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Jan 20, 2006

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Nate

Mike,

I think part of the issue here is that a lot of what is going on in the emerging church conversation right now comes out of the evangelical tradition. For people within the mainstream tradition some of the reactions and positions are artifacts of the evangelical foundation of a lot of the conversation.

In NM it was interesting to see the mainstream folks start to join in. I think it will be even more interesting to see some folks from the Orthodox and Roman traditions start getting into it. Where do you think that process is?

Michael Kruse

Hey Nate,

That is a very good question. Tony Jones kinda did a "state of Emergent" post last week and one of the trends he noticed was an influx of Mainliners into the conversation, especially Presbyterians and Methodists. (I have also noted Lutherans in the mix.)

Personally, I grew up in an Evnagelical wesleyan-Arminian environment and was dissatisfied with it for many of the same reasons Emergent types have left Evangelical congregations in more recent years. I became PCUSA in graduate school in 1983 partly because of the honest intellectual dialog about scripture and culture. I suppose had I been born 15-20 years later I would be right with many Emergent types today.

I find most truly Evangelcial congregations and denominations to be intellectually stiffling and in-grown. And yet in the Mainline settings I am considered an Evangelical in many circles and that is not a compliment. I don't fit neatly in either place.

I think my story is probably similar to many other Emergent interested mainliners (but by no means all.) Some are interested because they see the Emergent conversation as a place to have open intellectual discusion and share innovative ideas without having to apologize for not being a political Leftist (though I have had that experience more than once at Emergent events.) I think others are drawn to the movement because they see innovative ways of being the church and are frustrated by the inflexible restrictions in their denominations. They either don't care about politics or are at home with Left leaning conversations.

What I am not sure that post-Evangelical Emergents realize is that in Mainline circles Emergent is viewed as a mutant form of Evangelicalism by many if it is noticed at all. I don't really know how this will all play out.

As to Catholics and Orthodox, I don't know what to expect there either.

Dave

I am still trying to understand what characterizes an "emerging church." Of the 3 primary traits the author listed, numbers 1 and 3 are the traits of any authentic church. As for "transforming secular space," I am at a loss. The words simply have no meaning for me. Can you give me an example?

Christian Boyd

I have just returned from my DMin course work at Luther Seminary, St Paul in Congregational Mission and Leadership. The Emergent church as well as the missional church ecclesiology and leadership are the major focus of this program, as well as their fairly new PhD and MA degrees.

A couple of things we have noticed, especially as we have gone out and have visited some of these emerging churches, is a low constructive theology of the Holy Trinity, which is reflective in their ecclesiology. (Dan Kimbel discardes this doctrine becasue it is not easy to understand).

We find all over the place functional theologies and ecclesiologies, like the Purpose Driven, Natural Church Development, Willow Creek, Kimbel's Vintage Church model. . . but these do not begin where it is crucial if the Church catholic is to be reformed and transformed for the world, with, in and through God.

The discussion which is going on at Luther, and is truly ecumenical (yes, all from the greater Church are beginning to flow into the conversations there). One of the first things we are seeing that needs to be focused on by all, especially mainliners, is WHAT IS THE NATURE OF THE CHURCH. What is our "be-ing" This brings into the conversation the practical and constructive doctrine of the perichoretic Trinity, which comes from the Cappadocians. The Church who is birthed out of the relationship of the dynamic "dancing" Trinity will find itself relational to the world, and a presence of the Living God. Many, after studying this portion, rather refer to the desired church of God as a 'missional' community. The word choice is to lift up the nature o the body, and not so much its function. Community is also a particular word choice because it stresses the purpose of the Church is not to be in the membership business, but to widen the fellowship of the Holy Trinity, inviting all into relationship and discipleship.

Once the biblical and inherited nature of the Church is acknowledge, then we are informed of our mission - our "do-ing". For instance, the church, like the Son of God, is here in the world not to judge the world, but so it may know from whence its salvation comes.

Lastly, once we have a grasp of our nature and mission as the Church, a community of disciples, then we are able to construct provisional and functional structures that are for our particular contexts, and that are rooted in the scriptures and theology of the greater Christian Tradition.

Right now, the emergents are a protest against the protestant Church, both mainline and evangelical and conservative, progressive and liberal. Those of us is the CML division of Luther have no doubt God through the power of the Holy Spirit is in the midst of birthing something new, and will not be like anything we have know within our modern era (which is classified as beginning around the Thirty Years War and coming to its last days after WW II).

I encourage everyone to mark their calendars for Nov. 3-4, 2006 for the next Missional Church in Context Consultation at Luther Seminary, St Paul. This year the discussion will be around the Missional Church and Denominations. Will the reformational streams of emergent, missional, and congregational transformation merge and into a truly 'missional' movement and are the days of the 'denominations' over? Are the denominational days already over? How has the mission of the Church and its nature to be expressed in the future?

Michael Kruse

Hi Dave,

In identifying with Jesus, a quote by Dieter Zander, comparing Evangleicalism with Emergent, on page 55 might be helpful.

"[Evanvelcials believe] Popualting heaven is the main part of the gospel. Instead, the gospel is about being increasingly alive to God in the world. It is concernec with bringing heaven to earth.

Most Emergents have a sense that Jesus has been reduced to abstract princples of moral behavior rather than being seen as one who we are to go ever deeper into relationship with. Conversion is important but it is only a starting point toward becoming ever more fully, as individuals and communities, examples of an age that is to come. The concern is that Jesus has been reduced to a set legalistic constructs for keeping us out of hell with no real purpose between salvation and the eschaton.

"Transforming secular space" is basically shorthand for saying they reject the dualism of sacred and secular. All of the earth and all of life is sacred. There are not secular jobs or other categories of life. They intend to find and celebrate God in all aspects of life and desire to share others where God is at work in the daily routines of life.

As for community, most people come to traditional churches and it is conisdered inappropriate to talk about, or even have space to talk about, struggles, failures and questions. Some Emergent groups have actually sold homes and moved to be within close proximity of each other. Community (to them) is not worship on Sunday with programs during the week. It is about people being truly integrated into each others lives.

I am WAAAAY over simplifyinng but I hope what I have said maybe gives a flavor of what this is about. If I misrepresenting this some one please jump in and correct me.

Michael Kruse

"...is a low constructive theology of the Holy Trinity, which is reflective in their ecclesiology. (Dan Kimbel discardes this doctrine becasue it is not easy to understand)."

Very interesting because people like the late Stan Grenz and John Franke make the trinity as the strating point for even thinking about church and they are widely respected and read in Emergent circles. In fact, I have read on occasion some blogs where the notion of the individual seems to get lost in the communal rubric. Still, my limited experience in other circles is exactly what you describe. The ecclesiology seems to be an attempt not to have one, which is of course an absurdity. There will always be one. The question is the degree of intentionality and on what will it be based.

"One of the first things we are seeing that needs to be focused on by all, especially mainliners, is WHAT IS THE NATURE OF THE CHURCH."

Can I get a witness? AMEN!

"The Church who is birthed out of the relationship of the dynamic "dancing" Trinity will find itself relational to the world, and a presence of the Living God."

This is the central thesis of Franke's recent book.

"Community is also a particular word choice because it stresses the purpose of the Church is not to be in the membership business, but to widen the fellowship of the Holy Trinity, inviting all into relationship and discipleship."

Poetic and powerful!

"Lastly, once we have a grasp of our nature and mission as the Church, a community of disciples, then we are able to construct provisional and functional structures that are for our particular contexts, and that are rooted in the scriptures and theology of the greater Christian Tradition."

Preach it my brother! And like you say radical transformation is already afoot by the power of the Spirit.

Christian, when you say "everyone" does that mean this conference is open to everyone and anyone or is it targeting certain people (Academicians? Pastors? Goat roppers?) Thanks for the heads up and the execellent posts you always leave here.

BTW, are you doing a disertation? What will it be on and when do we get see it?

Dave

""Transforming secular space" is basically shorthand for saying they reject the dualism of sacred and secular. All of the earth and all of life is sacred. There are not secular jobs or other categories of life. They intend to find and celebrate God in all aspects of life and desire to share others where God is at work in the daily routines of life."

This I can understand, Michael. Thanks. My first reaction is that this merely reflects what the Puritans believed and attempted to live. Are we just talking neo-Puritanism?

Michael Kruse

"Are we just talking neo-Puritanism?"

Interesting. I have not thought much about a connection to Puritanism specifically. I suppose you could draw a parallel between Church of England, Puritans, Separatists and Quakers.

I think an overarching theme in all the Emergent circles is that institution/structure in most of the Church have gone wrong. Institutional growth and preservation are driving mission rather than mission driving the institution. Some stay within the existing sturctures and work for reform. Others set up independent congregations with varying degrees of cooperation/hostility towards the broader church and others maintain that any thing beyond an informal network of disciples journeying together is a false imposition on the church.

Another ever present understanding is that Western Culture is moving out of the Enlightenment/Modernist world of the lone individual learning and acting through objective reason. Therefore, they are postmodern, which is NOT to say that they necessarily identify with the philosophical school often referred to as "Postmodern" (though some do) but rather that they are being the church in the era after Modernism.

When I was at an Emergent Gathering in New Mexico in August, there was concern about using the moniker "Emerging Church." This implies another niche church group like Charismatic Church, Seeker Church or Liturgical Church. Some suggested that a better experssion might be "Church Emerging" emphasising the desire to birth and nuture a future church that includes many of the elements of the various niches but with a postmodern understanding of the mission of the Church, united across a tremendous diversity of expressions.

I'll have to reflect on the Puritan angle some more. Interesting connection.

will spotts

Puritan Emergents? What an interesting idea. There are a couple of apparent similarities -- the secular/sacred one mentioned, but also a strong desire to create explicitly Christian community. However one may regard their work product, that was a primary motive for many Puritans migrating to North America.

Another similarity to some streams of "emergence" might be found in the desire to move forward by first looking back. (The desire to be biblically based, the desire to correct their understanding by the Bible.)

Major difference also present themselves. Many Puritans tended to forbid (as part of their Christian community) what was not explicitly endorsed in Scripture. This is why they tended to be very disatisfied with the Anglican solution.

Puritans were decidely not post-modern -- favoring an apparantly rationalist approach (as strange as that may sound, given our impressions of Puritans).

Puritans did not tend to try to express their theology in apparently obtuse phrases.

Puritans did not support the unity in diversity notion -- at least not theologically.

The Puritan's efforts at explicitly Christian (in the Puritan formulation) community that did not contain an implicit secular/sacred division tended to produce a marriage of civil and church matters -- which worked OK when this community was composed of people who by choice joined and believed as they did. They ran into great problems when faced with their children's changing views. Then, to exclude their children from church life equalled excluding them from civic participation. Thus the halfway covenant where the children of members who were baptized but unconverted could also be baptized.

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