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December 17, 2004



good questions Bill. I have the same frustrations with the insistence on keeping it nebulous. Although I understand that people don't want to be boxed in too soon to something too small, in the end the Church (and any other social organisation) has only ever acieved or become anything by organising and naming itself.


I appreciate your reflections. This article seems to dovetail with your arguments quite nicely: It writes, "This side of the Eschaton, there’ll be no crawling out of our political skins."

Another Adam

Please allow me to echo my ramblings from the pomomusings site. I think they may apply even more so here:


So, who is Emergent? Obviously there are some differing views of what Emergent is. Are those who see Emergent as a change in method and look (Christianity Today article) the representatives of Emergent? Are those who see Emergent primarily as a theological move the representatives of Emergent? Are the ones with the greater numbers the representatives?

I think perhaps the C-Today article was right on with what Emergent is. However, unfortunately that isnt what many people want it to be (including myself).

Has Emergent been hijacked by method pushers? Has the theology (the heart of Emergent to some) been thrown out and lost to the majority who are mainstream "Emergers"?

I think perhaps some of this has to do with the problem with movements. As a movement Emergent may be taken captive by the majority - as a conversation all are more included.

But what does the conversation lead to if not a movement?

Sorry for my possibly incoherent ramblings...


Thanks for asking, Bill!

I think maybe what can work best, for now, is a sort of "conversation with legs."

A conversation risks becoming just about talk. A movement risks being stuffed into some sort of pigeon-hole by closed-minded philosophical, theological, or religious pundits, which would make us look like another group with walls around us. (That's not to say Emergent insiders can't take good care of themselves; or, rather, that God can't take care of Himself.)

A "conversation with legs" may have just enough heart and energy to keep the critics at bay. What we're talking about here is the Word and the Walk. I think at all costs we should protect the truth of those critical theological elements -- and protect rabidly the reputation of Jesus Christ.

And to your second question: I agree with you that people within the church are as vulnerable to confusion as people outside of it. We should consider all of them -- and all of us -- to be needy of God's wisdom and power.




I think that people should allow those who started this conversation to have some input into that. I hope to contribute what I think should be happening, but I don't expect to be able to hijack it, know what I mean? And that's whether I'm in the majority or not.

Now, I realize that sometimes peoples' ideas ARE hijacked. Sometimes outside forces turn things into something they weren't meant to be. Maybe that even happened in the Reformation a little bit; I don't know.

I can't say that I can agree with your (or Andy Crouch's) assessment of where Emergent is at. That just hasn't been my experience.

Also, hope I don't just sound like I'm being disagreeable, but I don't know that keeping something as a conversation versus a movement keeps it more protected from being hijacked. In fact, I think quite the opposite. I wonder if Emergent will not continue to be misunderstood by more and more people unless key leaders get a little more specific about what they would like Emergent to be.

Thanks for the comments. Let's keep the conversation going.


One thing I've seen is that the Emergent conversation is primarily an English-speaking phemonemon. The loci of the movement is the U.K. (supposedly 10 years ahead of the U.S. in many ways - see tallskinnykiwi's post today) followed by the "colonies", Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the U.S. I'm awaiting this "conversation with legs" (a great metaphor, by the way) to cross into other languages and cultures. Most scholars see the center of Christianity moving to the global south (i.e., Developing World) in the next few years and this will bring new challenges to the emergent convo. The church is the Developing World tends to be very conservative and remains deeply mired in modernist presumptions. I'm hoping to see more overseas relationships develop between "emergent-friendly" churches and churches in the Developing World. The challenge is not to be "neo-colonial" but let change happen through relationship as it has mostly been in our own UK, US, Aussie, Kiwi, Canadian contexts. Thought?



Personally, I don't think it has developed enough to do much crossing over. And I'm starting to wonder what exactly it is they're calling emerging in the U.K. as it is. I think Emergent (the organization) needs to do a lot more thinking about how they want to represent themselves. I also wonder if they will be able to continue to spread their "conversation" unless they define what it is they are all about a little more.

I say that, but actually, they have a whole page on www.emergentvillage.com that defines who they are. I recently wrote a series of posts discussing their statements. The first one is here. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem like many others are discussing these "value statements." Or maybe I just don't get around in the blogosphere enough.

What you say about challenges from the global south makes sense. Thoroughly Modern approaches to ministry, evangelism, what have you will probably still have a positive effect for quite some time. But how long will that last? I wonder if the extent of globalization in our society will speed up the need there for a more postmodern approach.

I think we (on the outside) need to be post-colonial in our approach. We need to have a clear sense of emerging values that cut across denominational and cultural boundaries. We could then hopefully facilitate the realization of those values in South/Central American countries (or wherever) but without trying to make those cultures accomodate to us. Ideally, it would be an organic expression of those communities. Is that what you're getting at?

Goyo in Nicaragua

I've been thinking recently about how the history of popular church methodology often imitates the business climate of its time. Especially interesting is how the management revolution of the mid-20th Century helped to produce the megachurches and now that this model is shifting (due to the deconstructing and individual-empowering influence of information technology - not to mention the recent corporate scandals such as Enron). The transitional period we're now in is producing noth a new necessity and a new openness to new models. The most promising new model, most consiatent with the postmodern cultural shift is the pan-information, flat management, locally-planted/globally-cognizant style - a style which "emergent church" seems quite friendly to. The fact that it's being so slow to define itself is in itself an important trait of the nature and character of this new "movement" (yes, I'll call it a movement). I see the resistance to definition as a temporary thing - though we need people like yourself pushing to get it defined and this definition will be worked out not primarily in seminaries but in the blogosphere. So here we go....


It's a movement. This is the thing that cracks me up about the emerging "conversation". "If we call it a *converSAtion* it's then something else." Maybe it's just me, but you could call a cow a Fizzyplog, but it still weighs a lot, gives milk and moos. This whole vernacular thing drives me nuts. Love the whole emerging idea, but the terminology nazis make we want to scream.


I agree with your thoughts on those in the church. Jesus said he came for the sick, not the healthy and as far as I can tell, Emergent people feel the church is sick. So shouldn't they be trying to reach them? I have had the opportunity to hear a couple of the main Emergent guys speak live and it seems to me that they think everyone should just pick up and leave the modern church and not try to stick it out and fight (bad choice of words maybe, but can't think of anything but fight). People who are sick often don't want to hear that they are sick, but need to.


Amen, Kevin.

Lisa, I think that in struggling to decide what to call it, they are struggling to define what they want it to be. You may be right that, at this point, it is becoming a "movement" no matter what they call it, though.

I haven't been a part of this conversation (whoops) for very long, but I assume Emergent's resistance to calling itself a movement has something to do with a desire for humility. Or maybe it's because they want to differentiate themselves from other "movements" of recent history. I don't really know. It strikes me that we can try too hard to be humble, though. I think of Moses, who was such a pain in the ass when God was trying to get him to do something new for Israel.

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