The Great Emergence

Emerging Church

The Great Emergence
Sunday, November 26, 2017

I have come to set fire upon the earth, and how I wish it were already blazing. —Luke 12:49

Protestants and Catholics recently honored the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. In 1517, when Martin Luther posted his “95 Theses” or complaints to the church door in Germany, Western Christianity had become too focused on meritocracy and hierarchy, losing sight of the Gospel. The Roman Catholic Church itself admits it is always in need of reformation. Reformation is the perpetual process of conversion that is needed by all individuals and institutions. We appear to be in the midst of another period of significant turmoil and rebirth, thus my focus on rebuilding Christianity “from the bottom up” in this year’s Daily Meditations.

In North America and much of Europe, we are witnessing a dramatic increase in “Nones,” people who don’t identify with a particular faith tradition. While I ache for those who have been wounded by religion and no longer feel at home in church, the dissatisfaction within Christianity has sparked some necessary and healthy changes. Episcopal Bishop Mark Dyer (1930-2014) aptly called these recurring periods of upheaval giant “rummage sales” in which the church rids itself of what is no longer needed and rediscovers treasures it had forgotten.

As Phyllis Tickle (1934-2015) reflected, in the process of building necessary structure in institutions, we eventually “elaborate, encrust, and finally embalm them with the accretion of both our fervor and our silliness. At that point there is no hope for either religion or society, save only to knock the whole carapace off ourselves and start over again.” [1]

With each reformation, we don’t need to start from scratch but return to the foundations of our Tradition. We don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater, but reclaim the essential truths. And remember that truth anywhere is truth everywhere. With each rebirth, Christianity becomes more inclusive and universal, as it was always meant to be.

Tickle continues, describing how we might participate in shaping our history and present:

Called the Great Emergence, this time of radical shift is, like its predecessors, one of total and all-encompassing change. It is effecting and being effected as much by shifting cultural, economic, political, and intellectual circumstances as by religious ones. Yet it is the religious shifts that ultimately will inform and interpret all the others. . . . [It] is sufficient to say that this thing is a-borning, and it is we who must faithfully and prayerfully attend to its birthing. [2]

This emergence is not something we create or invent so much as name and join. “Two or three” gathered in deep truth create a whole new level of energy, collaboration, and interdependent life.

Gateway to Silence:
Rooted and growing in Love

References:
[1] Phyllis Tickle, “The Great Emergence,” Radical Grace, vol. 21, no. 4 (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2008), 4-5.
[2] Ibid.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, “500th Anniversary of the Beginnings of the Reformation,” October 31, 2017, cac.org/reformation-500th-anniversary/.

Numbers only; no punctuation

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