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The current installment of the COEC began meeting in 2007.

We are currently on a "break," for no particular reason, and many little reasons - mostly pertaining to life circumstances. If anyone is interested in calling a meeting, feel free to post on the blog, join the google group (see link below) and send an email, or contact either Nancy (nancykj10@yahoo.com) or Jesse (schroeder.jesse@gmail.com) for more information.

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9.13.2008

What's in a name?

This past week several emerging/emergent bloggers have written about why they are dropping the label emerging. You can read Andrew Jones' post here, Dan Kimball's here, and another sort of summary blog here. I haven't seen any responses from anyone explicitly associated with Emergent Village.

The gist of these posts seems to go like this: Emerging/Emergent conversations started 5-10 years ago as a way to rediscover what it means to be a faithful follower of Jesus in our current 21st century context, especially with an emphasis on reaching non-Christians with the gospel. However, over the past few years, the name and label "emerging" has taken on new forms, and has become much more of a marketing brand that is most clearly associated with Emergent Village and corresponding authors like Brian McLaren, Tony Jones and Doug Pagitt. The movement has gained recognition and has experienced a good amount of criticism (which even we in this small cohort are familiar with). Now when a person is identified as emerging, or the term is even thrown out, it is necessary to defend theological positions, explain who you are with and who you disagree with, and exhaustively locate oneself on the evangelical spectrum. So, writers/authors/bloggers/speakers are saying, "Look, this isn't worth all the hassle. And I don't agree with Emergent Village on a lot of stuff anyway. So I am no longer emerging/emergent. I am 'missional' or a part of the 'church being reformed' or simply finding new ways to faithfully follow God in my context. But I/we/our church is NOT Emergent."

**Insert deep sigh here**

I have so many mixed reactions to these posts that I've been reading over the week. On the one hand, I empathize and can understand the need to make this move and identify (or un-identify?) oneself for the sake of the ministry you feel is important. On the other hand (and this is what I really feel), I thought we were done with all this label bullshit? I thought as a post-modern Christian I was post-denominational, meaning I don't care what you call yourself, if you celebrate the Eucharist or communion, if you were baptized as an infant or an adult, or if you hold the penal substitutionary view of atonement above all others. I thought emerging/emergent was all about recognizing and even celebrating our differences.

I get the sense from these writers that they have deep differences with guys like McLaren and Jones, and thus feel the need to separate theologically. That is really sad to me. I'm also a little concerned about what this means for Emergent Village and those associated. Does this relegate these others even further out on the orthodoxy spectrum, teetering somewhere between truth and heresy? (Again, I thought we were getting beyond such words....have none of these guys read Peter Rollins?)

Alright - as always, I could say/write a lot more about all this, but perhaps you have thoughts. I would especially like to hear from those outside of our cohort, if you happen to be reading this. What are your reactions? Is mine an overreaction? I mean, it is all just a name after all right? It won't really change what we do in our cohort or what I believe about Jesus.

Nevertheless, it is an example of why I am emergent - to get past all this "label" crap.

8 comments:

Ken Haynes said...

Jesse- good post- could not agree more with your sentiments.

Keep Adam and Kara straight up there...

Ken

Dan said...

Hi Jesse,

Yes, I have read Peter Rollins and I am sure Andrew has and Bob has as well. I would email you, but couldn't find your email listed. Thank you for posting on the blog your thoughts. Unfortunately, labels do matter. In your very title of this blog you label the state, the section of the state and that you are emergent. So there are three distinctions you make right there.

For me, when I have watched how the term emerging church has changed, it is now so different and the focus that it isn't the same. I wish labels weren't important, but they are as they define things. You don't say "Eastern Pennsylvania Southern Baptist Cohort" - that would be different, so you chose specific labels to define what you are.

The "emerging church" as it has become known is so fuzzy and so broad, it is more confusing using the term anymore than helpful for the type of mission I believe I am supposed to be on.

Anyway, thanks again for posting. Hope that makes sense. Feel free to email me or Facebook contact me with any specific questions you may further have. Peace in Jesus, Dan

Jason Coker said...

Hey Jesse,

I've always appreciated the emerging church, but I think some have been drawn into semantic debates by highly vocal heresy-hunters, and that creates very practical problems when trying to get things done on the ground.

I think it's a mistake to get drawn in to those debates. Competing over definitions is a waste of time. Nobody outside of (what's left of) Christendom cares. It's an old red-herring utilized by those who still believe that compelling rhetoric cloaked as superior reason still wins the day.

But it doesn't. That day has passed.

The world is mired in political impotence, non-sensical (often religious) violence, gross economic inequalities, horrific injustice, and environmental doom. In that climate, clever arguments are irrelevant. The question is, who's got the goods?

As followers of Christ we SHOULD have the most to offer: namely, the Kingship of Christ and the subsequent virtues of the Holy Spirit. Love is what will win the day. After all, "against such things there can be no law." Instead, many in the church insist on straining out theological gnats while swallowing ethical camels.

I say walk away from the internal debates. Let people drop the name - let others keep it. Let people rail against it and vilify those who embrace it. It doesn't matter. At the end of the day, all that matters is who really is, "a light on a hill?" Those who have the will to do so simply need to get about the business of being the people of God. The rest will follow.

We need to be like James, who says, "You go ahead and show me what you believe; I'll show you what I've done."

After all, what are the consequences for the gospel if the label "emerging" dies? I say there are none. But what are the consequences if the most virtuous people in the world - the brightest light in the world - turn out to be Buddhists, or Muslims, or atheists? Then, quite simply, we will have proven our faith to be false.

...sorry for the long post.

...Savannah misses you and Kellye. Keep up the good work.

Nick Johnson said...

Jesse, thanks for bringing this issue up, and thanks to Ken, Dan, and Jason for chiming in - we appreciate it.

Because I don't have much time, I'll just say what I did when we discussed a similiar issue about six months ago. For me, the term emergent is simply a practicality. Yes, I think there are theological issues and what-not, but that doesn't really matter to me. For our cohort we decided to use the word emergent because it makes it easier for people to find us. We are not a church, and this blog is a small part of what we do. Rather, we are a community all living in the Columbus area who found each other almost entirely by doing something like typing "columbus emergent" into google. If we lose the word emergent, that type of a connection wouldn't happen and we could not have a community.

The fact is, more and more communities are formed this way and it will probably increase in the future. I'm not really happy about that, but internet searching, in all its forms, is probably the single most important part of finding information and people in our culture. The more people remove names the less we will find each other.

NancyJ said...

I agree with Nick about the word emergent helping others find information. That is how I found the Columbus cohort. It is sad and unfortunate that this word for many has become so negative.

While I admit it takes courage to align myself with something that is not fully defined and foundational like my evangelical roots, I am learning to allow for the tension created in not having immediate answers. (I don’t actually want immediate answers any more.)

I take comfort that this is a process in which God is very much involved and I am coming to appreciate that there is much to be gained by my patience and my willingness to stay open, continue to listen and as Jesse stated recognize and even celebrate differences.

The temptation to defend certain beliefs and live within definitions will probably always be there for me, but I hope to live out my life loving God and loving others doing the best I can with my understanding of God and how it all works.

I loved what Jason said and agree with him wholeheartedly…At the end of the day, all that matters is who really is, "a light on a hill?"

Dan Jones said...

Fist I would like to say thank you all for this blog, I have enjoyed reading the posts for some time now. I would like to add that I certianly identify with the "emerging" conversations; however I do not promte being labled as an emergent. This is maybe because I have never been a fan of labels. I am excited about the leaders and the direction of this conversation, and I have even toyed with the idea of staring a cohert here in the big rountown (circleville) area, because there are thinkers, alosngside myself that are excited about this converstation as well. But something in me is hesitant in even starting an emerging cohert. As Seinfield says, not that there is anything wrong with that! I think that it comes down to the fact that I have a fear of lables though. Sorry about being random just some thoughts though, and again thanks for providing some good reading material.
-dj

Nick Johnson said...

Hey Dan, thanks for your thougts. Just wanted to let you know if you are ever in Columbus and want to meet some of us for a drink or whatever to talk about emergent issues and how our cohort works we'd be happy to talk about it. You're also of course welcome to come for a discussion if you're ever in Columbus on a Sunday afternoon.

Dan Jones said...

Thank you for the invite nick, if I ever get a chance to come up, I certianly will, and again thank you.
-dj