Reflection 3: “Emergence Christianity – A National Gathering with Phyllis Tickle” 01/21/13

NOTE:  Due to the work associated with presenting the “Missio” Conference we hosted on 1/19/13, I was unable to finish this series.  Here is reflection 3 of 4 ….  Stay tuned for reflections on the “Missio” Conference sponsored by the Episcopal Diocese of Southwest Florida.

Emergence Christianity and the “Inherited” Church

“Emergence Christianity” and the “Inherited” Church

What does this movement some call “Emergence Christianity”  have to do with the so called “Inherited” (mainline, Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox, etc) Church? A lot I would say, and we would be well advised to listen, discern, pray, and join the conversation, because recent history would indicate, we are living in a time that will change everything. Tickle, in her book, “The Great Emergence,” and in her presentations at the recent conference, outlines a pattern of 500 year cycles of major events that have informed and had such an impact on culture, that the Church has had to stop, take a step back, and move forward differently. In this moving forward, the resultant cultural upheavals have had an impact on how we approach theology, missiology, and ecclesiology.  If we were to take a journey back through the history of societal upheavals and the subsequent, responses as a result of these events, we too could see glimpses of the patterns Tickle describes in her book.  I dare not attempt in this blog, to capture the depth of detail found in the timelines Tickle outlines.   Suffice it to say, I encourage you to read her book and thus, I will leave that adventurous, transforming, and challenging  journey, to your own study.  I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section of this blog, or to share a cup of coffee and hear your insights.

Why is all of this important?  The “Missio Dei,” The “Mission of God” which is the ongoing work of the Spirit “to bring all people to unity with God and each other in Christ.”  God’s mission happens in and through human societies and as culture evolves, the church must evolve as well.  As we engage the conversation called “The Great Emergence,” we must join with other voices, who are wrestling with many questions.  It is in this listening, active listening and discerning, that we may come to understand how we will come along side the work God is already doing, and thus, join in the Missio Dei.

Some questions to consider as we listen and converse:

  1. What shape might the structures of “unity in Christ” take now, and in the future (ecclesiology)?
  2. How might we wrestle with the deep mysteries of God now, and in the future (theology)?
  3. How will we explore and share power and accountability to each other now, and in the future(authority)?
  4. How will we engage in the difficult, frightening, “out of the box” work that may be required, to support non-traditional communities of Christian formation, and thus, move with the Spirit to “bring all people to unity with God and each other in Christ?”

As I read the “Twitter” feeds being projected on the screens throughout the
“Emergence” conference; as I gathered with other pioneers around a “pint,” a meal, or a cup of coffee, I learned that I was not alone in this struggle to understand, to find a way forward, to dream, and to enter deeply into the mysteries of God now, and in the future.  My prayerful reflections over the past two weeks have left me with many “what if’s.”

  • What if we engage this movement with humility, and what if we accept that our previous wisdom may not provide all the answers?
  • What if we listen, with the purpose of understanding rather than, listening to either agree or disagree?
  • What if we release our misguided claim that we wield the “end all/be all?”
  • What if we believe that the Spirit really is leading us into a fresh engagement into mystery, grace, love, reconciliation, and unity?
  • What if we move forward in this dynamic culture, and humbly accept that it looks very different from the times, in which our grandparents, parents, and even some of us grew up?

“What if” seems to be the great question for pioneering ministers, rather than “how,” “where,” “when,” or even “why.”  “What if” is the great question asked by pioneers throughout history.  “What if the world were truly round,” led to the discovery of a new world. “What if we could put humans on the moon” led to the Apollo project and the great space progress of the 1950’s, 60’s, and 70’s.  “What if postmoderns really are seeking the mercy, grace, love, reconciliation, and restorative life in Christ” and this may be the question with which, we mission pioneers must begin.  “What if?”

In my next reflection, I will share a little about the “Antioch and Jerusalem” story and how Tickle uses it pointing to the relationship between “Emergence” and “Inherited” communities of faith.

Peace,

Eric+

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