Well, there’s been quite a few stinks of late. First, people were taking us to task in blogs for raising some money to fund my (part-time) position with Emergent. Then others got really bent out of shape about my quote in a press release about a meeting with rabbis. In the midst of all that, I was informed by a friend that I was getting thrown under the bus in a new youth ministry bulletin board [UPDATE: Not everyone at YMX was out to get me, just a couple people]. Its owner was nice enough to let me in to the board, and I’ve made a few posts to defend my good name. The latest, an attempt to respond to comments about the “confusion and tension” surrounding the emerging church, is below:
I’m well aware that there is lots of confusion out there about the emerging church. It’s funny, in one comment someone will say, “I know exactly what the EC is, cuz I’ve seen it all before; it’s just like the Jesus People/Pentecostals/baptists/fill-in-the-blank.” Then the next comment will say, “What are you guys? No one knows what you are, so how can we join you or protest you?”
I will say that I fall right in between on this. On the one hand, of course, what we’re about is not at all new. Paul, Benedict, Francis, Martin, John, and many others through the ages have attempted to reform the church — that is, to make the church better.
On the other hand, I hope that what we’re doing is also new, in some respects. At one level, Martin Luther and John Calvin didn’t have to worry about blogs, they had to worry about the Pope’s army. We have new challenges today. At a deeper level, I believe that the emerging church is attempting to develop a doctrine of the church that has never before been seen — I call it a “relational ecclesiology,” and I’m going to write my PhD dissertation in defense of it.
Part of the new theories of relationality (in many fields of study) is that there is going to be tension. It’s unavoidable. In fact, it’s like the Internet — there is an Internet out there, but there is no place where you can find it. There is no there there. The Internet is the relationship between computers and servers — the thing is the relationship.
If you follow my argument, there are “emerging churches” out there that you can find, but no one of them is the perfect epitome of emergence. And there is an Emerging Church out there, but you can’t find it. Emergent, the organization I am a part of, is one of the bigger servers in the system. Not the only one, not the best one, just one that happens, right now, to have some influence.
So, in short, I don’t deny that there is confusion about just what the EC is, nor do I want to lessen that tension. That tension is good. When we lose it, the emergence will be over.