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.