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Monday, March 24, 2008

The need for Emergent and some of the Emerging Church to deconstruct its ecclesiology

Many of the churches and groups involved in the Emergent & Emerging Church movement in the UK & US came out of radical evangelicalism. Evangelicalism - and in particular the more reformed, were birthed in modernity. Recently, Emergent churches and projects have changed their practice socially, due to the influences of postmodernity, information technology and consumerism. They have socially changed to respond to the sociological norms of culture.

The problem is, that many of these churches have changed sociologically - but not theologically or ecclesiologically. Many hold to the view that the real church began at the point of the reformation, and that reformation values still have a core place in the postmodern church. Those at the more radical end, still hold a view that they need to finish off the reformation, and were never happy with the Anglican settlement which held a more 'both and' perspective of catholic and protestant together. No - the more radically Emergent continue with this idea that the Emergent churches are the next stage of the reformed church - more pure than those that have gone before. A lot of the language coming out of the Emergent movement in the US seems wrapped in this language and perception of reformation.

Many of us in the Emerging Church feel uncomfortable with this position. We need a more both and postmodern perspective. We need an approach that is more affirming, more humble and less arrogant, something more communal, more about celebrating diversity. We have deconstructed our theology and ecclesiology - listening to the lessons of postmodern theology and ecclesiology. Some of the Emergent language of reformation needs to be deconstructed for our new context. If change remains only sociological - then we are only window dressing. What we need is a reappropriation or reconfiguration of missiology and ecclesiology to understand how we the church need to approach worship, mission and community in our new social context.

We don't need more disunity - more churches that define themselves as ' not like them'. We need a church that seeks to live out God's love to the world. One that brings renewal, revitalisation. Yes we need change, but with an ancient:future perspective. Our cities are littered with empty churches. These create new opportunities for doing new things drawing on the old. What we need is more churches focused on real mission to the unchurched and dechurched. Churches focused on love, and seeking apostolically to build new churches in a culture which is increasingly post-Christian. Without more deconstructed postmodern approaches to Ecclesiology and Theology, then Emergent will not be sustainable in our new brave world. It will then only be a short term fad!

I hope that is not so!