What might words like repentance or forgiveness mean, culturally, in this moment? These are questions of the emerging church, a loosely-defined movement that crosses generations, theologies and social ideologies in the hope of reimagining Christianity. With Phyllis Tickle and Vincent Harding, we bring you an honest (and sometimes politically incorrect) conversation on coming to terms with racial identity in the church and in the world:
"The great American experiment with building a multiracial democracy is still in the laboratory. We have got to be willing to see ourselves as part of an experiment that is actively working its way through right now. We stumble. We hold on to each other. We hug each other. We fight with one another in loving ways. But we keep moving and experimenting and trying to figure it out."
"There’s a difference between repentance and forgiveness and there’s a difference between those in grace. And if we do this thing that Vincent’s talking about, if we refashion this country — which we’re going to do — but if we do it without grace, it will be just as clunky and just as unfortunate. And just as many people will get the short end of the stick as has been true in the past."
Nadia Bolz-Weber is the tattooed, Lutheran pastor of the House for All Sinners and Saints in Denver, a church where a chocolate fountain, a blessing of the bicycles, and serious liturgy come together. She’s a face of the Emerging Church — redefining what church is, with deep reverence for tradition:
"I think that me and my fellows are more comforted by mystery than we are by certainty and so there’s this mystery that you get to enter into in the liturgy and in the eucharist that we find very comforting to go back to again and again."
Take a listen. She will not only surprise you, but she will make you laugh out loud.
It is said that emerging Christians confess their faith like mainliners—meaning they say things publicly they don’t really believe. They drink like Southern Baptists—meaning, to adapt some words from Mark Twain, they are teetotalers when it is judicious. They talk like Catholics—meaning they cuss and use naughty words. They evangelize and theologize like the Reformed—meaning they rarely evangelize, yet theologize all the time. They worship like charismatics—meaning with their whole bodies, some parts tattooed. They vote like Episcopalians—meaning they eat, drink, and sleep on their left side. And, they deny the truth—meaning they’ve got a latte-soaked copy of Derrida in their smoke- and beer-stained backpacks. Along with unfair stereotypes of other traditions, such are the urban legends surrounding the emerging church—one of the most controversial and misunderstood movements today.
—Scot McKnight, from "Five Streams of the Emerging Church"
Josh Kron’s article in The Atlantic and Sarah Pulliam Bailey’s dressing down of the journalism behind the piece has kindled interest in the emerging church movement again. But neither person offers a clear guide to what the emerging movement is. McKnight’s saucy explainer in Christianity Today (published in 2007, no less) is a good start. He dispels some myths about the emerging movement and lays out “the five themes that characterize the emerging movement”: prophetic, postmodern, praxis-oriented, post-evangelical, and political.
~Trent Gilliss, senior editor