I’m writing out a proposal because I’ve been asked to teach a course on the emerging church movement. I’m incredibly excited about the project. I get this way whenever I begin to think about art and liturgy and church in a new generation.
But there is something nagging me. In the back of my head, I’m wondering… who am I to be talking about the emerging church? I understand the deep shifts that are occurring in ecclesiology and culture. Yet, I wrote Tribal Church so that I could be an additional voice in the mix, not so I could join the choir. My work with young adults as a young adult has always been within a traditional, intergenerational context.
First, let me tell you what I love, love, love about the emerging church movement (ECM). I was in a meeting with Tim Keel, who said that they planted their church by gathering a group of artists together. Now, how cool is that? The visionary, innovative nature is all over the place in these gatherings. The engagement of art and technology is extremely exciting. We’re de/reconstructing the church, and something beautiful is coming out. I’m passionate about starting new churches, and the ECM has given us new vision to do just that.
I love the ECM because there’s now a place where my friends can serve. I’m pretty sure that I was born in a business suit. My memory’s a little fuzzy, but I bet that I came out of the womb wearing little infant high heels and a string of pearls. But the people I hang out with? Not so much. In seminary, my spikey-haired, pierced husband was frequently asked, “Now, how do you ever expect to find a job?” Well, he did what most pastors do in that situation: he let the holes grow in and the hair grow out. He looks quite respectable now. Yet, what if he didn’t have to change who he was to get a job? What if the church just accepted him? I imagine this won’t be such a problem any more…at least this is my hope.
I love the ECM because it gives ex-fundies (like me) a refuge. There’s an entire generation of people who grew up in conservative evangelical churches who were told that they had to be Republicans to go to heaven. We were told that caring for the earth didn’t matter, because Jesus was coming back any time now. We were told that the rich were rich because God blessed them and the poor were poor because they deserved it. We were told that women were to always graciously submit to men. We were told that same-gender relationships were an abomination. And none of this made sense in the actual world that we lived in and loved. But the emerging church has become a place for these people.
I love the ECM because I’m postmodern. I’m truly excited by the human messiness of postmodern theology and thought. And the emerging church is a cultural engagement in the midst of it.
And the number one reason why I love the ECM? Because we’re reaching back to the spiritual traditions of prayer, chant, and meditation. We’re refashioning them in a new time and place. The Holy Spirit is moving….
There are things I don’t like as well. When I’m asked to teach courses on the emerging church, I always want to respond, “Okay…But….”
I guess I’m mostly offended by some of the emerging church leaders’ caricatures of the mainline denominational church (MDC), especially the particular notion of the denominational church that everyone’s in it to keep an antiquated dinosaur propped up. I joined a MDC because it is the place where the theology made the most sense and because I, as a woman, can live out my calling.
I joined the MDC, not because of its power structure, but because it doesn’t allow power to run amuck. I appreciate its ability to keep the egos in check. I joined the mainline because it’s a place where there’s a weekly call to confession and a clear system of external accountability (I’ve just been involved with too many clergy pedophile cases…).
I don’t understand some of the emerging church leadership’s cynicism regarding mainline pensions. The claim that we’re all in it for the big fat payoff at retirement, to which I want to respond, “Okay. You’ve got me pegged. I freely admit it. I don’t want to eat dog food when I’m seventy. So does that really make me less of a hard-core follower of Jesus?” Don’t these guys see how the old people in their congregations live? Oh yeah…I guess not.
I don’t understand why more women aren’t in leadership positions. I’ve been told it’s because it’s a meritocracy and as soon as women start producing, then they can be in leadership. But I see women producing all the time. Beautifully. Just not usually in emerging church leadership. And I’m not stepping into a feminist time warp to become a part of a movement.
There’s my big but.
And here’s another but. It is a movement…a cultural overturning that goes far beyond what the guys who created this particular tag think.
So, what do you think?
the photo’s entitled “dog food kaleidoscope” by Tobyotter