Sunday, November 07, 2004

Throwing Down the Gauntlet

OK, I'm sticking my head out the window and yelling, "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore." Well, I'm not really that mad, but I am a little irked. In the last week, I have read or heard these statements:

"What emergent is discovering is stuff Lutherans have known for 500 years."

"Anabaptists don't have to become postmodern because we were never modern."

"Emergent is trying to marry liturgical tradition to evangelical impulse, and Episcopalians have been doing that for centuries."

"Baptists have always been anti-institutional."

"I was emergent when I planted a church in the early 1970's."

"Emergent leaders need to adopt the posture of humble learners at the feet of those who were the emerging church leaders of their day."

No, no, no, no, no!

Emergent is trying to do something else, something new. We are not trying to get back to what Luther and Calvin were doing. We are not attempting to recover primitivist views of scripture, like the Anabaptists. We are not trying to plant churches that are relevant to GenXers and GenYers.

Why are we trying to do something new?

Because your denominations, though formed to provide safety and security for ordained persons to follow God's call with integrity, are now controlled by principalities and powers that demand ordination candidates to ignore the revolutionary aspects of the Bible in order to pass examinations. (Similarly, the electoral college system was developed with good reason; it now serves merely to devalue the votes of those in the minority in the "uncontested states.")

Because the tenure process at your theological insitutions, though developed to demand the same level of scholarship that is required at secular insitutions based on the German university model, is now demonic; it requires scholars to write not for the church but for the academy, and to in other (but related) ways ignore the revolutionary call of the gospel.

More and more of us are now convinced that something new cannot happen within the existing organizations and institutions. They are irredeemably reified into patterns of institutional conservatism and survival; they are irredeemably sold out to market forces and have thus commodified the radical, liberating message of the gospel.

Thus I am becoming more convinced that the emerging church movement has more in common with liberationist thought than it does with the Reformation. That is, we are on a quest to unmask how the gospel has been used to serve the (often oppressive) interests of those who are already in charge. Comments from those in comfortable positions of power, like those above, are to be expected, for they show the subtle ways in which we will be marginalized. But we will not allow ourselves to be marginalized, to be labeled as "left," "right," "angry," or "immature." No, we have been disenfranchized. We have taken the blue pill, and there's no going back.

We must now work at the next level, building a web of support for those few women and men who are courageous enough to stand up at a presbytery meeting and walk out...and not look back.

[UPDATE: Don't stop now. Follow the conversation here, here, and here.]


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good rant! Amen

11:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree.

I think you were a better writer it would be easier to get what you are saying, but I am with you, i think

12:30 PM  
Blogger Phil Hull said...

I always experience a mixture of laughter and sadness when people in the AG (Assemblies of God) talk about how they are "emergent" and their reasons for believing that. If anything, they are wholeheartedly embracing modernism. They are just comparing themselves to mainline denominations or other evangelicals who are more conservative. They don't understand what it means to be truly "emerging."

12:45 PM  
Blogger Chris Enstad said...

there's the cynicism I was sensing under the surface of the entire emergent conversation. I need to dwell on it a bit more but here is my immediate reaction... so take it with a grain of salt.

a. to compare the emergent movement to the life and death struggles of the liberationists is arrogant and oh so American. So you're fighting church authorities? Big deal. If that authority had an army behind it I'd be more impressed I guess.

b. what revolutionary aspect of the Bible are you claiming the seminaries are covering up? Is there something there that one can't read for themselves? Is there secret knowledge that is required beyond that God so loved the world that He gave His only Son? Or perhaps is it the counter-cultural message that gets downplayed in large, suburban congregations? I still am trying to see how emergent is counter-cultural when it seems fairly homogenous to me.

c. do you know why there is an ordination process in all denominations? Will there be one in the emergent church?

d. If I was pulling down thousand dollar speaking fees I'd be careful who I was calling comfortable... most pastors I know are not comfortable. You're taking swings at people who are working themselves to the bone and don't have the time or care to make sure the video screen is in the right place and the multi-media presentation is cued up.

e. the emergent website tells me this: you don't want to have recognizable authorities but you do. You don't want to have an organization, but you do. In fact, I'm more suspicious of how one attains the inner sanctum of emergent then the more transparent (but far from perfect) process in my denomination.

f. I'm sorry it really does sound like immature children pouting that no one has made them the center of the universe yet and so instead of working for change in service to the Gospel you're making the judgement at the ripe age of 30 something that nothing is redeemable...

g. why is this the first time someone has actually defined the issue as seminary and institution? Write a book on that and let's see if that dog hunts.

Ok, enough. For those who don't know Tony and I are friends and will continue to be... he finally took the sword out of the sheath so let's engage this stuff authentically and see what shakes out.


12:46 PM  
Blogger tony said...

I try to avoid commenting on my own blog, but Chris brings up some great points, so let me try to elaborate:

a. Of course I'm not stupid enough to say that we're locked in some life-or-death battle like many of the early liberation theologians. But their very effective hermeneutical stance has been used by others, most noteably white women who are ensconced in comfortable, tenured chairs at academic institutions. The point is the hermeneutical tools of unmasking and critique -- the theological uses of Marxian thought -- that are applicable here.

b. What revolutionary message? You're kidding, right? That's a rhetorical question, right? And, Chris, I know you well enough that you're not reducing the gospel to "Jesus died for our sins."

Regarding homogeneity, I'm sorry that the bulk of persons who have had the courage to leave the institutions that gave them security have been white, evangelical males. It grieves me that two of the early emerging churches in the Twin Cities -- one formed by a UMC woman, the other by an ELCA woman -- are not viable in the same way (one closed, the other hired a man to replace the woman). I hope (and pray) that this trend will change.

c. Yes, I'm well aware of the once useful practice of an ordination process. I'm ordained, and I went back and forth on it, especially when a professor of mine at Fuller, Rob Banks, forsook his ordination in order to show his commitment to house churches and the ministry of the laity. I am in no position to answer what it will mean to be "set apart" or "paid" to do ministry in the emerging church. But I do firmly believe that the denominational ordination process is broken beyond repair. I also think that General Assemblies, Books of Order, and the like, though once valuable, are no longer.

d. To paraphrase Doug P. from the beginning of his book, to buy a book or hire one of us to come and speak is the cheap way to get the information -- you get to sit on your couch or in your own church pew and listen, take notes, and pick and choose what you like. What's expensive is to get in a plane, fly to Minneapolis, and live for a week in his house and at his church. Some (not all) of us who have opted out of traditional structures (which include salaries and pensions) still have to provide for families, etc.

e. thAs we have said time and time again, there is no inner sanctum. You want in? OK, you're in. All anyone has to do is contribute something -- anything -- to the conversation to be a part of it. (See forthcoming emails from emergent for more on this)

f. I'm 36. I'm not pouting (I just checked in the mirror, and really, I'm not). Not working for the sake of the gospel? You're kidding again, right? What we're not doing is working to save a denomination, or working to make sure that gays can or cannot be ordained. Those are the conversations that are demonic, for they are shifting the conversation away from the gospel.

g. I'm not saying that seminary/denomination is THE issue. It's a big one for me. Lots of my friends, like Brian M. for instance, spend lots of time working with denoms and sems and still think they are redeemable. In no way do I claim to speak for all of emergent. But I still think I'm right.

Finally, for several years I was THE ONE among the group that started emergent saying that churches and denominations could be saved. I tried, and I looked around for others who've tried, and I haven't found much, or really any, success.

I'd be happy to be proven wrong.

2:57 PM  
Blogger Danielle said...

i must say- both tony's and chris' blogs made me think- i am impressed at the thoughtfulness with which you both speak and i do believe i come out somewhere in the middle-
as one who has passed up presbyterian ordination for another way i do believe the system is somehow broken- as for the comment that "nothing new" can happen- i must say i disagree!
i believe the problem stems from a lack of knowing and listening to the ONE who is the head of this church- that denominations have gone their own way as a whole- but the congregations and pastors within them (in many cases) are striving forward to pursue the things of Christ.
In the same breath- things are stagnant and comfortable in many arenas and need a little shaking up- churches are plugging along sunday after sunday "preaching" to the same old crowds about the same old things and not working toward pursuing justice, loving neighbors, and oh yeah, loving God!
Therefore, we must each and collectively seek the ONE who called us long ago to follow him- and we must also do so main quandry- i have no idea what that looks like- and that is where I do believe emergent has something to say- not because i desire to take it all and implement it as is- but because those who are speaking out (as far as i can tell) are doing their best to LIVE what they are talking about, to make mistakes and move forward from there!
so my question there a "middle ground" that is not "luke warm" to use an old but accurate term???

3:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

okay. The question I have for you is this: what about authority?

The ordination process is designed to ensure some kind of denominational orthodoxy. It is an authoritative structure that determines who ought to be teaching and preaching publicly and who has more to learn or flat shouldn't be in that position.

What process would you put it in its place? By what authority would an individual be given the title pastor, preacher, minister, whatever name you use? How do you keep from degenerating into a church on every corner, idiosyncractic as the pastors who run them? How does this not degenerate into cults of personality?

If you're against pastor/preacher/minister, in favor of some collective governing body, how do you reach consensus? How do you determine truth and accuracy in biblical interpretation and in theology? How do you avoid the all too common split, some of us heading this way and others that?

How do you think we got so many denominations (and "non-denominational churches") in the first place? Do you think Christianity is about figuring it out for yourself and doing your own thing?

Okay, I sound snarky. But I'm not. This is a good conversation and I I honestly want to know what you think. I'm at a crossroads, trying to decide what is next for my family.

4:00 PM  
Blogger Cheesehead said...

I, like Anastasia (and many others), am at a "crossroad"... for several years, i have been frustrated (and yes, angry) with church... you know the old spiritual, "I don't feel at home in this world anymore..." well, I sing "I don't feel at home in this church anymore..." I am crawling out of the hole and I'm lookling around, and I am enjoying the new view... for years I dug my heels in and said change needed to occur from with in... it won't - time to get out of the hole and begin something new... I'm with y'all!

4:49 PM  
Blogger christian scharen said...

1. institutional christians are defensive. wow. but tell the truth anyway, tony. i find it so incredible how the imperative to love is so easily turned to the imperative to be pastoral meaning nice. i'm tired of being nice. i'm tired of thinking all church can be is a bunch of nice people who are damned to a perpetual cycle of introductions to the faith. it is as if we don't get the basics--if you have two coats, give one to the poor. pray for your enemies and not just people who are related to you or work at your office. i went to church today, and i went to sunday school, and let me tell you, i love my church but it was so AVERAGE, so steady, so 'nothing to rock the boat' and i'm even open to the spirit. the most stunning moment was when my son isaiah (six years old) followed his friend who didn't receive bread but a blessing and isaiah (the entitled pastor's son) did, and then the other boy, seeing that his peer got some, came back hands open. god have mercy. we don't even feed our children. is it any wonder they don't come back? people want to be fed. fed not milk but solid food. ordination ought to about the capacity for facilitating spiritual sustanance. who cares about denominational correctness. give me a jesus that, as albert schweitzer suggested 100 years ago, is stranger, that is not familiar, a jesus who puts a belt around me and takes me places i do not wish to go. i'm reminded of that powerful U2 song: 'when i look at the world' where bono writes 'when there's all kinds of chaos and everyone is walking lame you don't even blink now do you or even look away.' how often does the institutional church or the academy cause us to 'blink', to 'look away' from what jesus and his gospel compel us to see--

i'm only on point number one. i better stop. but rather than nitpick tony, i want to underline his outrage. i work at yale divinity school, for god's sake. tradition almost drowns us. how do we find a way to make change, to make something fresh, to escape the weight of academic pretention and fight for a space to consider church as it might be. i'm looking. and listening. and emergent is a conversation where space is being made for a fresh spirit to blow.

5:05 PM  
Blogger Mike Clawson said...

Tony said: "We must now work at the next level, building a web of support for those few women and men who are courageous enough to stand up at a presbytery meeting and walk out...and not look back."I really hope you and the others with Emergent are serious about this, because I'm one of those people who are on the verge of walking out (or being forced out) of my existing church structure, and I'm dying to find a viable support network to help me in my passion to plant an emerging church.

There's not much out there right now for someone like me, and I think Emergent is in a perfect position to start doing this. We need more emerging churches. We need new local churches that can serve as regional hubs for multiplying the kind of churches and communities that we want to see more of. It's not going to happen just by wishing. Wouldn't it be great if Emergent could begin to provide the oversight, the accountability, and the financial support for aspiring church planters?

10:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I guess I'll have to post anonymously since I'm a non-blogger!
My comments are not meant as criticism. The idea of "the emerging church" and post-modernism is new to me. for the last few months I've been trying to understand more of what it is all about. That's why I found your last post responding to all the criticisms so interesting. I guess I feel it shows exactly what I've been feeling, which is that it's very difficult to understand what "emergent" is or what it wants to do. It's obvious that it wants to be/do something new and different. And your comments do a good job of saying what it's not, or what it doesn't want to be. But I find it hard to find much in the way of actual ideas or practices that set it apart as something new and different. Maybe it's because it's still new and so you all are still trying to figure out the "how", I don't know, just expressing my frustration as a relative newcomer/outsider trying to understand what "emergent" is all about. The article in CT and you yourself talked about the fact that many think emergent is just evangelicalism in disguise. You make it clear that you're not, but you don't really explain how you're different. Like I said just my observations.

7:21 AM  
Blogger Chris Enstad said...

coupla things:

in our congregation any child can receive communion we dont' do the wait til fifth grade thing anymore... however that means that some children receive and others don't it's up to the parent and child to have a conversation with the pastor on when it's time... my cue is if a child is reaching for the bread they know something special is going on there and they want in... however I also take seriously that communion is the body and blood of Jesus Christ (consubstantially of course ;) ) and pastors need to have that teaching conversation.

As for the guy who said that being a pastor means more than being nice... have you read the comments between Tony and myself? We're both pastors and what pastor talks this way!!!??? Kidding, actually someone emailed me anonymously that pastors shouldn't talk the way we do so I think that's interesting.

Tony is, I think, referring to Spirit Garage as having been planted by a woman and now has a man as a pastor. I don't know if gender is supremely important however it made me think about the purposes of Emergent. One thing I noticed about Spirit Garage in my attending there is that it served a transient population and transient age... they seemed to be people on their way from somewhere to somewhere else and theologically this might be true as well. Perhaps emergent is the entry point to church and congregational life or maybe it is an end in itself.

In the end it's going to come down to issues of power... every revolution becomes its own institution eventually. I guess I'm looking down the road, as many are, trying to figure out what this thing is going to look like in the end and why should I expend the effort to rebuild things that haven't been destroyed?

9:23 AM  
Blogger maggi said...

so how does that tie in with the Emergent vision? from your website:
"The spirit of emergent is inclusive. We seek to welcome all those who wish to journey with us and enter into a friendship around our shared mission and vision and voice, expressed in our rule. Emergent is intentionally cross-confessional. We hope to bring together Christians from varied confessions and traditions (Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox)."

11:11 AM  
Blogger mary fran said...

Love the's definately Tony!!!!! :~)

With regards to this particular post, I don't have too much to add being as though I know nothing about denominations and such. What I can say is, and Tony you've heard this before, that finding the emergent conversation was a Godsend for me. I've been involved in many different churches that for the most part were So.Baptist(at least I think they were..again I don't pay much attention to that stuff)and trying to feel "a part of"....well let's just say I'm always labeled the heretic-one who is always exploring and conversing about things that "just shouldn't be discussed". Just this week we had a meeting for our Young Adult Ministry at church. Several of us are trying to do things in a new way, but even trying to slightly introduce some of our ideas into a population that admits they are struggling to keep their head above water and is seeking change, just can't seem to be tolerated. I have many theories as to why, but it always comes back to wanting to be comfortable within the structure they've previously established.

I say all this to say that I understand emergent might not work into current denominational structures. My experience has been one where unfortunately people are clinging much more to "their church" versus "THE church"(aka:Jesus). Just thought I would throw in my opinion....whatever it is worth coming from someone who is not involved in the inner-workings of any particular denom.

Oh, and please forgive the many spelling errors...I am multi-tasking at the moment :~)

12:38 PM  
Blogger dave p said...

So I'm just going to point out one simple example.

Dan Kimball's book Emerging Worship has an example somewhere near the end of a "really cool prayer" or some such. Thing is, it's lifted wholesale from the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer (Eucharistic Prayer C albeit with some wacky ending tacked on, but you get the idea.)

I thought the book was pretty good and an interesting introduction to some of what's going on, but you can easily see why some people would wonder just how "new" this stuff is.

Admittedly there's a lot more to emergent than Dan describes, but surely it's not up to the rest of the world to get a degree in emergent theology before they're allowed to comment. Or maybe from the tone of your rant you think it is?

How much of explaining it is up to the purveyors of emergent, and how much burden should be placed on the listener?

12:47 PM  
Blogger Chris Enstad said...

it's my day off so I have too much time on my hands... so be it.

Taking a cue from Maggi perhaps the issue is this:

If emergent is a fellowship of people coming together to do church in a new way but without the "hindrances" of denomination, institution, etc. etc., then where does the teaching authority come from? I'm not speaking of hierarchy, I'm speaking more of a ministerium I guess.

See, when no one has authority then people revert back to what they know... and what they know seems to be the contemporary/baptist/young life/ etc. etc. doctrine, theology, and practice. Old wine/new wineskin.

For now the emerging church will survive on the energy of those who are energized in the starting of something new. Eventually emergent will have to deal with questions such as:

What really happens in holy communion?

Do we baptize babies?

What happens in baptism?

How shall we read the Bible? What is our hermeneutic?

What about the issue of gay marriage? Gay pastors?

Are the words in our songs as important as the tune?

Where will people go to find these answers? Does a movement that is all things to all people eventually become nothing to noone?

2:44 PM  
Blogger Jonathon said...

It's amazing how much of a hold enlightenment thought still has on our theological and ecclessiological thinking.

7:56 PM  
Blogger aprillynnstacevega said...

i cant really figure out the whole excitement over the emerging church.
i mean, theres some good stuff... theres some sucky stuff.
but im not sure what the use is to define it, to say what it is, is similar to, is not, etc. it does feel a little like the more we do that kind of defining thing, the more we become exactly what we're not trying to be, out of sheer process. like maybe process is what would define something as different, not outcome.
im really tired though. and am tired of books tonight.

8:12 PM  
Blogger Mike Clawson said...

Maybe the difference w/Emergent, Chris, is that every church doesn't have to come up with exactly the same answers to those questions in order to remain "in fellowship" with other emerging churches. Maybe one of the key aspects of emerging churches is that for once we really do focus on essentials and don't divide on non-essentials.

9:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

isn't that what the christian and missionary alliance is all about? yes, yes it is. focus on essentials, non-essentials left to individual congregations.

been there, done that.

6:39 AM  
Blogger marko said...

ha! sorry, anastasia...
first, the C&MA isn't the only ones to use that phrase. it's "claimed" by several denoms (shoot, i'm liscenced by the CMA, but grew up in the Evangelical Presby Church, and both have it as their creedo), including the catholic church. i've heard some say it's calvin, others say it's wesley, and others augustine. here's an interesting "answer" about its origin:

anyhow, this is hardly a "been there, done that" issue, since the HUGE questions becomes: what are the essentials, and what are the non-essentials?

7:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

it's interesting to me that so many of the comments here are about the forms and structures. They really boil down to Anastasia's question of authority. There seems to be a great deal of concern that someone be in charge here, that someone define what it means to be "emergent" so we can all fall in line (or jump out of line if we feel it's heretical). But isn't that "in or out" thinking part of what so many of us are trying to emerge out of? The question of authority ties us to a way of thinking about the gospel, the church, our communities, as something that is only accessible to a few who have the right credentials.

On Sunday at the Porch, Doug based much of his sermon on the insights of a 23-year-old artist in our community. He pointed out that she hit on something in the passages at hand that theologians had been discussing for centuries. So here's a girl with no "authority" who has been given permission to take part in the way we talk about the Bible, about God, about God's work in the world and what do you know, the Spirit of God lives in her, too.

We miss out on so much when we get hung up on authority rather than trusting that God can and does work in and through all of us. We can trust that as communities of faith, we have the ability to discern what is true and what is not. God is the authority and we all have access to that authority.--carla

8:11 AM  
Blogger Mike Clawson said...

Marko's right, the sticky issue is how do we define essentials... but I've also found that often in churches there are all kinds of undefined essentials as well, that you'd better not cross at your own peril.

So, for example, in my own church currently, the Statement of Faith is pretty strait forward, not too far beyond the ancient creeds. But now I'm starting to find out that to keep my job there I also have to have all sorts of beliefs about "absolute truth", and the necessity of a moment of conversion, and hostility towards secular culture, and a belief in the divine sanction for capitalism and democracy, etc...

Wouldn't it be amazing if there could be a community that defined for itself what it's true essentials were, and then just stuck to that, and were really, really serious about not dividing over all the other non-essential stuff that they didn't mention?

9:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, I know the CMA doesn't have a corner on the "in essentials unity" business. It just struck me as apropos, given the genesis of the denomination. I said been there done that, because I think the quesiton of authority remains.

In order to maintain some idea of truth, you can't proceed without authority. That doesn't mean it will look like a church hierarchy. You might emerge out of conventional structures of authority, but you can't proceed without an authority of some kind.

Good example: you can't define an essential and a non-essential without some appeal to authority (church structure, ancient creeds, scripture, Holy Spirit, my pastor says, my granny always taught me, etc). Something. Thing is, you're going to do it whether you think you're doing it or not. You might as well be intentional about it.

Otherwise, you're going to have 10,000 more splinter groups on your hands.

12:35 PM  
Blogger Chris Enstad said...

But do you see how an institution will grow out of this eventually?

Doug will leave the Porce one day... where will the next pastor come from?

What if the Porch finds some other congregations who have decided on their own what the essentials are and since they are in a agreement they decide to band together to do mission? Oops, a denomination just happened.

The only thing in common with emergent right now is what their against... it's always easy to be against something... but I'm wondering if folks are afraid to say what they're for because they will then realize that they're all in the room for different reasons? Just wondering.

postmodern thinking has been around for ages, I can't get around the response of Pontius Pilate to Jesus Christ when he claimed to be the one to bear witness tot the truth, "what is truth?"

I don't believe the truth is up for grabs no matter how much folks want to put it in play. I'm not defending the institutions here. But I will defend what institutions are here *for*... they arose in response to the truth and the hazards of testifying to the truth in a world hostile to that witness. I see these communities of faith called emergent and know they are going to end up in the same place the "mainline" is now... so why waste time? Is it solely for the ego-centered self-adulating purpose of saying "we did it ourselves, screw what our parents built and left for us?" I am 31 and am far from being a "kept" pastor in this denomination. Rabble rousers exist in any structure and they are needed there. I feel like I'm the guy screaming at my peers... HEY, get back here and get to work! Stop messing around with form and start FUNCTIONING. ;)

12:40 PM  
Blogger mary fran said...

OK, so call me crazy, but isn't part of what PM is all about is giving God the authority vs an institution?(Carla and Gandalf have some great points about this).
But for some reason when I read this dialogue I get this feeling that some people are saying Emergent cannot exist without "an authority"...and yet what I hear over and over again from Emergent is that authority IS God(however complex, simple, and mysterious God is). Is that wrong? Does there have to be some type of structured denomination or can God be big enough to do what he/she needs to do without our imposed structure???

I hope I am not sounding like a smartass...that is not at all my intention. I just don't get why in a PM culture which is longing for a change in "the church" as it is today, people would first assume there must be mandates, authority, answers. Isn't that part of the problem to begin with???

OK, so before flaming me....keep in mind I am not, nor have I ever been, "on staff" with any church. Obviously there are many inner circles that I know nothing about(naive...probably, but I'm OK with that). So, with that in mind, I am curious as to what others would say.

2:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If God is the authority, how do you determine what God wants?

If nothing else, postmodernism is an epistemological critique. If you accept even a part of the validity of that critique, holding up God as your sole authority is difficult to sustain without some qualification. How do you tell the difference between God and your idea of God?

3:13 PM  
Blogger Chris Enstad said...

First of all, Anastasia means "one who will rise again" but in the new seminary I'm sure Greek will be the first to go and we will all forget that as we sever our roots and lift anchors with all tradition.

second, no one is flaming anyone... if anyone takes my stuff as flaming I apologize.

third, I'm not advocating the erection of institutions but I *am* trying to remind folks that institutions grow out of movements so, if that's going to happen here, why waste the time pretending they won't?

The biggest fallacy I've encountered in my short time as a pastor has been, "hey we can all agree that Jesus is Christ". WRONG! Even in that statement there is so much disagreement on what it means to agree - does that mean we must share in all decisions, all missions, all anythings? There is disagreement on Jesus. There is disagreement on what it means to be Christ.

The next fallacy is this: can't we just agree that God is God and let everything else fall into place. Nope, sorry. Humanity is called to be active participants in the kingdom of God, as such we muss and fuss and screw things up quite often. The church is an institution, by the way, and as such is both saint and sinner just as humanity is. Any emergent creation will be the same way... utopia ain't gonna happen until the bridegroom returns.

***What is a bit disconcerting to me is that emergent really is disregarding the entire biblical witness to authority and institution. Are you guys going to cut out the things you disagree with? You cannot paint the church in Acts with the same brush you disregard "modern" or "Enlightenment" churches and people.

Perhaps it is good to look east to see how the orthodox church uses hierarchy not in an effort to control but in an effort to lead the way in showing all holy people how to take up their cross and what to do with it after that. There is a hierarchy but with the understanding that the Holy Spirit is poured out on all people. (I can't resist but point out that the Lutheran doctrine of the priesthood of ALL believers follows in this vein)

3:39 PM  
Blogger Chris Enstad said...

Dang it all Tony, you've got be all hooked into this discussion, yes it's YOUR fault.

Final comment and then I'm going to shut up for awhile, I promise:

I was re-reading the Screwtape Letters and found some similarities in the discussion regarding Change and Tradition. The funny thing that Screwtape points out is that when we get all focused on which way the pendulum is swinging it's a GOOD thing because then we stop asking the real questions.

What would happen if the church stopped fussing with market share and effective means of communication in the blah-de-blah century and started speaking prophetically to the nation and the world?

What if the church decided that "moral values" have more to do with things like the poor going to bed hungry, naked, and homeless rather than abortion or gay marriage. You see, we took the bait on that, brothers and sisters, we, all Christians, bear responsibility that for all the fuss over abortion the poor laying at our doorstep is a much more stinging indictment of our culture but our voice has been co-opted by those who are close to the seats of power and principality.

You want to bring down an institution? You want a reformation? Stop diddling with the Church and start asking the real questions.



(that's latin)

4:46 PM  
Blogger Jonathon said...

"What is a bit disconcerting to me is that emergent really is disregarding the entire biblical witness to authority and institution. Are you guys going to cut out the things you disagree with? You cannot paint the church in Acts with the same brush you disregard "modern" or "Enlightenment" churches and people."

1. I don't see emergent as disregarding the "entire biblical witness to authority" (then again, who am I?) but if what we're talking about when we say authority is the inerrant scripture alone... then yes probably so. What might be an alternative? Maybe authority comes in a web of networks- like tradition, reason, experience, and scripture (scripture having a bit more weight obviously than the rest). It makes sense to me.

2. There is no comparison with the "Pre-modern" church of Acts and our churches of today which are steeped in modernism and liberalism. You can't argue that most all churches are caught up with either being a fundamentalist church or a liberal church. One does not find too many where the congregations are not polarized theologically.

I'd say that we dont' really want to go back to the Acts church- it worked for the early church, just as modern liberal/fundamentalist churches worked during the enlightenment. But gues what- modernism is DEAD!! Call this what you will- Hypermodernism, postmodernism, whatever- the old ways DON'T WORK. It's time for something new. And one expression of trying to do something new is Emergent. But there are others like Robert Webber's "Ancient Future Church".

Why does the emergent church not want to define itself?- we haven't figured out the definitions and language that will give us a new framework from which to do ecclessiology and ministry in a new way. Is it arrogant to think that church can be done in a different way? If it thinking that church for a new age has to look like the institutions that basically formed in partnership with American culture then we're doomed to fail. I really believe that to begin with a conversation without any foundation except the process of discerning together what God is calling us to be, is the only way we can progress.

If, if, if, if, if, if, if, if, if, if, if, if, if, if, if the emergent church gets to the point where we have conversations about ordination, same sex marriage/homosexual clergy, do we baptize babies, etc... I think we've framed our questions in the same ole, same ole modernist thinking and we've failed at being a church for postmodern culture....

That's ok, but it would just go to show that although the emergent church is coming- it's not us.

If you don't think it's on the way or not already here- read stan hauerwas's "a community of character" or rodney clapp's "a peculiar people" you will not be the same afterward. damn you stanley hauerwas- i can't think straight now.

5:19 PM  
Blogger dave p said...

"What might be an alternative? Maybe authority comes in a web of networks- like tradition, reason, experience, and scripture"

Hmm, sounds a lot like 16th century Anglican Richard HookerNothing new under the sun indeed...

10:43 PM  
Blogger Pete Lev said...

Far too many comments to read in my lack of time now - but initial reaction is that I'm not ready to give up on the "irredemable" just yet!
We must have the new - while believeing in ressurection for the old!

6:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

IMHO it would not be necessary or beneficial to establish the EMERGENT CHURCH, as if it was a new denomination. I guess I thought that "Emergent" was a fellowship of people who want something new. For Tony, that may involve moving out of any existing institutional structures that currently exist. For others, it might mean affecting change within the institutions that they are a part of.

Aside: Some people come off sounding like the word "institution" has to always have a negative connotation. I don't want to think that way.

If people are going to break away from existing institutions, I don't think they should start a church and call it an emerging church. Call me crazy, but how could a particular church just emerge and emerge and emerge forever? Isn't there a point where one has emerged to become something new, as in the forest undergrowth?

I guess I think of PEOPLE as emerging, not churches, anyway. I get annoyed when I hear people say, "Well, there aren't really that many emerging churches out there." Maybe there's just a whole lot of emerging people (more and more, hopefully) who are having an "emergent" (emergentacious? jk)impact where they are. Again, some will have to start new things, but IMHO, they should not say "We are an emerging church."

One of the important values that I perceive among emerging people is the willingness to discuss issues without giving pat answers or without rejecting the question as one commenter above mentioned. I think one major downside to the evangelical church has been the unwillingness to seriously engage in discussion and simultaneously LOVE the people who are on the opposite end of the spectrum on a given topic. I hope that our "emergent values" will cut against this grain.

9:58 AM  
Blogger hadge said...

My God this makes me so tired - I came here via Jonny Baker's blog and I'll be having words with him for sure - at 47 I'm an old guy - I was ordained as an Anglican in '86 - I worked for five years in an evangelical charismatic uk Baptist Church - I quit and worked with children in care because I got sick of know it all christians spouting off about powers and principalities and demonic institutions and such instead of getting on with loving justice and walking humbly and all that quiet stuff - I'm back in the saddle now and working with students and I suggest you put your sword away, stop bitching and get on with doing what you're doing and if the fruit is there then the people who matter will see it - we're not called to change the church but to change the world - rant over . . . if I have no business here then forgive me and carry on.

10:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think at the appropriate time, a response such as yours, Hadge, can be useful. Not in every case, though. We can't just go around never being intentional about anything. Organization doesn't have to be a bad word. People who come together, united by a common cause and values, can do more for the kingdom than lone rangers who want to just do their own Jesus thing.

I think this conversation is valuable, which is why I have posted on it (sort of) on my own blog today. My post tries to deal with the category names we are using and I would really appreciate any insight from those who are a part of this discussion. Thanks.

10:25 AM  
Blogger Mike Clawson said...

I understand what you're saying hadge, but the reality for some of us at least, is that we're being stifled in what we're trying to do for Jesus where we're at. It's not just a matter of being content where we're at and doing the work anyway. It's a problem of not being able to do God's work because of the resistance we encounter within Christ's own body.

For example, right now my pastor is increasingly suspicious of and resistant to my desire to involve the teens more in Christ's call to serve the poor and oppressed. To me that's an essential part of the gospel call, and yet in this very Republican, conservative church, anything that even slightly critical of free market capitalism seems dangerous. So If I'm forbidden to discuss issues of social justice in my church, do I just continue to serve where I'm at, or do I start or find something new that is more open to the full gospel?

11:31 AM  
Blogger hadge said...

Bill - I don't think I meant to give the impression that I or anyone else should become the lone ranger - in fact I am now working back in the Anglican denomination, licensed by the Bishop and part of a national network of chaplains to young people - I'm saying that we need to rethink where we fight the good fight.

Gandalf - I hear your point – it’s one reason why I left ministry and the conventional form of church to get a job in the secular world where I could work with the poor and downtrodden - maybe more of us should be thinking about doing so instead of wrestling with airheads - or join another church that is doing the stuff but is maybe theologically different - I don't know - I just know that this kind of discussion can be dangerously draining and circular . . . peace - I will be posting my thoughts more fully on my own blog soon.

3:41 PM  
Blogger Mark Van Steenwyk said...

All I can speak about is my experience, Tony. I recently planted a church in Minneapolis with the Baptist General Conference. I attend Bethel Seminary (I'll finish this year). However, I am not a Baptist. They haven't asked me to be ordained...or even licensed with them. I can follow God's call with integrity. One of things that attracted me to the Baptists is that they have very little of a power-structure. Though my friend Jeff Gauss and I like to gripe about the Baptists, we've never had our hands slapped nor have we been held back in any way.

Though Bethel is far from perfect, I have had a good deal of liberty to write things I want to write, I've had some professors who have brought up very challenging things about the nature of the Gospel, though not as much as I'd like, tis true. But I don't sense much of an edict from on high preventing any professor to challenge us. I've learned about womanist and feminist theologies. I've studied liberationist thought and been challenged to see the "already" nature of salvation--which results in a view of the church as God's eschatalogical people. I'd agree, however, that they are caught in the web of commodification and are focused too much on their own survival.

I feel like you are being too sweeping in your assault on organized religion. The emergent conversation is an exciting and new thing. But it isn't a Church unto itself. The Body is much larger than that. Btw, how would y'all respond to the critique in this article, which paints a picture of the emergent movement as being a bit exclusionary to women?$263

9:21 PM  
Blogger Chris Enstad said...

I almost just posted again but then I didn't... oh wait this is a post.

8:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tony, I like what you're saying, but here's the problem:

To the degree that emergence exists in real life (in the US) it is entirely an evangelical-fundamentalist phenomenon.

To the degree that emergence is not evangelical-fundamentalist, it exists purely as disembodied discourse, which is ultimately ineffectual and is ripe for appropriation and co-option by evangelical-fundamentalists.

This is gist of the criticism of your post here and here.

Steve Bush

8:47 AM  
Blogger dave p said...

Mark Van S - the article you referenced is exactly why many people look at Emergent as just warmed over Evangelical theology with a pomo twist. In some cases (Seattle's Mars Hill) it is EXACTLY that.

The marginalization of women in ministry is something mainline denominations have been fighting for decades with some success. My (Episcopal) parish priest is a woman, for instance. Emergent has barely tapped this mainline experience at all.

The recent election will probably serve to keep the more liberal mainstream at bay a while longer.

And while Tony can rant on for all he's worth, the fact remains that Emergent is using the giant publishing machinery of the Evangelical world to further its aims.

11:13 AM  
Blogger clave said...

I just want to comment on a small slice of the entire conversation.

I really don't get the folks who are hung-up on pointing out that emergent isn't new in any way. It seems like around every corner someone is pointing out an example of someone in the emergent "camp" referencing a prayer/creed/reading from back in the day or being influenced by past theology/thinking. Immediately there is a cry of FOUL, "there's nothing new under the sun...", and the been there/done that rhetoric.

Does anyone else think that's a cheap dismissal? It's like some are going "Bah! Those emergent fools act all anti-institutional yet they reuse old institutional prayers and draw inspiration from ancient and modern theologians."

If I buy a used car and someone comments on my new car I may need to clarify: "It's not new, but it's new to me." Sure many of the elements of emergent aren't new and it's the same-old-same-old in many cases but it's new to the 21st century church, which, let's all be honest, is pretty stinkin' stale in North America.

What's wrong with slippin' on the Pumas and kickin' it a little old school? Maybe drawing from this wealth of old is some of the emergent folks way of giving a wink and nod that 2000 years of institution and tradition haven't been a total waste. Cause God help us all if it has been...

I'd like to vote on record that this whole conversation be called "emerging", not yet emergent. Others have said that before, I know, "Nothing new under the sun..." The reason I say that is I honestly feel we're dealing with some folks here who honestly and sincerely want to push the church in a new direction, to explore new ways (even if they are only new to us), for the sake of the Gospel. I can drink that kool-aid. We're dealing with some good kids who are engaged in a dialogue to stretch the church in some "emerging" ways.

12:43 PM  
Blogger Chris Enstad said...

My vote is that we start counting how many overused cliches we use in our posts about creating a new thing.

wink wink nudge nudge say no more say no more

1:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The need is for a rediscovery of the gospel. We, the church, have neutered the gospel. We do not need to go back to "better times." What we need is to see Jesus and His message for what it really is. This rediscovery changes everything - and we cannot go back.

6:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm part of a small house church that has formed because we saw that there was no reasonable church in our city. I suppose that some people would call us emergent because we oppose many of the things that the emergent church folk oppose but we refuse to call ourselves emergent because we also disagree with a lot that we have seen in the emergent church. I think that some of the issue is that there is no real definition of emergent church besides a church that is trying to be different. I've been a part of an emergent group but I honestly didn't see it as that much different then evangellical church. They did services that were of the form: music, annoncements, music, sermon, more music, benediction. The ways that they were different were that they incorporated arts into the service, they talked about community, they tried to be more meditative, the sermons were more narative, etc. My point is that I saw that they were largely just changing the style of church. I didn't observe a real change in the focus of the church.

We hope to build a church where we can grow further in our obedience to God and closer to one another. I think that this is much more difficult then changing our style. We all know that it's hard to become more obedient to God but it is also really difficult to become completely transparent with a small group of people. A sub focus of the obedience to God is to serve the poor and oppressed. This is where I think that I can show an example of people considering different things essentials. I think that it is essential that the church defend the rights of the unborn. One of the posters insinuated that the church was wasting its time on this issue. I can't help be a little off topic but I have to point out that babies are dying here, millions of babies. How can fighting to stop this not be an essential? I know this is off topic so please don't feel like you need to respond to this.

Rose Mawhorter
(I'm only anonymous because I'm not with blogger)

9:57 AM  
Blogger Chris Enstad said...

Tony notified me that he will respond shortly with a multi-part post but he is busy, busy.

I received an emergent update from Brian Mclaren, perhaps it's on the website, in which he is going to give us all a survey of emergent past, present and future. Go look at that and then tell me what's missing from the picture cuz what he's saying and what Tony is saying are different things. That's just a fact, I'm obviously not dismissing anyone or I wouldn't keep contributing to the conversation.

Second, we are pointing out that things in emergent aren't really quite new because all of the things that are being pointed to as "emergent" have been TRIED BEFORE and if emergent is truly supposed to be this radical movement then perhaps it is not being RADICAL ENOUGH. No one is dismissing it... speaking for myself, I"m prodding these guys in hopes they can save me since I'm evidently lost in the confines of this denomination of mine. wink wink

11:22 AM  
Blogger Jon said...

hey chris, you know what else we could count alongside the cliche's? how many people talk about how their church is doing it! because i'm telling you right now that the youth ministry i'm in is so emerging. we're totally beyond this whole emergent conversation.

the sarcasm is not meant to piss people off, but to push us further and quite honestly, cliche's and telling everybody how well "your" church is "it" doesn't take the dialogue anywhere.

i think what we've found from this thread of comments and what tony finds all the time as he hears reference to "emergent," is that emergent has fallen into the trap that so many movements fall under. chris has eluded to the end result being institutionalization. but what happens before that is that a bunch of people try to copy the innovators of the movement. it never works when you copy. i've heard doug pagitt talk about this a lot. i would say what most people "know" about emergent is what they see copied and systemitized. emergent uses the word "generative" in their catch phrase. emergent is a generative friendship among missional christians...we are generating something, we are going somewhere (missional). emergent is about creating. not about copying. what most people see is copies of copies of emergent. that's how we can use ancient ritual and they work, but in traditional churches they don't. if we breath new life into them, then they aren't just copied and borrowed from some other time, place, and community.

i think the message is getting lost in translation (another cliche' for ya). and quite honestly that shit happens (another cliche') when something substantial, something real is happening. of course i could be totally wrong and that would be tragedy (spoken in a tyler durden sort of way).

12:13 PM  
Blogger Chris Enstad said...

haha! right on Jon. I'm with ya. Let's not shoot the Church, let's shoot the church growth movement because they've screwed it up for all of us for all time!

12:40 PM  
Blogger Harlan said...

The problem I see with Emergent is that it is still caught in a cycle of thought that focuses on church...a new way of doing what we have come to understand as church that is not really what church is in the first place. It is like a dog chasing its own tail. My wife and I stepped out of "church" well over a year ago. It's not about a building, a place, a doctrine, a theology, a style of worship, ordination, rules, programs, or incentives. It is not a movement nor is it a structure. It is revolutionary in that it can happen at any point during any moment of any given time of day.

We stopped looking for church and started seeking God. He blessed us with a community, not a church community, but rather a city. We get to meet new people every day, develop relationships, and interact with a diverse group of people from all walks, faiths, and cultures.

We love God and we love others. Wow! Our work is our worship, our days are filled with the lives of others, and our songs are both new and established; they are the conversations that we get to share every time we meet someone new or someone familiar.

We are the Church, and we must go out into the world instead of trying to figure out how to get the world to come to us! Emergent is still caught up in trying to establish a type of church with a "community" lable instead of helping equipe people to go out into the community and drop the "church" lable. This doesn't require ordination, nor does it require membership. It requires a heart that is willing to take risks for the Kingdom. It requires a heart that is willing to love someone instead of some thing.


10:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i love it when you talk like that

andrew jones

2:39 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I like it and agree. Great post.

5:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

thanks jordon . . . ahhh . . where was i?

ah yes. i wanted to add a few things, regarding authority and ordination.

At the heart of emergence theory (by which our Emergentvillage is named), or how an organism/colony/community moves from low-level chaos to higher level structure, is a focus on low-level communication, local behaviour effecting the global, and the LACK of a single leader calling the shots. Cf, slime mold, bee hives, ant colonies, etc
"Observe the ant . . . . " Proverbs

In many parts of the emerging church, especially outside of teh USA where funds are low or non-existent, emerging churches are far more simple and there are no paid professionals. The 5-fold gifts come into play, simple churches meet whereever people live, people share life and give leadership to what God is doing. the only talk of ordination is for those who want to work with seminaries.

Also, from the emerging fringe there seems to be less anger with the institutions and more desire to work with them towards the common goal.
The worse bad mouthing towards institutionalism i have heard is from those deep inside the institution itself. Those on the emerging edge dont seem to be putting up a fight with seminaries or institutions and that may be because the institutions are seen as older brothers (prodigal son comes to mind), rather than enemies or competition.

Andrew Jones, writing from an emerging monastery.

6:13 AM  
Blogger Chris Enstad said...

leaving the church to find God... anyone can believe in God... the stumbling block of Jesus Christ and the foundations of the Church cannot be found solely on the streets. You cannot be a community unto yourselves. Frustration with the humanity of the institution is not a good enough reason to leave it. The perfection of the kingdom of God is not to be realized without the coming of Christ again. Until then, we're what you've got so deal with it and keep your marbles in the game.

I'm about one post from checking out of this thing altogether.

8:29 AM  
Blogger Len Hjalmarson said...

I am betting there are many people.. both within and without emergent.. who would agree that the reformation did not go far enough. While some good and necessary things were accomplished, Luther did maintain close ties to the state.. to civil religion.. to what Brueggemann calls "the royal reality."

But you know.. in my own journey, I have heard the call to "Follow me," and in the last few years I have learned more about the meaning of that call and its cost.

In spite of that, I'm not quite willing to give up reformation language. In the first place, it might mean a new URL (LOL.. ouch.. count that cost again).. but more seriously, I think the conditions that created the first reformation are mirrored today, and I think the reformation itself was more diverse than the main stream writers have credited.

After all.. there were two groups.. the reformers and the radical reformers. The latter were perhaps the real "deconstructionists" of their day, and they saw more clearly to the core of the issues of Jesus followers versus Constantinian Christendom.

The sad part of this is .. I believe what we will see in the next decade or so is a similar process: a "radical" reformation and a mainstream one. Let's hope that by subversion, persuasion and the Spirit of God that there are more liberationists than reformers.

9:29 AM  
Blogger beim said...

A very interesting read. About a year ago I was running away from the institutional church, convinced that "emergent" and "institution" were not compatible. I think there are no more emergent cliches outside of the church then inside. I actually hear more conversations and openness inside the church than outside; our family got frustrated by the cliches and typical emergent thinking.

In the church, because there are less like-minded people, there is actually fresher thinking, because we were made to actually start putting some feet to this "revolutionary" philosophy. It just seems like there is more room for actual conversations within the church; maybe this isn't normal, because we are now part of an institutional church that isn't about getting bigger. I guess that is why I appreciate this blog, iron sharpening iron within the emergent community, and a place where it is okay to say we are part of an institutional church and we really, really enjoy the community.

We are convinced that something cannot happen within the insitution--I guess I'm not ready to give up yet, and I'm definitely not ready to walk out and not look back.

6:32 PM  
Blogger COTA said...

FROM KRYPTON WITH LOVE? (emergent life and the modern matrix)

this has been a wonderful conversation... i have both 'seen the rabbit and taken the blue pill,' yet i still travel deep into the institution, as going there is something i think we emergents still need to do
(just as jesus went to jerusalem (not exactly fun). so it IS painful to have an implant (for this travel) lodged in the back of your neck.

for me, having the neck implant is traveling the episcopal and lutheran 'modern churchworld' matrix on a daily basis, as a vintage x black woman caring for a mostly gen y emergent community (church of the apostles, seattle).

each day, our twin institutions are a 'byzantine parent trap' and each day they are also our 'beloved spiritual tribes.' so, many of the things said by BOTH tony and chris i can relate to.

every other day i want to walk away from my tribes who often sap me of my emergent energy like modern kryptonite, but (like it or not) krypton is part of my heritage, and as i return there i am 'weakened by each exposure' of trying to 'relate' and 'connect' and help my tribes renew... and(like it or not) part of me DIES in the process, yet in this death, the life of Christ is in some small way being released.

this is the 'theology of the cross' - old bonhoeffer, old luther, and even older jesus' way of being and initiating change in and for the world, so even being emergent is not a 'do not pass go', around the cross. even being emergent, when Christ calls us, he bids us to come and die.'

with all that being said, each morning i pray for new life to be born in my tribes via this day to day 'death to life' struggle for emergence, resurrection and redemption for us all.

much peace to everyone.

from karen, bloggin at

5:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In the begining there was the Gen X Church (with it flannel shirts and misquoting Coupland)
Then the Postmodern (pomo) church, full of goatees and crazy about Leonard Sweet.
After that the Emergent Church, neo-hippies Starbucks coffee drinkers (until someone told them that Starbucks was evil, so they started drinking fair trade)
Now what?
The 90's cooler-than-thou pastors are now 40, bald and with a volleyball tummy. Still, no changes in the church (except for cool music, lotsa candles, and no suits).
It seems like the "emergent" leaders and pastors keep parroting and holding on to a lost dream. They are now punish to live the nightmare their "modern" forefathers lived. They are holding to a revolution-in-the-church that never came.
No matter how many books, talks about neo-theology, your use of ancient-future everything, seudo-community, techno-babble you use/invest/plan/include/swim/preach/dialogue/ - Please, wake up. For the sake of the Gospel.
Leave your americana-religion to the side. And go out and smell reality.
Your liquid church/mission/religion/relationship/gospel is evaporating.

9:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To Mr./Ms. Anonymous:

I'm tired of people who only know how to slam everyone else. As much as we tend to screw things up, that does not mean that God's hand was not in what has gone before us.

You are wonderful at name-calling, but have you provided any specific solution?

I think it's a shame when people get so caught up in what THEY believe to be true, big enough change that they deny the difference that Christ is making in the world through groups like Emergent.

6:56 PM  
Blogger MicahGirl said...

I am new to the emergent conversation, although much of it resonates with my thoughts as well as my struggles with church and ministry as usual...

I am wondering what a "web of support" to encourage those willing to follow this new path would look like? How do you build something like that without institutionalizing it and killing its soul leaving only the style and flash?


1:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My parents are thinking about joining an emerging church movement. I am in my 20s and fully involved in my church (a different church from them)and think it just unsettles me! Yes, there are good elements of it, but surely you are moving away from what the bible teaches about the church? It all sounds a bit hippyish! You need to have apostolic leadership in the church, God loves the church and it seems that you are trying to reinvent the wheel which doesn't need reinventing. Go back to the Acts church, that is how we should be living!

2:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Enoyed all the comments...Some random thoughts and questions:

1. If entry into the post-modern culture/mindset is one of Emergent's goals, then how is it any different than what missionaries since Paul have done when preaching the gospel to various social, philosophical and ethnic groups? Indeed, culutral adaptation and entry is common practice in missions work among "denominational" churches and para-church organizations. As impossible as it may seem (I believe it is the way to go) Wouldn't it be more profitable for the post-modern Christian community to work to convince the traditional denoms to recognize post-modern unbelievers as a unique culture in and of themselves.

2. The Emergent Church appears to be more of a philosophical/theological critique on contemporary practical ecclesiology than anything else.

3. In regards to evangelism, form, style and structure are secondary issues; they should modified and adjusted according Paul who claimed to have become all things to all men for the sake of saving some. If such is the focus of the church, do we necessarily need a movement such as the "Emergent Church?"

More so than Luther or Calvin, Paul was the first Christian reformer. In his dealing with the "orthodox church" of the times -- the church in Jerusalem -- he demonstrated obedience and respect even in regards to old Jewish customs so that he would not be a stumbling block to any of the "little ones" Jesus spoke so protectively of (cf Acts 21:21-27).

Having read B. Mclaren's article to C. Colson, I gathered that communication in truth and love did not seem to be the agenda of the outspoken Emergent church figure. Indeed, the post-modern "deconstructionist" view of the church and Christianity is just as skeptical and futile as J. Derrida's original theory of "differance" in the field of philosphy and literary criticsm.

4. Self-centered? Aside from the purpose of evangelism, revamping the structure and form of worship and how we "do" church stems from the consumeristic attitude in American Christianity. We want culture-centric music, drama, and style in the church, and there is nothing wrong with that. However, to label the change a new or emerging church is far from what it is.

5. Instead of the "emergent church," why not call it the "emergent mission," since that is ultimately what it is trying to achieve: social relevance for the sake of evangelism and contemporizing the church?

peace and grace,


9:40 AM  
Blogger the forester said...

I was pointed here by a friend (Jake) and feel I should register my opinion so you know how at least one reader responded. Please note I read the first comment above, and then decided I didn't have the time for the other sixty.

I never heard the term "emergent" until about 2 weeks ago, when Jake's blog ( inspired me to read up on it. I find much to admire about the thinking behind this movement, particularly the attempt to understand nonbelievers in today's world, and the desire to shake up the bureacracy of heavily-institutionalized denominations and seminaries.

However, practically everything I have read about the emergent church has struck me as entirely too self-aware. Emergent blogs and websites tend to point at themselves and their movement more than at the actual reforms or new principles and practices they espouse. In fact, it's nearly impossible to find any explicit delineation of these reforms, principles and practices -- only articles extolling their virtues.

It's nothing to claim over and over again, "No, we're doing something new!" From my perspective the emergent church is doing practically nothing besides making this one claim. I would be much more impressed by a movement that simply did what it set out to accomplish, quietly and without trumpet fanfares, while letting the rest of Christendom, as well as the secular media, laud its accomplishments.

Scripture itself recommends this second approach: the left hand should not know what the right hand is doing (Matthew 6), and it is not the son who says he will obey his father, but the one who actually does obey, who is truly obedient (Matthew 21).

Besides, it seems disingenuous to claim that the emergent church is overwhelmingly new, so much so that any connections to existing movements or denominations are beneath notice. Nothing new occurs under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1) -- all things merely stand on the shoulders of those that have gone before. It would be healthy for emergent thinkers to project themselves two hundred years into the future, and meditate on Ecclesiastes 1 as they do so, particularly this verse: "There is no remembrance of men of old, and even those who are yet to come will not be remembered by those who follow." Something about the tone of most emergent thinkers brings to my mind Romans 12: "Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in acccordance with the measure of faith God has given you." Emergent thinkers do have something valuable to contribute to Christendom. Let's not get carried away by thinking they are reinventing Christianity itself.

Besides, claiming the emergent church is entirely new only alienates believers in other movements/denominations, such as myself, rather than welcoming them with open arms. Why not make the more reasonable claim that the emergent church is simply the next step? Sadly, the tone of most emergent thinkers has made me suspect they don't take this more reasonable approach because they're less interested in building something new than they are in repudiating what is old.

Case in point: the title of this article, "Throwing Down the Gauntlet." Is that an attitude worthy of title "Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings" (Isaiah 58)?

I think this attitude is best summed up in the line, "We have taken the blue pill, and there's no going back." The fact of the matter is that there is no blue pill. The Matrix was a movie, not reality. The only blue pill I know of is the Bible itself, and it has been given to all Christendom (even all mankind), not only emergent thinkers. The Holy Spirit indwells all believers -- none of us have a special "inside scoop" from God. Emergent thinkers should be less interested in trying to nail another 95 thesis to the door, and more interested in restoring other believers gently, according to Galatians 6:

"Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted."

1:19 PM  
Blogger the forester said...

P.S. Jake set me straight about which does which, the red pill/blue pill. My mistake. I apologize for that paragraph. Please disregard it -- your point makes much more sense, now that I've got my pills straight.

4:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The more I read about the "emergent church," the more it looks like the "innovative" schemes used by (lazy) liberal teachers to instruct children how to read. Remember when phonics was replaced by the "whole word" nonsense?

Religious doctrine, dogma, liturgy, catechism, clerical structure and governance are too important to be left in the hands of amateurs and play actors.

Amazing to think that one would no more trust an unlicensed "electrician" to fix the wiring in his or her house, or a quack to perform surgery, but to allow non-ordained "ministers" attend to a flock for the most important service, i.e. helping people to achieve salvation through Jesus, the so-called "emergent church" is giving a green light to rampant dilletantism.

Example: at a small baptist church in the northeast, a small group of participants attend a "contemplative service" where the "eucharist" is served and the Book of Common Prayer provides the bones of the liturgy. But guess what, the hosts are not "consecrated" by a properly ordained minister.

Sadly, I must confess that in my desire for a more traditional liturgical service, my yearnings overtook my better judgment and at first I thought these "services" were fine. But they should've served coffee instead of grape juice for their "wine." I would've come to my senses sooner.

A year ago, I returned to my Catholic Faith. At least I know and take it on faith that the Host is Jesus Christ.

"Emergents," stop fooling yourself with this sloppy theological movement. Get with a real church with a real structure and a real creed and a real catechism. You don't need baby food when you can handle the real food. In other words, GROW UP!

10:39 PM  

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