I have been watching another little internet spat rumbling on over the past few weeks about this thing called ’emerging church.’ I resisted posting anything myself because I was not entirely sure what my own thoughts were- and to be honest the arguments about EC are wearing very thin.
Not that I do not still think the term is useful- for me it is still something that has meaning. But more as a description of process, not of destination.
It was always inevitable that this rather formless, leaderless movement, gathered together through blogs and podcasts more than in books and buildings, would ebb and flow, splinter and reform. This is what seems to be happening. The early adopters of the label have mostly moved on- radicals tend to have short attention spans, and perhaps to0 easily offend or take offence.
The latest discussion/disruption began with this post by Kester Brewin– who was reflecting on his impression of the return of a lot of early pioneer leaders seemed to be returning to the institutions that they left.
‘Romantic tosh’ said Jonny Baker. He pointed out that it had never been an either-or situation, but a both-and. A lot of the new forms of Church had been actively fostered and supported by traditional church forms- particularly by the C of E in England. Here is Jonny talking about this very thing back in 2008 (perhaps it is a sign of how much things have changed recently that this seems a long time ago?)-
So- for my two penny worth, here is the view from up north.
U here the influence of the ’emerging conversation’ has been strong, if a few years behind the English experience. However despite the use of the term within some of our big religious institutions (the Church of Scotland here for example) there has been little physical development, or signs of significant innovation around new forms of Church- unless I am missing something.
Perhaps this is in part because the sectarian entrenchment, both between Catholic and Protestant, and between embattled protestant groups (who still tend to be more interested in fighting dogmatic truth wars) has been so pervasive up here. The influence of American style fundamentalism via satellite TV is also a constant irritation to me.
My small group often feels isolated. We have sought to make friendships and partnerships wherever we can, and to network ourselves to others with whom we can share activities and stories. Up here, the issue is not whether emerging church is retreating back to institutions, but rather a question of where those of us who are seeking to find new ways of doing church will find any kind of mutual support and mentoring.
All movements need leadership. Those of us that have been inoculated against ‘modern’ leadership (by our experience of Church) tend to eschew the forms of church that are led like large industrial-military organisations. For this reason, the leadership required by us is of a very particular kind- I have written about this before- here.
But I simply do not care whether these leaders are part of a large institution or not.
Although my impression is that the generosity and tolerance seen in the old C of E perhaps makes it well suited to the task…
I wonder where we will be in 5 years? We live in interesting times.