16 October 2008


(Note: The diagram above, IMHO, is BS. I love it when people draw "orthodox Christianity" in such a way as to exclude the VAST majority of Christians who would fit traditional definitions of orthodoxy. But it is BS that was helpful to someone, so yay.)

(Note #2: OK, Stav, fine, here's the blog post you made me promise to write.) ;-)

So: lots of folks in the Emergent world have been a-twitter over the new network being formed by some folks who have been active participants in Emergent Village and the wider "emerging church" conversation. The concern, I think, has been along the lines of: "Why? Why a new network? Why not stay committed to the one we've got? The diversity of the existing conversation is its strength!"

But to me, it just seemed like a natural thing. In many ways, the new network seems like it's just "Evangemergent". It's a network of folks who are, de facto and by association, part of whatever this "church that is emerging" is becoming - but who don't want to give up on some of the cherished distinctives of their traditional background.

In that sense, it's like the denominational networks that Phyllis Tickle calls the "hyphenateds", such as Anglimergent (Anglican and Emergent), Presbymergent (Presbyterian and Emergent), Luthermergent (g'wan, guess), etc. Just as the folks in those networks are part of this emerging thingamajig, but don't want to give up on the structures, organizations, and traditions of their denominations, the folks in this new network will (it seems) be part of the broader conversation while remaining committed to some of the core distinctives of the evangelical tradition (notably: the primacy of evangelism, and a commitment to doctrinal statements - in this case, the Lausanne Covenant.)

Though I have somewhat mixed feelings about the "hyphenated" networks, I'm an active participant in Anglimergent, and in general I think these networks serve a valuable purpose in widening and broadening the conversation. On the other hand, it is worth noting a difference between this new evangelical network and the other "hyphenateds": in rallying around the Lausanne Covenant, one strongly suspects that this new network is at least partly motivated by a desire to connect with evangelicals who would explicitly divide with folks who do not affirm a proper evangelical doctrinal statement. This is different, I think, from the networks that affiliate with the more mainline denominations: though those denominations might (due to lack of knowledge or competing priorities) have little interest in engaging with the "emerging church", they would, generally speaking, not draw their "circles of orthodoxy" in such a way as to exclude it. (See, in contrast, the diagram above.)

But really, I think that's fine. Folks like Scot McKnight and Dan Kimball have stated that they intend to maintain their connections and friendships within the existing "emerging" conversation. And if they do that while also engaging with folks who would be leery of connecting with some "emerging" folks due to a perceived lack of doctrinal clarity, then yay. The conversation has been widened, and broadened. And that's fine with me.


James Diggs said...


I agree that the chart is total BS too. What a ridiculous assumption that puts evangelicalism in the absolute center of historical Christian orthodoxy. I’m part of a loose “hyphenated” network within a particular Christian tradition too; emergent-nazarenes. I think the spirit of those who participate in this network is one that has a desire to widen our circle, and the emergent church conversation is a part of this, rather than “circling our wagons” around “our “denominational distinctives”. Of course we do have plenty within our tradition who make protecting such “denominational distinctives” their battle cry, but I have been pleasantly surprised how our denomination has made space for us and our conversation.

I am not much into doctrinal statements in general, I think they tend to describe a particular Christian traditions rather than broader Christian orthodoxy. Feeling this tension with a tradition that has doctrinal statements, I am not sure I can understand the interest in aligning one self with the Lausanne Covenant; especially because there does not seem to be any real tradition or community that it is associated with. The healthy tension of a community that would continue to wrestle with these things would seem to be lost when doctrinal statements are used in this way. I guess what I mean is, without continual community voice, doctrinal statements in a loose affiliations like these can do nothing but draw circles of who is in and who is out. The same has been true for doctrinal statements within various Christian traditions and denominations but I do think that many of these denominations are beginning to put their “doctrinal statements” in context of a broader standard for historical Christian orthodoxy with a catholic and even ecumenical spirit. The community aspect of Christian traditions and denominations in the west seemed to have lead many in recent years to see their traditions and communities more so in the context of much larger church community throughout history. At least I hope this is what has been happening if my eyes aren’t deceiving me.

Perhaps the move by some to identify with the Lausanne Covenant is an attempt to connect with a broader community like you and I might with our Christian traditions while avoiding some of the pitfalls of denominational traditions? But I still wonder if identifying with doctrinal statements without the context of a particular church tradition and community, will make it more difficult to put such doctrinal statements in perspective as a view from a particular group of people, from a particular time in place. Do statements of belief without tradition leave us without context of those statements in light of the reality of a much larger Christian journey throughout history?

OK, I am rambling here off the top of my head while catching your blog during a short window at work. I am not even sure if I am making sense, but hey at least your blog scored a comment.

Peace man,


Mike Croghan said...

Thanks James - you make sense to me, and I think your concerns are valid. But I guess I'm just gonna wait and see how it shakes out. And, honestly, if these folks start to come up with some interesting dialogue about topics like "evangelism in emerging Western culture", then I can see myself and my friends benefiting from that. If it turns into an "us and them" thing, then that'll be unfortunate, though - and I think you've put your finger on one reason why it very well could.

Tim Mathis said...

your blog scored two comments, Mike. Interesting stuff again, and I've been (sort of) following the emergent 'split' with bemused and disappointed interest. I like how you've pointed out that this could be something akin to the formation of an 'evangemergent'--looking a little different from the other 'hyphenateds' of course, b/c evangelicalism has never been a strictly denominational movement.

I'm not sure what to think of the whole thing. Seems a violation of the emergent conversational spirit to some degree. it was also probably inevitable once 'emergent/ce' came to mean something concrete in a large number of people's minds. 'oh, crap! you think emergent means that?! well, i'm not emergent then!' people and their silly (necessary/inevitable?) boundaries...

The good thing, I think, is that a lot of us are talking.

Steve Hayes said...

I guess peple draw their circles to include "people like us", and to exclude "people not like us".

And that's OK.

But circles are one thing, networks are another.