Last week Thursday, the uprooted.west cohort gathered at Gino's East back in its familiar "garage" space where, happily, there was no trouble at all hearing each other. Great to have some new folks again to join us in exploring the "frontier" of the emerging church with the help of Tony Jones's book.
I think I said at the end that we'd be discussing Chapter 3 at our March gathering, but now that I see it's on the shorter side, let's make that Chapters 3-4.
Much of our conversation last week revolved around what Jones calls at different points the "squishiness" or "slipperiness" of the emergent movement. If what emergent Christians share is indeed an "ethos, a vibe, a sensibility" (p.39), and--in lieu of membership of doctrine--the binding force of friendship (p.56), well, the question that keeps arising is: "Is that enough?"
We spent some time identifying some of the recurring emergent characteristics that connected with our own experience. Especially prominent was a penchant for eclecticism, possibly stemming from the diversity of church forms present in our own backgrounds. There is a real hunger to experience the wideness of the Church by being in touch with various expressions of it at the same time and having relationships spread across denominational/confessional lines. The lingering issue I'd love to continue to explore here is: How do we belong somewhere and to a particular community while retaining a healthy sense of this larger belonging? How do we preserve a healthy sense of restlessness, and perhaps of being misfits, without diminishing commitment to a particular people, place, and mission?
We spent a little time on the brief history of Emergent Village as recounted from Tony Jones's (by no means exclusive) perspective. Another trait of emergents that stood out here is an inability to limit a conversation about the future and mission of the church to matters of techniques, trends, generational hooks, "being relevant," etc. Sooner or later, Christians are going to talk theology and when they recognize their own biases--and the Bible's biases--in the process, things get very interesting and the commitment to friendship becomes that much more important.
Finally, I raised the question of whether, or to what extent, emergents are creedal Christians since this is something of a hot topic right now. My own take on this is simply to say that I am, and since I am not immune to doubt, I value being part of a faith community that can also be found confessing the Apostles' and Nicene Creeds, among other things, to pick up the slack in my own faith. However, I am completely at ease with others in my cohort answering this question differently, or coming from communities that answer this question differently, and see no reason why an open network like Emergent Village should feel compelled to formally state its orthodoxy or lack thereof.
One parallel I am seeing just now--and this may have something to do with how hospitable the emergent movement has felt for artists and the creatively gifted--is with the longstanding tradition of discomfort among evangelicals with art, which always has trouble--you might say downright resists--proving either its orthodoxy or its efficacy as a tool for evangelism. Is the emergent church creedal? Is a painting creedal? Is the emergent church missional? Must a good novel contain an altar call?
Well, love to hear your thoughts on this here or at a cohort near you. Peace,