Emergent Reaction

One of the worrying hangovers of the reformation was that many large denominations are based upon a reactionary movement.  A good example of this would be the Church of England and its early definition of “we’re not Roman Catholic”.  This is seen in the 39 articles of faith as laid down at the time.

Many fledgling movements define themselves as being “not what has gone on before”.  This seems to be a trend running through the emerging church movement as it finds its feet.  This is especially true when you hear prominent emerging church leaders declaring that the emerging church will “kill off the institutional church.  And that is a good thing”.  If the church is to be defined by what it stands for rather than what it stands against, how should the emerging church assert itself in the positive?


19 Responses

  1. it’s not just the church that does this though, it’s a feature of post-modernity. In a lot of ways it’s one of the most endearing things about this paradiagm. we don’t have to stick ourselves in boxes. we don’t always have to define ourselves by what we are or have, not if we don’t want to anyway.

    Choose Life. Choose a job. Choose a career. Choose a family. Choose a f’ing big television, choose washing machines, cars, compact disc players and electrical tin openers. Choose good health, low cholesterol, and dental insurance. Choose fixed interest mortgage repayments. Choose a starter home. Choose your friends. Choose leisurewear and matching luggage. Choose a three-piece suite on hire purchase in a range of f’ing fabrics. Choose DIY and wondering who the f you are on Sunday morning. Choose sitting on that couch watching mind-numbing, spirit-crushing game shows, stuffing f’ing junk food into your mouth. Choose rotting away at the end of it all, pissing your last in a miserable home, nothing more than an embarrassment to the selfish, f’ed up brats you spawned to replace yourselves. Choose your future. Choose life… But why would I want to do a thing like that? I chose not to choose life. I chose somethin’ else

  2. I can hear Ewan McGregor’s voice saying that right now, its fab. And you’re right.

  3. Hmmmmmm. Interesting quote. The problem is that in 1-2-300 years time the thing we react to may not exist anymore and the movement may find that being reactionary leaves little left to cling to.

    I wonder what the next paradigm may be… or the one after that. How do we prepare for it?

  4. kind of off on a tangent but i just offer this as proof that we need to be careful about just doing old things in new ways…..


    a little bit of my soul died the first time i heard it!

  5. I saw a post on Maggi Dawn’s blog about songsmith. I think that the advert is hilarious!!

  6. The quote above is from the opening scene of the movie ‘Trainspotting’, of the book written by Irving Welsh. A very bleak but blackly funny film about heroine addicts in Glasgow I’m told – I tried on several occasions but could never make it past the opening scene. The words were released as a single at one point and it was very powerful.

  7. I think Duttyo and I are of the era where it was impossible to be at university without a trainspotting poster in your flat and weekly screenings in the living room 😀

    Oh for the days when Iggy Pop was still edgy rather than trying to sell me car insurance 😦

  8. I was so gutted to see him on that ad last night! And Alice Cooper is a bad DJ on Planet Rock ;-). At least Morrissey is still making wonderful music….!

  9. still? did he ever? I never really understood the appeal of Morrissey

  10. WWWHHHHAAAATTTTT???? Deep breaths…..

  11. Alice Cooper is a bad DJ? Where is planet rock?

  12. Oh, a terrible digital radio station! I have to wake up to it every morning screaming some Black Sabbath or something, as my beloved husband is an ageing rocker 😆

    Btw, in the supermarket today as I was browsing the real ale section I came across a bottle labelled ‘Punk – a post-modern IPA’ !!!!!????

  13. Punk beer! Ha ha – brilliant!!

    Nothing wrong with waking up every morning to Sabbath! Nothing wrong with being an aging rocker. Just hope I don’t have to do the ageing bit!!

  14. Hi Robb. I was thinking about this subject, and one of your previous posts about how faith and belief are handed down, when I came across this debate about women in the ’emergent’ discussion.

    Hi Robb. I was thinking about this post, and one of your earlier ones about how faith/tradition is handed down. I came across this quote below on one of the ’emergent’ sites: (http://emergingwomen.blogspot.com/2008/12/hierarchy-freedom-and-emergent.html)

    “A few things stood out among these 13 women I interviewed for Ashes (and I could have easily done a lot more but my editor wanted a gender balance) – only one had a PhD, almost none of them self-identified with “emergent,” and most of them had not published a book. As they were practioners, the focus was on their ministry not building up a writing/speaking career. But what they have to say were invaluable to the conversation.”

    It occurs to me that while publishing holds such influence in the future handing on of our body of thought, it will be a white male, middle class voice that is heard as a thread running through.

    It is because we (as women) are ‘practitioners’ ie. doers, and so surely our experience is more valuable than those who are thinkers/talkers/publishers??

    What is your view on this, and are you aware of many women in the UK who are involved in leadership in the ‘Emergent’ area here?

  15. Wow – that’s a big question!


    Unfortunately this is mostly anecdotal – but what else could it be if isn’t published?

    One supposition is that doing is more valuable than thinking/talking/publishing? Personally I am quite handy with a set of spanners but I’d much rather that someone had thought about and published the Haynes manual for the A series engine as my car would be pretty screwed otherwise.

    Without either the other is useless. I am unable to ponder the forces needed to come up with a revolutionary idea like the wankel rotary engine but I could probably strip it down and rebuild it.

    I have tallied the number of people I know in some form of emerging church ‘leadership’ (is there really such a thing?) when this came up at ASBO. There is a bang on even number of both sexes. They are all in their 20’s and 30’s and either single or married without children and both of the couple are involved. There is only one person I know who is doing a PhD in this area and she is a she (a very bright she too!).

    The only other person in my peer group with a doctorate is my wife. It isn’t in emerging church or any other kind of church. She too is very bright.

    I know this isn’t very good statistics, it is just my experience (and hence anecdotal – yet again).

    At Greenbelt this year they held a panel discussion on emerging church. There were some people on the panel who wanted to complain about how the emerging church is all male white and middle class. Unfortunately there were more women in EC leadership on the panel and it somewhat negated what they were saying. This could of course be Greenbelt trying to be so PC that it misses the point.

    The problem I see is that I am white – I can’t do anything about it. I’m going to make it to middle age (apparently a lot sooner than I had planned). It isn’t possible to be educated to degree level without leaving the working class and becoming middle class (by very definition).

    This means that by definition my voice either is or will become not valuable.

  16. BTW, I am joining a team of three. 2 women and one man + me now. The team is lead by a woman – my boss…

  17. Encouraging to hear that there are so many women about on the emergent and more mainstream church patch over here. Where I am there are very few, in fact almost none in leadership.

    I think the debate about doing / thinking is hugely important. It is my own view that the two must be connected. So, women who are practitioners should also be at the debating table, and should also be publishing. And men too.

    But there shouldn’t really be anyone debating / thinking/ publishing who isn’t also doing, in some way, or else there will be a disconnect? Theory is always refined and improved by the experience gained in practice. We are a ‘doing’ faith are we not, being the good news in the communities around us.

    I am not really hung up on the women issue per se, but I do think its important for many voices to be heard and contribute.Maybe the people holding the keys to the forums (fora?!) could be more aware of openness to others not in their own networks?

    I was incredibly suprised to read on the emergent women blog that some women were waiting to be invited to contribute. That wouldn’t really enter my thinking. But then I am a northerner!!!

    On the Haines manual analogy – yes of course we can’t invent everything as some of its already been done – BUT there are lots of things that haven’t yet been done, and by definition in emergence some of what we do will not have been done in this way before -we will be taking some things handed down to us but in other things we will be experimenting, recording and discussing together.

    And someone had to write that Haines manual, and he/she(!!) probably had a lot of practice before they could write it. They did it, put it together lots of times and built up their experience. Then they were qualified to write it. And they took the foundational knowledge already discovered by other experimenters & scientists and used that and explained it clearly for a new generation of car fixers. Wow, theres a sermon there I think!!

  18. I can only really speak as an Anglican. There are pockets for whom the issue of women’s ministry is a huge deal. On the whole they are a minority on both ends of the debate who shout louder than anyone else because the rest of us are getting on with it. For both sides there is a lack of empathy and an unwillingness to respect each other whilst disagreeing.

    Obviously there has been limited time whilst women have been accepted to ordained ministry. Currently there are more women ordained than men each year. Obviously both of these situations mean that over time there will be a shift. Unless those who point to the statistics accept that there will be a redressing over time or “fire everyone and start from scratch” we can’t point to the numbers and make them mean anything useful.

    Those women who are ordained from my generation often also don’t see the issue in such politically charged terms as those who are in their 50’s and 60’s. We were brought up to see each other as equals and that we can do anything we want. That means that my wife has a doctorate, Harley and good job with no kids. Choices she made. Same as my friends who have become ordained – equals and choices. Eventually as with all things this will work its way to the top as with all things. You don’t start off as a head teachers you start of as an NQT… and that is where we are pushing and it will result in those who don’t like it taking their bat and ball home.

    As for forums… I didn’t know we needed permission to be asked to contribute. I also am a northerner though. Shy bairns get nowt!

    The academia/practice thing? Well some people are crap practitioners but great thinkers. Some people are not academic but instinctively know what to do. We need people who are able to work together as different parts of the body to bring us forward into the future! The liturgist I respect most academically has a stutter. Doesn’t make for great practice – but he really knows his stuff!

    I think the phrase you are looking for is “standing on the shoulders of giants”.

    All of this said, one thing I hesitantly write because Germaine Greer types will shout at me… one thing that some women choose to do with their lives is have a family and to look after them personally and give up work. My mother wouldn’t have it any other way. She didn’t want to go to work whilst I was a small boy. That is often devalued by some who want to suggest that they aren’t entitled to do that – and it also plays out in the statistics. As I said earlier on in this post… Harley, doctorate, job…. choice…

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