By Invitation Only?: Private Summit Actually Threatens to Undermine Emergence Christianity

By Invitation Only?: Private Summit Actually Threatens to Undermine Emergence Christianity January 16, 2013

The day before the national book event honoring Phyllis Tickle in Memphis, roughly 50 (Correction: 35) emergent movement leaders had a State of Emergence Christianity meeting. The meeting was organized by Tony Jones and Doug Pagitt, also the organizers of the book event.  (Correction: Phyllis Tickle called the meeting and contracted JOPA Productions to organize it. This article is intended as a critique of organizing styles, not a personal or professional attack. Please see my follow up blog for further clarification.)

The invitation went out in the same email that invited Phyllis’s “favorite people” to do a presentation at her book event, so I think it’s accurate to say that the people in the room were friends of Phyllis. Perhaps more people were invited after the fact, however the language in the invitation email states specifically, “In advance of the Emergence Christianity conference in January, Phyllis Tickle has asked us (Tony and Doug) to organize a private, invitation-only gathering of some of her favorite people.” The invitation goes on to state the topic of the summit, “Together or Not? How Will Emergence Christianity Proceed?”

Now this is all very confusing, and dare I say troubling on a number of levels. First of all, Emergence Christianity has always been conveyed to me as a movement. In fact, Brian McLaren is now teaching movement theory in his speaking gigs and framing Emergence Christianity as thus. There are principles to social movements that are adopted and practiced for various practical and philosophical reasons. The way this meeting was organized violates social movement cornerstone principles in a number of ways. As an organizer in many social and environmental movements in the past 20 years — ranging from the Political Prisoners/Prison Industrial Complex movement, to the Global Justice (Anti-Globalization) movement, the Environment Justice/Green Jobs movement, the Native American Big Mountain struggle, Racial and Economic Justice and the Occupy movement — this is one area I feel more than qualified to put forth this critique.

Private Summit

This sorely violates the principle of transparency vital to all social movements. The only way for people to develop the level of buy-in needed to build a movement is for them to trust the leadership. If leaders are having exclusive, closed doors discussions on how to move the movement forward, there’s no way for for people to: A) know what’s going on; B) agree with the strategies moving the movement forward; C) engage in the process; and D) be able to hold the leadership accountable.

Invitation Only Private Summit

The invite-only nature of this meeting not only excludes people and hurts feelings, but is also an expression of hierarchical organizing. As a movement that exults and develops practitioners of flat structures, the exclusive nature of this summit was completely out of line with who we are. It also violates the principle of the invitation inherit to successful social movements. Essentially two white men invited their friends and had a secret, exclusive strategy meeting on the state of the movement and most of us were not invited.

When Phyllis’s book event was announced as a national gathering, people made some of the assumptions people make about our national gatherings. People wanted to advise Doug about including speakers of color and having a more inclusive space for folks of non-dominant cultures. Doug was quite adamant in communicating that JoPa (Doug and Tony’s company) was contracted to produce a book event for Phyllis, that the event was a celebration for Phyllis and would be produced by committee, so to speak.

The invitation states that Phyllis requested this summit in advance of her book event. However, I am told that, during the framing for the meeting, Phyllis actually interjected and said that she did NOT request the summit. (Correction: Phyllis Tickle did call the meeting. ) One can only surmise that Doug and Tony extended the power bestowed upon them by Phyllis to be exclusive in the organizing of her book event, and seized the opportunity to call a meeting on the future of the Emergent Movement with just the people they wanted in the room. Now I don’t know Tony, but I absolutely adore Doug and would defend his honor to a great extent. However, this manipulation of power does nothing to nurture trust in their leadership. (Correction: My intent here is to illustrate how damaging invitation only organizing is, not to cast attack any individuals. These guys have a demonstrated track record in conference organizing.)

If, in fact, we identify as a Christian social movement, where is the transparency vital to social movements and the flat structure that we so value?

I would like to chalk all this up to ignorance. These guys have been writing incredible books, preaching, and speaking, developing thriving communities of faith and all kinds of great work. They have not however been in the front lines of massive international social movements that would crumble without transparency and open inclusivity. So I am absolutely willing to give these guys the benefit of the doubt as long as we can forgo this kind organizing in the future.

How to Move Forward as a Movement?

Movement building is nothing less than an art form. When done well, it grows participation, increases buy-in and builds consensus. Done badly or not at all, conflict arises, consensus cannot be reached and people leave the movement with bad feelings. I have seen it go both ways. Here’s a few movement building tools and opportunities that I can see at a glance:

1- Emergent Village Cohorts

These are local expressions of the Emergent Movement. When veteran movement folks steward these spaces, new people seeking a safe space to explore Christianity outside the box are able to hook in. These are also places where folks who can’t afford the conference fees or time to travel to national gatherings can participate and influence the direction of the movement. I’d personally like to thank Mike Clawson for his tireless commitment to maintaining the cohort directory on the Emergent Village site.

2- Emergent Cohort Summit

Cohorts who are able to send someone to our national gatherings, bring news of their local work and report back to their cohort from the gathering. These cross pollinators play a vital role in connecting the work at the local level with that of the national gathering. This would function as part of the feedback loop required to share and get buy-in on the organizing trends emerging from various facets of the movement.

3- Emergent Village

EV could be a open movement platform for finding each other, gathering together, sharing resources, listing movement events, and being the point of entry for newcomers to the movement. Currently there are three people on the board, one of whom is Doug Pagitt and pervasive perception is that EV has become a proprietary brand of Doug’s, which is something that needs to change. EV could have a table at every emergent-minded event and become the outreach and organizing platform for the movement, but that will require new leadership.

4- Regional Skill Shares

To share the focus, power, and leadership in the movement with practitioners (a shift from author-centered focus) skill shares could be held and hosted by cohorts around the country. Authors could lend their name and following to support the skill share happening in their region. Practitioners would get the opportunity to share and workshop their stuff in a supportive environment. Folks living in the same regions could meet and find ways to support one another’s work. (TransFORM Network is already hosting regional events that could be a platform for this.)

5- Working Groups

Movements need to be stewarded. Emergent Village (as an open non-proprietary entity in this scenario) could issue a call to establish working groups to steward the movement. A few examples of working groups are media, cohort gathering organizing group, finance, cohort resourcing (developing tool kits to help new cohorts start up), and outreach (organize folks to table at emergent-minded events around the country.)

6- Mutual and Collective Liberation

No social movement can survive today without an analysis of all the “isms” of oppression. There is great deal of Biblical basis to the principle of social movements that assert that we are not free while others are oppressed. Progressive white folks who have done work around white privilege along with folks of non-dominant cultures in our movement keep driving this point.

Sadly, this is often met with resistance from folks who haven’t adequately explored their own privilege. Without the consciousness of our own privilege, we are ill-equipped to be allies to those of non-dominant cultures. If you notice that your Emergent gathering is mostly white dominant culture folks, it’s because this movement has not wholly embraced anti-opression work.

I was recently part of a conference call with movement leaders of color who essentially stated that white people need to talk to other white people about privilege before they feel comfortable inviting their communities of color to be involved. Many people of color need an environment where the legacy of racism that we’ve inherited needs to be openly acknowledged, before they feel like they belong. White people also commonly express what psychology calls “micro-aggressions.” There are ways that subtle, ingrained expressions of racism get communicated by dominant culture folks without their awareness.

7- Facilitating a Process to Create Demands

If you have seen Brian McLaren speak recently, you know that social movements function to identify and articulate demands of institutions to change. He is very astute to say that we’re not ready to articulate cohesive demands as a movement, until we have a more diverse group of folks in the conversation. I would venture to say that while invitation-only private summits are being held in secret to determine the future of the movement, we are not ready to take this step.

This list is not exhaustive and meant only to jumpstart a greater brainstorm and conversation on how to steward and build this movement. With the institutions of church declining in the U.S., this national movement has a powerful role in stewarding Christianity as safe haven and a positive transforming force in people’s lives.

Sadly, the follow up from this meeting includes the creation of “secret” Facebook group called “Emergence Christianity (Memphis) Visioning Group.”  I can’t stress enough how out of alignment this private conversation is. I urge the folks involved to open up the conversation to the wider movement and create the feedback loops needed to make this process transparent. I am told the meeting was recorded and copious notes were made. I encourage the people involved to make this documentation widely available online and end the exclusive manner in which this meeting was planned and carried out.   In order to continue to evolve into this role, the Emergent movement needs to embrace transparency and openness or it will fail.

I offer this critique with love and compassion for my brothers and sisters in this movement and in Christ.

"Catholics elevated tradition. Christians elevated the bible. Sola scriptura, inerrency, infallible...yea ok. That's anything but ..."

The Bible is NOT the WORD ..."
"Pains me to report that, a recent colleague from Princeton informed me of sexual and ..."

The Body Never Lies

Browse Our Archives

TRENDING AT PATHEOS Progressive Christian
What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Julie


    Thank you for this post! It is amazing and dead on. This is what I posted on someone’s FB status that shared this article. I share it as someone who has gotten hit from this group and by these “secret meetings.” These meetings are known to happen at a lot of the events. This article, I think best voices what a lot has said about these meetings. Here is what I stated on Facebook.

    ” I have to say that this article hits on a very big reason I have left the “emergent” stuff. I came into the conversation almost 15 years ago. It did not have a name and it was a conversation of people realizing a shift in the religious as well as the social environment. we debated, we encouraged, and we built. I left for awhile after I came out. me coming out was a big deal in my “world” of the conversation. so, I left. I left for myself and others. almost 6 years ago I came back. there was this shift that had happened while I was gone for a couple of years. I was shocked, but decided to jump in, because the origins of this thing was stewed in conversation. sadly, what I have witnessed, is this controlling of the conversation. a controlling of debated that was openly celebrated and a demonizing of those who had enough guts to stand against these “leaders” who some how have become intoxicated with the title “leader.” I personally have been bullied and I have been gossiped about by these “leaders.” so much so, that when I dared offered an idea, all it was, I some how got labeled “bipolar” by a heavy weight “leader.” I have lost friends who decided to listen to someone they have not known as long as me all because they had back room talks. slowly I decided to leave and shut my voice off. it was not worth fighting any more. what was there to fight for? the conversation is gone. “leaders” voices are heard more than those who have put blood and tears into this conversation because “who are they? they have no power in this emergent deal.” (this is a close quote of what was said about me in a closed door meeting) I’m glad this article was done. It is 100% dead on critique. I’m sad about a lot of things that deal with the emergence. mostly I am sad, because I had to take another little pill to realize that the other matrix I love and protected at all cost was a lie. I share this, because I like a lot say this in the corners, I hope the emergence group dies. I hope that those who have these closed meetings realize in the scheme of things they are nobody and what they have done to so many was not worth the price of tea in China. it is time for these “leaders” to be humbled and start doing some deep confession. to deal with the truth of the matter, they have killed a beautiful conversation, but they have not killed those of us who are out side it and doing better things because they chose a route to shove us out. Love ya (name left out for their privacy) and I appreciate all you have done for me in the past. you have been one of the few in the crowd that I honor and respect, because you (like others) get the what the conversation is. people talking, people changing, and people doing great things. many blessings!”

    • Jules – with love and respect, I do NOT hope “the emergence group dies.” I don’t think that’s Holly’s point at all in writing this, either. I think Holly cares a great deal about emergence Christianity, so much so that she fears it will die if it is organized in such a way that is exclusive and secret, rather than open and transparent. Our values are open and transparent, but we aren’t operating in those values. And it’s a mistake that is causing more harm than good. I want to see emergence Christianity become a movement for positive social change, and I too fear that it won’t if we can’t fulfill some of these basic goals and tenets of successful social movements.

      • Julie

        I agree. As I have said at various moments, I care about this movement deeply. I raise the dust to remember. You cannot build something without acknowledging the mess. I put a lot into this conversation. I learned a lot and grew even more. I read some where recently asking where the LGBTQ voices are in emergent. I kind of laughed and thought, “in the corners, resting. we got tired of fighting in a place that was suppose to accept us.”

        Anyway, I agree with what you say here. I care a lot, to think I don’t would ignore that I wrote this long post. If I didn’t care I would not have posted it. I care a lot. I believe in something better. I believe in what you have stated here. More than you can know. I just don’t believe it can happen till leaders acknowledge what they have done in private and public will some of that happen.

        • Becky Garrison

          Jules nailed it – there’s some truth telling that needs to happen – too many elephants in the room – you can only step in dung so many times before you say, I’m out of here. Not saying I’m perfect but it’s impossible to converse with people about what often tends to be online misunderstandings that can be cleared up with a few beers if they won’t come to the table. The argument I keep hearing is one doesn’t reconcile with say Hitler, etc. I penned this after deciding I could only bang my head against the wall so many times.

  • David

    I didn’t invite you to the small meeting we held last night to plan the future of a working relationship between two local churches. While I’m certain the readers here could care less, I’m also sure there was at least one person from those churches who would be angry for not being invited. Sometimes we need to limit the numbers of folks that will sit around a table. There is no conspiracy there. We have all had to do this at some point for our own sanity and focus.

  • Becky Garrison

    Spot on Holly. Thanks Julie for your witness. I too, have undergone the gaslighting for God for raising the Qs as to why this conversation morphed into a kinder, gentler, version of progressive evangelicalism that still has straight white dudes calling the shots and getting almost all the book deals. A few women and people of color are let in and maybe the occsaional LGBT person but it’s not a convo any longer but extended book tours. (Not that I’m against books mind you but the real dynamic work I see happening on the fringes are done by those practioners who don’t have book deals within the Christian (read “evangelical” world). That’s why like Julie and a host of others I know left the building – I USED to publish within progressvie evanbgelical presses but all my work these days is outside this bubble.

  • First, spot on critique. Let me add – as one of those who was at the gathering – we must be careful not to give too much power or influence to the Tony/Doug gatherings as the be all and end of all of the conversation (JOPA is a business after all). Love those guys, but they do only rep a part of what is going on, so to limit our understanding of this emergent thing that is happening to one area and location reinforces the idea that there is one place/location, one answer, one strategy, etc. As a brown person who lives in many white places (PCusa, emergent, etc.) my attempt to inhabit many places at the same time without letting any of them fully define my reality is the only way I can survive and maintain perspective about who lives where and why. I would also say, that Brian M would challenge the idea that this is a movement as it now stands and is doing some great thinking about this. Personally, I am not sold on the idea that it should/can be one in it’s current state. Two cents and thanks Holly, for the push.

  • I don’t think that a lot of people in church leadership – even very well meaning people – understand the extent to which existing structures play gatekeeping functions that disempower a lot of people. If you don’t have a degree or a publishing deal or experience on the conference/speaking circuit, then it doesn’t really matter if you come carrying the keys to the kingdom, you’re not getting in. I’m sure that for people who are busy and dealing with a lot of attention, the degrees and book deals and publicity are convenient ways to sort out what is worth paying attention to. But how much better would it be if people with influence were really intentional about being on the look out for people who are outside of the inner sanctum, so to speak, and help give them a seat at the table? I think Fred Clark does this better than anyone else I’ve seen. But it is a hard job. It’s not going to happen by accident.

  • Holly makes very valid points here. As a participant in said meeting I will say, along with Bruce, that the critique here gives too much power those those that organized this particular event. Emergence is happening all over the place. The critique here is much needed but I wouldn’t limit emergence to JoPa productions nor to the writings of both Phyllis and Brian. They are important potent voices to be sure, but do not speak for an entire conversation. And the tenor and tone of that particular meeting did not have the ‘we speak for everyone here’ tone. Pushback is needed to be sure but let’s not give too much energy and power to a particular segment of this larger conversation (hopefully movement). As one of the few persons of color present in this gathering I found myself explaining alot to many friends about the apparent lack of diversity. Now this? I care deeply for this conversation. But I do not limit emergence to one event that was held for a couple of days in Memphis that many of friends, that are in emergence locally with me, were unawares.

  • Thank you Holly for calling for openness and accountability. Although I will continue to participate in this conversation, I see once again how our human condition will make a mess of any efforts to decentralize or flatten out authority structures. I interpret the privacy of the meeting to be a matter of convenience and space limitations; however ,the principle is worth questioning since this conversation is a very public one. How much can we critique commercialized Christianity when we are partaking in similar enterprises with potentially similar methodologies underpinning our authority structures?

  • Jenell Paris

    Three women blow whistles; 10 comments. Tony Jones asks why women don’t comment on his blog; 326 comments. Fanboy emergent commentators need to take women seriously by respectfully engaging them when they initiate conversation (including of course their limitations and errors). I wish Tony and Doug would take leadership here by discussing Holly’s argument on her terms and in this space (I think Doug sponsors this blog, so he must have allowed the post, which is certainly cool), but this is not necessary. The people have voice, but they too often use it to get themselves in basking position to enjoy the glow of charismatic people and ideas.

    If the dominant public response to Julie, Holly, and Becky is to let their words wither on the vine, then we’re doing nothing more than nurturing one more generation of evangelical (call it post-, call it non-, call it progressive, doesn’t matter) kookoo caca.

    BTW, I don’t know anything about the event that Holly discusses…I was part of Solomon’s Porch for years, have intermittent connection with emergent, and care very much about all of it, including those with whom I may disagree or conflict.

    Peace, Jenell

    • YES! I am actually astonished at how few comments there is here. I get that this is difficult stuff to talk about, but these conversations need to be had in very transparent and honest ways. Usually it seems they are talked about in the corners so that everything done in public is clean. That is an institutional mindset that gets in the way of healthy flourishing.

    • Hey Jenell, any reply to my comment about not enough comments from me?
      I mean, a guy puts up a comment about a woman’s comment about not enough comments on a woman’s post about a posting deserves a comment – a classic postmodern comment cycle ;0)

  • I’ve been part of this conversation for more than a decade now, and I’ve heard different versions of these concerns many times before. Because Emergent Village chose not to be a membership organization, there is no simple, evident “way in” accessible to anyone by their own volition. I believe this was intended to foster spontaneous friendship, generative conversation and center-set (not bounded-set) thinking. However, the unintended result is leadership with no structure for accountability and participants with no clear way to be heard/become leaders.
    Human communities always self-organize. In my experience, Emergent Village tends to repeatedly self-organize from its invitation-only roots rather than moving to the next phase of self-organizing which is accountable, public and transparent. Its self-description as “a group of friends” (see below) makes it clear that this is a strategic choice. It’s never been a choice I supported, but because of the way EV is (not) organized, I never believed voicing my opinion would have much impact. Thanks, Holly, for believing in Emergent Village’s capacity to change more than I do.

    From the EV website (
    Who runs Emergent Village?
    We’re a group of friends who have committed to live reconciled lives together, in Christ. As such, Emergent Village is run very much like a co-op, that is, collaboratively. Leadership of EV changes often.

  • Folks, thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts. I would like to follow up with two things:
    1- I love this movement deeply and it is THE reason I can call myself a Christian again. Anyone who tries to use my words against this movement, is going to have a fight on their hands, and believe me, I can be a force!
    2- If you have any interest in the movement building work I am clamoring for, please check out the Movement Strategy Center at

  • Donny Dunn

    I was at the conference, not the meeting. As to “the meeting”, I wasn’t invited, didn’t know it was happening, and don’t really care. As to “the conference”, it looked to me as though the group attending was a little “older” than some other events, perhaps a little more “male”, and certainly too “white”. I try not to make assumptions about others’ sexual orientations, but I hope all those there felt comfortable with however they define themselves while they were there. My hunch, though, was it was a pretty “straight” group. The “conversations” at the conference were, therefore, rather limited by who was present and by the preponderance of speaking by and focus on Phyllis, who was the person most of us came to hear. It would have been nice to have had more opportunities to have joined conversations with others in some organized fashion, perhaps those who are interested in “organizing” could have had a gathering and those interested in “authority” or “movement” or other issues could have gathered into other conversations. One thing that really struck me, though, was how those in their twenties who were in attendance are the ones who might actually see some of what is coming come about. Those of us over sixty might just see the end of some things that really need to end. I appreciate the sense of urgency in some of the comments above but feel we can all benefit from a longer view and extended conversations. I think it would be better to try and find ways to invite and welcome more diversity and extend the conversations at whatever events are ahead.

  • If anyone cares i’ll be posting a full response to Holly Roach’s article soon on my personal blog.

  • Jeff in CO

    I think it has little to do about Nothing! When are we are going to keep the truth of the Bible the same… culture does change, but truth doesn’t. New Christian clubs, divisions, neo denominations… .it’s all lukewarm! We strive to have the cool music, cool building to feed our codependent acceptance, when we should let the Word and the Power of the Holy Spirit do the work. Millions of Chinese Christian seem to understand this..

  • Doug pagitt

    Hello all, I was not going to comment on this posting this week as I am on vacation in Florida, but now I see by jenell’s comment that that seems to be making some sort of statement. So, real quickly for now a few randon responses and thoughts.
    First let me say that I personally messaged Holly and asked her if we could speak next week, so I will not comment on her thoughts about me in the post at this time.

    6 quick thoughts:

    1. Thank you to all who care some much about the people of and effort of emergent village and the movement. It truly takes us all.
    2. I’m thrilled with the number of comments. I know jenell found fault in hte number of comments compared to other people’s blogs, but if you look at the number of comments in the EV blog this one has 4-20 times more comments. So the comparison to other blogs might say something about readership more than anything else,
    3. Thie event mentioend in the post was not meant to be the “one and all” of the “E” conversation. It was an event intended to celebrate Phyllis tickle and her book. So, all presenters were volunteers and offered great gifts. This event was focused in scope. The pre-meeting was also particular in its intention. It was not intended to set the course for the future, but for PT to hear what others were thinking and doing and to see if there was there something unfolding that people would do together at this stage “of pre-emergence”.
    It was not billed as, nor did it function as a strategy meeting. I was intended to be a “give an extra day before the conference at your own expense to share what you are currently up to and do you want to go together?” kind of meeting for PT to hear from friends what they were thinking. Again, the large event and pre-meeting were inspired by and focused on Phyllis.
    4. I don’t like private meetings either. I know people feel left out and get hurt feelings. i certainly know this has been true fo me when i have been left out of what i interpreted as important meetings. I have worked hard to create open systems and believe in open systems. But as much as it rubs me funny sometimes not every meeting or planning session can nor should be open. When private meetings happen I hope the power of them is only used for the later collective engagement.
    5. We need more times and places for more people contribute and engage. Let’s make them. My limited attempts, like the use of this blog as open platform for anyone who wants to contribute; the fall gathering where anyone can present and no one is paid; and open cohort meetings I try to participate in or host when I travel have been underwhelming in their success, but let’s not give up the good fight of creating open engagements. But also, lets not make every other event have to fill the role of the open events. There will be many kinds of events, meetings, plannings and gatherings. Let us not put them in competition with one another (I am speaking to myself on that one as much as to anyone else).
    6. Personally I don’t like blog comments and blogs as a means of meaningful exchanges, so please never view my limited comments as not caring.

    Ok, more next week on the substance of the posting, but for now back to vacation.

  • Since I was at the meeting on Thursday (though as a historian/observer, not a “participant” per se) and was directly involved a few of the issues Holly directly critiqued, I thought I might be helpful if I clarified a few points:

    First, regarding the Facebook group she mentions, I was the one who created it (though only because I was the only one with a list of all those present). It was not created with any agenda or decision-making authority, just as a way to help people connect and find each other and continue their conversations from the other day. A few of us were standing around lamenting that most of use didn’t even know each other’s names, much less how to stay in touch afterwards, so I offered to create a Facebook group to help with that. In other words, as Mike Croghan put it, the Facebook group “was the equivalent of a list of email addresses written on a clipboard passed around the room. Nothing more.”

    If you’re interested, here is exactly what I posted to the group description:

    “This group has been created in order to continue the conversation among those of us who were present at the visioning discussion on the Thursday before the Emergence Christianity Gathering in Memphis (January 2013). Post your thoughts, visions, suggestions, and questions about the future of this Emergent movement.”

    However, at Phyllis Tickle’s own suggestion, I have since made the group public and open to anyone who wants to join.

    I should also clarify that the audio recordings and “copious notes” taken at the meeting were my own, and were for the purposes of my doctoral dissertation research, not for public or private distribution. I fully support Holly’s call for greater transparency. Nothing about the meeting last Thursday was supposed to be secret and I’d encourage anyone who was there to blog more fully about what went on. However, I cannot and will not release my notes or the audio recordings simply because I assured everyone at the outset that I would not – I didn’t want to make anyone uncomfortable or inhibit their ability to speak freely and openly in the group. To go back on that now would be to break their trust and renege on my word.

    Hope these clarifications help give greater context for some of the issues Holly raised concerns about.

  • Nate Sauve

    Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord and he will lift you up.

  • Love you people (on both sides of the controversy… if there is one), and thanks for taking the time to create some sparks (especially but not only Holly, and Doug). Conflict is inevitable, and this is looking like sort of a “family squabble” from where I sit… and despite bing white & male, I’m mostly on the fringe (layman, sorta Catholic, living in a place [Chicago] where the movement seems dormant at best, plus still fence-sitting on a few of the social or theological issues that many progressives and “leaders” likely decided about long ago). So since we’re family… let’s keep in mind that how we treat each other in the midst of conflict sends as much of a message as the “content” of one’s book, summit, conference, blog, comment, etc.

    I think Holly’s right on at least one point: we don’t get to “pick our family”. God picks us. We’ve seen enough splinters and splinters of splinters in church history to hopefully learn a few things. The spirit or pace of this conversation may not be as radical as some would want (or inclusive, or worldwide, or transparent, or organized), but we are also called to forgive up to 490 times, or so says the Nazarene. Emergent Christianity is still a fairly small little ghetto (or gated community), and what exactly is holding it back I’m not qualfied to say. The old “trust but verify” adage will be useful here, too — so Mike Clawson’s explanation of the Facebook facts, for example, sets a good tone.

    We’ve all got old wounds we would probably prefer not to re-open, and I don’t think its Pollyanna-ish to say “proceed with caution”, lest we leave a permanent record of our foolishness to future generations in need of genuine wisdom and guidance. Regarding those wounds, friend-0f-the-movement Richard Rohr is fond of saying, “Those who do not transform their pain will instead transmit it.” So dig in… it’s a good fight to have, but try to fight fair.

  • John

    It’s just a matter of time until the Truly Hip Emergence Movement secedes (emerges?) from the old side moribund institutionalized emergence movement. Monks did it, Methodists did it, Emergents will do it. World without end.

  • Holly,
    Thanks much for the critique. It took some courage to offer it. From the beginning of my attempt to understand the emergent church, I felt a certain exclusivity in the group. So I never felt any real interest in trying to identify with it. I have found a home within the broader progressive church movement where folks like Marcus Borg, Philip Gulley, Richard Rohr, etc. seem to me to be much more inclusive and hospitable to folks like me who are trying to articulate progressive Christian teachings in small, conservative America.