5 Streams of The Emerging Church and Convergent Friends (?)

My Friend Jarrod McKenna sent me a link to this article the other, it’s written by Scot McKnight, professor of religious studies at North Park Theological Seminary in Chicago.

The Article is called “Five Streams of the Emerging Church.”

Here is a long quote from the article:

To define a movement, we must, as a courtesy, let it say what it is. Eddie Gibbs and Ryan Bolger, in their book, Emerging Churches: Creating Christian Community in Postmodern Cultures (Baker Academic, 2005) define emerging in this way:

Emerging churches are communities that practice the way of Jesus within postmodern cultures. This definition encompasses nine practices. Emerging churches (1) identify with the life of Jesus, (2) transform the secular realm, and (3) live highly communal lives. Because of these three activities, they (4) welcome the stranger, (5) serve with generosity, (6) participate as producers, (7) create as created beings, (8) lead as a body, and (9) take part in spiritual activities.

This definition is both descriptive and analytical. D. A. Carson’s Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church (Zondervan, 2005) is not alone in pointing to the problems in the emerging movement, and I shall point out a few myself in what follows. But as a description of the movement, Carson’s book lacks firsthand awareness and suffers from an overly narrow focus—on Brian McLaren and postmodern epistemology.

I really appreciate the article, it’s a quick snapshot into how many young churches are doing ministry. McKnight is respected voice within this group of emerging leaders, and speaks with credentials as a professor of New Testament. What he offers here in this article is a great starting point for thinking and discussing issues of the church.

I couldn’t help but find that these five streams help to name the many aspects of the covergent Friends sensibilities as well. In fact, as Quakers we would do well to take McKnight’s five streams seriously, and consider how they fit/don’t fit with our tradition (I would quickly add many more fit than we may first imagine). The one major difference between emerging churches and convgerent Friends is whereas the emerging church tends to be non-denominational church plants, or groups that have left their denominations (becasue their denominations didn’t get what they were doing), convergent Friends are trying to help progress their tradition. This is one of the most important commitment within this group of Quakers. It’s an updating and re-evaluation of our tradition in light of our historical commiments and in light of our current culture. It in a sense innovative, but understands that the only way to innovate (and have something long lasting) is to do so from within a single tradition.

McKnight’s article helps to spell out some of the major issues that all Christians ought to be asking, and maybe in the long run those questions will provide answers not just for those who tend to be more anti-tradition, as those who fall under the Nietzscheian and Enlightment philosophical influence, but also for those of us who are wholly committed to the ongoing narrative of our traditions.

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Wess

...is the William R. Rogers Director of Friends Center and Quaker Studies at Guilford College in Greensboro, NC., PhD in Intercultural Studies from Fuller Theological Seminary, served as a "released minister" at Camas Friends Church, and father of three. He enjoys sketchnoting, sharing conversation over coffee with a friend, listening to vinyl and writing creative nonfiction.

19 thoughts on “5 Streams of The Emerging Church and Convergent Friends (?)”

  1. I love his intro:

    “It is said that emerging Christians confess their faith like mainliners—meaning they say things publicly they don’t really believe. They drink like Southern Baptists—meaning, to adapt some words from Mark Twain, they are teetotalers when it is judicious. They talk like Catholics—meaning they cuss and use naughty words. They evangelize and theologize like the Reformed—meaning they rarely evangelize, yet theologize all the time. They worship like charismatics—meaning with their whole bodies, some parts tattooed. They vote like Episcopalians—meaning they eat, drink, and sleep on their left side. And, they deny the truth—meaning they’ve got a latte-soaked copy of Derrida in their smoke- and beer-stained backpacks.
    Related articles and links

    Along with unfair stereotypes of other traditions, such are the urban legends surrounding the emerging church—one of the most controversial and misunderstood movements today.”

  2. I really like Scot McKnight. I think he is intelligent, prayerful and playful. For me that’s an exciting combination.

    In Australia the emerging church (‘EC’) wants to call themselves the “Emerging Missional Church” (‘EMC’) to distance themselves from people who are reframing theologically what it means to ‘be church’ and instead say to the mainstream “no that’s just the Americans (and lets scapegoat Brian McLaren in particular) who are rethinking theology. We just want to do missions differently”. I think, like McKnight, the ‘Convergent Friends movement’ (and the ‘Neo-Anabaptist’ movement) have much to offer not just in dialogue but also critique of both ‘EC’ and ‘EMC’. Not just on blogs and in articles but more importantly in embodied practices that speak of the transformation of the world that God has initiated in Jesus.

    Other than the Scriptures, in post-Christendom cultures there are no better resources to draw on than the church traditions that have maintained a critique of the Post-Constantinian Christianity and it’s violence throughout the ages. As communities if we are sensitive to the tenderness of the Spirit, I think we will find that the Peace Church traditions is not just a wineskin for a fresh out pouring of renewal but a gift to the church (both emerging and mainstream) and world for the 21st century. Communities as gifts, as signs, as wonders, which invitationally point to the renewal of all things. This is the Convergent Quaker Imagination, and the Anabaptist dream. More than that this is the will of God revealed in Jesus. What an exciting time to be alive…

  3. P.S.
    Hegel once said “I’d rather go to hell with Jesus than to go to heaven without him.” I love that quote. And while some are happy to scapegoat McLaren I’m very grateful for his boldness to ask the questions he asks and to come up with the best alternatives he can. While all of them might not sit right with me, I can safely say “I’d rather go to hell with Brian than to go to heaven without him.” I pray that the church would have the courage to be as bold and as integers as Brian McLaren has been in risking getting it wrong to glorify God. We need look no further than church history to realise that the emerging church is a lot ‘safer’ than many movement throughout history. (Can you imagine Tony Jones next book causing a Peasants Revolt?) So here’s to holy boldness and humble wrongness in the interest of seeing the kingdom come.

  4. Hey Jarrod, Thanks for triple the comment goodness!

    A couple comments:
    Can you explain what it is about the EMC – that specifically they don’t like about McLaren? You’re right McLaren gets scapegoated a lot, it’s funny really, there is almost a fear of him from many. People who through out new ideas, or old ideas in new ways ALWAYS get this kind of treatment. McLaren can rest in good company.

    I can only hope, like you, that I have a boldness to follow the Spirit of God regardless of whether he leads me to talk about new ideas or old ones.

    Also about the EMC, I was wondering about their thinking in all this. I mean if they want to do missions in a new way, doesn’t that assume some kind of new theology? Or at least a theological imagination?

    “I think, like McKnight, the ‘Convergent Friends movement’ (and the ‘Neo-Anabaptist’ movement) have much to offer not just in dialogue but also critique of both ‘EC’ and ‘EMC’. Not just on blogs and in articles but more importantly in embodied practices that speak of the transformation of the world that God has initiated in Jesus.”
    ~Amen to that!

    It will be interesting to see what happens to the EC in another 10 years or so. I think it will need to have some kind of solidifying process if it hopes to have a lasting impression. I see more hope for innovation within traditions to use a lot of their ideas within our own systems and move forward – we’ve got the wear and tear that’s going to keep us grounded.

  5. I’m a Jew. As far as I’m concerned, Jesus was a nice Jewish boy from Nazareth – end of story.

    However, hundreds of millions of Christians, the world over, worship this young man as their Lord and Savior. Yet, they know absolutely nothing about the two most important religious observances in his life.

    Jesus believed that G-d commanded him to take every seventh day and do no manner of work. Now this was not simply orders from on high that Jesus wasn’t supposed to punch a time clock. Jesus understood that there was a little more to it than that. He was not to work; not to kill; not to burn; not to injure; not to destroy; and not to create anything. Every 7th day, he was supposed to spend 24 hours in TOTAL harmony (or as close to harmony as possible) with the world that G-d had created. To this day, you can see Jews going out of their way every Saturday to avoid stepping on grass; or avoid stepping on insects; for fear that they would injure or kill something on the Sabbath.

    There is more than mere obedience in this. This planet was given to us by G-d as our home. It is our responsibility to cherish it, to insure that it continues to be able to nurture our children and grandchildren.

    Contrast that with what we in our society do today, and ask yourself, what would Jesus do?

    Jesus also knew that G-d ordered him to only eat the flesh of certain animals. Even then, only if they were prepared in a certain prescribed fashion and all the blood was drained – for blood is the source of life and that is NOT something with which man was meant to satiate himself.

    G-d did not command Jesus to behave in this fashion because it was healthy to do so. These laws were not written so that Jesus and his fellow Jews would have fewer stomach aches.

    Jesus understood that G-d’s commandments regarding his diet were meant to reinforce, on a constant basis, that, if a life had to be lost so that Jesus could continue to live, Jesus would show that life appropriate respect and recognize his place as a creation of G-d’s and not the other way around.

    Reverence for life; reverence for G-d’s creation; reverence for all life to enjoy the fruits of G-d’s creation. Yes, there was a certain order of things. Certain animals killed and ate certain other animals to survive. But killing was not something to be done for sport. It was to be done for survival reasons ONLY. And, when something was killed for food, it was to be treated with reverence and respect – not with scorn and arrogance.

    As a Nazeer, a member of a group that called themselves the Nazeereem, Jesus accepted that G-d commanded him to eat meat on the first night of Passover. Every Passover, Jesus ate of the Passover Lamb, just as he was commanded to do by G-d. As a Nazeer, for the other 364 days a year, Jesus ATE NO MEAT.

    That’s right; your Lord and Savior was a vegetarian for all but one day each year. That was, and still is, the belief of Nazeereem.

    So, the next time you consider hunting caged birds for Jesus, just ask yourself, or ask the Vice President, what would Jesus think?

    One final thought.

    One day in April, 1972, I walked into the 1st floor men’s restroom of the student union at college. On the tile on the right side of the entrance, just as you walked in, was a 2 inch by 3 inch flag shaped sticker that read:

    Stop The Genocide of

    Black Southern Sudanese Christians!

    April 1972.

    And what has the Christian World done since April 1972 to attempt to save these people – IN THE INTERVENING 35 YEARS? – Absolutely – Positively – Nothing.

    Oh you weep for Darfur as you pass the Chardonnay.

    But who amongst all the hundreds of millions of Christians on this planet is willing to sacrifice anything to save those creatures of G-d from annihilation by the Arab Moslems of Northern Sudan? WHO? Certainly not the Chinese, or the Russians, or some of the Europeans, who all have oil deals with the Arabs of Northern Sudan!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    And, certainly not most American Christians who probably can’t even spell Darfur, much less worry about the fate of some far away, black Africans at the hands of a few racist Arabs.

    Oh you occasionally wring your hands. But, if you sit down for a few seconds, that feeling passes.

    So just ask yourself – What would Jesus do?

    And when you’re done, go bother someone else.

    Shmuel ben Avraham HaCohen

  6. Brother Shmuel ben Avraham HaCohen,
    It sounds like you have had some really painful experiences of Christians. With all sincerity I ask for your forgiveness and pray for healing.It is true much of Christian history does not look like Christ’s compassion, mercy and passion for justice. I hope my life might witness to an alternative.

    It also sound like you have at least started to consider what this first century Jewish historical figure means for you. Historical Jesus study is a hobby of mine and I like to recommend a book that Rabbi Michael Lerner recommends in his latest book “The Left Hand of God” it is called “The Meaning of Jesus” by two of the world’s most respected Jesus historians (who agenda differs greatly) Marcus J. Borg and N.T. Wright. I hope you find that helpful and even healing. It might also better prepare you to call Christian’s to be the kind of people who’s lives would honour Hashem. For me Jesus is much more, but he is certainly no less, than a great Jewish prophet who Martin Buber said he had been like a ‘brother’ to him.

    While there is much we might differ on, we also have some important common ground that we can come together and work for peace, justice for the oppressed and protection of G-d’s good creation.

    Just a final note, one of my hero’s Rabbi Abraham Heschel said, “In a controversy, the instant we feel anger, we have already ceased striving for truth and have begun striving for ourselves???. Acknowledging that it might not have been your intention and just the way I perceived your post it did at times seems quiet angry. Anger is holy and not bad in and of it’s self but if our anger causes us to dehumanise others (Rabbi Heschel brilliant definition of sin) I think it cannot contribute to the age of the Moshiach (which I believe to already be under way as a follow of the Risen Rabbi Yeshua). Thank you for your contribution and for each other and G-d’s creation I pray, Shalom.

  7. Wess to answer your questions re: Emerging Missional Church” I might call on some friends that are more qualified than myself to answer. These are great guys who I’m really glad to call friends doing exciting stuff and are considered leaders in the Australian Emerging Church scene. In particular I’m thinking of Alan Hirsch (www.theforgottenways.org/blog), Andrew Hamilton (www.backyardmissionary.com/about) and Geoff Westlake (www.geocities.com/g_westlake/) all exciting practitioners. Also give you and convergent friends to meet some of the EC crew in Oz.

  8. Jarrod,

    You miss the point.

    Look at me as a messenger. I’m very happy with who I am and what I believe. I am not interested in adopting CHristianity or your messiah as my own.

    My point is simply this – Chrfistians, especially Evangelicals, seem obsessed with showing a profound lack of respect to my people – the Jewish People.

    You spend millions on elaborate programs to convert us. To me, this shows you have no respect for the rights of others to believe as they wish. As an American citizen, I find that behavior unacceptable.

    Secondly, and far more important, you worship a guy as your lord and savior and yet you totally disrespect his most important beliefs while he lived on this planet as a man. I find that bizarre.

    If Christendom spent 12 months observing those 2 religious observances I explained as Jesus did, perhaps life on this planet would change.

    Sport hunting, especially hunting caged birds with clipped wings or hunting game in fenced in areas (what the comedian Lewis Black refers to as hunting at a petting zoo) might at least be curtailed. Killing creatures for sport only yields killing humans for sport. If you don’t believe this goes on, go ask the Janjaweed.

    Christians spend an inordinate amount of time moralizing to the rest of us. Spend a little time and effort cleaning up your own house first. And start with Sudan. It’s been going on since the mid 1960’s.

    I fail to understand how you can live with yourselves while not doing enough to stop that – especially after sitting on your hands for Rwanda, and Pol Pot. I just do not understand.

    And finally, a subject I am intimately familiar with, tell your fellow Christians that sharing their wealth with the less fortunate is not optional. You lord and savior spent his life giving to the less fortunate.

    I do not accept that he would counsel you and your fellow Christians to spend billions (with a CAPITAL B) on houses of worship to glorify donor egos while so much misery goes on in the world.

    I spend my life redistributing wealth toward causes that benefit those who need it most. My job would be a lot easier if only Christians, especially right-wing Christians, would come to understand that giving money to religious institutions for converting other religions to yours disrespects belief systems far older and at least as humane than your own.

    Human beings have enormous capacity for good. Christianity, from my reading of history, is so imprisoned by its obsession with not looking Jewish that it only hurts itself by ignoring the most important moral imperatives of its Lord and Savior.

    The Judaism we observe today is a direct result of 1700 years of Christian domination, torture, genocide, and ignorance. And while we seem incapable of changing that back to what it was before you tortured our forefathers into changing it, the least you can do as you work on your own house is to leave ours alone. We are more than capable of sinking to the non-Jewish world’s abysmal level of humanity all on our own, thank you very much.

    One final thing, dietary laws, such as those Jesus scrupulously observed, are a phenomenon in many religions. If you want to strike a blow for Islam moving away from extremism, ask every Muslim you meet why Islam has dietary laws. And don’t accept the answer that Muhammad simply wanted to prevent Muslim deaths from pork related disease. All he had to do was to tell them to cook the meat thoroghly. There is more to it than that. When Islam wakes up to that, Muslims may stop wrapping their children in explosives and convincing them to murder themselves and many others.

    Human beings are not supposed to eat their young for political gain. Anyone who reveres life above all else knows that.

    B’vracha,

    Shmuel ben Avraham HaCohen

  9. Just a quick comment:

    I will speak for myself here as others may see this slightly differently, but I would choose emerging ‘missional’ church over simply emerging church because it does specify the pointy end of what we are about. We are seeking to be more effective missionaries – not simply re-organise the church. More effective missionaries will hopefully produce new churches that are biblically faithful and indigenous to culture.

    As much as its slightly different it isn’t a term I’d ‘die for’ – in fact those who know me would know I much prefer simply to see myself as a missionary and our church as ‘experimental’ rather than any kind of emerging. However given the existence of these terms I guess we do loosely fit under each of them!

    As for BMac, I think it is pretty harsh to suggest the EMC scapegoats him. He is actually the keynote speaker at the Forge summit in March! Pretty hard to see him as some kind of enemy and yet invite him to speak at the same time.

    Personally I have appreciated BMac’s writing, without finding it revolutionary or without necessarily wanting to ‘go back for more’. The main critiques of BMac are that he is vague on some core issues and somewhat inaccurate in his depictions of the different faith strands in Generous Orthodoxy.

  10. From Jarrod:

    Below is are links to a conversation Hamo was involved with (found at http://forgewa.org.au/audio.html) it includes:
    -Don Carson Critique of Emerging Church (50 mins)
    -Andrew Hamilton Response (15 mins)
    -Geoff Westlake Response (15 mins)
    -Don Carson Reponse (10 mins)
    -Forum (20 mins)

    It needs to be said that Don Carson is an Evangelical of the Reformed verity (so not only isn’t he big on Brian McLaren he also isn’t big on people who have really been influential for me like N.T. Wright, John H. Yoder and others.)

    I think it would be fair to say Carson understands signing up to a certain understanding of the atonement as ‘Foundational’ to the gospel. So scholarship which is focusing on the Scriptures in their first century context (not the context of the 16th century… and Calvin in particular) isn’t as much a big consideration for Carson. Yet in the face of that Hamo and Geoff provide plenty of laughs.

    Re: ‘B. Mac’. Think you’re right Hamo, scapegoat is to strong, “distance” is probably better. Carson has lead the charge in slamming McLaren for his take on different traditions in ‘A Generous Orthodoxy’. But I think Carson misses McLaren’s approach, it isn’t as a scholarly critique it’s an experimental perusal of different traditions in light of how he now understands the gospel now at this stage in his journey. In Particular Carson thinks he doesn’t do justice to the Reformed tradition. While this is true, it also means that McLaren doesn’t publicly decry the Reformed tradition as the ‘spirituality of Apartheid’ but is ‘generous’ and says the desire to “seek constant reform” is a good thing

  11. From Jarrod:

    Brother Shmuel,
    I’m not sure where to start. First maybe what we share in comman:

    – ethnically on my mother’s side of the family I am Jewish (I am a Saul on my mother side, we fled from Russian to Britain then to Australia because of persecution)
    -we both have a deep concern for “tsa’ar ba’alei chayim” which if Christianity was to take seriously Jesus it would maintain
    -it sounds like we both abhor right-wing Christianity’s ‘in bedness’ with rich oppressors and therefore it’s blindness to oppression, racism (including anti-semitism), escapist ‘other worldly’ spirituality, total disregard for the nonviolence that was central to Jesus’ life and ministry, in activity in the face of evil (you mentioned Rwanda, Cambodia, Sudan but their are many other places to add to that list including the complex but urgent situation in Palestine)
    -it sounds like you understand Jesus better than a lot of Christians in your nation, in that you recognise, as you put it, “you worship a guy as your lord and savior and yet you totally disrespect his most important beliefs while he lived on this planet as a man. I find that bizarre.” I find that bizarre too mate! amen!

    Brother Shmuel, you asked me to consider you a messenger. I think you have some very important things to say but there seems to me to be a dissidence between you’re desire to call Christians to be more compassionate, peacemaking, justice-seeking people (my agenda too! To see Christian’s live lives that look like the Christ they claim) But the way both your emails are written they seem like they want to pick fights with people who I think you might find are actually friends. The tone in which you are communicating is getting in the way of the important things Christians need to hear. The irony is on this blog I think you’d find many people sympathetic to some of your points!! 🙂 )

    It might be useful to know that (from my understanding) ‘gatheringinthelight.com’ while is gets interest from all-sorts, it attracts interest partly because of it being a voice for people who identify with the “Historic Peace Church Traditions”, that is Quakers, Mennonites and other Anabaptists who are highly critical of Christendom (not just now but historically) and have also suffered and died at the hands of a Christianity that disregarded the Jewish Jesus of history in favour of a white Western Christ far removed from the Scriptural witness in context. If you are interested in serious interfaith dialogue between our two traditions (Peace Church Christianity and Judaism) can I suggest a book by John Howard Yoder called “It Did Not Have To Be: The Jewish Christian Division”. I recommend this not in aid to covert (that is never our role) but to dialogue intelligently and humbly.

    Finally I’m not sure how helpful comments like “…Muslims may stop wrapping their children in explosives and convincing them to murder themselves and many others”, are to increasing understanding between our different faiths. Martin Luther King would talk about violence as “the language of the unheard.” These are complex issues that need to be unravelled in spaces where it’s safe enough for everyone to grieve such desperation and violence experienced on both sides so we may work together for a peace and just future for everyone. (something that Jewish groups like http://www.breakingthesilence.org.il and Rabbi’s for Human Rights and so many other groups are really leading in)

    As you might have read elsewhere on this blog I have been given a national peace award for my work, part of which is interfaith dialogue. That is why I have been a little shocked at some of your tone when I have had such positive experiences of working side by side with sisters and brothers from Orthodox, Reformed and Reconstrutionist Judaism for environmental, peace and social justice issues. Yet this is the first time it has been so antagonistic and I would like to change that. So brother if you ever find yourself in Australia you have a place to stay in our community (seriously). Maybe after praying together and working a bit in the garden or hanging out with the local kids in the neighbourhood (who struggle which pressures unfathomable to those living in middle class suburbs) we could break bread together and talk in ways that heal instead of hurt. If you just click on my name in blue you’ll find links to my contact details.

    Shalom, your potential new friend (despite him being a Christian and an Australian!),
    Jarrod

  12. here’s an attempt at an answer re: EMC and EC

    1. If the question is “Am I distancing myself from the EC?” the answer is, “No, but I am wanting to put “Missional” up front.” Not as a word, because I don’t really like the imperialist baggage it carries, but as a clear guide: that everything I do is driven by Jesus’ love that I want to share, rather than keep to myself.

    This “EMC” tag is in distinction to the mis-interpretations of EC that can be so insular and indulgent, as if EC is about candles and ancient-future worship forms; or about living according to neo-philosophies; or about houses vs buildings. These are not what its about. To me it’s about mission.* That’s what I want to make that clear by saying EMC.

    My understanding is that Emergent describe EC as refering to the Church that responds to the Emerging culture.
    I understand EC as being the Church that is Emerging from the mission fields. For the former, it is the culture that is emerging, for the latter it’s the church that’s emerging. The difference is significant. Not irreconcilable, not mutually exclusive by any means. But the two can lead to quite different places.

    The one that responds primarily to the culture, could theoretically never fundamentally shift to a missional footing, and result in an expression of church that is just as insular, but expressed in neo-cultural terms. It could still be just as extractional and separatist from the community as ever.

    That one that responds to the people in the field is more like Hudson Taylor than the British compound in China. By virture of meeting people, it is already less insular. It has already sent itself. It is already in a posture of engagement, vulnerability and love. From there, it is more likely to incarnate the gospel.

    If Emergent crew tell me that’s what they actually are, I believe them. (It’s more like what I originally thought they were.) But the term EC has certainly very often been applied to churches that haven’t ended up being missional at all, hasn’t it.

    2a. If people are concerned about the ‘distancing comments,’ they can listen to the whole thing in Hamo and my comments at the Don Carson meet. http://www.forgewa.org.au That’s pretty much the entirety of what’s been said so far. So let me explain a bit about it. In the time I had, I had to speak their language, rather than challenge it.

    Basically, then, as now, I can’t really answer what is being asked until I know what the questioner means by the terms. Carson made clear what he was meaning, so in response to him, in his terms, I was able to say that a movement responding specifically to postmodernism (Emergent), is missionally different to a movement responding not so much to a philosophy but to the people we find, whether pomo or not (EMC).

    To use Doug Pagitt’s language of ministering to, with, or as Postmoderns, most people I know in the EMC are in the second category, but some, like Glen Powell, are in the third, and yet still quite happily missional as priority, meaning they will minister with non-postmoderns too. Mission is the priority.

    SO where does that leave us? I don’t think we need to have a big debate in EC circles about who is more or less missional. If Emergent crew contest they are just as missional which is why they do what they do as postmoderns, I’m happy with that. If they say they take people first, and ideologies second, as a matter of course as pomos, then I’m good. I expected that response anyway, and I accept it. It matches with all my conversations with EC leaders since 98. I believe them more than I believe Carson.

    But on that day in September, in a room full of Carsonites, I just pointed out a difference for Carson’s perceptions, in Carson’s terms, for lots of hearers fluent in Carson-ese.

    For Carson, “relativism” means cast adrift with nothing. Nihilism. Yet for my mate Glen Powell, relativism means realistic, and you can only know enough to act with intergrity. But on the day I didn’t feel I should bat for Glen, or Emergent: they can do that for themselves. I felt I had to work with Carson’s definitions. And my interest was more local: to assure the locals that we weren’t what Carson is afraid of.

    If we had a round two & three, we would pick up the various meanings of relativism, but I had one moment – 15 mins. I had to speak their language.

    So I essentially said, “If Carson thinks that’s what EC is, well that’s not us. What are we? We’re missional. Incarnational mission is our priority one, not pomo.”

    On feedback, if we had a round two, it would probably go into “Is Carson’s caricature really what Emergent is saying?” “Is that what MacLaren is really saying?” “Is relativism really so bad?” I might still defer to Emergent & MacLaren to speak for themselves, but I would pick up the issue of relativism as it can be seen in distinction to Carson’s terms.

    3. Same with Brian MacLaren: Jarrod tells me MacLaren’s book “The Secret Message of Jesus” is good on relativism. If so, that’d be a good way to let Brian speak for himself, and perhaps a resource for us to explain our meanings too… in round two.

    But in round one, in the 15 mins I had, I felt I had to say, “If that’s what what you think Brian says, that’s not us: here’s what we are…”

    4. So I can see that Emergent crew might feel we sacrificed them to save our own skins. But what could we do? Trying to speak for Emergent on that occasion would amount to a game of “I said, / you said.” In a room full of Carson-ites, the only thing that would trump Carson’s definitions would be to hear directly from Emergent, not us. (And I hate being triangulated.) So we had to speak their language to allay their fears first… and then that’s all we had time for.

    To the Emergent crew, my apologies if it seems I didn’t defend you as I could have. But I hope you can see why I took the route I took. And I hope I’d have the grace to understand if the tables were turned on me. I’ll receive any suggestions about how I could have handled it better. Or what more you need from me to clear the air.*

    Much love,
    Geoff.

  13. If it helps, here’s my simplest statement for both Emergent & Carson to see where I stand re relativism & mission:

    I try to let the Great Commandment (love) drive the Great Commission (disciple-making), not the other way around.
    I try to meet people first, rather than philosophies.
    I try to share life, not only the gospel (2Thess2:8), then go on from that mutual empathy.
    I can’t be iron-clad-sure of anything. But I do experience reality, and I can love, and I can reflect, so I can know enough to act on that experience. And it is that acting with intergrity & love that concerns God more than whether I ended up getting my theology “right.” (Romans 4)

    However getting theology right is also important, because it is an act of integrity & love, to try to make sense of life enough to act well. And my experience & relfections do lead me to believe (passionately) that I do all this in God’s world, through Christ at work for and in me.

    So when appropriate, I share that gospel as I see it (which is all any of us can do), as an act of love and integrity.
    This is the kind of “mission” that drives my expression of EC. And so I think “EMC” makes that clearer, whereas EC is mis-interpreted by many as being insular, indulgent, concerned with candles & music, or ideologies.

    It’s not a polished statement, but I hope it communicates well enough.
    Geoff.

  14. Well, you kno what they say about assuming. Color me guilty of assuming that “all Christians look alike.” That explains the tone.

    A college friend of mine once explained to me that he believed there were 2 different currents running through Judaism. One is the narrow nationalist / religious nationalist. The other is the internationalist.

    I suppose I, like many of my generation (born in the 1950’s) suffer a certain degree of multiple personality neurosis when it comes to viewing the Christian World.

    My children are not accepted as Jews by some of my siblings and their multitude of children / grandchildren. This because their mother, my dear wife, is a convert. Had it not been for the Crusades, Jewish law would never have been re-interpreted to read that the religion of the child passes through the mother – and my children would have been considered Jewish.

    Is it wise to blame Christianity for my siblings narrow mindedness – NO. So much for the neurosis.

    I spent the first 20 years of adulthood totally dedicated to the narrow, albeit far more secular, nationalist current. Since moving my career from Jewish Communal professional to Communal professional, I have found more interest in the mainstream community and its problems whilst leaving the more narrow Jewish People’s fate to others better suited than I to wage that struggle.

    And, you are correct about right wing Christianity – at least as I am concerned. In my small portion of the USA, I cannot escape daily exposure to thousands of conservative Christians and their earnest desires to change me into something I do not want to be. They control the local politics, they influence every aspect of my daily life, and yet they demand that I believe in a Messiah that seeks to cast me into a burning pit just north of Megiddo unless I convert to their faith (needless to say – the Left Behind series sells rather well here).

    I have a good friend from childhood who lives in Kiryat Arba. He is one of the kindest, least violent men I have known. His father had been a Jewish educator until the Germans relocated him.

    I, unlike many nationalist Jews, do not believe that G-d gave us the West Bank so we cannot leave it voluntarily. I believe that, if the Israeli Jews and the Palestinians found a voice to live peacefully together, they would prosper in a way they cannot conceive.

    If there were a way to reasonably expect (as opposed to insure) that trading land for peace would work, I would be the first to volunteer to move all West Bank settlers from where they are now, to another place, if that meant the difference between peace and what we have today.

    My style of agressive verbal confrontation aside, I believe that the Muslim world, for its own benefit, must confront this terrible tactic of suicide bombing within its own traditions. I believe that the reason for Muslim dietary laws is not too far away from the reason for Jewish dietary laws. I believe that there may be a great voice in the world’s Muslim population that is as untrusting of the Western World as we are of them – and with good cause. It was, after all, the Western World that colonized much of the Muslim World only to leave behind the most intractable of the World’s conflicts.

    So, I continue my days work to redistribute wealth from those who don’t need it to those who do.

    An honoree eh? As one who runs testimonial events for fund raising purposes, it is always nice to hear that, on occasion, people actually deserve those awards that are handed out.

    Should I ever find myself in Australia, I will look you up. And vice versa.

    Good luck in your work. There is no shortage of work for you to do.

    Shmuel be Avraham HaCohen

  15. (currently away in the US travelling here is a short responce from Australian Missional Emerging church Guru Alan Hirsch author of The Forgotten Ways)

    The short reply (which is never wise) is that we are not distancing ourselves from Emergent, just distinguishing ourselves. As Geoff has said
    we see ourselves more as a missional movement, while they are more a renewal movement (my perspective.) We certainly are of the same tribe and there is no problems–at least from our angle.

    Much love
    A

  16. bummer that I didn’t notice this back in feb… great discussion. I note my name associated with the relativist thing…

    here’s an idea: idolatry is putting faith in a construct rather than in the Creator of constructs.

    the construct itself is not evil, in fact it can be helpful, but it is problematic when we put our faith in it.

    there’s not a huge difference between a golden calf and the ark of the covenant… one invites faith in a human construct, the other is a construct that points to the Creator.

    traditions are constructs. the subject-object framework is a construct. Christology is a construct. Our theology is a construct. we are constructs. evangelicalism is a construct.

    all potentially helpful. all potentially idolatrous.

    that’s part of the view from my relativist/relational knowledge construct…

    Glen

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