Saturday, April 17, 2010

The (Alleged) Difference Between Emergent and Emerging, and the Stewardship of Words

At the Peter Rollins event last week in Wrigleyville some rumblings reached me from somewhere that it might be best to avoid “emerging” language in the little commercial Kris and I offered for up/rooted. That was well and good since the guiding image of the “Insurrection” was a fist, not a leaf (and really, in an insurrection, a leaf intimidates no one). But that brief message of caution reignited some thoughts I’ve been mulling over at least since the Dan Kimball/Skye Jethani “retrospective” on the emerging church at Wheaton College back in January.

I only made it to the second part of that talk, which was mostly Jethani, but the part that stuck with me was the effort to distinguish “emerging” from “emergent” by virtue of the kinds of questions with which one or one’s community is wrestling. You can see Skye standing in front of a Powerpoint slide here at Kimbell’s blog—and I believe he was getting this from another source I didn’t note—but as you can see, according to this schema, if you are mainly dealing with questions of style, evangelism, culture, mission, or church, you are “emerging,” but if you go beyond this into a preoccupation with questions about “gospel” and “world” you are “emergent” (and likely involved on some level with Emergent Village).

Now, I’m all for clarity, but separating out emerg-ing (the sheep?) from emerg-ent (the goats?) is getting a little out of hand. We’re only trying to have a conversation here. Mostly what is revealed to me afresh wherever I find this emergent/emerging distinction being drawn is the deep-seated need so many Evangelical Protestant Christians have to draw a line between in and out, true and false, even when the parties involved, emerging and emergent, are, respectively, not-organized and only loosely networked (sans doctrinal statement or magisterium). No doubt, some (not too-tight) brackets are helpful with certain tasks (e.g. understanding confessional/ecclesial traditions), but here we have to wonder if the brackets have become idols (“bracketolatry?”).

Come to think of it, it’s largely this impulse that makes me ill-at-ease being Protestant while highly committed to being reforming (in my case, named after Luther, to his displeasure). It seems to me the particular temptation of Protestant Christianity is to accomplish purity, originality, apostolicity etc. through separation—through an ever-more precise (if imagined) placing of the brackets. In contrast, the particular calling, and burden, of reforming movements within the Christian church, as they advocate for change, is to maintain and insist upon their own catholicity and apostolicity, even while “conservative” elements of the moment are engaged in excommunicating them from the institution or separating themselves to restore the “original” church.

It is never an easy thing to insist that you belong and believe you belong to a group when voices are saying you do not belong. It has been hard from the start for Christians to affirm their basic continuity and unity with Israel, the tree into which they have been grafted through Christ (Rom 9-11; Eph 2); it has been hard for churches of the Reformation to affirm their catholicity with the church of Rome; and now on a much smaller (and seemingly more abstract) level, the challenge is being posed to emergents (folks networked through Emergent Village) to maintain that they are in the same amorphous emerging phenomenon, without distinction.

Lest this problem all sound so six months ago (that’s like fifty years in the emerging conversation), I’m fully aware from Kimbell and others (all invested in this thing longer than I) that some folks are intentionally leaving behind emergent/emerging/emergence language altogether. Here I can only say that this betrays the worst kind of linguistic stewardship. I personally love words very much and I am saddened to see them used, scratched up, and thrown in the landfill like so many burned CDs. I think something very similar happened in the case of “liberation theology” in the 1970s and 80s. North American Christians imported it from Latin America, branded it, jammed to it for awhile, and when they decided it was too Marxist-sounding, trashed it (cf. “Disco Sucks!), leaving the very gospel-central word liberation tainted and suspect. Emerging is a good word, particularly wedded as it is to a rich organic motif, so compatible with the agricultural ethos of the Bible. I really think it’s a keeper.

We can never be too aware that the setting in which we live and operate here in the North American church—at least in its Protestant expressions—is compulsively schismatic and faddish. If we are looking for something to reject, I suggest we reject that particular ugly aspect of our inheritance, and concentrate instead on living into Jesus’ prayer “that we may all be one” (John 17).


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Thanks for all the fish

Good evening, good people. This is Rebecca speaking to you. I know my voice has gotten unfamiliar to most of you at this point because of the extended hiatus of up/ I have two things to talk with you about tonight.

1. I'm sorry to have to say that in working out the priorities of what I spend my time on, I will have to lovingly prune out most emergent events and my role as a local leader (or at least point person) of the emergent movement. I need the time to focus on my family (my sister-in-law just birthed my first niece plus, you know, the new husband) and my job at Safe Families, which allows me to work for systemic change for vulnerable kids by revitalizing the big-c Church. How cool is that job, huh?

That being said, I'm looking for someone who is willing to plan monthly cohort meetings, as well as to build the network of local emergent practitioners and events. I found that I loved calling up random pastors and writers and saying, "I coordinate the local Emergent Village cohort; would you like to meet me for coffee?" It was great to hear their stories and even better to have that knowledge in order to share with others who are new to the movement and just having that shiny feeling of not being the only crazy one out there who thinks that Jesus should be followed in new ways.

If you are interested in taking over this role for the city (the Western suburbs have some neat things going on already), please email me at rebica at aol dot com and we'll set up coffee to talk about it. :-) For those of you who liked getting my summaries about drinking tea, you are welcome to follow me at my personal blog Wild Rumpus or at the blog I co-host for folks in interfaith relationships called Fifty Percenters.

This has been an amazing experience for me and I'll still be around to see where God takes us now. I still proudly self-identify as emergent and believe that all of the work done toward making God accessible to everyone is necessary and good. Thank you to all of you who have walked any part of my path so far with me.

2. Also, there is a great opportunity to hear Brian McLaren speak this weekend. It's only $30 for a day-long event and lunch is included. The details are below and I really think you should take advantage of this opportunity to gather with like-minded folks.

Brian McLaren @ LaSalle Street Church
April 17 & 18, 2010 | (Sat. & Sunday)

APRIL 17: One-day Conference w/ McLaren ($30 per person, lunch provided)
10 am – 4:30 pm | Cornerstone Center, Leslie Hall | 1111 N. Wells, Chicago
Register online at

APRIL 18: Worship Gatherings 9 & 11 am | LSC Sanctuary | 1136 N. LaSalle, Chicago

Monday, April 12, 2010

The LOST episode at Reimagine Worship, Redeemer

Here's the latest announcement from Redeemer. I can't believe I'm going to miss this after watching every episode of Lost for 5 1/2 seasons. N.T. Wright at Wheaton College (registration full, don't try it) better be good... --Mark

We're excited to announce that our next Reimagine Worship gathering will be Friday, April 16 @7pm. We'll be welcoming back Aracely Bock as our special musical guest, along with (we think, not sure yet) some of her musician friends from Jesus People USA.

As our theme for the evening, we'll be exploring some of the recurring spiritual themes in the hit TV series LOST. We'll probably show a video clip or two and feed off of that, so you don't already have to be a fan of the show to participate. We're looking to make connections and correlations between the Christian faith and the spiritual questions of LOST, without pre-judging what the show's writers intend by it. For example, we may explore the whole notion of how people are "lost" in all kinds of ways. And, like the show itself, there are almost certainly going to be more questions than answers!

Once again, this promises to be a memorable and meaningful evening. As usual, we'll have plenty of time for some conversation and great coffee and snacks.

Belong. Believe. Be Yourself.

Monday, April 05, 2010

up/rooted.west April gathering: Insurrection!

Hey all, sorry for not posting a March wrap-up on here. We had a great conversation on the middle chapters of the Jones book, and got to meet a few new people--about as many folks gathered around those two round tables as you can have and still all be on the same page.

As for what was said or what page that was: hard to remember at this point. We'll wrap up the book discussion on The New Christians (Chaps 5-6) back at Gino's on Thursday, May 13 (also the festival of the Ascension, that special day when we acknowledge that the Resurrected Jesus has some serious hops).

And speaking of hops, our April 8 gathering for the west group coincides with The Insurrection Tour featuring Peter Rollins and friends at Trace Bar in Wrigleyville. Enough of us wanted to go and hear Peter while he's in town & fraternize with other emerging rabble rousers from the wider that's the main event. Go RSVP here on Facebook if you haven't already--helps if they know how many to expect. Doors 7pm; Event 8pm. Parking near Trace is likely scarce--I'm taking the train--but if someone wants to organize come carpooling, go for it.

See you Thursday night.

Christ is Risen!