How White Is the Emerging Church?

Pretty white, as it turns out. I asked Todd Ferguson of Baylor University to run crosstabs on the data that I collected in 2005. During my dissertation research, I collected 2,020 surveys from eight ECM congregations. You can read about my research and see some of the data in my book, The Church Is Flat: The Relational Ecclesiology of the Emerging Church Movement.

Since then, I’ve let several researchers have my data for their own work. Todd is among them, and I asked him to correct a glaring oversight in my book — I neglected to offer this snapshot of the racial profile of the eight congregations I surveyed.

93% of emergents are white, according to my research. This is not generalizable across the movement — my research methods were not set up in that way. This is, as I said, a snapshot of eight congregations on a single Sunday in 2005. The most diverse church in the study was Cedar Ridge Community Church, at which Brian McLaren was the pastor at the time. Here’s a graphic:

The racial make-up of the emerging church movement.

Years ago, Soon-Chang Rah asked in Sojourners Magazine whether the emerging church movement is “for whites only.” I responded by asking whether Sojourners is for straight only, because it seems to me that we face the same problem: we’d like to be broader than we are, but that’s as tough as getting white and black students to sit next to each other in a public high school cafeteria.

In other words, it’s easy to criticize our movement or Sojo or North Park University (where Rah teaches) or the Evangelical Covenant Church (the denomination with which North Park is affiliated) for being too white. Yes, we’re all too white. The real question is, How do we diversify a movement that is purposefully non-evangelistic?

That is, the ECM is about a particular people trying to solve particular problem. If our solution isn’t interesting to everyone, is that a weakness that we should correct?

A Letter to your Twenty-Something Self

Mark Scandrette has written a letter to himself twenty years ago:

Twenty something self, I speak the truth from kindness. So far life has been easy for you.. You’ve gotten by on natural talents and charm, but in the future you will have to work harder and smarter.   You have good dreams and ideals, but it will take time to turn your bravado into tangible actions that others can see and affirm. The people around you are a mirror, giving you feedback on what you put out there. Sometimes you are impatient and proud and not that self-aware. Listen to your frustrations. Reflect on where you find energy  and keep moving toward what makes you feel alive.

Read the Rest: Mark Scandrette » Dear Twenty-Something Self.

What would you say to yourself twenty years ago?

Postmodernism Is Dead, and Critical Realism Isn’t Its Successor

For years, people have been telling me that postmodernism is dead. The most recent is an article in Philosophy Now (sent to me by Russell Rathbun).

It’s an interesting piece by Alan Kirby, who has a full book on the subject: Digimodernism: How New Technologies Dismantle the Postmodern and Reconfigure Our Culture. First among Kirby’s hypotheses is that, if postmodernism is dead, don’t look to “critical realism” for a successor:

Postmodern philosophy emphasises the elusiveness of meaning and knowledge. This is often expressed in postmodern art as a concern with representation and an ironic self-awareness. And the argument that postmodernism is over has already been made philosophically. There are people who have essentially asserted that for a while we believed in postmodern ideas, but not any more, and from now on we’re going to believe in critical realism. The weakness in this analysis is that it centres on the academy, on the practices and suppositions of philosophers who may or may not be shifting ground or about to shift – and many academics will simply decide that, finally, they prefer to stay with Foucault [arch postmodernist] than go over to anything else. However, a far more compelling case can be made that postmodernism is dead by looking outside the academy at current cultural production.

This will come as a shock to all those erstwhile fans of Dallas Willard who approach me at conferences and tell me that they’re critical realists. Usually, it seems to me that they’ve embraced that philosophical position because it allows them to sound smart and critical, while still hanging on to their fideist assumptions about the Bible, truth, and theology.

Kirby contends that what’s after postmodernism isn’t something tamer, like critical realism, but something even more radical than postmodernism itself:

[Read more…]

Don’t Blame the Bible for Your Bad Views on Homosexuality

Matthew Vines is an undergrad at Harvard. He’s also gay, and he’s a Christian. He’s taking some time off of school right now to fight marriage amendments, like the one in my state, Minnesota.

He gave a talk in Wichita a couple weeks ago — you can see it above. He’s articulate, smart, and the video is worth 67 minutes of your time. Here’s what Leonard Pitts said about the video in the Miami Herald:

Vines’ speech is a masterwork of scriptural exegesis and a marvel of patient logic, slicing and dicing with surgical precision the claim that homophobia is God ordained. So effective is the video that after viewing it, Sandra Delemares a Christian blogger from the United Kingdom who had, for years, spoken in staunch opposition to same sex marriage, wrote that it “revolutionised” her thinking.

Vines points out, for instance, that the frequently quoted condemnation (homosexuality is an “abomination”) from the Old Testament lawbook of Leviticus has no application to Christians, who are bound by the teachings of the New Testament. He explains that St. Paul’s admonitions about the “effeminate” and “abusers of themselves with mankind” stem from modern mis-translations of ancient Greek terminology.

Find Matthew here:
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