Wednesday, May 16, 2007

A question about the emerging church and ecumenism

I am a member of several inter-denominational groups that meet for conversation on various issues, from theology to local missions to whatever we're through in our own lives. This would seem to be a good thing, except that sometimes we can't agree as much as I'd like.
I've written about the emerging church movement in this blog before; that's what got me started blogging, actually, was a series of workshops on evangelism and technology and the UMC's voice in reaching our culture now and in the future. What emerging church is, is basically a loose confederation of people in conversation about how ministry might look. There are some very public faces, like Brian McLaren, and a whole lot of people simply doing ministry in a variety of settings the best way they know how.
So here's where I am: the most diverse group I meet with has folks from independent churches, people with Pentecostal roots, Methodists, Episcopalians, Southern Baptists, Free Will Baptists, Presbyterians...generally a good spectrum of representatives from the (predominately white) Southern churches. We've sort of flirted around the edges of this emerging church conversation, especially with regard to reading McLaren and Rob Bell, who really put themselves out there as voices in this movement. But it seems like a lot of what we do is focus on our differences, rather than seeing how we can move together to minister to our community.
This setting would seem to naturally lead to emergent-type conversations: how do we communicate faith to people in a way that is authentic both to us and to the gospel? What do our individual traditions have to offer one another? What do we each bring to the table? How do we deal with our differences respectfully?
I don't think we'll solve the problems of the world, or even the community. But I think perhaps we need to know who we are as a group (not just individuals) and what we want to accomplish. And maybe that conversation will lead to the one I'm interested, and maybe it will lead in a direction where I don't have much to offer. That's an odd thing to be at once curious about and at peace with. I'd like to know where the group is going, so I know if I have a place in it...but it's okay with me if I don't.

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