Emerging Church 101…
I identify my ecclesial context as the Anabaptist stream. However, several conversations have been a significant part of my ongoing theological process and formation. I am an associate pastor at Sunnyside Mennonite Church. Although we are a local expression of the Body of Christ, we are not independent from the Great Christian Tradition. We are organically connected to Lancaster District, to Lancaster Mennonite Conference, to MCUSA, to the Church throughout time and space.
I have framed my journey as one that is engaging in conversation with Orthodoxy and the Emergent movement from within an Anabaptist context. The conversation with Orthodoxy is sustained through a monthly meeting involving Mennonite pastors/lay persons and Orthodox priests. It is stoked through reading, through public dialogues, through face to face conversations. It has been informed by participation (only two times that I can remember) in Orthodox worship services.
The conversation with things Emergent probably began before the movement had a defined expression or identity. Mostly through reading Brian McLaren (Leonard Sweet, Stanley Grenz, etc.), but certainly through other points of engagement. Thinking about the postmodern shift. The state of the establishment church. The cultural entrenchment of many church expressions. The antagonism toward culture expressed in the “cultural wars” vis a vis the political arena.
In the Emergent stream I have found voices asking questions that resonated with my own. I saw a healthy impulse to re-discover a missional footing for the Church in a post-Christendom world. I saw healthy attempts to rediscover Church as an alternative community incarnating the Gospel. The Church situated in the real world, living missionally–making visible the Kingdom of God. All this and more has been a part of the conversation with the Emergent stream. The Emergent church, however, is not a monolithic movement.
I am sometimes asked what I think about the Emergent stream. In this post I offer several resources which provide a helpful orientation to the Emergent stream. For those who have not been reading McLaren, this may be too much information all at once. I think I have blogged about this before, but here is a condensed annotated bibliography which is necessary reading for those who are wanting to understand the Emergent movement.
1. Five Streams of the Emerging Church, Scot McKnight. McKnight identifies these streams as…
2. Four Models of Emerging Church, C. Wess Daniels. Wess does a great job of working toward a descriptive typology of the Emergent movement. He provides some helpful differences in terms of the underlying theological/philosophical framework (and theologians that would be informing the beliefs and practices of these communities). He offers names of contemporary individuals/communities which are representative of each stream.
a.) Deconstructionist Model
b.) Pre-modern/Augustinian Model
c.) Emerging Peace Church Model
d.) Foundationalist Model
My own engagement with the Emergent stream has primarily been with #1 and #3. The way I have engaged in this conversation has been significantly influenced by my conversation with Orthodoxy as well. The engagement with Orthodoxy has led me to raise questions as to the sometimes fluffy ecclesiology that I see expressed within the Emergent stream–particularly in #1.
3. Should the Emerging Church Settle, Mike Clawson
I resonate with the way Mike frames the movement as a sign of the Holy Spirit at work throughout the Church.