Reflections on the Emergent Summit
I left the June 05 summit with renewed excitement about the direction and potential of emergent. We all sensed a growing passion in two areas that are especially important to me.
First, we have been increasingly concerned about diversity for a few years. Fortunately, there has been denominational diversity among us since the beginning - and it has grown steadily in recent years as emergent has become a "post-liberal/post-conservative" common ground. But the "white maleness" of almost all Christian leadership networks has been of concern to us. (I was not surprised to learn from Tony Jones that 95% of Evangelical pastors are male; I was surprised to learn that 85% of mainline Protestant pastors are male.) We talked at length about how the Emerging Women's Leadership Initiative has helped the emergent community seek to make progress in this regard. But EWLI has also helped bring diversity in other areas to the fore.
I'm very optimistic about what will happen as increasing numbers of First Nations, African American, Latino, Asian, and other leaders bring their leadership to emergent. When progress in this area is combined with progress in our global network (where exciting things are happening - stay tuned for amahoro.info) - our potential will multiply.
Secondly, and not unrelated, I'm thrilled to see concerns for justice and peace rise in importance in the emergent community. The idea of missionality that has become so important to us means that God cares for our world; God is not just interested in helping some of us escape it to a pleasant hereafter so all our troubles are "left behind." Our call is to join the "missio dei" in doing justice and loving kindness as we walk humbly with God. So, I don't have a lot of interest in religious movements that do not produce positive social change – and I'm thrilled to see this concern grow in emergent. In our highly partisan political context, the church has too often become captive to the polarization and paralysis of left and right. We're committed to seeking a third way beyond this polarization.
For example, quite a few emergent folk have joined us in Washington, DC, for Worship in the Spirit of Justice (info at crcc.org). Hundreds of us are coming together for five Sundays of public outdoor worship on behalf of people suffering genocide in Darfur, Sudan. We are experiencing something important in ourselves as we seek to draw attention to the world's greatest humanitarian emergency: when we worship a God who cares for the oppressed, the poor, and the forgotten, we become more like the God we worship. (Sadly – the converse is also true: when we worship a God who is eager to get this world over with so a nice, quiet eternal rest can be enjoyed - we are also transformed into that image.)
These emerging priorities don't minimize previous concerns – about worship and liturgy, about evangelism, about new forms and approaches to church, about the need to grapple with issues of modernity and postmodernity. But in many ways - in my opinion at least - they point to a telos beyond ourselves and show why those previous concerns truly matter.