I was having a conversation on email a few weeks ago with a friend about Emerging church, the usual question about what it might be, and ways to navigate what is happening. Here was a suggestion that came from that conversation.
Pole A: Post/Anti-Church This includes Anti-church, anti-congregation, and anti-denomination, anti structural people etc. For this polarity, they argue that all/most existing forms of church should be abandoned. Church as we know it is axiomatic to all our problems of church, church is bankrupt and we need to be post-church with our new forms church.
Pole B: Renewal This polarity might include people who are more positive about existing church, and are passionate about seeing these churches engage in renewal and restructuring, but without being anti-other churches in their formation, or trying to find/define the correct/authentic model/mode of emerging church.
Polarisations Pole B, is offended by the reactionary anti church nature of Pole A. Pole A is disdainful/cynical of Pole B seeing them as invalid and inauthentic to genuine emerging church.
Variations Over the last few years in my limited travels there does seem to be a difference in various countries. In the UK Pole A is much stronger and a dominant voice in emerging church. Whilst in the USA Pole B seems to be the dominant voice. At least they are the ones I think I have frequently heard.
Deep Church One of the values that drew me to Emergent, is at the heart of our hopes and aspirations is a middle ground between these two poles. Much of church is in dire need of moving beyond, with new forms of church needing to be found. But much of church can still be renewed and restructured. What we need is not an either/or, but a deep church approach, that values the emerging church from is most naissant to the most established in seeking to respect and work together in missional engagement. We might have sympathies with one pole more than the other, but surely the way ahead is together?
Our Postmodern milieu makes it possible for us to stop a pathological policing of the validity of our expressions of church (which is such a waste of time, energy and distraction from real mission) and engage in a shared positive ecuminism that leads to real kingdom engagement.
What's been your experience, have you seen this, or something different? How has it affected you?