by Roger Olson
August 2, 2011
I’m sure it can. However, I’m made to wonder when I see some of the responses to Brandon Morgan’s guest post here (of about a week ago -cf. http://relevancy22.blogspot.com/2011/07/emergent-church-movement-challenged-by.html) and my follow up post. Brandon, a leader of the Void Collective and known to be a participant in the emergent movement, dared to raise some questions about the direction in which at least some emergent church leaders are taking the movement.
One well-known emergent leader responded very defensively at his blog. I think he put the worst spin possible on Brandon’s and my questions. And he didn’t really answer those questions.
I know Brandon’s intention (and I hope mine as well) was to create dialogue about the direction of portions of the emergent church movement; it was not to express “disappointment” so much as to urge caution and clarification.
One would hope that, of all religious movements, the emergent movement would be open to internal, constructive criticism framed in the form of questions (which were not merely rhetorical). In fact, it seems to me one of the hallmarks of emergent Christianity is self-criticism. Brandon is part of the movement. I am a sympathizer. (I wouldn’t say I’m part of it as I am a member of a fairly traditional moderate Baptist church.) Surely it’s okay for a participant in the movement who has demonstrated his status through helping found and lead the Void Collective (mentioned by the New York Times in connection with emergent Christianity!) to raise constructive criticisms and invite conversation about them. If not, and if the only response is defensiveness, then that raises serious questions about the movement’s distinctiveness.
I had hoped that some leaders of the emergent movement would respond here so dialogue could take place about the questions Brandon raises. Instead, so far, the leaders Brandon (and I) queries have only responded defensively at their own blogs. (I am sure I may have missed some more positive responses elsewhere, but why not here?)
One of my main qualms about traditional churches (denominations, congregations, institutions) is that the leaders tend to close ranks and shut off even constructive criticism. One thing I hope will be true of the emergent movement is the opposite–openness to constructive criticism and willingness to consider the possibility that it needs course adjustment from time to time.