Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Some answers from Salem, MA defining the "Emergent Church"

These people are not Emergent professionals.  They have not written books defining emergent, nor do they get paid for something which gets placed under the emergent banner.  They are just regular people.  Some know the Emergent professionals - you know who I mean, Brian McLaren, Tony Jones, etc.  Some don't.  Some have gone or are going to seminary.  Some have not and will not.  They are regular people without an agenda to define the Emergent Church/Conversation or whatever they choose to call it.  Different backgrounds, different reasons for being part of the conversation.  But listen to what they have to say.  This is the first three out of six responses I taped at an Emergent Cohort meeting in Salem, MA.

Here's Ben.  I like Ben.  He's pretty cool.  I guess he looks pretty emergent too.  Check out the glasses, and yes, he's a Mac guy.

This is Carlos.  What he doesn't tell you is that he is a Sociology Professor.  We had a dialogue about the roles of gender in the church - well, he teaches this stuff at University.

This is Cindy.  Cindy rocks.  She runs Kupenda.  Please check it out by following the link.


Bruce said...

Hi my brother Phil.
As much as I love you and my self-described Emergent friends, concern about "emergent" seems to go the wrong direction. Too introspective rather than outward focussed. Maybe that's just me.

I thought the Emergent focus was based in "being too busy making history than to write history," being too busy living theology than to write about it. That's my charitable estimation of the whole movement, in that there is a conspicuous absence of fine distiction and definition throughout. That's probably ok if people are too busy with living it out to be all scholastic about it.

Best, my friend. Bruce

Pastor Phil said...

Hey Bruce,

I guess my question would be: is that is an observation from the distance looking in, or from close inspection by contact with groups identifying as emergent?

I am not sure the answers above track with your findings. Living out the Christian life "without a cultural lens" as described Cindy who ruins a non-profit helping children with disabilities in Kenya isn't exactly navel gazing.

So I am not sure what you mean by your history reference. Let's face it many people who made history were writers too, so the quote as an illustration will necessarily break down somewhere.

Bruce said...

I have close contact with people who call themselves emergent. Being "too busy making history to be writing it", is from Perry Miller about the early Puritans but applies to all early movements, and I mean it to say that they're doing stuff. Cindy running a non-profit is a great thing, a very good thing, and she's not trying to prove a point so much as help kids in Kenya. Showing the love of God in Salem is another.

So I think that being busy with doing our faith, living out our religion as James says, with widows and orphans and loving our neighbors and praying without anger and so forth--those are all good things. Emergent people and groups, when they're at their best, focus on these things, i.e., being followers of Christ.

On the other hand, the literature of emergent churches as a movement, which I've read a bunch of, seems to be a little reactionary (like, oh, reacting against Augustine and Calvin and Luther personally), and filled with logical fallacies in their arguments, and (willfully?) ignorant of the historical development of doctrine and the church. And I mean the flagship books and speakers of the movement.

But all these things, for all the negatives that they are, are pretty unimportant compared to following Christ in the early stages of a person and a group's walk of obedience. So I'm good with the emergent churches and people who are followers of Christ. It's just that in the normal growth of persons and groups that they cease reacting, and embrace good historical perspective and the intellectual virtues of logic--without failing in love or zeal.

I've done this whole start-a-movement thing a couple of times already, and am pretty close to emergent folks, as I mentioned. And I love them, and you all. In the grace and sovereignty of God, there's room to move, to try stuff, to do stuff.

If my email bounces, I don't know why. I'll send you a separate note to make sure you've got my current addresses.

James said...

In order to demonstrate emergent conversation:

I must vehemently disagree with cindy. I think that we should not seek to read the bible "without a cultural lens." In my opinion, the problem is that we have simply been using the wrong lens. We operate from a modern, guilt driven, western society. The bible was written to an Honor-Shame driven, middle eastern of 2-4 thousand years ago. Do you think this impacts our understanding of scripture? You bet. Me miss the boat on all kinds of clues. Women with long hair that was uncovered were considered prostitutes in scripture. We just don't get Leverite marriage. We have no concept of what 40 days/years means. We don't operate where it is improper for women to sit with or interact with political leaders and those in authority. So when Jesus upends these traditions, we simply don't get it. In order to "get it" we just need to be equipped with the correct cultural lens.

Pastor Phil said...

Hey James,

I actually imagine that if you and Cindy unpacked what you both mean the two of you would be saying the same thing.

There is a transcendence of the Gospel which goes above culture - not making unimportant, but not making it a barrier either.