Reflection 4: “Emergence Christianity – A National Gathering with Phyllis Tickle” 01/28/13

Antioch and Jerusalem

I think a pivotal moment for me at the “Great Emergence” Conference occurred during the session where Phyllis Tickle compared the relationship between the first century Christian communities of “Antioch” and “Jerusalem,” to the potential relationship between “Emergent” and “Inherited” Christian communities.  To help articulate this correlation, Tickle referred to the early writings of Ray S. Anderson, a theologian and professor at Fuller Theological Seminary.  Anderson seems to imply that the mission of many Emergent communities are similar to that of Paul and Barnabas, who were sent “to establish churches outside Jerusalem–among Gentiles, who had to be reached in their own cultures.1”  On the other hand, the Jerusalem church was the established community that was steeped in the Temple culture.  Despite their common mission, which was to be a visible witness to the grace of God poured out in the world, their relationship was at times, fraught with some ecclesiological misunderstandings, and even some theological struggles.  Even so, Antioch and Jerusalem remained in dialogue with each other, they cared for each other, and they accepted that they had to minister differently, because of the very unique cultures within which, their missions existed.  The key point to the analogy  is that Antioch and Jerusalem need each other, and that need goes well beyond financial support.

Tickle in her presentations, alluded to an ongoing and yet, visible complexity which will exist in the ongoing relationship between Emergent Communities and the Inherited tradition.  For one, Tickle and Anderson both seem to assert that our relationship will go beyond structural perpetuation of the other.  Scripture reminds us that except for a small offering of support sent to Jerusalem, the Antioch community was not a contributor of merit, to the mission of the Jerusalem Church and yet, the “Missio Dei” continued in and through both communities.

As we continue to engage the “Great Emergence” movement, as we faithfully live in the dynamic cultural, political, social, technological, and religious changes happening every single day, we must strive to understand our unique contexts, and we must engage culture with the Good News of God in Christ.  “Jerusalem and Antioch” as a model for doing church in the 21st century, seems to embrace a core value found in our Anglican heritage.  “Jerusalem and Antioch” is a “both/and” proposition, not an “either/or” way of being church.  The Church of England who has been engaging in Fresh Expressions of Christian Community for some time, calls this way of the Spirit, a “mixed economy model.”  In other words, we do both and one way of being, does not necessarily replace the other.  On the one hand, we continue to celebrate and continue the beautiful tradition of the “Inherited” community.  On the other, we make room for, support, and remain in dialogue with the “Emergent” communities.  The “Jerusalem/Antioch” relationship of understanding, listening, and encouraging, may be the future we must embrace.  Maybe, if we do both with grace, respect, and openness, we will recognize and participate in the ongoing beckoning of the Spirit, to “come along side” the mission of God, in all its forms, so that we continue to be faithful proclaimers of the Good News, to the least, the lost, and the lonely, wherever they may be found.

1http://www.amazon.com/Emergent-Theology-Emerging-Churches/dp/0830833919

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