30 September 2006

Emerging/Missional divide

Wow, I only recently learned that there was an "emerging church" (as opposed to the Church emerging from wherever it has been hiding), and now I discover (from Ecelctic Itchings) that there is an Emerging/Missional divide!

The problem with Western theology is that it's so hard to keep up. By the time you discover what a new theological trend is actually about, it's already split into rival factions, and you have to discover what they stand for.

I've seen the term "missional" associated with the "emerging church" movement, but I assumed that it simply meant the church in mission -- and the definition of "missional church" is pretty standard, and seems to support my original assumption. But no, it seems that it's now something else, and well on its way to becoming estblished as a rival movement, or a spin-off or something.

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Anonymous said...

Steve: I’ve been reading most of the posts on this supposed spilt and to be honest, I haven’t heard anyone make a good case that missional is rival movement. On the contrary, missional is at the heart of the emerging church and sites like Friend of Missional are complimentary, not a rival faction. FoM is simply an imperfect attempt to explore and develop our appreciation of what it means to be missional.

There certainly are many other communities of faith who don’t identify with the emerging church movement, but see the good in its missional heart and therefore want to explore what it means to be missional also. Far from being a spilt, what we have is a coming together around some common ground – missional.

Steve Hayes said...

I think your Friend of Missional page gives a bog standard description of a missional church (or a missionary church, as it used to be called), a good summary of missiological debates for the last 60 years or so.

So, given your definition on the Friend of Missional page, there is nothing new or surprising there. I think I understand what it is about.

The term "emerging/emergent church" is new to me, however, and I've been trying to find out what it is. It doesn't seem to have emerged beyond the blogosphere, however. I've never seen it mentioned elsewhere. It's never been discussed in Christian usenet newsgroups, as far as I can see.

Then I read in the "Eclectic itchings" blog about this divide, and wondered what possible objection this emerging church movement could have to missional churches. They may have objections, but I'd like to see them clearly stated. I've seen objections to churches being missional from other quarters. Those who think that the purpose of the church is to support ethnic nationalism, for example, don't think the church should be missional. But their objections can be, and often are, clearly stated.

So I think the FoM statement is actually quite adequate. What I'm trying to grasp are the objections to it.

Anonymous said...

This is an interesting discussion about the emerging/missional divide. I am wondering if this is not simply human expressions of Gods Kingdom, being outworked according to individual interpretations, and world views. The church is not emerging, it is 'catching up' having left most of society behind for so many decades. our expressions of this catch up movement are labelled so different groups can feel ownership over various movements. Jesus has a primary focus in his parables and ministry, that is the focus of the kingdom of God. We are desperately trying to put in place assessment tools and measuring sticks by which to define whether we are operating by the 'kingdom principles' laid down by christ. Lets go back to all the beautiful imagery of the parables which tell us "this is what the Kingdom of God is like". See, the defining has already been done divinely, lets not re-invent the wheel.

Steve Hayes said...

Someone, in some other blog (I forget who) said that some conservative evangelical Calvinists were trying to hijack the term "missional", and that this was what lay behind the talk of a "divide".

Anonymous said...

As I said in the follow up comments to the blog, the term divide is probably a little too strong as there are significant areas of overlap. This is an internal critique within the emerging church more than anything, with some of us challenging our brothers and sisters 'If you're going to equate emerging church with missional church so directly you'd better start focussing more on the lost a little bit more than post-evangelicals'

Steve Hayes said...

My problem is that I can understand what "missional church" means, and the "Friend of Emerging" site gives a fairly good definition, and the sort of criteria one can use to see if one's church is missional.

It's the "emerging" but I find more difficult. As far as I can see it is emerging only in the blogosphere. I asked a similar question in Usenet newsgroups, and there was a sort of blank silence.

In the blogosphere what I've seen is people who regard themselves as "emerging" talking mainly among themselves, so it sort of goes round in cricles. I'd like to see a bit more discussion between those who regard themselves as emerging and others. But I'm not sure how one achieves this.


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