I am Emergent. I think. Sort of.

I've been debating this blog post for quite a long time, but I think it's time to get some stuff off my chest. I had originally thought this would be three blog posts, but couldn't decide a good point to cut the story without making myself sound dumb, so I totally understand if you don't read the whole thing. This will probably come back to haunt me, so here's looking at you Ordination Board!

I'm just passing through the season in my life where everyone is getting married (I think, I hope, I pray, we're coming to the end of such things). I've been amazed by the culture of brides. Some brides will go to the store, pick out the absolute best dress they could ever want. They will come home with it and try it on in their home. They will tell all their girlfriends how wonderful it is. They will insist such conversations take place as far away from the groom as humanly possible. They will be almost in love with their dress as they are with their blushing groom.

And then they will return it.

Some sort of minor imperfection will arise, or they will grow tired of it, or it just won't fit them anymore (stylistically of course. I know better than to suggest a bride will gain weight and no longer physically fit into her dress). So she will return it, and will find a new dress. To my incredibly untrained eye, this new dress will have many of the main features our bride well in love with on the first dress. It will just be SLIGHTLY different, slightly reinvented. Of course all of the regalia of the first dress, only insisting that the new dress is even better and more wonderful.

I have even seen brides go through this two or three times before the main event itself. From the outside, it is amusing. I would wager a guess that from the inside, it's excruciating.

Of course, this is an analogy of what I believe is going on in the Church.

Referred to constantly in the scriptures as "the Bride of Christ", the church has for generations clothed itself in many dresses, getting ready for our glorious wedding day with the lover of our souls. But now as we take a gander at the culture that surrounds us, we're starting to notice that the dress doesn't quite fit us anymore. Or at least some of us are.

Some are trying with everything they have, with all they believe, to say that there's no need for a new dress. The way things have been working for us for years are still working. People are still happy. Truth be told, there are a few churches out there who are getting the job done with the dress they had before. I actually think Westminster is one of them, I've some how stumbled upon one of the only old school Presbyterian churches who are being somewhat successful. I also think we're being successful because we've got an ear to the ground with a heart for the past. But rest assured, we are the minority. Many of my friends and family are attending churches where they scratch their heads, and wonder why the old play book isn't getting them any further down the field. Simply put, their dress isn't working any more.

Honestly, I think one of the biggest places we see this playing out is in the divisions within the church. Particularly in the Presbyterian system, we seem to find a reason to split over EVERYTHING. There are enough jokes about it out there to keep Christian comedians in business for quite some time, but the reason these jokes are so funny is because there is an element of truth to them. Go ahead and search for the word "church" in Google News. See what pops up. Not very many of those stories paint the bride as being all that beautiful at all. Of course, this is probably due to a liberal bias in the media, not our own infighting...

Sometimes you have to look for the problem behind the problem. At times when I was in college I would come home and my sister would immediately verbally assault me about something trivial. She didn't care about the way I arranged my laundry. She missed me when I was gone, and that was her way of showing me.

Does the church really have a problem beyond the tiny problems that have us so splintered? Are we really upset at our bridesmaids for looking at the groom "all funny" or are we upset because she looks better in her dress than we do in ours?

Typically, the label that goes with this kind of thinking is "Emergent".

I was real scared of that label at first.

Some people who claim to be emergent are pretty out there. They represent theologies that I don't really get, or even flat out disagree with. So I was super hesitant to put that label on. I'm not wild about labels at all. Plus, as several people have pointed out, trying to get the Emergent Church to define itself is like trying to nail jell-o to a wall. I didn't know what they stood for, I didn't know what they were all about.

Enter Phyllis Tickle.

She spoke at the National Youth Workers Convention in Pittsburgh this year, and made what might have been one of the most well defined and spelled out explanation of the emergent movement. She noted rightly so that after years of splintering and dividing (basically going on since Luther nailed 95 ideas to a door in the 1500s), that the Church is starting to meld itself back together in some sort of blending of the denominations and traditions. She noted for example that someone who has been a Presbyterian his whole life, yet was deeply influenced by the Catholicism of his Grandparents, might start blending the two traditions. He might fall in love with the Presbyterian doctrine and theology, history and heritage, but still have a soft spot for the high value of liturgy held in the Catholic church. This young lad combines those things with this innate inborn desire to see the Church start coming together again rather than splitting apart. Sooner or later, this thing is going to melt its way together, with a bunch of people asking a very essential question:

How do we move this Church forward?

or to keep with my analogy:

Can we get a new dress?

I'm still not completely sold on being a fully blown emergent youth pastor just now. Like I said, I have a pretty loyal attitude towards the Presbyterian church and (most) of what they believe and stand for. And so my attention turned to a group called Presbymergent.

I feel like a million bucks getting stuff like this off my chest. There are some who say don't rock the boat, but I believe the boat needs some rocking. The tagline for Presbymergents says a lot: "loyal radical". I'm still exploring what that means. I'm still digging deeper into the richest of graces of Jesus Christ, and digging deeper into the best ways to live my faith out in this cultural current.

But for a long time, I've been told to be careful, to not make too much noise, to not rock the boat. But I am convinced the dress doesn't fit anymore, and I'm in need of a tailor.

So if you don't like rebellious Presbyterians, I would recommend you stop reading this blog.

But if you're interested in dress shopping with me, buckle up for a wild ride.



PS: If you made it this far, you deserve a prize. Leave a comment with the word "Wedding Dress" to receive a nod and a wink from me! (I don't have anything else of worth to give!)


Anonymous said...

wedding dress.- AC

shallowfrozenwater said...

wedding dress.

Emergent isn't so scary, but yeah some of us are indeed, out there.