Emergence NOW Recap

Last week, I had the pleasure of presenting — alongside Phyllis Tickle, Bruce Reyes-Chow, and Philip Clayton — at Emergence NOW, the mid-winter conference of Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia.  Columbia is one of the better hosts for a conference like this, and they treat their speakers with warm hospitality.

Phyllis Tickle led off, working out some new angles on her Great Emergence ideas.  I think she’s hitting the authority question harder than ever (and I think that will be the basis of my paper next month at the Society of Pentecostal Studies).  I like that Phyllis continues to let her ideas evolve, and that she has listened to, and responded to, criticism as she’s presented these ideas over the past five years.

I went next, presenting the 10 Myths about Emergence.  I basically used each as a jumping off point to say something interesting and positive/constructive about emergence.  You can see my slides, and all of the many wonderful tweets from the event, at the ENow Twub.  Phyllis and I rounded out the day by taking some questions from those assembled.

On the second day, Philip Clayton told us that emergence is.  It simply is.  That is, emergence is the primal quality of the cosmos, from the atomic level, all the way up to the cosmic level.  And the emergence of our social structures and our religious understandings are right in the sweep of that all-encompassing emergence.

Then, Bruce Reyes-Chow gave the most honest presentation I’ve ever heard by someone in a position of denominational power.  He spoke of the changes in the PC(USA) and of the reality that his position of moderator won’t be around much longer.  He also spoke hopefully about what denominationalism can be.  And, in what was the most intriguing and inspiring part of his talk, it became clear that his own identity as an urbanite, lover of San Francisco, and planter of a wonderful church is what guides him.  That strength-of-identity seems to free him of the need to play denominational politics.

There were, of course, workshops, conversations over meals, and more.  Troy Bronsink led singing in his inimitable way, and Barbara Brown Taylor‘s preaching reminded me once again what a master of the English language can do with a manuscripted sermon. I met twice with the Atlanta Cohort, and we even had a self-described “Emerging Muslim” join us at one of those meetings.  Awesome.

I came away from it all with a renewed sense of hope and friendship.

I attempted to track all of the books written by or mentioned by the presenters. See the entire list here.

Others’ reflections: Kimberly Knight; Bruce Reyes-Chow.

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  • So, according to Clayton, if someone were to ask emergence what its name is, it might reply, “I AM”?


  • We are the emergence. Every person emerge for herself and for others is a challenge mystery . We just know what each one reveals himself off of life and can be captured by various forms of concern that we have developed. But, despite all diligence, each one remains a mystery alive and personal. That’s why the emerging church is magnificent, because people are the church and people are mysterious.

  • Sarah

    Tony – your timing is great – was going to email you re the book list you made. Now I can just link to this when I do the email to participants. Thanks also for contributions to the event – for the synopsis – for your graceful words about our efforts to present a good event for participants and leaders alike. Peace, friend.