Two recent contributions from the United Kingdom shed some light on the elusive phenomenon knows as the “emerging church” or, alternatively, the “emergent church” movement. In The Guardian‘s Comment is Free blog, Theo Hobson introduces the movement as “a new model Christianity” and potentially “a genuinely radical movement”:
What is “emerging church”? It is a highly vague movement mainly consisting of ex-Evangelicals, who have found that tradition narrow, inauthentic, illiberal. It is defined by the desire to communicate Christianity to young agnostics—not Alpha Course fodder, but fairly trendy, media-savvy, liberal-leftish types who are wary of organised religion. It is above all a presentation style—of openness, of scepticism towards the old fusty-dusty forms, of irreverence, of irony, of artiness, of political and environmental engagement.
But is it just a presentation style—or is it a substantially new form of Christianity? Mostly it is the repackaging of an essentially conventional product. This obviously applies to all the Anglican chat about “fresh expressions” of church.
In the latest issue of the theology journal The Expository Times, Katherine Sarah Moody proposes a definition of the emerging church, arguing that it is best made sense of as a transnational milieu.
Abstract: This article assesses current approaches to defining the emerging church. It argues for the value of the concept of a milieu, introducing the emerging church as a diverse transnational milieu of individuals, networks, organisations and collectives who are variously involved in exploring Christianity in the post- or late-modern missional contexts of the West today. It identifies two spiritualities that emerge from this milieu, and asks whether they are church- or kingdom-focused.