I have been reading various blogs and comments about the jolly old Emerging Church. It all went something like this-
TSK kicked it all off here. In an interesting piece of reflection, he suggested that EC had progressed to a point where the early radicalism and controversy had more or less subsided, as ideas from the early debates and conversations are increasingly adopted by mainstream churches. Here, for example in the UK, by the Church of England, the Methodists, the Church of Scotland and the United Reformed Church amongst others.
TSK also gave a list of more global church developments that have moved from left wing to become more mainstream in this post.
The kiwi feller is far better placed than me to make general statements about the state of the Emerging world. However, he seems to have tweaked a dragons tail. Others, notably Tony Jones appeared to feel that TSK was saying that the EC was OVER. So he had a bit of a go- taking a swipe at a couple of other church movements along the way.
Then there was the inevitable (and rather graceful I thought) response from TSK here. And other issues started creeping in- marriage, homosexuality, Marx… how I weary of these shallow self defeating arguments. I have met some of the folk involved, and communicated with others. They may be good folk, but this kind of discussion is not good.
It seems an inevitable progression of fragile allegiances of activists however. Eventually they collect as many reasons to disagree as they do to co-operate… and we followers of Jesus continue the same discordant path that we are so familiar with over the last 2000 years.
If this is how we in the EC (or whatever we come to call it) deal with one another- then perhaps we have no right to any kind of organisational future…
I spent a couple of days chewing on it.
The first thing that surprised me, is that I found I did not really care whether the EC was ‘over’ or not. I think I would have done previously. Perhaps this in itself is an indication of some kind of change afoot…
I should be clear that I still hold the term (and the conversation that is around it) in great affection. It is still a label I find useful- in terms of defining who I am, and the streams of good things and good people that it connected me with.
Here in Scotland, it seems to me that we still need connection, encouragement and hope for new things. We are some distance behind other parts of the UK in engaging with the decline of church, and the post modern realities of an unfolding new Scotland. It seems to me that we have more need for the label here still…
As I see things from Dunoon, we still face some real challenges here.
If TSK is right, and established church is adopting the ’emerging’ stuff- then I for one celebrate this. These ideas can be carriers of new life into our declining faith organisations.
But I fear it too. Because establishments tend to kill movements in the cage of their own tradition- or dilute the ideas in a brew that has too many existing constituents for the new yeast ever to succeed. Also- activists are not good at joining, and tend to be unwelcome in polite circles.
To put it another way- ’emergence’ can be seen as a lifeboat for sinking ships of faith. A way for the empty pews to fill, and leaky roofs to be made secure again. A way of returning to the past. A change of language but business as usual.
For people like me, this will never be enough.
What we hoped for was a new move of the Spirit of God- inspiring and shaping us to think new thoughts about the mission of Jesus. Driving us out of our narrow traditions and religious boxes to where the people are. Not in order to hit them with our bible clubs and capture them for the Lord, but rather to serve and bless wherever we can.
Has this happened already?
Perhaps in a thousand small ways, it already has. A very different kind of revolution.