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indeed we live in "unprecedented" times ... after meeting with at 4 American friends who visited us the last week, i've grown to appreciate how Emergent has "blessed" them and given them a "bridge" towards the future. How we walk together globally will be a most interesting adventure.


I've noticed the "white maleness" that is still present in Emergent. I know that this will eventually change, but for now, it seems mostly status quo. Part of me thinks that there is enough stereotypical white males involved for now. But there's another part of me that doesn't see it as a problem, because as a white male, I hope that I am still allowed to contribute to the conversation!

Bill Easum

Brian, what Im seeing with the mainline women clergy is that they are more focused ondenominational matters than on growing congregations. Of course, this is not everyone, but the majority of what I see. Im sure they would not agree.
Also, Im seeing fewer women in the pentecostal areas aa well.
Add to that there is still the feeling among too many pastors that ministry is a male thing.
All of this has been very diappointing to me. You may recal I said in my book "Leadership on the OtherSide" that women would be the dominate force among clergy by the midpoint of this century. I dont see that happening at the moment.
One of the reasons is that the future of Christianity depends on the number of churches that are planted over the next few decades and women seem to shy away from being planters. If women clergy are to be more numerous it will have to be in the planting arena because the vast majority of the present day mainline churches ,where most women clergy are found,will disappear over the nex two decades due to decline and aging congregants.


When I went to the Emergent Convention in San Diego in February, I must say I was quite discouraged to see that I was one of only a handful of non-white attendees. I love the Emergent conversation, but I wonder sometimes how much of it is a Anglo conversation, springing out of White American culture. I think the conversation would be significantly different if other cultures (ethnic, bi-cultural Americans) were represented -- I honestly think that "postmodern thinking" plays itself out differently in Black, Latino, and Asian-American settings. As an asian-american, in Evangelical settings, I am used to feeling like I must conform to some kind of predominant White christian culture, and I was disappointed that I felt the same feelings at Emergent.


Brian: Thanks for your awareness of issues of diversity. The 50 percent of us who are female are seriously underrepresented in church leadership, and there are systemic realities at work there. I have appreciated your voice and work. (In fact, your books have assured me that I am not alone in my thinking and theology. I'm not crazy! (well...at least not about being missional Christians)

Bill: I am a female pastor in a mainline denomination and I really question your generalization about mainline clergy women. Virtually ALL of the women clergy I am acquainted with are extremely missional and focusing on larger kingdom issues in their ministries. They may not be focused on "growing congregations" if by that you mean focusing on the numbers. But they are highly concerned that the people in their congregations "grow" as followers of Jesus. And they are very engaged with the world outside their churches. They tend to not care about the politics within our denomination, except where they feel they must stand up for those who are under-represented or oppressed. Personally, I would LOVE to be part of a church plant, but I see no open avenues that are supported by my denomination at this time. I love my male collegues and many of them have been quite supportive of me in my ministry. At the same time I realize that I have not developed a lifetime of relationships within the "good old (white) boys" network -- therefore at this point I do not have the connections and influence I need to be trusted to do a "new thing" (like a church plant). I still think God is leading me in this new direction, so I'll wait and see what God will do. But please, please, please do not paint women clergy as only interested in keeping things as they are. Things as they are have not been very supportive of women in ministry. We of all people want to see that changed so ALL people can be included in the work and play and journey and joy that is before us.


I'm glad to see commentary on the seemingly homogeneous nature of the emergent leadership. Sally Helgesen made reference to "The Female Advantage: Women's Ways of Leadership" in the early 1990s. She said that women tend to lead through a "Web of Inclusion," which was the title of her follow-up book. Perhaps one of the reasons why there appears to be a lack of women assuming leadership in the emergent community is because women tend to lead in and through their relationships with others, so it is not as visible as other leadership methods. As for having fewer people of color, I believe that there needs to be room made for other cultures and ethnicities to be present at the table. While in the majority culture it may be perfectly acceptable to take an available seat at the table, other cultures prefer to be invited to sit and to sup - not as a group representative, but as an individual who brings thoughtful insight (challenge and support) to the discussion. Sometimes, it takes extending the invitation more than once before it is accepted.

Much of my own leadership within the emergent movement takes place outside of my duties and responsibilities in a church setting, but not outside of my vocation in discipleship through formation and spiritual direction. While I've had the church leadership experience, I'm less interested in establishing a work than I am in being a servant in whatever arena I find myself. So, when I'm with students helping them to explore the relationship between their faith, loving God and loving neighbor and how they live their lives in practical, everyday ways and situations, I'm preparing them to emerge as leaders wherever they find themselves professionally.

I'm an African American woman, and I can tell you that we're leading...quietly and steadily...and we're waiting for an invitation to both deepen and expand the conversation. Thanks for letting me add to it in this forum. I look forward to seeing you this week at the Sudanese embassy for the fourth service!


Thanks, Lisa, for a needed corrective to Easum's post. And having been woman my whole life and clergy for 25 years, my observations mirror yours. Patriarcy is still very much alive and well, even among mainliners who speak the inclusive rhetoric. Mainline churches are also highly caucasian, though we all know exceptions to the rule (thank God!). I am frankly delighted to see lack of inclusivity at this "early" stage in the emerging church's conversation; it fills me with hope that perhaps we will reflect Christ's vision for a rainbow church while earth remains!

Holli Adams

You have been a source of hope and healing for many of us women...Finally we have a male brother whose willing to speak up for us in truth and help make right the oppression and exclusion the american church has participated in. I was so grateful for the women leaders I saw at the emergent convention in Nashville. It showed me that the leadership truly cares and isn't just talking the talk. As we follow Jesus, I am hopeful that He will bless us with relationships of all colors and genders and that emergent will become a face that resembles God's love of diversity.

Wes Roberts

...I'm also intrigued that the diversity mentioned is seemingly lacking in the diversity across the generations...I some times feel, via age difference, what women and those of other ethnic heritage must feel. Ethnicity, gender, age...all need to be allowed to be emerging. At least I long to be at the ripe olde age of 63 (even though I can be easily put in my place as white and male). Heaven help and of us if we cannot be authentically committed to changing and growing and being transformed day by day.

Billy Jo Jimbob Slim

Of course emergent is going to be dominated by white males because it is from north american protestant evanglical churchs from which it springs. Likewise, the 'base communities' within the catholic tradition are predominatly south american becuase that is the context from which it springs.

Emergent needs to recognize that it is not one movement above all which will eventually unite all cultures, movements and denominations. But rather, emergent is a particular movement in a particualr context with a particular culture in a particular place at a partiuclar time. it is just a mattter of time before emergent realizes this and becomes a denomination like all the rest of them.

So emergent is christianity for white folks who don't like their evangelical churches anymore. so what? What is wrong with white folks? You speak as if whiteness is bad.


I think the conversation about main-line denominations and women is very interesting since I am a main-line clergy woman (ABC). Brian, your comments about the economic justice issues around women in ministry (Generous Orthodoxy) need to be seen in the reality of the future leadership of the church. If we as women are still not seen as "real" or "good enough", then we will never have a chance to move into important ledership positions within our repsective denominations.
Beyond basic leadership issues, I think there is a real suspicion around women as church planters. What kind of churches will women plant? How can the institutional structures get behind churches that are planted as non-traditional and inclusive from the get-go? I have many women colleagues who would love to plant a church, but the profound lack of support-emotional, spiritual, structural, and FINANCIAL-keep them locked into caretaking type situations, cause, you know, that's what we're good at.
Like anti-racism work, if the people in power (white males) are not willing to do their work and then do the advocacy around being more inclusive of women and other under-represented groups, there will be no change.
I am hopeful in that the emergent idea has seen fit to create a women in leadership group.


So let's get this straight. Emergent emphasizes the social gospel, elevates piety over theology, tends to be liberal in political views (I know this may not be an important point, but I always wanted to know how many ecer's voted for Bush), has an inclusive ecumenism of all denominations (except for the ones that contradict it) and even many religions and is egalitarian in its view of women. Umm . . . post-liberalism what? I really want to know what is different from old liberalism? From what I can tell it simply is the same old liberalism thing that has shifted to post-modernity as opposed to its older modern leanings. Honestly, what's the difference? If you guys want to be liberals, then good. Name it and claim it, but this mouth service that claims you're something different is absurd.

Another Jan

Hi -- I also speak as a mainline clergywoman. I attended the Presbyterian Church (USA) new church development conference earlier this month in Utah, for NCD pastors and those interested in/pondering God's call to plant new churches. While the men clearly outnumbered the women, I was heartened by the increased number of women who are new NCD pastors or are open to that call. I'm also finding that several of my female colleagues are looking to new church planting/emergent church as a way to reach people turned off by traditional worship/Christianity in general. Note to Brian: during my recent sabbatical, I worshipped with CRCC several times and every single time I ran into at least one other mainline clergywoman.


I can't say how grateful I am to have heard the female voices in this conversation. I serve on a staff with a number of female clergy and am constantly impressed by their zeal and ability. It is truly "the spirit in a man/woman and the breath of the Almighty that gives understanding."

Sadly, in our context, women in leadership is a daily battle. I have seen clearly the obstacles that my co-workers face because they are female. But they are serving out of love and willingly walk into those wounds trusting that on the other side of them Jesus offers something better. Our ministry would not be complete without their beautiful contribution.

At the same time, I can see how it is true that the Emergent movement is on the whole a white conversation springing out of white evangelical churches. But the whole idea of a movement is that it is going somewhere...becoming something that has not yet been. I am so compelled by the idea of becoming fellow learners with those in different cultural contexts.

Billy Jo Jimbob Slim


you bring up a good point. This is one of the problems of emergent...they claim newness in things like theology, social justice and politics...but it's the same old stuff in different clothing. They are a baby denomination that will grow up one day and look back at their days of youth and chuckle.

Although I'm not much of a politician, I do recognize traditional orthodox and catholic theology being reclothed and called "new" when really it's not new....why not call it what it is?



Billy Jo, there is nothing wrong with white folks, and being white shouldn't make you feel guilty, but just remember that whether they like it or not, white folks are in a position of privilege from the get go. But I don't want to get into some big discussion about race. The point is, it's fine that Emergent was started as a "movement" within White evangelical circles, but if Emergent's aim is to be missional in the current American culture, it MUST become something that it has not been, because take a look around. America is moving farther and farther away from being predominantly white. It's a hodgepodge of diversity, which I think fuels many of the cultural values of postmodernity. Isn't the point reaching today's people and being God's people in today's world?

Jake the Snake

Jaime told me to check out this website:

My first question
What is Emergent?

My second question
What is church for Emergent?

My third question
What is the emergent church?



good thoughts. I ask you though, "if Emergent's aim is to be missional in the current American culture," as you say and "it MUST become something that it has not been," because "America is moving farther and farther away from being predominantly white. It's a hodgepodge of diversity," why then not let the diversifiying happen gradually with the culture? Why force it? And why are all white folks born with privlege from the get go? Tell that to my grandfather who pulled up his boot straps and slung 90 hour weeks at the town mill...but, as you say, we are not here to discuss race...

The fundamental question is, does the church critique culture or does culture critique church? Maybe it a mutual exchange? I think emergent needs to seriously ask themsleves "what is church?" Can someone tell me what emergent ecclesiology is?



I attended the '05 Nashville conference with great expectations of women being not only included but an equal part. Nodda! The EWLI was so marginalized ... I thought I was at a Southern Baptist convention! Hey .. if this had been the first Emergent conference...no prob. But, the third year and they are relegated to some 3rd floor conference room as a "focus group", or some such thing. Really! Pretty pathetic.
I showed up to join the conversation only to find the EWLI was hosting it's own funeral! Guess I'll have to be part of a Resurrection Committee now!
BUT ... moving on and letting the dead bury the dead ... maybe out of the EWLI leadership's exhaustion and frustration something new may yet be birthed.
I am a Church Birthing pastor in Virginia Beach ... church planter for all ya traditionalists out there.:-) I'm totally devoted and passionately determined to host conversations that lead to action when it comes to the real possibilities for women to birth new churches. I think the 21st century and emergent imaginations are perfect for women to take the lead in creating and nurturing new Christian communities of faith. As an MDIV alum of Regent University here in VA Beach, I am opening this conversation this fall at the seminary level ... a seminary rich with diversity and perhaps a "Resurrection Host" for the EWLI?

Jamie Arpin-Ricci

BJJS, I would like to know more specifically what you mean by "ecclesiology". Are you looking for a unifying concept of theology and methodology that is representative of emergent as a movement? If not, please let me know.

If so, I am not if there is one. I'm not sure that emergent is calling everyone to exchange or abandon their ecclesiologies for "theirs". Also, the expression of emergent-us is great, but not reflective of emergent as it has emerged and is emerging in other cultures and countries.

As to race and your grandfather, I do not think anyone means to dimished the hard work and serious disadvantages of white immigrant, the poor, etc. This should not be forgotten in this aspect of the dialogue. That being said, even with all those devastation, a simple socio-historical study plainly demonstrates that there were (and are) very real advantages for white people- or perhaps more accurately, fewer disadvantages.

The complexity of these issues demand serious examination, in which your questions and perspectives are important. I worry that there can be too much emphasis on the rhetoric of "making room" from popular opinion. However, I am heartened by many who are leading the way to into this complexity, men, women, young and old, of many races.


by ecclessiology i mean what makes a church a church? What is church? origin, mission, purpose, etc? If emergent is proffering a new way to be "church." then it is imperative that they start with defining church.

chris lancaster


So let's get this straight. Emergent emphasizes the social gospel,

That is a mischaracterization. As Brian said, emergent emphasizes that as the church lives and and preaches the gospel, that gospel must include an element of social change--the church can't be a "pie in the sky"/"when we all get to heaven" church but a "get your hands dirty" church. EC is pushing against the gnostic tendencies which want to make it exclusively spiritual and saying that the church has to be more holistic. That is a far cry from the "social gospel" movement or anything like it. What is wrong with empahsizing balance?

elevates piety over theology

Nope. It says piety must be a compliment to theology. Too often, theology dominates at the expense of piety, as is often demonstrated in your caustic remarks on this site.

tends to be liberal in political views

As Brian said, "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." He's very clearing emphasizing that emergent doesn't engage in partisan politics, but the church's politics. The church should transcend the liberal/conservative-left/right distinction.

has an inclusive ecumenism of all denominations

Kind of like when Jesus prayed for his followers that they be "one"....guilty as charged.

and is egalitarian in its view of women

Unashamedly so. Guilty as charged.

Umm . . . post-liberalism what? I really want to know what is different from old liberalism?

Among other things, classical liberals (a) often abandoned the deity of Christ; (b) rejected the scriptures as authoritative; (c) often rejected the Trinity; (d) had a weak doctrine (if any) of supernatural divine revelation; and (e) rejected the notion of miracles, the sacraments, and tradition. Most in emergent, by contrast, share none of these characteristics.

Don't bother with an angry reply asking me a bunch of questions--you want an argument and an enemy to beat up on, and you're not going to get that from me. Feel free to leave your usual insults and the like and then move on to other prey.


ashley bunting

Hi! I'm a female church planter with a FABULOUS team - altho it is in Switzerland, so doesn't necessarily apply to the conversation concerning the American church. But just to say there are a few out there! :)

Again, thanks to Brian for pointing out these two weaknesses; they've honestly been at the heart of my fears about Emergent - that it would be a lot of talk and no follow-through on what they really wanted to be different. So I'm glad it's being recognized and addressed.

I really can't stress this point enough, tho - It will have to be the white males that elevate people in ministry of other races and the female gender. An initiative highlights the problem, but doesn't solve it. Some white males in the Emergent leadership will have to be intentional about finding "emerging" leaders, developing them if at all needed, and then giving up their seat in the leadership in order to make it happen. As Emergent is expanding its leadership teams, this may not be needed that much, but at some point, at the top level, seats will need to be given to others, and I hope those in the Emergent leadership have enough courage to do it (as it definitely takes courage to give something you love and have worked on so hard over to someone else!).

Thanks so much for all that's been done so far! Emergent has saved me on so many levels... Much love, Ashley

Jamie Arpin-Ricci

From my perspective, I do not think there will be an ecclesiology as cohesive and unified as you would find in an organized body, such as a denominations, etc. There will probably be more definition in time than there is today, but I doubt (and hope) that it won't formalize.

Rather, I think that emergent is best in revitalizing, shaping, in-forming, etc. existing ecclesiologies. I am not sure by repeating what others have said frequently (and far more eloquently) will help, but I think it can't hurt: emergent is NOT present itself as "new" in that it is unprecedented in all respects, but rather the newness refers to the dialogue and ensuing transformation that is taking place.

In all fairness, there is a tendency within evangelical North America to make global generalizations about our experiences, as though we represent the whole Body of Christ. While I am confident that this is largely not done with intentional arrogance, but rather out of ignorance and imbalanced enthusiams- nonetheless, we must be aware of this tendency and the damage it can do.

That being said, Rome was not built in a day. Whether you a fervent emergent supporter of a passionate critic, we need to patient, gracious and humble thoughout this process. To critics, give us time and grace. Offer you criticism with the understanding that we are at the beginning of a journey. Hold to the humility that your perspective, while important, is as limited as our own.

To the emergent journeyers- the voyageurs- recognize that as exciting and refreshing as this process is, it is but one path whose sign we only partially understand. Be patient, with the knowledge that this journey will take a long time- that this is a task that will likely take several generations to get greater clarity. Ask yourself, should you truly be committed to this journey, are you then willing to invest in a dream that is unlikely to reach fruition in you lifetime.

This conversation is not new in the strictest sense- it is older than emergent, older than the Reformation, older than the Catholic and Orthodox church. It finds its root beyond the early church, the lives of the apostles and even before Christ walked this earth. It is a journey of reconciliation and intimacy that began near the time of Creation.

I did not intend to wax poetic, but felt strongly to share this, come what may. Thanks to those with the patience to read through it. Peace. -Jamie


Chris, you just proved my point. thanks again.
A. You obviously don't know what you're talking about if you think ec is only saying that piety compliments theology. Really? Duh! Everyone I know says this. EC is about diminishing theology to the elevation of piety. This is the Anabaptist/old liberal background of it, and I'm sorry if you want to now escape it, but that's the fact jack. Liberal
B. The ecumenical movement then follows on the heels of diminishing theology's importance. Without this dimishing, ecumenism cannot happen. Christ states that He wants all of His people to be one in the Gospel of John which is all about unity with God and love of each other in the truth. To take out the truth factor and make oneness mystical is Liberal.
C. Egalitarianism stems from Modern arguments of human rights intrinsically connected to human "sameness." So you're right, You are guilty . . . of being a Liberal.
D. Yeah right, ec transcends the liberal/conservative paradigm, but just falls almost completely on the liberal side (but it accepts the deity of Christ so I guess it's a trinitarian liberalism---BTW every liberal i have ever read claims that the Bible has authority, they just redefine like you guys what that means). I want to know from the ec leaders politically, how many voted for Bush?
E. You have the irrational emotionalism of a . . . that's right, Liberal.

But Chris, I'm sure your above this paradigm. You're not light or darkness, good or evil, true or false. You're the other thing that isn't either one of those. You know, that third way which doesn't exist. It's simply either all or most of one or a mixture of the two. There is nothing new under the sun.

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