Q & R: Is the Emerging Church movement fizzling out?
Here's the Q:
I am a former Christian fundamentalist who first discovered the Emerging Church discussion several years ago (at the behest of many of my friends). The message and discussions of the EC greatly resonated with me and has greatly changed much of the way I now view my own faith and the way I view others... all for the better. I have read several of your books, and several others from other authors/teachers associated with the EC and almost always greatly learn from them. However, I have been a lone ranger as an EC "fan" within my own circle of friends. And I have never really "come out of the theological closet" for fear of backlash. But, as someone who has followed the EC discussion for several years, I'm beginning to wonder if the EC movement is starting to fizzle out. It seems many EC resources are becoming less available. I noticed EC websites and the EC blogosphere are becoming fewer and fewer. It seemed to me the EC was really strong several years ago, but seems to be losing steam now. Do you feel the EC movement is still very strong today and still growing? Or, has it lost it's steam? If it is still going strong, can you please provide some recent examples of this?
Here's the R:
Thanks for your question. If we use Phyllis Tickle's term "Christian Emergence" or "Emergence Christianity" to describe a broad phenomenon that is occurring across the spectrum of Christian communities (Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant ...), I think the movement is stronger than ever.
In Evangelical and Charismatic circles, many Evangelical/Charismatic gatekeepers have successfully driven the emergent conversation underground. They don't talk much about emergent figures - except negatively. And people who "come out of the theological closet" are pressured and often nudged out. But there are so many people like you - who are rethinking and going through a deep awakening spiritually, and are just circumspect about it in their ecclesial circles. And surprising numbers of Evangelical/Charismatic leaders are far more sympathetic than you would expect.
In Mainline circles, there is broadening and deepening engagement at all levels.
In Catholic circles, there are growing pockets of engagement on a grass-roots level, and there are small pockets in Orthodox circles too.
My sense is that more and more of us who are deeply involved with emergence Christianity are simply talking about God, Jesus, the Bible, mission, faith, spirituality, and life ... and doing so from a new and fresh perspective, but not using the "e" word so much. Sometimes it's the word "missional" that works, sometimes it's "progressive," sometimes it's "new kind of" - it goes under lots of labels.
There are good reasons to keep the term "emergence" (and emerging, emergent, etc.) labels alive, because there are new people waking up and needing to find a portal into the conversation every day. Some of them are young people coming of age - 14-24 year olds who love God, but are realizing they don't have a future in the pre-emergence or emergence-hostile contexts into which they were born. Others of them are middle aged people who are reaching the "is this all there is?" stage, and many are older folks encountering what Richard Rohr calls 2nd half of life issues, and what I call (in Naked Spirituality) stage 3 and stage 4.
I'd love to hear (on my Facebook page) how others see things unfolding. All I can say is I think it's a wonderful time to be alive ...