Progressive Christian Channel
Progressive vs. Emergence Christianity: From Where I Sit
Almost as remarkable is the way in which the operative approach to Scripture differs between the two groups. The Progressive stance, once again, is far more intellectualized than is that of Emergence. Born in a time of burgeoning Pentecostalism, Emergence Christianity and Emergence Christians are naturally inclined—increasingly so, in fact—toward the approach of communal discernment and direct appeal to the Holy Spirit for explication and direction. Such a stance allows Emergence to be more or less innocent of biblical literalism and far more inclined toward a kind of apophatic or Orthodox actualism.
Authority, for Emergence, is not yet firmly defined or ensconced, whereas for Progressives it tends to be fairly well rooted in situational, critical, and historical analysis. Progressive Christianity likewise (and more or less consequentially) retains more of the trappings of 20th-century denominational or institutional Christianity than does Emergence.
In much the same way, Progressive Christianity still continues to carry with it the cachet of post-Liberal Christianity, whereas terms like "Liberal" or "Conservative" Christianity are as lost on Emergence Christians as are all the "post-" labels that can still accrue to Progressive analyses and discussions.
Even when all the slicing and dicing and dissection are done, however, there is a shared resonance or informing similarity between the two bodies. That is to say, both seek the Kingdom of God here and now, as well as not yet here and still to come. That shared emphasis must ultimately be seen as greater than any separations of method and approach. It also is the common base that allows many active and/or influential Christians to participate without contradiction in the work and theologizing of both Progressive Christianity and Emergence Christianity in this country.
Phyllis Tickle is the author of "The Great Emergence: How Christianity is Changing and Why," and is the founding editor of the Religion Department of Publishers Weekly. Frequently quoted in the national media, Tickle is an authority on religion in America and a much sought after lecturer on the subject.