There has been a lot of chatter around the interwebs lately regarding how the church emerging in this 21st century is a mostly white male phenomenon. On one hand, there is good reason for this discussion. Many of the bestselling authors and rockstar speakers still happen to be middle-class white guys with Evangelical roots, and it is easy to assume that the most visible players define the whole. Nothing against privileged white guys with big platforms, but most of us know that they are not the sum of (or the core of) what is stirring in the church these days...
...So on Monday April 19, I encourage you to post at your blog (or Facebook page) your thoughts about "What is Emerging in the Church."In some ways it seems funny to be asking that question at all at this point. The Emerging Church conversation is hardly a new thing. As I've said before, I'm often tempted to change the name of this blog, simply because it's so "un-hip" anymore. But I digress...
- What is emerging in the church?
- What good things are growing that we can celebrate?
- Who are the diverse voices that are now leading the church into the 21st century?
I think one of the most exciting realizations for me, six years into my participation with the Emerging Church, is that my fear of the EC being a slippery slope into liberalism was completely founded. I have become a liberal. And that was just about the scariest thing I could have pictured at the precipice, looking down into a chasm of deconstruction in 2004. The reason that's exciting is that I am discovering, little by little, what vibrant faith looks and feels like on "the other side."
I haven't turned into a deist, though I'm not scared of deism. I haven't found atheism compelling, though I've had some great conversations with atheists. And perhaps most amazing, I still love Jesus, and I still picture the same close, loving, intimate God when I close my eyes and pray - the same God I prayed to as a conservative Pentecostal!
But that's all so much about ME, and I already tend toward narcissism...
My favorite aspect of the current direction in the EC (which is so plural, so disparate, so heterogeneous and so irreducible to something so compact as "the Emerging Church") is we are finally seeing platforms developed for marginalized voices.
One of my best friends, Adele Sakler (http://www.queermergent.com/) is not famous (yet) but neither is she a "fringe voice." As a member of the LGBT community, she is also a participant in Emerging Church conversations, with a real audience. The movement of EC helped create a landscape for that impact.
Then there are groups and symposiums like Convergence, that provide resources and training for women leaders.
Outlaw Preachers is another group that seeks to affirm and empower Christian voices from non-traditional and marginalized spheres, without fear of condemnation for unorthodoxy. Lutheran pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber is a great example of the attitude a chutzpa therein.
What the EC conversations have helped me to recognize is my own privilege (and inherent power) as a middle class, white, heterosexual male. And my conviction is: the only thing Christians can do with power is share it and give it away. I'm still trying to learn how to do that - failing quite miserable, to be sure. But I think I have a better understanding of my calling in the Kingdom of God because of the EC: that is, not to inflate my own interests or even my own convictions, but to listen, to love, to share, empower, advocate and support!
Today, I believe in liberation. I believe Jesus Christ wants to set captives free. I believe that the most important role of the EC is to provide SAFE SPACE for new and emerging voices (particularly, marginalized voices) to be heard.
This is not unlike Bishop Tutu's "truth telling" endeavors in post-apartheid South Africa:
Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
The EC of today, and the future, will not be typified by the Emergent-boyz bunch (no offense to them, honestly) but by a paradigm of gray - a process-focused space for brave Christians to explore alternative ways of being, believing and serving without fear of being silenced, condemned or co-opted.