One line from its early section really resonated with me and my feelings about convergence/emergence and Quakers. In telling a story about Lillian Daniel (a UCC pastor friend of mine), Tony writes, "Lillian thought she was joining a movement, but she was joining a bureaucracy. And that bureaucracy tends to quash the passion of the many Christ-centered and enthusiastic persons therein."
As I read farther into the book, I saw some things that made me wonder if Quakers weren’t the original Emergents. When Tony shares some things from Brian McLaren’s A New Kind of Christian, Tony relates how the fictional Neo (a former Presbyterian pastor turned Episcopal layman) says:
- About the Bible – “What if the real issue is not the authority of the text … but rather the authority of God.” This, of course, resonates with what Friends have long held – that we honor and cherish the written words of God in scripture, but God is our ultimate authority. As George Fox said, “’Oh! no; it is not the scriptures;’ and told them it was the Holy Spirit, by which … opinions, religions, and judgments were to be tried; for it [The Holy Spirit] led into all Truth.”
- About Christianity as the exclusive spiritual truth, Neo says “Look, Dan, I believe Jesus is the Savior, not Christianity.” Again, to quote Fox, “O then, I heard a voice which said, ‘There is one, even Christ Jesus, that can speak to thy condition’: and when I heard it, my heart did leap for joy.”
- And about evangelism – “Stop counting conversions… Instead count conversations, because conversation implies a real relationship, and if we make our goal to establish relationships … I know that conversions will happen.” Friend George Fox said, “Bring all into the worship of God... And this is the word of the Lord God to you all, and a charge to you all in the presence of the living God: be patterns, be examples in all countries, places, islands, nations, wherever you come, that your carriage and life may preach among all sorts of people, and to them; then you will come to walk cheerfully over the world, answering that of God in every one; whereby in them you may be a blessing, and make the witness of God in them to bless you.”
There are many connection points – robust theological thinking, a missional approach, gender equality, social action – as well. Of course, where the similarities break down are that I’m thinking of the early Quakers, not us today. Today, I’m afraid, too many of our congregations (especially the pastoral ones) are too much like one Friend described them, saying we “behave for all the world other low-temperature Protestant churches.”
Now before it begins to sound like I am an unabashed apologist for convergence or emergence, let me say I’m not. After years of being a pastor and a congregational consultant, I’m a skeptic (not that I’m not naturally. Ha) – especially when it comes to congregational programming that is the latest and greatest. “Best practices” often aren’t. What works in one congregation cannot guarantee success in other. But still, this convergence/emergence thing feels much a movement in the same way the early Friends were a movement. And I hope that perhaps it can help break us out of that “that bureaucracy [that] tends to quash the passion of the many Christ-centered and enthusiastic persons therein."--Brent