Emerging Church Beliefs
This past Friday and Saturday I spent seven hours at an event called Emergence 2007 – a Zondervan/National Pastors Convention Regional event. The event was held in West Seattle at Mars Hill Church with Mark Driscoll, Dan Kimball, Doug Pagitt, and Karen Ward as guests. The event was organized in a conversational manner with host Krista Tippett. There were hundreds of people in attendance, many who are Mars Hill Church members or attendees. Mark, Dan and Doug have been voices in this emerging church conversation for over 10 years now. I’m not sure how long Karen Ward has been involved in the emerging church conversation, but I do know she has been an influential leader in the emerging church for many years and her voice is a welcome addition to the conversation.
I am very familiar with Dan Kimball and his involvement in the emerging church, and have been following Mark Driscoll’s movement locally for the last seven years. Even though I live in the Seattle area and have many friends who attend Mars Hill Church, I have never attended a gathering at Mars Hill Church where Mark was speaking. I did attend a Film and Theology night many years ago when they were meeting at an old church in Ballard, but it was a small gathering. In the past year I have downloaded and listened to at least one of Mark’s podcasts in response to friends who have chosen to leave the faith community I have attended for the last 13 years to attend Mars Hill Church. I know many people who will commute from the suburbs into the city to attend Mars Hill Church – especially those who would be classified as Gen Xers.
Much of the conversation this weekend seemed to focus on areas of agreement between these differing voices, and there was definitely a sense of the more prominent and loud voices of Doug and Mark dominating the conversation, though Krista did an excellent job of directing the conversation and attempting to give room to Dan and Karen to speak. I was surprised that the controversial topic of emerging church beliefs concerning women was avoided, but this was probably a good idea since the conversation was held in Mars Hill Church where a traditional complementarian view is strongly promoted.
One question that seemed to raise controversy/heated discussion:
Question for Mark Driscoll: Would you accept Doug Pagitt as a member of Mars Hill Church? (my paraphrase)
In his response, Mark proceeded to conduct an informal membership interview. It seemed straightforward enough, with Doug failing after a few questions (I don’t remember all the questions or details but the inerrancy of the Bible question was a big disqualifier.) The discussion didn’t appear to be controversial, but I sensed a certain amount of sub-text or undercurrents in the conversation that only those inside the emergent circle would possibly pick up on.
Question for all: What is the difference between emergent and emerging? (my paraphrase)
The host invited Dan Kimball to respond. While Dan was composing his thoughts, Doug leaned over and commented that the difference is in the spelling. A few who heard this side comment chuckled, but the conversation that followed didn’t really seem to clarify but rather contextualized the evolution of the terms. I found this interesting and after some exploration and further discussion offer that perhaps “emerging” is merely culturally relevant packaging of modern theology, while “emergent” is more of a rethinking of modern theology and a response to the dying of many modern churches all over the world because of the mass exodus of the emerging generations once they are free from parental rule.
Overall, what I enjoyed most about the conversation was hearing the stories and getting to know these voices a little bit better. All four who were involved in this conversation have differing views on many issues, but in the spirit of Christ have been able to maintain friendship with one another to some degree.
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