By Chaplain Mike
MINNEAPOLIS â€” 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 â€œreason for the failure of many church institutions and the paved the road to Hell with good intentionsâ€, 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 womenâ€™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 â€œseekerâ€ churches and the religious legalism of â€œtraditionalâ€ 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.”
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.
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: