OK, I’m sticking my head out the window and yelling, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.” Well, I’m not really that mad, but I am a little irked. In the last week, I have read or heard these statements:
“What emergent is discovering is stuff Lutherans have known for 500 years.”
“Anabaptists don’t have to become postmodern because we were never modern.”
“Emergent is trying to marry liturgical tradition to evangelical impulse, and Episcopalians have been doing that for centuries.”
“Baptists have always been anti-institutional.”
“I was emergent when I planted a church in the early 1970’s.”
“Emergent leaders need to adopt the posture of humble learners at the feet of those who were the emerging church leaders of their day.”
No, no, no, no, no!
Emergent is trying to do something else, something new. We are not trying to get back to what Luther and Calvin were doing. We are not attempting to recover primitivist views of scripture, like the Anabaptists. We are not trying to plant churches that are relevant to GenXers and GenYers.
Why are we trying to do something new?
Because your denominations, though formed to provide safety and security for ordained persons to follow God’s call with integrity, are now controlled by principalities and powers that demand ordination candidates to ignore the revolutionary aspects of the Bible in order to pass examinations. (Similarly, the electoral college system was developed with good reason; it now serves merely to devalue the votes of those in the minority in the “uncontested states.”)
Because the tenure process at your theological insitutions, though developed to demand the same level of scholarship that is required at secular insitutions based on the German university model, is now demonic; it requires scholars to write not for the church but for the academy, and to in other (but related) ways ignore the revolutionary call of the gospel.
More and more of us are now convinced that something new cannot happen within the existing organizations and institutions. They are irredeemably reified into patterns of institutional conservatism and survival; they are irredeemably sold out to market forces and have thus commodified the radical, liberating message of the gospel.
Thus I am becoming more convinced that the emerging church movement has more in common with liberationist thought than it does with the Reformation. That is, we are on a quest to unmask how the gospel has been used to serve the (often oppressive) interests of those who are already in charge. Comments from those in comfortable positions of power, like those above, are to be expected, for they show the subtle ways in which we will be marginalized. But we will not allow ourselves to be marginalized, to be labeled as “left,” “right,” “angry,” or “immature.” No, we have been disenfranchized. We have taken the blue pill, and there’s no going back.
We must now work at the next level, building a web of support for those few women and men who are courageous enough to stand up at a presbytery meeting and walk out…and not look back.