11.15.2005

Questions/Answers?

The questions that have been asked of presenters here in Camp Hill have been as interesting as the presentations themselves. Some observations.

Both Doug Pagitt and Holly Rankin Zaher were asked about how church discipline was dispensed in the emerging church. Doug handled the part of the question that related to avoiding heresy and agendas hijacking the church. "When you become a part of the community your hopes, dreams and aspirations become ours. People who want a high agenda...don't tend to live well in community and live reconciled lives with the people in them, so they don't stay anyway... In an open system, where many voices are listened to, heresy is less likely to come up.... Heresy is more of a problem when you limit control to certain voices." He made another interesting point. In today's world, "we don't discipline people. They use their leaving (the community) to discipline us." As a Lutheran with a tradition of "good order" I get why this question is asked, but it's interesting that we know that having systems doesn't guarantee that things won't get out of hand, as the recent experiences of the Roman Catholic Church has shown us.

There's also concern about the emerging church's adoption of spiritual practices from varying periods and brands of Christianity (and perhaps from other traditions). The concern seems to both be about syncretism and about cheapening another's practice by taking it out of context. Doug quipped that he was worried that leaders might start wearing suits or robes like leaders in the culture, or start patterning buildings after secular architecture. Then he drew a distinction between creating a smorgasbord to create a cool show and drawing from the faith backgrounds and exploratory practices of people in the community, which he sees as authentic.

Doug's quip, though "snarky" by his own description, points to a reality in these types of cross-cultural conversations (and emergent-mainline dialogue is definitely cross-cultural). All of us tend to see threats/concerns in something new and unfamiliar, while dismissing the same exact issues in what we already know. Several comments and questions worried that newer forms of church (perhaps more 'contemporary' than 'emergent') were performance and presentational; nicely ignoring the fact that traditional worship is often more presentational and can tend to performance if one isn't careful. And some who have adopted cell phones, VCRs and email worried that IMs and powerpoint in worship were "disconnecting" and not conducive to relationships with God and each other.

Listening in on such conversations is a reminder that I need to stop and see what assumptions I'm not thinking about when thinking/writing/speaking about the gulfs we're now crossing, and remember that the logs I see in others' eyes are probably in mine, too.

1 comment:

CarolynO said...

Hi bob! i was happy to stumble onto and then slowly read and reread(to see if i understood what i read the first time) your emergent church blog. Rod and I have had a few interesting discussions lately about what this all means and how it pertains to our congregation.
(spurned on by book group discussions)
What is the theory on trying to make these ideas available to the congregation at large?
Sometimes I don't always get where we are going or how we are going there but having a little education on the subject is certainly opening my eyes!
I also read a little off Karen Wards blog and noticed she had something on the bottom of her page about an "emergent learning party"...interesting idea.
Keep up the good info!