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Center for Action and Contemplation

A Great Convergence

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Emerging Church

A Great Convergence
Tuesday, November 28, 2017

The emerging church, a convergence of hopeful and liberating Christian themes, is happening on all continents, in all denominations, at all levels—and at a rather quick pace. I want to name this movement so that you can first of all recognize how it has already happened in you on some level and so that you can offer this wonderful Gospel emergence your time, your prayer, your love, and your energy. If you do that, there will be no time left to oppose, hate, or deny anything or anybody. There is no need to reject or deny any one’s present or past experience. God will lead us from here, including and transcending the past, as Ken Wilber says.

Continuing where we left off yesterday, here are some more of the historical developments propelling the emerging church movement:

  1. A global sense of Christianity frames the denominational divisions in a larger context. Many of the things we historically fought about are resolved, boring, or non-essential. We have all been both victims and beneficiaries of these very specific histories and cultures, and we can find unity in that.
  2. There is a growing recognition of the unnecessary limits that church protocols and historical idiosyncrasies have put on reading and living the Gospels for each of our denominations. This is a new ability to distinguish the essentials from the incidentals in church practice and teaching.
  3. The Pentecostal/Charismatic movement tells us that experiential Christianity is actually possible, desirable, and has the potential to lead us to a more Trinitarian theology—opening up the mystical and the prayer levels of Christianity. So many who have had “baptism in the Spirit” experiences find themselves naturally Trinitarian, even if they lack formal theology to understand it.
  4. A developing spirituality and theology of nonviolence allows us to pursue things in a “third way” beyond the old fight-or-flight dualism.
  5. We see new structures of community and solidarity, including groups for recovery, study, contemplation, lectio divina, service and mission (for example, New Monasticism, Catholic Worker houses, JustFaith). Many of these are led by lay people. The emphasis is on “mediating institutions” instead of just parish churches, yet these are normally not anti or against the local or official church.
  6. There is a new appreciation for “many gifts and ministries” (1 Corinthians 12), “together making a unity in the work of service” (Ephesians 4), instead of concentrating on a top tier of ordained leadership where gender and power issues dominate. With many gifts and many ministries, legitimacy comes from ability, solidarity with suffering, and willingness to serve, rather than from top-down authorization.

With this new kind of reformation happening, we are happy to stay at the exciting movement level as long as we can—and God allows—and if possible, avoid becoming rigid and stagnant as “monuments, museums, or machines.” Remember, “The best criticism of the bad is the practice of the better” (a CAC core principle).

Gateway to Silence:
Rooted and growing in Love

Adapted from Richard Rohr, “The Emerging Church: Beyond Fight or Flight,” Radical Grace, vol. 21, no. 4 (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2008), 3, 22.

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