For as long as I’ve been involved with Emergent, we’ve always struggled to identify what exactly “Emergent” is. 10 years ago, when I was at the very first Emergent Convention in San Diego, it was a discussion that seemed to be never ending. Eventually, people involved got tired of having the same conversation over and over, but whenever we held “onramp” discussions or others joined the conversation, the first thing people wanted to know was “what is Emergent?”
Whenever pressed for an answer, the common response for years has been that we are a conversation; a conversation among friends. Emergent has always been very interested ingenerative friendships (talked about here), and really, that’s how the whole thing got started. It was a group of friends who found themselves in similar situations in their lives, asking similar questions and looking for new answers.
10 years later…it’s still a question that gets asked, but now there are even more names for what’s happening:
- What’s Emergent Village?
- What’s the emerging church?
- Is the emerging church different than the emergent church?
- What’s this emergence Christianity that Phyllis Tickle talks about?
- Can Presbyterians be emerging?
- Is Presbymergent part of emergent, emerging or emergence Christianity?
And now there are others who are asking whether it’s time for…whatever it is we call this new thing…to stop being just a conversation, and step up into being a movement, which many people are already claiming it is. I heard many folks this past week, including Phyllis Tickle, say that this emergence Christianity is in fact a movement.
From my own experience, I’ve been thinking of Emergent/Emerging/Emergence a little differently. I would suggest that Emergent is a host who provides space for conversations and friendships. Perhaps that’s not radical enough, but it’s been very important in my own faith and ministry formation. The friends I’ve met through Emergent have challenged me, supported me, pushed my thinking, helped me be more creative and even tried to ordain me online.
So many of us involved in the emerging church do come from different backgrounds and are doing ministry in a variety of different denominational/non-denominational/other groups. So for me, it’s been important for Emergent to be the place that people come to have the conversations about the future of the church. We establish the relationships, friendship and connections that foster creativity within us, so that we can go back to our contexts and be the future of the church.
I’m not against emergence Christianity becoming a movement, or admitting that it already has a history of movement within the greater church. But I do hope the emerging church continues to be a host of these conversations, knowing that more and more people are continually drawn to the emergent church (both for its ecclesiology and theology), and continue to be interested in finding ways to adapt it to their local contexts.
This post first appeared at Adam’s blog Pomomusings.
Adam Walker Cleaveland is the Associate Pastor at First Presbyterian Church of Ashland, Oregon. Adam loves drinking beer at Theology Pub, working with youth & young adults and is an occasional half-marathoner. Adam blogs at Pomomusings.com, where he writes about youth ministry, theology and social media. You can find Adam online at adamwc.com, facebook.com/adamwc or on Twitter at @adamwc.