Thursday, June 16, 2005

Should we Differentiate "Emergent" and "the Emerging Church?"

I'm not really trying to be provocative by asking. But with the appointment of its first National Director, the organization Emergent takes a step towards institutionalization (I use the term with no pejoration). I see some people using the term "emergent" generically, but I'm wondering if we should. The leaders of Emergent themselves have said:

...we have repeatedly affirmed, contrary to what some have said, that there is no single theologian or spokesperson for the emergent conversation. We each speak for ourselves and are not official representatives of anyone else, nor do we necessarily endorse everything said or written by one another. We have repeatedly defined emergent as a conversation and friendship, and neither implies unanimity – nor even necessarily consensus – of opinion.

What do you think?


Aaron said...

yeah, i think there has always been a difference. and that the institutionalization (like you, i'm not being perjorative) will further illict a differentiation.

i don't think that's a bad thing, just a clarifying thing. like i find myself jiving with lots of what Emergent folk talk about, but i don't have a desire to become part of the organization. so i'd probably be an emerging church guy, just not Emergent.

Anonymous said...


You are absolutely right on to raise this question! As I read through all of the comments on the Emergent U.S. blog in reaction to this announcement, my prevailing thought was, "Emergent is NOT equal to 'the emerging church.'" At the same time, all of us who consider ourselves "emerging" have to recognize the Emergent leadership has given to spur on this fledgling movement -- with their books and their conferences and their public speaking appearances everywhere, etc.

So I agree Emergent needs to do more to distinguish its network/organization from the greater "emerging church" (perhaps by changing the name, as one person had suggested in the blog comments). Meanwhile, let's give Emergent some props for stepping out in faith and putting their necks on the line (so to speak) to take the hits from critics and naysayers so that the rest of us on the ground can keep running.

I mean, we need to ask ourselves, would the "emerging church" movement be where it is today if Emergent hadn't taken a key role in it? Emergent isn't the end all and be all of the emerging church, but it's nothing to disregard and disrespect either.

Steve K.

Full Disclosure: I am an Emergent Cohort leader in Charlotte, NC. So technically, I'm part of the "inner circle" ;-)

Sivin Kit said...

as one outside of USA, I think it's better to have them "distinguished" :-) without being "divided".

and I think the recent move helps to move this forward ... personally, distinguishing between "Emergent" (as a more intentional network .. informal or formal) and "Emerging Church" (as a phenomenon, or movement or development in the wider global church) has always seem to be at the back of my mind.

Stephen said...

aaron, steve, sivin - I think all of you are posting balancing comments with which I agree. I am concerned that there is some confusion. I was happy when DA Carson (or Zondervan) changed his book title from "Becoming Conversant with Emergent" to "Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church."

fernando said...

As another voice from outside the US, I think the distinction is very important. Emergent has a great role to play (and it clearly has the money and publishing access to say it), but it is far from the whole story in a global sense.

My hope is that as emergent grows it's organisation over the next while it will continue to make clear to it's "constituency" the fully global nature of the emerging church and all the implications that carries.