According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for
this world to recreate, reclaim, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of
explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. - anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. - anon
... Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument.
There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is
irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a
power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table
to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace,
reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants
us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. - anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul
The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals
and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah
If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

What Wikipedia Has to Say About the Emerging/Emergent Church. Part 1/2


Unprepared for the Spirit's waters ahead?

An Introduction

I thought it might be helpful to "mark" what Wikipedia.com has to say about the Emerging or Emergent Church (E/EC) (dated: March 20, 2012) so as to provide a historical reference point at some later time in the postmodern journey of the 21st Century's church. It has been a year from this date that Rob Bell's book, Love Wins, began to generate all forms of discussion and diatribes.

Hence, it was no more than a month later when this blogsite was borne to begin addressing the many misleading statements and inaccurate discussions occurring at the time. Mostly because I knew Rob Bell and what he had taught over the past dozen years at Mars Hill Church of Grand Rapids, and because I wanted to leave my family and friends some help in discerning the newer, more formidable biblical developments occurring in the area of biblical research and Christian ministry being verbalized and expressed in contemporary fashion.

However, being new to the blogosphere I initially began writing by using the name skinhead which later changed to my own name once I became more comfortable within this digital form of media and the immediacy of its global electronic publishing aspect. And if one were to read the initial outlay of articles in a chronological order it will be seen that this site was initially interested in responding to Rob Bell's critics and the many forms of misleading statements (and  church dogmas) that were leading the discussions against the E/EC at the time.

It was also during this formative period of composition that I began to develop new goals for the usage of this form of social media and so, began re-orientating this blog away from predominantly responding to Evangelic criticism and towards a fuller, more rounded, set of discussions dealing with the many themes within E/E Christianity itself. That is, rather than playing defense I decided to play offense in the age-old Christian tradition of a responsive biblical exposition.

As such, I wished to create a "road map," if you well, that could help direct Christians both old and new through the many confusing messages emanating from the pulpits-and-press of an intentionally fundamental or conservative Christianity. And towards a more foundational and contemporary set of analysis peppered with Spirit-filled inspiration, encouragement, and growth, as the E/EC shared the good news, or the gospel, of Jesus. Mostly it was about updating the gospel from its 19th-and 20th century portrayal to one set within the post-modernism of the 21st century stripped of non-orthodox dogmas perceived by the church as orthodox.


The compass of Emergent Christianity shares a broader, more lively
connection to the postmodern world around us. It includes all the
advances of the sciences as well as all the post-structuralist discussions
that can be found within Christianity itself. It seeks to include as
many conversants into the conversation of Jesus through the vitality of
contribution and participation while authenticizing each participant
via a supportive network of faith and fellowship centered around Jesus
as Savior and Lord.

                                                                                                                          - R.E. Slater, March 21, 2012

Mine Own Journey

What made this blog different was my determination to support an E/EC doctrine of Scripture that was less evangelically dogmatic and more open to current theologies and postmodern discoveries being debated. It had to touch on all the "hot" issues, without demanding an "answer" for every question raised. While at the same time seek to develop a sense of discernment amongst its readership who were learning to listen first, and reply later, when more fully informed. It also had to start somewhere, so naturally, it had to start with where I was at in my very conservative, very anti-postmodernistic, and evangelic mindset. And from there I have been slowly working out my own understanding of what postmodernistic Christianity might look like. My journey has been radical when compared to where I began decades earlier, but it has been a slow journey these past dozen years wherein God has continually led and guided by His Spirit so that I now feel more comfortable in sharing my thoughts and narrative.

This journey has also given to me a greater sense of freedom and relief when finally discovering a community of like-minded Christians who also were searching the Scriptures and finding similar sentiments for less dogmatically-bound Christian ideologies coupled with a richer interpretation of Scriptures earlier held back by limited information and doctrinal (or cultural) preferences. Rather than fearing these newer developments in biblical research they have conversely lent a broader, deeper understanding of God and His creation, of Jesus, of His gospel, and of the Church's place in this technological global age of the Kingdom. It is an exciting story and one that I wish to share with as many as are interested in discovering the same with myself.

Build higher walls to keep the water out?

Learning to Re-Learn

However, to properly complete this quest one must learn to use post-modernistic language within a post-structural framework which would import a 21st Century mindset and epistemology into a moribund Christianity overcome with fear. One that would be both missional and existentially beneficial. However, the truth is, we are probably a generation or two away from being able to think or conceptualize, speak or conceive, of ourselves and our world in this type of postmodernistic linguistics without undergoing both personally, and as a world-society, a very formative, if not radically destabilizing re-orientation, to our own present patterns of thinking and societal interaction. A radical destabilization that would disrupt any current forms of personal and social philosophies in this present era of secular modernism. As such, this journey has only but begun even though it's deficiencies were readily observed during World War I (cf. the many disparaging commentaries by the 1920's newsman Walter Lippmann on modernity's less-than-glorious-shine) though for myself, it is but 50 years old (birthed, as it were, for my generation with the Vietnam War of the 1960s and 70s). And for today's Millennials, with the felling of the World Trade Center Towers in 2001. Hence, I would imagine that by the mid-21st century as postmodernism matures over the next 35 years, that another sort of philosophical angst will arise to extend and eventually replace the last of the Modernistic era begun so long ago under during the time of European Enlightenment (1500s). As we transition from post-modernism to an era of filled with technical revolution, social media, global networking, ecological overburden, and a burgeoning population escalating by the billions. 

We must learn to re-learn. To translate all that we thought we knew into
newer paradigms that are less restrictive and cognitively destructive.
To lift up our conversations about God, and about ourselves, that
would allow the bible to breathe again, while separating ourselves
from our many traditional ideologies and behaviours that
have restricted us from responding to God.

                                                                                                             - R.E. Slater, March 21, 2012

This will require a disorienting period of de-construction set against the more rapid pace of change that for many of us have not been taught to deal with it by our own over-protective churches and culturally restrictive barriers. A dissettling period of change that will come with the consequential results of an ever increasing global-cultural awareness and interaction. It will be as much formative (for those embracing it) as dis-formative (for those rejecting it) and will require substantially rethinking our own ideas of God and of the Holy Spirit's movement within this time of breaking and remaking. Those that survive will learn to become transformative people even as their faith has transformed. And those that don't survive will pleasantly sit within their own self-constructed glass houses of fret and worry thinking that the world has finally reached its end even as they do themselves. Which is a sad journal to write when mis-believing that one's God cannot maintain pace with the world of His own making. To disbelieve that this God cannot deftly move and adapt to this world's every era without feeling defeated by it, despite His children's more fearful outlook and steady refusal to disbelieve the spiritual changes they cannot see.


Making do rather than relocating.

For many Christians this period will be one of repentance, confession, discipleship, and obedience. Of putting off the "old man" and putting on the "new man". Of transformation, conformation and reformation. Of spiritual "death" and "resurrection". But by whatever name given, in postmodernistic terms we must actively be engaged in revising - and indeed, in participating - within a radically dis-orientating epistemology. One that is first centered around Jesus (meaning that it is first and foremost Christological in perspective and foundation) and all that that means when we think of Jesus' teachings found in the Gospels of the New Testament. And especially as His teachings strove against the establish religious traditionalism that actively fought against His retelling of God's grace to all men everywhere. As such, present-day Christianity must grow beyond its protective epistemologies which lately have become centered around non-Christological dogmas; maintaining overly strict theologic interpretations of God and the Bible; making naïve, short-sighted proclamations by fiat that declare prohibitive, ecclesiastical proscriptions and injunctions; promoting a Christian exclusivity and locked borders to those different from ourselves by gender, race, or sex; and that would turn a deaf ear to the social injustices around us; or sadly display the obligatory need to criticize others unaffiliated with its deeply-honored traditions; while ever exhibiting a deepset fear of change while feeling threatened by the same.

Nonetheless, the church must promote a more open postmodern epistemology lest God's gospel message in Jesus become lost within its own well-meaning faith communities built upon the harder soils of epistemic skepticism and disbelief where inadequate root and depth cannot be established from within its austere worship structures. Nor so foolishly instill an atmosphere of fear and doubt amongst its eager congregants so that the birds of the air may more easily snatch up the precious seed of God's grace lost upon the church's harder grounds refusing to conjoin to the Spirit's mystery of divine participation. Nor suffer its Christian witness to become so ineffectual as by limiting the pouring out of the Holy Spirit's grace by not relenting of its many unnecessary, restrictive dogmas, and systematized dis-interpretations of Jesus' incarnation, ministry, passion and resurrection. Or by actively prohibiting any adequate nourishment or growth necessary within the spiritually hungry lives of new believers freshly entering upon the Kingdom of God from the fastness of humanism's many wildernesses by errantly remitting to pre-ordained standards of yesteryear's sacred wastelands.

Thus, my idea was to provide within this website practical helps-and-aides for those wishing to re-discover a newer faith of spiritual vitality, cultural relevancy, and a nurturing Christian witness by describing a more progressive form of Christianity. To utilize this website as a collection of other writer's insights who are similarly burdened as myself to help the church become more understanding of postmodernism and how it might utilize that knowledge in better reconstructing a more relevant Christian faith and witness. As such, I will wish to write or report on a number of areas - some of which will be biblical and academic; some devotional and inspirational; some practical and pragmatic; some scientific; some philosophic; and especially postmodern. But to speak out as one coherent tongue in the name of the God I know who comes to fill the whole air with His love, and to shake this old, broken earth awake from its doleful antipathies, oppressions, and wickedness, by an ever-expanding, and more relevant witness, by a postmodern Christianity freshly reawakened to its own missional calling and service to all men everywhere by whatever forms and undertakings this may take.

Consequently, I have provided a plethora of Christian articles gleaned from a variety of sources and authorships along the sidebar-columns of this blog. So that if any one emergent topic might be troubling (perhaps starting with some of the issues mentioned below in the Wikipedia listing) that these links may provide further direction and helps by way of personal research and objective testimony. And thereby provide more clarity to an area of confusion and concern facing today's modernistic church in its programs and objectives. And if this site is not helpful, then perhaps the reader may be better enabled to find more biblical help and direction elsewhere having first begun here witnessing a vast array of Emergent testimonies, missional projects and banded fellowships.

Emergent Christianity embraces the mystery of the divine,
expressed without explanation to our resisting minds.
Witnessed in Jesus' paradoxical statements having no answers
but the answer of faith that we must embrace and obey.

                                                                                        - R.E. Slater, March 21, 2012

Overall, I have used this blog as a way to integrate 21st Century E/EC discussion into the many areas of the past 20th Century Church's mission and teachings. And have used my own theological training, experience, and participation in the E/EC to help direct us into inquiries that might create more faithful, more biblically orientated, forms of discussion. My first hurdles were the many criticisms and vitriol I was listening to from very earnest evangelical brethren who had not had time to digest E/E Christianity's newer practices and teachings. Even as I, myself, had come through those same turbulent obstacles - but I also had had many more years to digest what I was listening to through providential placement within an emerging church fellowship. One that I took advantage of while many of my other friends refused to consider it, whether as participants or early rejectees. Thus, I have had time to think on, and pray about, E/E Christianity. To turn it over and consider its many sides and angles. Sometimes through anger and disappointment. Sometimes through rejection and refusal. And at other times through a great sense of relief and joy when it all made sense. It was a very dis-orienting time which was not especially helped along because of this movement's immaturity  (and ofttimes arrogant, if not unwisely spoken, controversial statements) made in the name of Jesus with all the sanctimony of a superior self-righteousness of the "haves" over the "have nots."

Still Under Development

My earliest dismay with E/EC topics came because of its many immature pronouncements still under development and not clearly understood by its progenitors. Self-proclaimed lecterns distilling by fiat their beliefs and their standards to newly initiated audiences whose only acceptable response must have been one of abject approval. To follow without reproach or dissension pronouncements that assumed a rightness of position without a forthrightness of discussion. That created dissension rather than engagement. That demanded an unhealthy acceptance without sufficient explanation. That were proclaimed under the earliest banners of being participants in "a mystery of divine secrets" or some such blather. That gave way to an inner-crowd of templed priests disdaining interaction at the more beggarly hands of the masses seeking after these newly crafted templed truths so new, so raw. Consequently, I was put off by the smugness and distance of E/EC's self-proclaimed disciples untrained themselves except in skills of inarticulated and hidden doctrines known only to an inner few and smelling of sectarian (or worse, Gnostic) rot. It took time to hear what E/EC really was saying when separated from its earliest disciples and their many conflicting arguments. Eventually I got it. But I got it only after years of patient listening and internal debate unhelped by those around me. To say that this was a very lonely time of providential placement in my life would be an understatement.

However, emergent Christianity was being birthed right before my eyes making me at first necessarily skeptical of its earliest, immature pronouncements. I knew historically that after 2000 years of church history you could count on one hand the times new movements got it right. How then could this new thing, that I and my family were involved with, be one of those rare times when it might be right after all? When at so many other times during the history of the church what was being birthed over the centuries were simply new Christian sects, or cults of some sort, rather than proper and legitimate Christian philosophies that could recreate and give renaissance (or reformation) to the life of the Church? One that would radically remove itself from the past 2000 years of Church history and would at once embrace all the current postmodern/post-structural  developments of our 21st Century sciences and cultures. That would also carried with it the potentiality to radically re-integrate itself into the very lives and livelihoods of its global faith adherents and communities rapidly through the use of technology? Especially since it was occurring right before me as a new seeker, and unsuspecting draftee, trained in the theological past and steeped in the many orthodox traditions and systematic creeds-and-formulas of the historic Church!?


Try to make the best of it and just leave.


Clearly the ground had moved beneath my feet and all about me was a dizzying array of disorientation unaligned to anything solid that I could cling to or trust. It took time. Lots of it. To determine what this new thing - this new movement - was. And it didn't help that it was occurring right before me as a newborn babe rising from its cradle of immaturity bearing all the temperamental foibles of early childhood development that would rapidly embrace an acme of teenage acumen fraught with a troubling self-awareness and identity problems! Such that, even within itself, though it bore promise like a son or daughter, it also bore trouble for the observing, participating, parent. Something that would have to be sorted out. And in a way, is being sorted out here within the many articles of this website before all the world to see.

Still, it was a new movement which both I, and its many new congregants, were still struggling to encapsulate for personal adoption and enactment. It was messy and it was filled at times with historical Christian errors and sectarian untruths as I observed when questioning its various proponents and undiscerning adoptees. It had to be sifted and formed. Which for me meant that I had to repackage what I was listening to, and then latter, find myself going public with what I knew - including both the good and the bad of this emerging movement - to any who would listen. To overcome these hurdles it necessitated from me a reflective criticism (or critique) on what I was observing. At other times it simply needed a better response, a fuller narrative, and a more accepting mindset of understanding from an older Christian too set in his traditional orthodoxies.

"Just because one believes a thing to be so does not make it so.
The ground of our reality may be personal. It may be subjective.
But the greater ground of our reality is found within the stricter
confines of a more objective community that will question our
opinions. Our beliefs. Our thoughts until such a time as we can
reasonably determine for ourselves what makes belief a more
legitimate thing than pure supposition  or imposition placed
importunely upon others.

We are neither the start, nor the end, to the  faith of another.
Faith is God's most precious gift. To that gift we may only hope to
explore it within a joined participation with each other in an endless
journey of divine mystery and sacred thought."

                                                                                              - R.E. Slater, March 14, 2012

Taking the Time to Adjust and Adapt

I also sensed that the proponents of E/E Christianity needed to give the church-at-large more time to accept their insights through a more patient engagement, discussion and role modeling rather than simply throwing stones at all who would disagree. The push back would be more stones thrown from the other side, feeling wounded, and threatened, and greatly misunderstood for all their past, and very heart-felt labors, offerings, and personal sacrifices made in the name of Christian endeavor. But what finally forced my internal doubts to acceptance was the welling ground swell of heated conservative reaction to E/E Christianity in the spring of 2011. What I heard from its critics made stunningly clear to me, in juxtaposition, what E/E Christianity was all about. For the many reasons its critics gave simply fell flat to what I had finally constructed of E/E practices and teachings (orthopraxy and orthodoxy, respectively). I could no longer go along with such harsh judgments as to participate with the current anti-Christian mindset of the present day church wishing to cling to its dogmas rather than embrace its newest member of the faith, warts and all. To become discipled as well as a discipler. To become the patient parent willing to change with son or daughter and find at journey's end a richness of fellowship not previously present. Where one-and-all may change together. May grow together. May enliven each other. Learn from each other. Fellowship with each other. And finally, simply grow old together in the strength in their unity. That was my hope. And still is.

Hence this website/blog, and hence my plea to the Church at large - and to those sceptical of Christianity-in-general - to not despair but take hope. The Church has been guilt of many things, but it can reform and seek to put its house aright through repentance and re-engagement upon the things that really matter to God. We are to keep our eyes and hearts set upon Jesus. To trust in the leadership of the Holy Spirit. To continually work at discerning our lives and what we hear presented around us! To withdraw from Christian community when judged necessary. And to re-engage in Christian community when pleasing to the Lord. To understand that we make mistakes of judgment. And commit errors of discernment. And can fail in the crucial times of life when so many depend upon us and look for direction.

But overall we are to continually seek God and allow His grace and mercy to form our steps and move our hearts confident that all will be made clear one day. And no longer will darkness usurp when looking into the mirror of self, community, mission, or even the very heart of God! But we are to stay the course and not despair. To pray that we become seeds planted in the rich top soils of the Spirit. To use our hands and feet where we can. Our mouths and pens. Our skills and abilities. Our imaginations and passions. For God has a plan for our misshapened lives. It is He who will rule and reign through a Kingdom oft misunderstood and considered upside-down and inside-out. But not a religious Kingdom. But a real flesh-and-blood Kingdom that meets the needs of the destitute, the deprived, the unwanted, the unloved. For this is a Kingdom that many are called but few learn to enter and there remain. It is built along a narrow pathway though the way may seem broad at first. Yet many temptations will come to harm and rob its joys, its fullness, its reality. Even so, through it all God will reign and His love and wisdom will not be defeated.

R.E. Slater
March 20, 2012
rev. March 24, 2012
rev. September 3, 2013
edited in brief, December 2, 2014



Or, think and plan ahead for God's movement of grace.

 


t o   b e   c o n t i n u e d -

What Wikipedia Has to Say About the
Emerging/Emergent Church
Part 2/2




* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


The Emerging Church
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emerging_church

Last updated: March 20, 2012

The emerging church, sometimes wrongly equated with the emergent movement or emergent conversation, (see "Definitions and terminology" and "Similar labels" below for clarification) is a Christian movement of the late 20th and early 21st century that crosses a number of theological boundaries: participants can be described as Protestant, post-Protestant, Catholic, evangelical[1] post-evangelical, liberal, post-liberal, conservative, post-conservative, anabaptist, adventist,[2] reformed, charismatic, neocharismatic, and post-charismatic. Proponents, however, believe the movement transcends such "modernist" labels of "conservative" and "liberal," calling the movement a "conversation" to emphasize its developing and decentralized nature, its vast range of standpoints, and its commitment to dialogue. Participants seek to live their faith in what they believe to be a "postmodern" society. What those involved in the conversation mostly agree on is their disillusionment with the organized and institutional church and their support for the deconstruction of modern Christian worship, modern evangelism, and the nature of modern Christian community.


Definitions and terminology

The emerging church favors the use of simple story and narrative. Members of the movement often place a high value on good works or social activism, including missional living.[3] While some Evangelicals emphasize eternal salvation, many in the emerging church emphasize the here and now.[4] Key themes of the emerging church are couched in the language of reform, Praxis-oriented lifestyles, Post-evangelical thought, and incorporation or acknowledgment of political and Postmodern elements. [5] Many of the movement's participants use terminology that originates from postmodern literary theory, social network theory, narrative theology, and other related fields.[citation needed][original research?] Some have noted a difference between the terms "emerging" and "Emergent." While emerging is a wider, informal, church-based, global movement, Emergent refers to an official organization, the Emergent Village, associated with Brian McLaren, and has also been called the "Emergent stream." [6]

Emerging churches can be found throughout the globe, predominantly in North America, Western Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and Africa. Some attend local independent churches or house churches[7][8][9] while others worship in traditional Christian denominations.
Stuart Murray states:
Emerging churches are so disparate there are exceptions to any generalisations. Most are too new and too fluid to clarify, let alone assess their significance. There is no consensus yet about what language to use: 'new ways of being church'; 'emerging church'; 'fresh expressions of church'; 'future church'; 'church next'; or 'the coming church'. The terminology used here contrasts 'inherited' and 'emerging' churches.[10][11]
Ian Mobsby observes:
The use of the phrase 'emerging church' appears to have been used by Larson & Osborne in 1970 in the context of reframing the meaning 'church' in the latter part of the twentieth century.[12] This book, contains a short vision of the 'emerging church' which has a profoundly contemporary feel in the early twenty-first century ... Larson & Osborne note the following themes: Rediscovering contextual and experimental mission in the western church. Forms of church that are not restrained by institutional expectations. Open to change and God wanting to do a new thing. Use of the key word ..."and". Whereas the heady polarities of our day seek to divide us into an either-or camp, the mark of the emerging Church will be its emphasis on both-and. For generations we have divided ourselves into camps: Protestants and Catholics, high church and low, clergy and laity, social activists and personal piety, liberals and conservatives, sacred and secular, instructional and underground. It will bring together the most helpful of the old and best of the new, blending the dynamic of a personal Gospel with the compassion of social concern. It will find its ministry being expressed by a whole people, wherein the distinction between clergy and laity will be that of function, not of status or hierarchical division. In the emerging Church, due emphasis will be placed on both theological rootage and contemporary experience, on celebration in worship and involvement in social concerns, on faith and feeling, reason and prayer, conversion and continuity, the personal and the conceptual.[13]
Similar labels

Although some emergent thinkers such as Brian McLaren and other Christian scholars such as D. A. Carson use "emerging" and "emergent" as synonyms, a large number of participants in the emerging church movement maintain a distinction between them. The term emergent church was coined in 1981 by Catholic political theologian, Johann Baptist Metz for use in a different context.[14] "Emergent" is sometimes more closely associated with Emergent Village. Those participants in the movement who assert this distinction believe "emergents" and "emergent village" to be a part of the emerging church movement but prefer to use the term "emerging church" to refer to the movement as a whole while using the term "emergent" in a more limited way, referring to Brian McLaren and emergent village.

Many of those within the emerging church movement who do not closely identify with "emergent village" tend to avoid that organization's interest in radical theological reformulation and focus more on new ways of "doing church" and expressing their spirituality. Mark Driscoll and Scot McKnight have now voiced concerns over Brian McLaren and the "emergent thread."[15] Other evangelical leaders such as Shane Claiborne have also come out to distance himself from the emerging church movement, its labels and the "emergent brand."[16]
Some observers consider the "emergent stream" to be one major part within the larger emerging church movement. This may be attributed to the stronger voice of the 'emergent' stream found in the US which contrasts the more subtle and diverse development of the movement in the UK, Australia and New Zealand over a longer period of time. In the US, some Roman Catholics have also begun to describe themselves as being part of the emergent conversation.[1] As a result of the above factors, the use of correct vocabulary to describe a given participant in this movement can occasionally be awkward, confusing, or controversial. Key voices in the movement have been identified with Emergent Village, thus the rise of the nomenclature "emergent" to describe participants in the movement.
Marcus Borg defines the term "emerging paradigm" in his 2003 book The Heart of Christianity. He writes
The emerging paradigm has been visible for well over a hundred years. In the last twenty to thirty years, it has become a major grassroots movement among both laity and clergy in "mainline" or "old mainline" Protestant denominations.
Borg provides a compact summary of this "emerging paradigm" as
a way of seeing the Bible (and the Christian tradition as a whole) as historical, metaphorical, and sacramental, [and] a way of seeing the Christian life as relational and transformational.[17]
History

There has been a strong bias in the US to ignore a history to the emerging church that preceded the US Emergent organization. This began with Mike Riddell and Mark Pierson in New Zealand from 1989, and with a number of practitioners in the UK including Jonny Baker, Ian Mobsby, Kevin, Ana and Brian Draper, and Sue Wallace amongst others, from around 1992.[18] The influence of the Nine O'Clock Service has been ignored also, owing to its notoriety, yet much that was practised there was influential on early proponents of alternative worship.[19] The US organization emerged in the late 1990s.

What is common to the identity of many of these emerging church projects that began in Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom, is that they developed with very little central planning on behalf of the established denominations.[20] They occurred as the initiative of particular groups wanting to start new contextual church experiments, and are therefore very 'bottom up'. Murray says that these churches began in a spontaneous way, with informal relationships formed between otherwise independent groups[21] and that many became churches as a development from their initial more modest beginnings.[22][23]

Values and characteristics

Trinitarian based values

Gibbs and Bolger[24] interviewed a number of people involved in leading emerging churches and from this research have identified some core values in the emerging church, including desires to imitate the life of Jesus; transform secular society; emphasise communal living; welcome outsiders; be generous and creative; and lead without control. Ian Mobsby suggests Trinitarian Ecclesiology is the basis of these shared international values:[25][26]

Ian Mobsby also suggests that the Emerging Church is centred on a combination of models of Church and of Contextual Theology that draw on this Trinitarian base: the Mystical Communion and Sacramental models of Church,[27] and the Synthetic and Transcendent models of Contextual Theology.[28][29]

According to Ian Mobsby, the Emerging Church has reacted to the missional needs of postmodern culture and re-acquired a Trinitarian basis to its understanding of Church as Worship, Mission and Community. He argues this movement is over and against some forms of conservative evangelicalism and other reformed ecclesiologies since the enlightenment that have neglected the Trinity, which has caused problems with certainty, judgementalism and fundamentalism and the increasing gap between the Church and contemporary culture.[30]

Post-Christendom mission and evangelism

According to Stuart Murray, Christendom is the creation and maintenance of a Christian nation by ensuring a close relationship of power between the Christian Church and its host culture.[31] Today, churches may still attempt to use this power in mission and evangelism.[32] The emerging church considers this to be unhelpful. Murray summarizes Christendom values as: a commitment to hierarchy and the status quo; the loss of lay involvement; institutional values rather than community focus; church at the centre of society rather than the margins; the use of political power to bring in the Kingdom; religious compulsion; punitive rather than restorative justice; marginalisation of women, the poor, and dissident movements; inattentiveness to the criticisms of those outraged by the historic association of Christianity with patriarchy, warfare, injustice and patronage; partiality for respectability and top-down mission; attractional evangelism; assuming the Christian story is known; and a preoccupation with the rich and powerful.[32]

The emerging church seeks a post-Christendom approach to being church and mission through: renouncing imperialistic approaches to language and cultural imposition; making 'truth claims' with humility and respect; overcoming the public/private dichotomy; moving church from the center to the margins; moving from a place of privilege in society to one voice amongst many; a transition from control to witness, maintenance to mission and institution to movement.[citation needed]

In the face of criticism, some in the emerging church respond that this it is important to attempt a "both and" approach to redemptive and incarnational theologies. Some Evangelicals and Fundamentalists are perceived as "overly redemptive" and therefore in danger of condemning people by communicating the Good News in aggressive and angry ways.[33] A more loving and affirming approach is proposed in the context of post-modernity where distrust may occur in response to power claims. It is suggested that this can form the basis of a constructive engagement with 21st century post-industrial western cultures. According to Ian Mobsby, the suggestion that the emerging church is mainly focused on deconstruction and the rejection of current forms of church should itself be rejected.[34]

Postmodern worldview and hermeneutics

The emerging church is a response to the perceived influence of modernism in Western Christianity. As some sociologists commented on a cultural shift that they believed to correspond to postmodern ways of perceiving reality in the late 20th century, some Christians began to advocate changes within the church in response. These Christians saw the contemporary church as being culturally bound to modernism. They changed their practices to relate to the new cultural situation. Emerging Christians began to challenge the modern church on issues such as: institutional structures, systematic theology, propositional teaching methods, a perceived preoccupation with buildings, an attractional understanding of mission, professional clergy, and a perceived preoccupation with the political process and unhelpful jargon ("Christian-ese").[35]

As a result, some in the emerging church believe it is necessary to deconstruct modern Christian dogma. One way this happens is by engaging in dialogue, rather than proclaiming a predigested message, believing that this leads people to Jesus through the Holy Spirit on their own terms. Many in the movement embrace the missiology that drives the movement in an effort to be like Christ and make disciples by being a good example. The emerging church movement contains a great diversity in beliefs and practices, although some have adopted a preoccupation with sacred rituals, good works, and political and social activism. Much of the Emerging Church movement has also adopted the approach to evangelism which stressed peer-to-peer dialogue rather than dogmatic proclamation and proselytizing.[36]

A plurality of Scriptural interpretations is acknowledged in the emerging church movement. Participants in the movement exhibit a particular concern for the effect of the modern reader's cultural context on the act of interpretation echoing the ideas of postmodern thinkers such as Jacques Derrida and Stanley Fish. Therefore a narrative approach to Scripture, and history are emphasized in some emerging churches over exegetical and dogmatic approaches (such as that found in systematic theology and systematic exegesis), which are often viewed as reductionist. Others embrace a multiplicity of approaches.

A Generous orthodoxy

Some emerging church leaders see interfaith dialogue a means to share their narratives as they learn from the narratives of others.[37] Some Emerging Church Christians believe there are radically diverse perspectives within Christianity that are valuable for humanity to progress toward truth and a better resulting relationship with God, and that these different perspectives deserve Christian charity rather than condemnation.[38]

A Centered set mindset

The movement appropriates set theory as a means of understanding a basic change in the way the Christian church thinks about itself as a group. Set theory is a concept in mathematics that allows an understanding of what numbers belong to a group, or set. A bounded set would describe a group with clear "in" and "out" definitions of membership. The Christian church has largely organized itself as a bounded set, those who share the same beliefs and values are in the set and those who disagree are outside.[39]

The centered set does not limit membership to pre-conceived boundaries. Instead a centered set is conditioned on a centered point. Membership is contingent on those who are moving toward that point. Elements moving toward a particular point are part of the set, but elements moving away from that point are not. As a centered-set Christian membership would be dependent on moving toward the central point of Jesus. A Christian is then defined by their focus and movement toward Christ rather than a limited set of shared beliefs and values.[39]

John Wimber utilized the centered set understanding of membership in his Vineyard Churches. The centered set theory of Christian Churches came largely from missional anthropologist Paul Hiebert. The centered set understanding of membership allows for a clear vision of the focal point, the ability to move toward that point without being tied down to smaller diversions, a sense of total egalitarianism with respect for differing opinions, and an authority moved from individual members to the existing center.[40]

Authenticity and conversation

The movement favors the sharing of experiences via testimonies, prayer, group recitation, sharing meals and other communal practices, which they believe are more personal and sincere than propositional presentations of the Gospel. Teachers in the Emerging Church tend to view the Bible and its stories through a lens which they believe finds significance and meaning for their community's social and personal stories rather than for the purpose of finding cross-cultural, propositional absolutes regarding salvation and conduct.[41]

The emerging church claims they are creating a safe environment for those with opinions ordinarily rejected within modern conservative evangelicalism and fundamentalism. Non-critical, interfaith dialog is preferred over dogmatically-driven evangelism in the movement.[42] Story and narrative replaces the dogmatic:
The relationship between words and images has changed in contemporary culture. In a post-foundational world, it is the power of the image that takes us to the text. The bible is no longer a principal source of morality, functioning as a rulebook. The gradualism of postmodernity has transformed the text into a guide, a source of spirituality, in which the power of the story as a moral reference point has superseded the didactic. Thus the meaning of the Good Samaritan is more important than the Ten Commandments - even assuming that the latter could be remembered in any detail by anyone. Into this milieau the image speaks with power.[43]
Those in the movement do not engage in aggressive apologetics or confrontational evangelism in the traditional sense, preferring to encourage the freedom to discover truth through conversation and relationships with the Christian community.[44]

Missional living

Participants in this movement assert that the incarnation of Christ informs their theology. They believe that as God entered the world in human form, adherents enter (individually and communally) into the context around them and aim to transform that culture through local involvement. This holistic involvement may take many forms, including social activism, hospitality and acts of kindness. This beneficent involvement in culture is part of what is called missional living.[45] Missional living leads to a focus on temporal and social issues, in contrast with a perceived evangelical overemphasis on salvation. Drawing on research and models of contextual theology, Mobsby asserts that the emerging church is using different models of contextual theology than conservative evangelicals, who tend to use a "translation" model of contextual theology[46] (which has been criticized for being colonialist and condescending toward other cultures); the emerging church tends to use a "synthetic" or "transcendent" model of contextual theology.[47] The emerging church has charged many conservative evangelical churches with withdrawal from involvement in contextual mission and seeking the contextualization of the gospel.[48]
Christian communities must learn to deal with the problems and possibilities posed by life in the "outside" world. But of more importance, any attempt on the part of the church to withdraw from the world would be in effect a denial of its mission.[49]
Many emerging churches have put a strong emphasis on contextualization and, therefore, contextual theology. Contextual theology has been defined as "A way of doing theology in which one takes into account: the spirit and message of the gospel; the tradition of the Christian people; the culture in which one is theologising; and social change in that culture."[50] Emerging churches, drawing on this synthetic (or transcendent) model of contextual theology, seek to have a high view towards the Bible, the Christian people, culture, humanity and justice. It is this "both...and" approach that distinguishes contextual theology.[51][52]

Emerging communities participate in social action, community involvement, global justice and sacrificial hospitality in an effort to know and share God's grace. At a conference entitled "The Emerging Church Forum" in 2006, John Franke said “The Church of Jesus Christ is not the goal of the Gospel, just the instrument of the extension of God’s mission.” “The Church has been slow to recognize that missions isn’t (sic) a program the Church administers, it is the very core of the Church’s reason for being.”[53] This focus on missional living and practicing radical hospitality has led many emerging churches to deepen what they are doing by developing a rhythm of life, and a vision of missional loving engagement with the world.[54]
A mixture of emerging Churches, Fresh Expressions of Church and mission initiatives arising out of the charismatic traditions, have begun describing themselves as new monastic communities. They again draw on a combination of the Mystical Communion Model and Sacramental Models, with a core concern to engage with the question of how we should live. The most successful of these have experimented with a combination of churches centred on place and network, with intentional communities, cafes and centres to practice hospitality. Many also have a rhythm, or rule of life to express what it means to be Christian in a postmodern context.[55]
Communitarian or egalitarian ecclesiology

Proponents of the movement communicate and interact through fluid and open networks because the movement is decentralized with little institutional coordination. Because of the participation values named earlier, being community through participation affects the governance of most Emerging Churches. Participants avoid power relationships, attempting to gather in ways specific to their local context. In this way some in the movement share with the house church movements a willingness to challenge traditional church structures/organizations though they also respect the different expressions of traditional Christian denominations.[56]

International research suggests that some Emerging Churches are utilizing a Trinitarian basis to being church through what Avery Dulles calls 'The Mystical Communion Model of Church'.[57]

  • Not an institution but a fraternity (or sorority).
  • Church as interpersonal community.
  • Church as a fellowship of persons - a fellowship of people with God and with one another in Christ.
  • Connects strongly with the mystical 'body of Christ' as a communion of the spiritual life of faith, hope and charity.
  • Resonates with Aquinas' notion of the Church as the principle of unity that dwells in Christ and in us, binding us together and in him.
  • All the external means of grace, (sacraments, scripture, laws etc.) are secondary and subordinate; their role is simply to dispose people for an interior union with God effected by grace.[58]

Dulles sees the strength in this approach being acceptable to both Protestant and Catholic:
In stressing the continual mercy of God and the continual need of the Church for repentance, the model picks up Protestant theology... [and] in Roman Catholicism... when it speaks of the church as both holy and sinful, as needing repentance and reform...[59]
The biblical notion of Koinonia, ... that God has fashioned for himself a people by freely communicating his Spirit and his gifts ... this is congenial to most Protestants and Orthodox ... [and] has an excellent foundation in the Catholic tradition.[60]

Creative and rediscovered spirituality

This can involve everything from expressive, neocharismatic style of worship and the use of contemporary music and films to more ancient liturgical customs and eclectic expressions of spirituality, with the goal of making the church gathering reflect the local community's tastes.

Emerging church practitioners are happy to take elements of worship from a wide variety of historic traditions, including traditions of the Catholic Church, the Anglican churches, the Orthodox churches, and Celtic Christianity. From these and other religious traditions emerging church groups take, adapt and blend various historic church practices including liturgy, prayer beads, icons, spiritual direction, the labyrinth, and lectio divina. The Emerging Church is also sometimes called the "Ancient-Future" church.[61]

One of the key social drives in Western Post-industrialised countries, is the rise in new/old forms of mysticism.[62][63] This rise in spirituality appears to be driven by the effects of consumerism, globalisation and advances in information technology.[64] Therefore, the Emerging Church is operating in a new context of postmodern spirituality, as a new form of mysticism. This capitalizes on the social shift in starting assumptions from the situation that most are regarded as materialist/atheist (the modern position), to the fact that many people now believe in and are searching for something more spiritual (postmodern view). This has been characterised as a major shift from religion to spirituality.[65]

So, in the new world of 'spiritual tourism', the Emerging Church Movement is seeking to missionally assist people to shift from being spiritual tourists to Christian pilgrims. Many are drawing on ancient Christian resources recontextualised into the contemporary such as contemplation and contemplative forms of prayer, symbolic multi-sensory worship, story telling and many others.[66] This again has required a change in focus as the majority of unchurched and dechurched people are seeking 'something that works' rather than something that is 'true'.[67]

Use of new technologies

Emerging-church groups use the Internet as a medium of decentralized communication. Church websites are used as announcement boards for community activity, and they are generally a hub for more participation based new technologies such as blogs, Facebook groups, Twitter accounts, etc. The use of the blog is an especially popular and appropriate means of communication within the Emerging church. Through blogs, members converse about theology, philosophy, art, culture, politics, and social justice, both among their local congregations and across the broader Emerging community. These blogs can be seen to embrace both sacred and secular culture side-by-side as an excellent example of the church's focus on contextual theology.

Morality and justice

Drawing on a more 'Missional Morality' that again turns to the synoptic gospels of Christ, many emerging-church groups draw on an understanding of God seeking to restore all things back into restored relationship. This emphasises God's graceful love approach to discipleship, in following Christ who identified with the socially excluded and ill, in opposition to the Pharisees and Sadducees and their purity rules.[68]

Under this movement, traditional Christians' emphasis on either individual salvation, end-times theology or the prosperity gospel have been challenged.[69][70] Many people in the movement express concern for what they consider to be the practical manifestation of God's kingdom on earth, by which they mean social justice. This concern manifests itself in a variety of ways depending on the local community and in ways they believe transcend "modernist" labels of "conservative" and "liberal." This concern for justice is expressed in such things as feeding the poor, visiting the sick and prisoners, stopping contemporary slavery, critiquing systemic and coercive power structures with "postcolonial hermeneutics," and working for environmental causes.[71]

See also

References
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  2. ^ "From the Margins: Engaging Missional Life in the Seventh-day Adventist Church", Theological News and Notes, Fall 2008, Fuller Theological Seminary.
  3. ^ McLaren, Brian, Finding our Way Again (Nashville, Tenn: Thomas Nelson, 2008). ISBN 978-0-8499-0114-0. dedication.
  4. ^ Webber, Robert, John Burke, Dan Kimball, Doug Pagitt, Karen M. Ward, and Mark Driscoll. Listening to the Beliefs of Emerging Churches: Five Perspectives. (Grand Rapids, Mich: Zondervan, 2007) p. 102. ISBN 978-0-310-27135-2
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  21. ^ Stuary Murray, Church After Christendom, (as above), 74.
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  24. ^ Ian Mobsby, The Becoming of G-d, (Oxford: YTC Press, 2008),65-82.>
  25. ^ Ian Mobsby, Emerging & Fresh Expressions of Church, (London:Moot Community Publishing, 2007).
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  39. ^ Phyllis Tickle, The Great Emergence
  40. ^ Frost, Michael (2007-09-14). "Intriguing Michael Frost video". Michael Frost, Founding Director of Centre for Evangelism & Global Mission at Morling Theological College in Sydney, speaks to authenticity as bringing a "living among them" type of Christianity rather than cross-cultural absolutes regarding salvation and conduct. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_YaXbkD1sgs&eurl=http://missiodeiscandia.wordpress.com/category/emerging-church/. Retrieved 2008-04-05.
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  42. ^ M Percy, The Salt of the Earth: Religious resilience in a Secular Age, (London, Continuum, 2002), 165.
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  54. ^ Ian Mobsby, The Becoming of G-d, (Oxford: YTC Press, 2008), 30-1.
  55. ^ and a significant number of emerging church proponents remain in denominationally identified communities. There is also a significant presence within the movement that remains within traditional denominational structures. (Missional) "Emergent Village: Values and Practices". http://www.emergentvillage.org/about-information/values-and-practices. Retrieved 2006-08-09.
  56. ^ A Dulles, Models of Church, (New York: Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Ltd, 1991).
  57. ^ I Mobsby, Emerging & Fresh Expressions of Church, (London: Moot Community Publishing, 2007), 54-5.
  58. ^ A Dulles, Models of Church (New York: Bantam Doubleday Dell, 1991) 46
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  62. ^ J Caputo, On Religion, (London:Routledge, 2001).
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  64. ^ Barry Taylor, Entertainment Theology, (Grand Rapids:Baker, 2008), 14-15.
  65. ^ I Mobsby, The Becoming of G-d, (Oxford: YTC Press, 2008), 83-96.
  66. ^ Barry Taylor, Entertainment Theology, (Grand Rapids:Baker, 2008), 96-102.
  67. ^ See http://www.contracostatimes.com/ci_9495041
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