Saturday, January 26, 2008
Emergent, Convergent, Schmergent -- Some Thoughts After Two Days In the Car with Doug Pagitt
This whole emergent church (and Quaker's version of it called "convergent") have been on my mind lately. Mostly because I signed up to be the host staff person of a Center for Congregations' event titled "ReImaging Church" with emergent leader and Solomon's Porch pastor Doug Pagitt. That meant attending his two workshops (one in Indianapolis and one in Jeffersonville, Indiana) and hauling him up and down Interstate 65 and to assorted points in between.
Doug's a good guy to road-trip and eat out with, but that's a whole 'nother blog -- especially about the Mutt (him) and Jeff (me) size difference and the difficulty in getting a picture together and a whole bunch of really lame but funny (at least to us) jokes.
What kept buzzin' around in my head after these two days with this really smart, articulate, forceful guy, comes down to this idea of who gets to say who's in and who's out as it relates to "church." Who gets to speak for God in making these decisions of who's in and who's out? I kept thinking about Kate Young Caley's book The House Where the Hardest Things Happened -- and her family being kicked out of the church they helped found simply because her mother became a waitress at a place that served alcohol. That sounds extreme to most of us -- yet we're perfectly comfortable setting up some other criteria.
His model for Solomon's Porch seems very similar to our Friends in Fellowship Worship Group -- a place of theological hospitality where are more than merely welcome, they are part of the community. This openness seemed to worry some workshop attendees -- and lots of other folks have written about their concerns as well. If you don't stand for something, well, then, how can you be Christian?
I think their question and questioning are sincere, but probably the wrong question. Jesus' invitations (such as "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest") seem pretty open to me -- no theological requirements, no "pre-testing," no conditions at all. Come one, come all.
While Solomon's Porch is just one expression of the emergent movement, it does offer new thinking about what it means to be "church" in the 21st century. Is it the Post-Modern Reformation? I think it's too soon to tell. Regardless, there's much that those of us who are committed to the best in our traditions -- the things that called us to them or keep us in them -- can learn. I urge you to check out Doug's Church Re-Imagined and his forth-coming A Christianity Worth Believing. Agree or not, his ideas will make you think. Which is 'zactly the point.
Also, for those who are Friends/Quakers, we (Nancy and I) will be hosting a "Convergent Friends" dinner here at Ploughshares Farm on the evening of April 6th following Friends World Committee for Consultation -- Section of the Americas' annual meeting. For more information, visit Robin M's blog "What Canst Thou Say."