Tuesday, June 16, 2009

a warning to Emergent

how is that for a provocative title?

Seriously, a hornets nest was stirred by Nick and Josh and me during the past week. However, in the midst of it I have had numerous people contact me with similar frustrations that Nick and Josh confronted, along with some that came to me, looking for a place to vent or healing. I may be a pastor, but I do not want to start an AA group for unaffiliated Emergents. I have no interest in any new or old camps (I am actually more of a hotel guy) and I don't want to be part of the fracturing and possible friendly fire that is hurting friends and foes alike. I have no horse in a race that needs to win (the last horse I followed was Barbaro, and look where that ended).

That said, something is going on and it needs to be dealt with. I am hoping that those that are deeply involved in Emergent, especially those that were in DC or were connected to DC, address it and deal with the fracturing before it is too late (in the internet age, this stuff happens quickly and needs to be dealt with quickly).

I am not a prophet and have no ideas (okay I have plenty of ideas), but I am praying that the vested EVers listen to the many disparate voices, the diaspora, the entrenched and the middlers, the critics and the defenders, allowing for each voice to be at the table... or they should just close shop on the official thingy and let people create new stuff along the way, letting natural friendships, alignments and affiliations take their own path (neither option is bad, in my opinion). But, sitting back should not be a long term strategy for the leaders of this thing.

Now I can tell you I new this was coming. I talked about the fractures as a normal movement phenomena (and was beaten up for it) on an Emergent forum a few months ago and had waited for such days since I first saw these fissures around 99 or 2000. At the time I thought it was like the Reformation where Luther, Calvin and Zwingli started fighting over minutia (which is happening on blogs all the time right now. seriously people, don't look for minor areas of disagreement to fight over. look at the heart of a writer or speaker and find places of agreement first). However, I realized along the way that the emerging church conversation was not a new Reformation (seriously, talk about trying to make something into something it is not).

Based upon the history of social movements, they always fracture, splinter and snipe (or worse). History is riddled with everything from the Reformation to the early US settlers, to hippy movements, to early Pentecostalism, to the Jesus Movement, to rap feuds, to EV vs. the New Reformed, all of which show us that people join together so they can break apart.

I guess Emergent is in good company and another in the long list of social experiments that confirm the cycles of human history. Oh well.


update: in case anyone misread my intentions. I am not offering a stern warning by someone wanting to air dirty laundery or hoping for EV to "fail." I am offering a warning based upon seeing what happens with movements and social experiments. If we look at the past and then take into consideration the new technologies of the internet, etc. that were not a part of past such movements, we need to understand that people must respond quicker to criticism, fracturing and other issues than they have had to in the past. Everything is so quick right now that a week on the web is a few months in print.


Rev. John A. D'Elia said...

Apart from the gentle "I told you so" in your post, which seems a little excessive, I still see some positives in where the Emergent coalition finds itself. Progressive evangelicals, charismatics, intentional communities, and a host of other offshoots of Christianity have all seen themselves as new and separate movements. Where they've made their greatest impact, though, is when they influence their "parent" traditions, either by remaining separate or folding back into the established body. I said it in my own post, and I'll say it again: I'm not disappointed in either the past achievements or future prospects of Emergent-ness. See: http://ministryintheuk.blogspot.com/2009/06/im-not-disappointed.html

RDF said...


Seriously, by its nature doesn't Emergent need to keep splintering to prevent it from becoming a large institution? The true test will be if the basic charter of the group transcends to the splinter groups.

To your point, time's a wastin' to deal with the petty social stuff.



Mike Stavlund said...

Rick, I'm really trying, but I'm honestly at a loss to understand how you want me to read you on this whole emergent/disappointment thread.

First, you offer a post against bullying, where you call out people and vociforously argue with them in the comments section. Then, you call for a kinder, gentler internet with a quite angry tone and tenor.

Now, you're offering a general warning of doom, a curt "I told you so!", and a vague claim that "People are talking to me about problems..." What is anyone supposed to do about these unnamed problems? Should we assign someone to chase down the disaffected people out on the internet (whoever they might be, and whatever their complaint)? Would that even be effective? Should that be what EV is about? What is preventing people from sharing their voice, and/or starting up whatever they'd like to start up instead?

Finally and most importantly, I really enjoyed smoking a cigar with you on a rainy night in St. Pete a few weeks back. I will treasure that more than any Boston baseball tickets on opening day. In fact, I wish we were back there right now, so I could understand what you're talking about here. Thanks for being my friend, and thanks for caring about EV (no matter how much you claim to not care ;-)

DJ Word said...

I responded to Mike via email. I felt it best. Mike- if you did not get it, let me know.

i will put this. I am sorry to be a prophet of doom. think of me as the guy seeing you walking close to the edge of a cliff. I am saying, "stop. get away from the cliff." Now I don't see what is over the cliff.

It could be a small drop that will get you a bit dirty. It could be a 1000 foot drop. If it is a small drop.. I am sorry for the dire warning.

To anyone else that reads this... I have responded that yes I think there should be a serious reaching out to those that have been disenfranchised by the DC event and subsequent conversation.

To anyone that is offended by my tone and tenor, I am sorry. I know this about myself. Please look at the warning I give to my readers on this blog. It is from Wendell berry and has been there since the beginning...

"Do not think me gentle because I speak in praise of gentleness, or elegant because I honor the grace that keeps this world. I am a man crude as any, gross of speech, intolerant, stubborn, angry, full of fits and furies. That I may have spoken well at times, is not natural. A wonder is what it is."

At least I am being consistent, huh?