At a conference I was helping to lead recently, a really nice and interesting person asked me, “Why are you a part of presbymergent? I read your blog, and I just don’t get the connection.” He was confused, because I am a pastor at a traditional, progressive, mainline congregation, and he sees the emerging movement as neo-Evangelical.
There are a lot of ways that I answer this question (it’s a questions I get a lot). The main one is that Karen Sloan asked me to be a part of it, and it would be pretty ridiculous of me to write about encouraging young leaders in the church, and then say that I would not be a part of a group of (mostly) young leaders in the church. Plus, other people started calling me “emerging.” It wasn’t really a namebadge that I picked out for myself.
Since the initial ask, though, I have grown very fond of this creative, eclectic, quirky community. We argue and pray together. We dream of what the church could be. We have a lot of warts–gigantic egos (mine included), evangelical baggage, and too many collars. We’re extremely weak on social justice, ethnic diversity, and the number of men far exceeds the number of women.
Some people have joined the conversation through the Emergent Village, and others are like me, we don’t resonate a whole lot with EV, we disagree with many things that the EV leadership has to say, but we’re still excited about what the church might become. We have three main goals for this year: (1) set up cohorts where conversations can take place and connections can be made, (2) set up spaces for events to take place and creative energy to be stimulated, and (3) encourage and raise funds for new churches (or communities).
After explaining all of this, my new friend responded, “So… if you change the name, I’d love to be a part of it.”
it’s like a group of kids who just got finished playing kickball for 7-8 years straight. and now a new group of kids from another school just showed up and want to play again and act like kickball is their idea and their game. and a bunch of media conglomerates show up and slap logos on the kickballs. and they bring in announcers. set up all of their bleachers and stuff on our home turf. and try and start a game of kickball with us.
it just seems laughable.
I did laugh pretty hard at the comment, but after I stopped giggling, I had to admit that this is the most annoying part of the emerging church movement. Or…can you call something a movement when they look with disdain on people who join? What’s that called? A stopment?
There is the hope for revolution, but then there’s a pernicious elitism that questions people who join the conversation later, or who might be a part of a denomination, or those who fall under that most amorphous and damning category–the people who “just don’t get it.”
How long can the hyphen-mergent hang in there, while we’re being constantly criticized for our loyalty to our denominations and our ordinations? How can a movement be a part of a 500-year reformation, when they look with disdain at those who join the conversation after ten?
So, will presbymergents change their name? Maybe. But it probably won’t occur because of the “-mergent” part. It would be to change the “presby-” part, since a couple of our important leaders have had to defect to other denominations because of the pernicious ordination hazing that can occur in certain areas of our country. (But, then if we changed the name, then we would have to change the logo, and that would be a serious headache.)
Either way would be okay, since I’m not sure that it’s about the name. It’s more about the interesting people and conversations that have arisen, and the relationships that have formed. We might not cause a revolution, we may not overturn the whole course of Christianity, but we’ll keep working in our own small corners, and we’ll keep dreaming about what could be.