On Monday night, after the drama, confusion and intrigue of the Overture discussion that never happened something important happened… something which is at the heart of the future of the church.

It was late in the evening when Bishop Graham Cray spoke to a disappointingly small group of people as part of the Emerging Church fringe event.

Bishop Cray is the man in charge of Fresh Expressions, the joint project between the Church of England and the Methodist Church, and he has been working in the area of pioneering ministry for years.

His first sentence was a response to a video of a great youth project at the Steeple Church in Dundee.  ‘That’s great’, he said, ‘but that’s not what I’m talking about.’

In that one sentence he summed up the concern I have with the direction of the ‘Emerging Church’ conversations and support available through the Church of Scotland.

Graham spoke of ministry across cultural boundaries, of growing churches where there are none and of a mixed economy of church.  He shed light on the how and why, shared encouragement and pointed out some pitfalls.

All that requires legislation, changes in recognition and training of the ministry needed for these new expressions and funding.

I’ve heard little this week to convince me that the Church of Scotland has a corporate awareness of this area or a grasp of where it is heading, despite the good work of the development officer for this area.

The event was webcast.  It would be great if Graham’s talk could be shared wider.

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5 Responses to “The Most Important Part… Missed By Most”
  1. It would be nice if Emergent didn’t need to be sold to the Church. Emergent is like a necessary heart transplant in the Bride, that certain parts of her body is rejecting. How very sad is that?

  2. JohnO says:

    I’m feeling like being contrary (not like me, is it?).
    Theresa, why is emergent ‘necessary’? I know of churches which are growing with no hint of ’emergent’. But of course, numerical growth is not necessarily indicative of spiritual growth.
    I would also suggest that many of the headline-grabbing expressions of emerging church have not been seen as ‘theologically sound’, especially in respect to their approach to scripture. I’m not suggesting that this can be said of all expressions of emerging church, but I do wonder if, like many things, it’s the vocal minority that set the tone with which rest of a movement is read?
    As for Bishop Cray saying “that’s not what I mean”, I’m speaking from a point of ignorance with regard to the context of the presentation, but is that to suggest that there is a ‘right way’ of being emergent?

  3. Stewart says:

    John, I’ll answer the last part…

    The example was a great church based youth work project. His point was that for the church to fulfil it’s role to be missional, to take the Gospel out of the church to the world we will also need to engage with people in their culture and in their place and stop expecting people to give up that culture and become like us. The church, as you know, can and does express itself in lots of cultural forms. His plea was that we would hold both ‘traditional’ and fresh expressions together and value both.

  4. Stewart, you are right to express concern about the way the emerging movement is understood in the Church of Scotland. It is not difficult to set up a successful youth ministry – all you need is some money and one or three gifted leaders, and you will end up with a good youth work ministry within 3 years.

    Emerging ministry is not about youth work – but at an CofS emerging conference I attended a few months back that was the main emphasis. The one really emerging church speaker simply bemused his audience, who were mostly CofS ministers.

    By definition it is impossible for the Church of Scotland to do emerging ministry – ministers are not willing or able to let go of their power.

  5. Ulen says:

    Stewart, well said about the ’emergent church’ ‘direction’ (or better lack of direction and lack of grasp) within the CoS mission and discipleship council. I am afraid it is going to go the same way as ‘church without walls’ went! pear shape! I had much hope about Church without walls, but I feel it come to very little. I am not sure why they keep choosing to go against the wisdom of the ‘experts’ in the area? Probably lack of grasping the current thinking in the area?

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