement without some of the more radical elements.

    • Now that I think about it, I think the three books that convinced me to fold up my tent and leave the emerging camp were Belcher’s Deep Church (because it revealed a genuine middle ground or third way between traditionalists and emergents), Spencer’s Mere Churchianity (because it defined the problem with evangelicalism better than McLaren’s A New Kind of Christian) and McLaren’s A New Kind of Christianity (because it made it clear to me that the emerging church was headed in a direction that I didn’t want to go).

    • Belcher made me do a lot of thinking with his book. I was in a church that sprang out of the same sentiments as the emergents feel.

      Fed up with intellectual Christianity that did not change lives. Did not like the music, wanted more community. Thought God was doing something new.
      I attended it because it was one of the only places I had ever been that would ask questions about the status quo and try to be different.

      The problem was (as I see it), we were living out of a reaction to the past, rather than really wanting to come in contact with our Christian roots. So instead we adapted to the culture around us, God rock for worship, chaos for getting anything done. We were no different than our forebears.

      We have started to see that what is needed is a focus on the simple things of life, becoming more like Jesus, loving our families, spiritual formation. I am not at all happy with evangelicalisms pathological tendency to fragment and our amnesia concerning pre-reformation christianity.

      Belcher seemed to me to give more of a via media. I like that, but then I am into the Anglican movement now.

    • That’s how it always happens.

      As soon as Christianity grew beyond twelve men and the associated disciples, it started to change. When numbers grow to the point of being large enough for local churches, and then those local churches start spreading, and then you’ve got a national and then an international grouping – of course institutionalisation starts setting in.

      Nobody starts off with a plan for “Hey, we’re going to have a rigid chain of hierarchical command, very large buildings, and rules about where to park your chariot on the third Tuesday in Lent”, but eventually you do get to the point where you have to deal with the parking of chariots in Lent or there will be fist-fights outside the basilica.

  26. Dana Ames says:

    FWIW,
    here is the “authoritative” list of some “authoritative” voices (I’m only a little snarky here; Phyllis thinks that the major question for Modernity is, Where is the authority?” and I think she’s right) that have influenced or are still influencing the emerging movement.

    http://www.explorefaith.org/resources/books/emergence_bibliography.php

    I’m not arguing for or against anything on the list. I’ve read only a few of them, but I’ve heard of most of them. Anyone who really wants to understand whence the emerging movement has come and what it is now will at least take a look at the Amazon descriptions of these works. Even if someone doesn’t agree with anything any of these authors has to say and has no intention of “becoming emerging”, I would suggest reading one of these books – any one at all – with the aim of thoughtfully considering the questions it raises, and how those questions impact one’s life and faith community, because of pastoral issues, if for no other reason.

    If we don’t know what the people around us believe and are talking about, and can meet them in those “places”, how in the world are Christians supposed to help them come to Christ? Granted, most folks are not of a theological bent. But some around us, believers and non-believers alike, are *thinking*.

    Dana

  27. What’s after postmodernism?

    Narcissism.

  28. In other words, did the man on the video just invite Spong to be embraced under the big tent? THAT….is very very sad.

  29. 1. Because both views on Christianity are quite different then they shouldn’t share the name? That’s the problem?… Wrong.
    2. “We should get rid of the term all together. It just doesn’t have any meaning anylonger?”… If we lose sight of the person in which we worship then it has lost its meaning. What point is there to being a Christian if you no longer claim to be of the person in which you worship? If we lose the title Christian then we become good people, and good people don’t get to heaven; Christians do!
    3. If neither person shows up to this event then that means that they are saying that Christianity has no meaning anylonger?… That is a bit presumptuous (sp?) isn’t it? From what you are saying I wouldn’t want to be a part of your event either.
    4. Northern Cali and Southern Cali should secede and go there own ways?… If they did that then it would no longer be Cali. It would be pure chaos. How about this? Within Christianity we have many denominations roughly believing the same thing. Does that mean they should go there own way and change their name? No! Change for the sake of change and being anti-authority doesn’t mean better, especially when dealing with people’s eternal lives.
    5. The Colbert Report?… Obviously he is looking for his 15-min, or prehaps he is passionate and wants to get the word out about this event…. Why does Colbert need you to come on his show and do an interview. Why wouldn’t you let Stephen do it? Oh, yeah. You are just looking for your 15-min.
    6. “if there is nothing left in common of the term…?”
    How about CHRIST!!!!!!!!!!!! I am pretty sure that Christians have Christ in common. Thus we have our title and eternal life.
    7. He was clearly reading from notes to his left… This tells me that this man is not passionate about this cause. Rather, he is a mere spokesperson. Just as a news reporter delivers the news with the help of notes, so too does this man.
    8. I think I’m about to pull my hair out over what this guy is saying…

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Northern Cali and Southern Cali should secede and go there own ways?… If they did that then it would no longer be Cali. It would be pure chaos.

      I live in Cali. That’d be no change from the status quo down here. It’s Already Pure Chaos.

  30. The Emergent Church movement is all about the shock and awe factor. but instead of trying very hard at being different and anit-authority, they should do this for attention instead. They should try and embrace authority and mainstream Christianity as oppossed to doing the exact opposite, and instead of doing things “shocking” to mainstream Christians for attention to their movement, they should try and gain attention to Christ and what He can do in lost peoples’ lives….

    • Reminds me of a quote from Peter Kreeft something along the lines of, “In an age of universal rebellion, adherence to tradition is the only real rebellion left.”

  31. Just an FYI, the post from Rick Bennett that began this post was meant to be humorous. Rick likes to be funny and it was originally meant to poke fun at the whole situation, yet many who quote it have come to believe it is real.

  32. Why aren’t these emergent guys happy they have gone mainstream? Isn’t the point of a new movement to change minds and be influential? Some of their critics have suspected that the point really was to be edgy and cool. Maybe this confirms it.

    DSY

  33. Thanks for this. It’s been a while since I’ve been in touch meaningfully with any form of churchianity, including emergent or post-evangelical forms. I’ve just been interested in other things. Nevertheless, even if ’emerging’ may be over it’s still had (and having) a valueable impact imho 🙂

    Jonathan from Spritzophrenia