Well, I seem to have been included in the Emergent Village blog round-up of the latest Mark Driscoll furore (see my post here), mainly thanks to this post of Grace’s, (which obviously got a lot more traffic than its 36 comments suggests!). I guess that brings me much more fully into the ‘emerging conversation’ than I thought I was, which probably warrants some clarification…
So far I’ve seem myself as a spectator on the whole emerging church thing; standing on the outside, looking in critically (in the positive sense of that word). I’m part of the New Church stream here in the UK, which is not exactly mainstream, but is definitely not emerging either (although I believe Andrew Jones considers the UK charismatic church as a precursor to emerging stuff over here). My upbringing is in the Anglican church.
I see the emerging conversation as broadly positive. It seems to me to be part of a wider move within the Western churches to reassess themselves and their position and purpose, which has to be a good thing. The driver for this particular movement (although I’m not sure it can be called that – movements tend to be led, and this one definitely doesn’t seem to be) is the desire to be Relevant (it does seem to need to be capitalised for some reason) to post-modern society. I don’t entirely agree with that perspective, but I that’s because I see post-modernism to be almost solely the proviso of media-savvy educated white middle class people; I’m not sure that the characteristics of post-modernism extend beyond that sector of society yet.
I can understand a desire to be Relevant, I just think that people make their own relevance when the message is challenging enough. What we need is not Relevant, but Authentic.
Like I said in my last post, I’ve not read Brian McLaren’s “Everything must Change” yet, but from what I can gather I think the book is part of an honest attempt to critically re-evaluate our faith; to try and discern how the 1st Century message of Jesus translates into our 21st Century context. What would Jesus have to say to us about how we follow him, about how we express our faith to the world? I’ve not worked it out yet, but I’m pretty sure it would have a lot to do with ‘widows and orphans’.
Anything that drives us to reconsider ‘how should we then live?’ is positive, in my opinion, which is why I see the emerging conversation as positive. I’m not sure that I would always reach the same conclusions, but it is at least a genuine question: “how do we love? How do we reach out to those that don’t know Jesus? How do we minister to the poor, the rejected?”
To me, the question ringing in my ears is, if I were there, walking in 1st Century Palestine, would my current faith put me with the hungry followers of Jesus or the indignant Pharisees? I think for too many of us here in the West, if we are truthful with ourselves we would find ourselves with the religious establishment of the day decrying the radical who dared to claim he had a better understanding of God… At least within this conversation are those who are critically asking themselves this, and working out how to change direction.
Godspeed to them, I say.