Orginally published on Wednesday, June 21, 2006 at 7:50 AM
by Todd Rhoades
It's been an interesting year for the 'emergent' church. Many still do not have a good definition for what the emergent church really is. Some of it's leaders are distancing themselves from other leaders. Some say that there's a difference between the 'emergent' church and the 'emerging' church. In fact, Calvary Chapel recently issued a position paper condemning the emergent church; and asking any of their churches who consider themselves emergent to drop the "Calvary Chapel" from their name (which is exacly what found Chuck Smith's son, Chuck Jr. did). To most of us it's just confusing. Read this piece by Brian MacLaren, one of the leaders of 'emergent' on what has taken place over the past year. Brian writes...
Just over a year ago Doug Pagitt predicted that 2005 would be a year of criticism for the emergent community, and looking back, it’s clear that he predicted pretty accurately. Some of that criticism has been constructive and helpful, although a lot of it has been, sadly, less so. But even non-constructive criticism has its benefits: it gives its targets the opportunity to be gracious, forgiving, non-retaliatory, courageous, and persistent. It also can encourage humility and prayer. I trust that all of us who have felt the sting of criticism can feel ourselves, by the grace of God, benefiting from the experience.
It’s always wise to listen and learn from criticism, but it’s even more important to proactively examine ourselves. As Paul said, if we judged ourselves, we wouldn’t be judged (1 Cor. 11:31), and Jesus told us to examine our own eyes for lumber before worrying about the splinters in others’ eyes. So, in that spirit, here’s an exercise in self-examination for the growing global generative friendship that is associated with the name “emergent” in the U.S. and in many places around the world. It’s based on my own observations, and includes proposals for how we respond to the issues I try to describe. (This exercise has already benefited from insightful input from James Mills, and I’m sure many others will be able to add insight as well.)
All of these proposals can be put in terms of finding “above the line” solutions to reactions that tend to polarize people into binary positions “on the line.” (Many people will be familiar with this “above the line” concept from my book A New Kind of Christian.) Instead of mapping out a position at either end of us/them or either/or conflicts, or even choosing some moderate point in between poles, I propose that we seek higher ground in several specific areas.
All this is based on a general observation: in my travels, I frequently see a number of people in various places getting “anti-“ about one thing or another. In every case, they’ve identified something worth being against. But I’ve also noticed that whenever a group reacts and becomes anti-something, two things happen. First, they limit their options. There may be some percentage of good in what they’re rejecting, and by their rejection they cut themselves off from it. (This is a mistake a number of our critics seem to be making too.) Second, when people strongly react against something, they’re in danger of swinging to the other extreme. Evoking (crikey!) Steve Irwin, they back away from the crocodile on one side of the trail and step on a cobra on the other side. Dangers seldom come in ones, and the line between good and evil or wisdom and foolishness usually runs through, not between, alternatives. Seeking above-the-line solutions is an attempt to affirm the good on both extremes while seeking to avoid at least some of the problems. I hope these proposals will be of use to all of us who are seeking to faithfully serve God in the many and diverse churches that are emerging. Please be assured that nothing here is intended as a criticism of anyone – but simply as an attempt to offer helpful reflection on what I’m seeing and hearing, for what it’s worth.
Brian goes on to write about 9 different areas that the emergent church has tackled or needs to tackle. You can read all his comments here; then come back to MMI and let us know what you think about the direction of the emergent church.
[thanks to Eric Wright for the link]
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