Tonight, for reasons I’m still not entirely sure of, I was invited to sit on a panel for a discussion of ‘The Emerging Church’ at International Christian College. If you read yesterday’s post you’ll probably realise that i was pretty nervous about it for a number of reasons.
However, back to tonight. It went pretty well I thought, despite me outing myself as never having been an ‘Evangelical’ which I guess was one of the inevitabilities of taking part. Oh well. Never mind. I think my ‘outsider in terms of the evangelical church but maybe more insider in terms of emerging church’ position added a wider perspective to the debate.
I enjoyed the discussion but there were some things that I wanted to pick up on and perhaps save others having the same problems.
The first is that we always need to be pretty clear which emerging church we’re talking about. This evening’s discussion grew out of the visit of Brian McLaren last year and the students wanted a forum to discuss some of their unanswered questions. I saw the value of this but I’m not sure I see the point of only discussing what McLaren thinks the emerging church is, no matter how much fun that might be.
I don’t buy that McLaren is leading this emergence on his own. I’m concerned that if we focus all of the discussion on what Brain thinks we miss the very real question about why stuff is emerging from ALL kinds of churches. What is driving this experimentation? What is it that people are dissatisfied with? I think McLaren has a go at answering some of those questions, but he’s not the only voice in the discussion.
The second is that, believe it or not, this ain’t America. The drivers for the Emerging Church in America are its particular political, social, cultural and spiritual context… none of which are the same here in Scotland, despite the very obvious homogenisation of western culture. The evangelical context in America has a social and political dimension that is not replicated here in the UK where the ‘religious right’ doesn’t have the same influence in the political or social agenda.
I think we need to be more deliberate about finding out what’s happening here and who, if anyone, is writing about it. That’s one of my hopes for Emerging Scotland, that people will share their stories and begin to chronicle the emerging church here in Scotland.
The third is that, even though it’s a crowd pleaser, cheap stereotypes about liberals sitting round candles isn’t an accurate representation of any of the Emerging Church. Please don’t make fun of people who are trying honestly and earnestly to seek God’s will and to worship Him in ways that make more sense to them than whatever they have found in a denominational church setting.
So, overall, a good night I think. It was filmed but I don’t know if or where that might appear…