The Emergent Church Isn’t Dead — Here’s Proof

I was in Dallas over the weekend (at the National Youth Workers Convention), and I had the good fortune to visit Union Coffee Shop. Union is the vision of Mike Baughman, whom I first met at Princeton. Mike is entrepreneurial and ambitious, the very characteristics that are so often mitigated against and even squashed in mainline denominations.

But Mike didn’t let that stultifying environment deter him. Instead, he’s rallied 12 Methodist church and numerous individual donors to chip in. His vision, which he’s in the process of realizing, is a coffeeshop adjacent to the SMU campus, that combines caffeine, a warm communal space, a commitment to causes of justice, and, eventually, a worshipping community.

The soft launch of the space was Friday. Brad Cecil and I stopped by on Saturday evening. I loved the feel of the space (photos here). At the center stands a sturdy wooden table, and it’s already become the gravitational center of the space. When we were there, most of the patrons at the shop were seated around that table.

When the (Tuesday evening) worship launches, that table will become the altar, from which the Eucharist is served. This, I think, is a perfect metaphor for what communion ought to be — this table will take on loads of meaning and memory before the communion elements are even placed on it.

I encourage you to visit Union when you’re in DFW. I encourage you to support it financially if you are looking to make a year-end donation somewhere. And I encourage you to take courage in Mike’s example that new life is possible in old denominations — I know I am.

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  • Love this concept, but I think you have a hard time trying to claim this is the “emergent church”. I don’t know for sure- but I would say that emergent is more of a theological AND missiological movement and it seems that this missiological portion is alive and well (and manifesting itself in many different traditions and movements) but the theological drifts of the Emergent movement are long gone, dead, and buried.

    But, what do I know know? You are Mr. Emergent himself!

    • Brad C

      “but the theological drifts of the Emergent movement are long gone, dead, and buried.”
      kinda surprised to read this.
      First – Emergent doesn’t have a theology – Emergent is a movement among people that recognized the end of modern philosophical assumptions and the recognition that theology built using these assumptions needs to be reconsidered. Assumptions like – objectivity, omni-competence of human reason, sufficiency of language, absolutism, certainty, radical individualism, etc.
      Second – The theological work has barely begun. I find it difficult to consider your suggestion the theological task from this movement is “long gone, dead and buried.” I find it a very exciting time to do theology especially because of the emergent movement.
      Third -Union is a welcome approach especially considering the support of the Methodist church. When you consider the failure of the assumptions of the modern world, you realize the spiritual formation models developed by the church over the last 500 years also need to be reconsidered. Union is a bold step exploring some new models. Consider that those in the emergent movement first advocated that the church recover some ancient spiritual formation models that had been dismissed by the modern church and now are exploring some brand new models – very exciting stuff.

      • Frank

        You are correct. The emergent church is still drifting along never landing anywhere in their mostly white and privileged gatherings. What a sad testament to the gospel.

        • Brad C

          A drift in the sense it is not pinned to a “foundation of irreducible certainty” – Thank God. It is from this sin that we must repent as a church and stop this reduction of God to be the object of human conceptual mastery, but not in the sense it is aimless. Some very exciting stuff coming from the theological tasks these days: some very exciting ideas are coming from Apophatic theologians, some very compelling ideas from Liberation theologians and though I don’t agree with much I have to say even the Reformed theologians seem to be renewed and creative. Except for those theologians trying to defend their positions built with modern assumptions of human mastery – it is a very exciting time to explore theology and praxis.

          • Frank

            So basically you celebrate a lack of faith? Thank God that Abraham, Noah, Enoch, Isaac, Joseph, David and others were not emergent!

            Faith is the confident assurance of things not yet seen.

  • There is a community very much like this in Fort Collins called Everyday Joe’s. If he needs to connect with someone else doing something similar, send him my way. I can hook him up with the folks there.

    • Craig

      Is Everyday Joe’s in touch with the surrounding Fort Collins culture? Where do they come down on the sensitive question of whether to pass around the occasional communion spliff?

  • Dan Hauge

    So you’re taking courage in an example that perhaps “new life is possible in old denominations”? Now that’s the REAL miracle–never thought I’d hear you say that 🙂

  • I’m glad Mike did not have the “temerity to stand up and walk out of the system”.

  • Brad C

    Frank says: So basically you celebrate a lack of faith? Thank God that Abraham, Noah, Enoch, Isaac, Joseph, David and others were not emergent!

    They did not need to be emergent – they lived before the development and embrace of the Cartesian reduction; however they would be “emergent” if they lived today!
    Modern philosophy pushed theologians into the realm of the empirical – the past 500 years we have witnessed the gradual slide of theology into a position that became ashamed of faith. Some of the postmodern philosophers were first to notice this – the postmodern turn meant a “return from the margins” for people of faith to quote David Tracy. I thank God for this movement and the return to faith and the quest to free theology from the enslavement of modern philosophical assumptions and the reduction of God.

  • Jimmy

    An honest title could have read, ‘Proof The Methodist Church Isn’t Dead.’
    I too respect Baughman. And although I can’t speak for him, I’m not sure he places being emergent anywhere close to being Methodist.

    I’m seriously confused by this.

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