It was good to be at the Emergent Convention. As Jake and I made the 13+ drive from Princeton to Nashville, he asked me what I was hoping to get out of this week. For me, I was primarily looking forward to the relational-aspect of the convention. I was looking forward to hearing some people speak, catch some seminars, etc., but more and more, I am changed and impacted by relationships over ideas, books or lectures. It was a good week, let me share some highlights with you.
Obviously, it was awesome to be able to spend time with Sarah as she and the other Columbia Seminary folks joined us for the convention. It was also good to see friends from Spokane, Whitworth College and past conventions (Cory, Shane, Jen, Lilly, Josh, April & Nuc, Mark and many others), friends just made this year (Wes, Susie, Adele, Rachelle and many more than I can remember). I had some good conversations with Tim Keel and it was great to be able to spend a few hours getting to know Dan Kimball better, and sharing some of our stories with one another. It is life-giving for me, as it is for many in this Emergent “conversation” to be able to spend time with people who are also looking forward and desiring to see new/old things happen.
A few of us who have been to all three conventions remarked that this is probably a good time to stop the conventions for now. While there were some additions to the seminar list this year, and some minor changes to the seminars that have been repeated, I’ve heard most of the emergent folk give their schpeels – and they are good, but it’s time to take a break, set new visions, think about new directions, focus more on the theological work and prepare for the future – whatever that is going to be for Emergent/emerging church.
Time to Make the Move
It was fun to read Sarah’s post, “Some Thoughts on Emergent and the Church.” This was her first exposure to Emergent and I was very interested in seeing what she and the other seminarians were going to think about it. This is a quote from her blog:
I have found this conversation in this place to be geared more towards those coming from a different perspective and set of assumptions than I – toward people for whom women in ministry is a real question, and whether or not we can re-interpret the Bible or theology is a troublesome issue. I have found the conclusions of the leaders in most
of the seminars to be my starting assumptions.
It was interesting to watch speakers (McLaren, Jones, Pagitt, etc.) during their talks. They obviously knew the audience who was at the convention (a good majority from conservative evangelical churches, with some liberal mainliners mixed in), because they would often say things like “Now, this is just where I am at…” or “Now, what I’m NOT saying is…” or “I need you to hear this when I say.” It seemed like they had to “protect” someone’s image or something. I wonder if the connection with YS plays into all of this, and now that YS and Emergent have parted ways, those in Emergent will feel a little more free to actually just say what they think, and not feel the need to pad it and soften it up for the evangelicals in the crowd. I could be totally off on this, but that is what it felt like quite often.
I am definitely not in the inner circle of Emergent, so I don’t know all of what is going on, but I am looking forward to seeing what happens in the next 2 years. I believe that those involved in Emergent care about theology deeply, and I believe there is going to be a greater divergence theologically, between the conservative evangelical church and Emergent. But then again, Emergent is an incredibly broad umbrella, and there is a good chance that will only continue to be the case – so I don’t really know where that leaves us.
I love the relationships I’ve established through getting connected with Emergent – they have meant the world to me. I am looking forward to continuing to be involved with Emergent, to see what impact it will have on my own theology and ecclesiology, among other things. While I deeply connect with more sensory/experiential forms of worship, I do believe that I am most interested in the theological move Emergent will be making in the next few years. I will be waiting eagerly to see how Emergent decides to navigate their way, theologically, beyond the categories of liberal and conservative, all the while seeking a theology that is progressive, communal, contextual, temporary & evolving, discontinuous, co-creative, holistic and in sync with the rhythm of God.