Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Persons, Churches and Organizations Strongly Associated with Emergent – How it is a Movement

Since EC is a movement among many individuals that crosses virtually every denominational boundary, it would perhaps be helpful to identify some of the more prominent individuals.

Most folks by now have heard of Brian McLaren. If not the most outspoken proponent of EC, he is by far the most prolific. Until January of 2006, he was the pastor of Cedar Ridge Community Church in Spencerville, Maryland – a church he both helped found and then pastored for 24 years.[1] Two of his most recent books, A Generous Orthodoxy and The Secret Message of Jesus have been extremely influential and widely read. He speaks at numerous conferences and gatherings all over the world and is held by the majority both in and outside of the EC camp as a primary spokesperson. Much of what I will comment on in this paper will be in direct reference to his written works.

Besides McLaren, there are other generally acknowledged leaders in EC. Some of these are (in no particular order) Tony Jones, Dan Kimball, Scot McKnight, Doug Pagitt, LeRon Shults, Chris Seay, Shane Claiborne, Tony Campolo,[2] and Donald Miller.[3]

More locally, a quick glance of the and websites yields names such as Darryl Dash, pastor of Richview Baptist Church in Etobicoke; Pernell Goodyear, founding pastor of The Freeway in Hamilton; Jared Siebert, one of the founding church planters at Next Church in Kingston, Ontario and now Director of Growth Ministries with the Free Methodist Church in Canada; and Joseph Moreau, the “point leader and communcator” [sic] for EcclesiaX, a church plant in Ottawa.

Other EC leaders or members of the conversation hail from Methodist, Episcopalian, Baptist (many brands), and virtually every other major evangelical group or denomination. There is some indication that Roman Catholics and even religious Jews are a part of the movement, but whether or not they would understand themselves to be “in” is a disputed point.[4]

Besides these, there are many, many more individuals, pastors and churches that either embrace much of the EC mindset or parts of it. Mark Driscoll, Seattle, WA, (Mars Hill Church / Resurgence / Acts 29 Church Planting Network) would be a prime example of this. He has clearly cut away from the primary EC personalities while holding on to some parts of what it means to be emergent.[5] This fact alone makes defining and critiquing EC that much more difficult! This study admittedly focuses on McLaren and others – that is unfair in some ways, but I am writing a paper, not a book![6]

[1] McLaren was replaced by Matthew Dyer “in order to focus on his speaking and writing ministry nationally and internationally.” accessed March 30, 2006. I note this as it makes it virtually certain that we will be hearing much more from McLaren in the months and years ahead.

[2] Although Campolo’s name would be disputed by some – perhaps even him.

[3] For a brief biography of each and a more complete listing see the appendix: “Names, Groups and Events Associated with Emergent.”

[4] There is certainly no question that Revisionist Emergents such as Pagitt and Jones see Jews as being a part of the conversation. See the Appendix One: “Does Emergent Embrace Practicing Jews as Fellow Believers in God?”

[5] See for example Driscoll’s web apology to McLaren and Doug Pagitt after taking the two of them to task for their wavering stance against homosexuality: “Since leaving that team I have been increasingly concerned about some of the theological conversations that are taking place, which has led to frustration and anger on my part.” accessed on March 30, 2006.

[6] Bolger would certainly agree that my attention on McLaren is unbalanced: “The attention on Brian McClaren [sic] plus a small number of other authors such as Spencer Burke, Steve Chalke, Dan Kimball, Dave Tomlinson distorts the discussion because these authors are not working to create an epistemology for the emerging church. My research among more than one hundred emerging church leaders indicates that other authors have had significant impact on emerging church thinking, authors such as Jack Caputo, Stanley Hauerwas, Alasdair MacIntyre, Nancey Murphy, Henry Nouwen, Miroslav Volf, Dallas Willard, N.T. Wright, and John Howard Yoder to start.” April 2, 2006.

Phil Johnson balances this to a degree however when he writes: “It would be easy, actually, to critique the emerging church movement by reviewing some of Brian McLaren's books, starting with A Generous Orthodoxy. The problem with that approach is that McLaren clearly does not speak for everyone in the ‘emerging church movement.’ Whenever critics try to analyze the movement by examining what McLaren has written, people within the movement simply dismiss the criticisms by suggesting that whatever McLaren says is his own opinion, and it doesn't necessarily reflect the movement itself. That's partly true and partly a deliberate evasion. The emerging subculture clearly fosters an environment where theological mavericks like McLaren are pretty much encouraged to throw whatever bizarre and even heretical notions they like on the table for discussion. So I do think Brian McLaren is fair game, and because he is such a large figure in the movement, I can't really ignore him.

On the other hand, it's also true that although McLaren has had a profound influence in the shaping of the emerging church, he doesn't necessarily speak for everyone identified with the movement. To critique Brian McLaren is to critique Brian McLaren. It doesn't necessarily go to the heart of the movement itself.” Accessed on April 3, 2006.