Well I must say after sitting on the fringes of this whole "Emergent" thing it was good to actually attend an event. Just a quick intro for those who have NO Idea what this is about go to [Emergent Conversation] and get a quick update on the Emergent movement and this particular event held February, 2006 at Yale Divinity School. I have read almost all the books . . . or at least bought them, I have resonated with a great deal of the thinking and apprach to church, life and culture. No doubt, there will be far more in depth and articulate evaluations of the event, but thought I would give a few of my observations for those who might care. Would love to hear about how other are reflecting.
- This is good stuff. There is clearly a great deal of integrity throughout the Emergent leadership and those who are part of its growth and maturity as a movement and organization. They seemed to really welcome feedback, acknowledge short-comings and generally engage in conversations rather than posturing. The relative infancy of the organization is evident and acknowledged, but the growth is not being forced and is being well thought out. The general "Feel" is true to all the books, readings, experiences, etc. that has drawn me to appreciate the postmodern/emergent expressions of the church.
- Diversity is still an issue. While there were far more women that I would have expected, there were not many other people of color. Maybe 15 total out of 300? I attended the conversation on Diversity and it was one of the better ones I have attended at events: folks were articulate, thoughtful, compassionate, non-defensive, etc. I think the future of the diversity will rest on the Emergent leadership ability to engage a like-socioeconomically and privileged people of color . . . not sure how the socioeconomic barriers will be broken with the level of tech-expectancy, etc. They are trying to continue the conversation at [Emergent Diversity] Some may find the "Whiteness" of the event off-putting, but it was not a HUGE issue for me at this point . . . now in five years, lets check in again about this and see where things are.
- This is NOT a passing fad. Unlike some of the methodology-based movements of the past, this approach to ministry (as many of us have been saying for a long time) is about just that,an approach, a posture, a way of being. This crew is deeply committed to that and not just experientially, but the amount of theological thought and depth is amazing. Miroslav Volf was wonderfully provoking and was one of the more engaging academics that I have heard. While some wanted more "concrete" application, I have never been one to expect that from those who are to expected to inspire and push our theological and spiritual boundaries. I should expect that done well enough, academics give us enough so that we can translate what we learn into how we are and what we do. This depth was very helpful, and I can’t think of many other events where it was done better.
- "Those" Evangelicals are cool too. While I have always hoped that all this meeting of the minds/spirits between the traditional evangelical and mainliners was to be one of transformation, I never really experienced it on a large scale. Well . . . this whole thing proved that if we begin at Jesus and the relationships that are created in that belief, most other things do not become as important. Now I am not being sappy OR sentimental because there were clearly at least 10 times where I clearly made assumptions about a person only to be proved wrong after some conversations. There are an amazing number of progressive evangelicals out there! These kinds of interactions were very cool! And while, yes, many of the early influences of this movement come out of an evangelical reaction/experience, this event had a distinct mainline flavor. There were quite a few Presbyterians there as well.
There is much more to reflect on around specific issues: theological and organizational, but that’s all I got for now. If you have not been to one of these events, I would highly encourage/challenge you to go as this feels like the real deal. Peace!