Robin M over at What Canst Thou Say? has been hanging out with emergent church folks recently and reports back in a few posts. It’s definitely worth reading, as is some of what’s been coming out of the last week’s youth gathering at Barnesville (including Micah Bales report) and the annual Conservative Friends gathering near Lancaster Pa., which I’ve heard bits and pieces about on various Facebook pages.
It sound like something’s in the air. I wish I could sit in live in some of these conversations but just got more disappointing news on the job front so I’ll continue to be more-or-less homebound for the foreseeable future. Out to pasture, that’s me! (I’m saying that with a smile on my face, trying not to be tooooo whiny!)
Robin’s post has got me thinking again about emergent church issues. My own dabbling in emergent blogs and meet-ups only goes so far before I turn back. I really appreciate its analysis and critique of contemporary Christianity and American culture but I rarely find it articulating a compelling way forward.
I don’t want to merely shoehorn some appropriated Catholic rituals into worship. And pictures of emergent events often feel like adults doing vacation bible school. I wonder if it’s the “gestalt” issue again (via Lloyd Lee Wilson et al), the problem of trying to get from here to there in an ad hoc manner that gets us to an mishmash of not quite here and not quite there. I want to find a religious community where faith and practice have some deep connection. My wife Julie went off to traditional Catholicism, which certainly has the unity of form and faith going for it, while I’m most drawn to Conservative Friends. It’s not a tradition’s age which is the defining factor (Zoroastrianism anyone?) so much as its internal logic. Consequently I’m not interested in a Quakerism (or Christianity) that’s merely nostalgic or legalistic about seventeenth century forms but one that’s a living, breathing community living both in its time and in the eternity of God.
I’ve wondered if Friends have something to give the emergent church: a tradition that’s been emergent for three hundred years and that’s maintained more or less regular correspondence with that 2000 year old emergent church. We Friends have made our own messes and fallen down as many times as we’ve soared but there’s a Quaker vision we have (or almost have) that could point a way forward for emergent Christians of all stripes. There’s certainly a ministry there, perhaps Robin’s and perhaps not mine, but someone’s.
- Indiana Friend Brent Bill started a fascinating new blog last week after a rather contentious meeting on the future of Friends leadership. Friends in Fellowship is trying to map out a vision and model for a pastoral Friends fellowship that embodies Emergent Church leader Brian McLaren’s idea of a “generous orthodoxy.” Interesting stuff that echos a lot of the “Convergent Friends” conversation (here, here, and here) and mirrors some of the dynamics that have been going on within liberal Friends. The QuakerQuaker conversation has thus far been most intense among evangelical and liberal Friends, with middle American “FUM” Friends mostly sitting it out so it’s great to see some connections being made there. Read “Friends in Fellowship” backwards, oldest post to newest and don’t miss the comments as Brent is modeling a really good back and forth process with by answering comments with thoughtful posts.
- Famously unapologetically liberal Friend Chuck Fager has some interesting correspondence over on A Friendly Letter about some of the elephants in the Friends United Meeting closet. Interesting and contentious both, as one might expect from Chuck. Well worth a read, there’s plenty there you won’t find anywhere else.
- Finally, have I gushed about how fabulous the new’ish ConservativeFriend.org website is? Oh yes, I have, but that’s okay. Visit it again anyway.