I keep getting asked this and although I give an answer each time, I’m never sure what to say when I’m asked. I don’t really want to add a new definition, but here’s a recent explanation that I’m escalating from a comment on this blog the other day. I was asked IRL conversation this evening and I probably said something different from this, and I’ll probably say something different next time… but fwiw,
I might put it this way… there are small groups of people all over the world who are rethinking the way they do church, the way they relate to each other and to the world, what it means to follow Jesus, and how God interacts with us to change our lives. A lot of them are independently coming up with very similar answers, as each group is guided by the Holy Spirit. The general trends and themes that are common to many of these have been described as “emerging.” Although there are some groups like Emergent Village and The Ooze that a few are affiliated with, by and large there’s nobody “in charge” of EC, there are really no “custodians of the movement” though there are some prominent spokespersons.
As to how EC deals with criticism, I don’t think it works quite the way you’ve suggested… if a criticism is leveled against a particular belief or practice in some ECs, it must be recognized that this is not the same as finding all ECs guilty of this belief or practice… so it’s as inaccurate to say, “ECs are all bad because they don’t use real pews” as it is to say, “Non-denominational churches are bad because they don’t use real pews.” I’m intentionally picking an absurd criticism… one could consider the claim that Christianity is stupid because Christians believe that when they take a bit of bread and wine, it literally becomes the flesh and blood of Jesus Christ, and that’s absurd. You might say, “But I’m a Christian, and I don’t believe that!” …but it’s still true that some Christians do believe it. EC works similarly… they don’t all use candles and they don’t all believe that we should only have house churches. But some do.
All that was of course to say that EC continues to defy definition… but this helps explain why. I think and hey, I could be wrong.
In your answer to the question, “What is EC?” you say, “A lot of them (small groups of people all over the world) are independently coming up with very similar answers.”
it might help to actually identify what some of those answers ARE if you intend to answer the question. I think that’s the kind of thing that opie and others are asking us. Then they get frustrated because we still haven’t told them!
What would you say are some of the “common answers” that these independent emerging thinkers are arriving at to the categories you list?
1. How we should do church,
2. How we should relate to each other and to the world,
3. What it means to follow Jesus, and
4. How God interacts with us to change our lives.
I’m asking because I get opie-type questions all the time as well!!
What about that? Could you do as Bob is suggesting and start identifying key questions, regardless of the differing answers that might occur across the EC spectrum? (Aside: good analogies in this post!)
And would you consider giving some (preliminary) answers to some of the questions you generate? (Which, being translated, means: “Why should Robby be the only one doing massive amounts of historical and theological research these days? Join the movement?”)
Couldn’t resist! :) But I would seriously enjoy reading your thoughts on the questions that EC is raising, as well as your (journeying) thoughts on those questions.
Well, I’ve been taken to task then, haven’t I? ;^)
I’ll start giving this some thought… as to why Robby should be the only one doing piles of research, I’m up to my eyeballs in work – but am just emerging from it now. Rob, dunno if you remember our Interlake project from 2 years ago, but the final acceptance inspection was done today (finally! It went very well though). I have a major proposal to pull together by Monday, and then after sorting out a day or two in a daze, I should be able to give this a bit more time for constructive thought. These last few weeks have been absolutely nuts… I was a bit bleary-eyed last night when I decided to elevate a comment into a post rather than start a fresh thought; I had some further thought about this to add at the time, but I think maybe it eluded my sleep-deprived brain.