In a recent article Anthony Bradley summarized the demise of the movement formally known as “emerging”:
From Brian McLaren to Erwin McManus to Rob Bell to Tony Jones to Mark Driscoll and others, the theological lines have been drawn and are settled. We have all moved on. We know who fits into evangelicalism, post-liberalism, Anabaptism, Calvinism, and so on.
This is dead on. I know, I know, there is a difference between “Emergent” and “emerging”. Let us be honest–it is a semantic difference at best. In all reality “there is nothing new under the sun”. The emerging movement has demised and those who were part of it (whatever it was) has settled into pre-established ecclesiological categories. In fact, when Sojourners Magazine did a recent article on emergent titled “Is the Emergent Church for Whites Only?” I wondered if the next issue would address the “Jesus People” .
In my opinion Andrew Jones is asking the right question–“What is happening in the church, now?” It likely has to do little with European and North American evangelicals drifiting toward post-liberalism and more with global Christianity. In other words, read less Brian McLaren, more Philip Jenkins.
On a side note, it is funny how Pentecostalism–a movement that did not care about popular culture–is second to Catholicism globally (another movement that doesn’t care about culture, at least since the Enlightenment) in size. Ecclesiological movements that rise with the cultural tide also fall with it. Will we ever learn?
We saw it coming and now it has happened–Andrew Jones has left the Emergent Village. Read his reason here.
I am not sure what it is about all this “emergent church is dead” talk but I find it somewhat interesting (e.g. here and here). Especially because it is has become so satirically brilliant! Rick Bennett has written an ‘Obituary for the Emerging Church‘ which he followed by declaring the one thing the emergent church may not want to hear: you have emerged! This echoed Andrew Jones’ post of the types of emerging churches that “no longer upset your grandfather“. The thesis of these writers is pretty simple: Listen, emerging church, you have arrived and now you are just another aspect of global Christianity.
Others like Tony Jones (here) have tried to emphasize that the emerging church is as “radical” as ever. But as Andrew Jones told him, “The controversy you are stirring up seems unrelated to the main emphasis of the emerging church movement.” It seems to me that those in the emerging church who want to retain that aspect of being “controversial” aren’t doing anything that Anglican church or the ECLA are doing? As far as worship is concerned Catholics and Orthodox have been using candles and pictures for a long, long time. Even the virtual church movement is more cutting edge and controversial than the emerging church.
So what could kill the emerging church? Well, if it emerged. If it became just another aspect of Christianity. I think it has done just that. So welcome emerging church, you have done a lot to help change Christianity in some areas but it appears you have emerged.
So what’s next?
After reading my post on the possible demise of the emerging church movement (see here) our most famous biblioblogger, Jim West, gleefully declared her death was not a moment too soon (read here). On the other hand, Drew Tatusko responded by writing that those of us who think the end is near have made such declarations much too soon (read here).
In a similar vein, Tony Jones has responded (read here) to Andrew Jones’ declaration that the end may be near (read here) by basically arguing that it may be as alive as ever. Andrew Jones has promised to respond (see here). So it appears that we are now arguing over the possible demise or rise of the emergent church.
In all reality, there is no way to know if the emergent church era is coming to an end or if she has simply morphed into something else. Of course, if she was “emerging” who was to know where this would lead and it may be that she has become exactly what she was intended to become as a type of renewal movement for some things that the church had been ignoring. Can we know?
Update: Andrew Jones has written on the ten types of emergent churches that “no longer upset your grandfather” here.
After I graduated from college in 2005 I became very interested in the emerging church movement. I had become a bit disgruntled with Christianity. I began to read everything by Brian McLaren, Doug Pagitt, Tony Jones, and Scot McKnight that I could find. I gave money to the Emergent Village. I subscribed to ‘Relevant Magazine’. I signed up for newsletters from Sojourners. I joined the One Campaign. Eventually I went to Santa Cruz, CA, to visit the Vintage Faith Church as well as to meet with Dan Kimball before leading a short-lived “emergent worship gathering” in San Francisco.
Then I became a bit discouraged by the whole thing. As I read through the Gospels or the Pauline Epistles it became evident that being ‘relevant’ was not really an issue for the early church. Rather, it was all about being faithful to the gospel entrusted to us (which is partially why I have so much respect for the Gospel Coalition). It felt disconnected from the rest of the church. It felt like we spent more time critiquing the people of God than the worldly system that surrounded us. There is much that I learned from the emerging church movement for which I am grateful but overall I could no longer subscribe to their vision.
For a while now people have compared the emerging church to the Jesus Movement/Jesus People of the 1960′s. At first I disagreed, but now it seems like this might be correct. Is the end near for the emerging church?
Andrew Jones has written a provocative little post on his blog titled “Emerging Church Movement (1989-2009)?” (read here). In this post he writes, “In my opinion, 2009 marks the year when the emerging church suddenly and decisively ceased to be a radical and controversial movement in global Christianity” and “In 2009, the emerging church either grew up, stopped being offensive, switched gear from experimental to normal, became the new mainstream, or a bit of each”.
I think Jones is correct. I think my own experience has been mirrored by many others. There is not much attention being given to the emerging church these days. I hear less and less about it. There are some who have pushed it to the fringe of being sectarian. Others have remerged with the catholic church.
If it is the end of the emergent church what did it teach us? What have we learned (positive and negative) from this experiment? Or are we writing her obituary too quickly?