One of my favorite discoveries in seminary was stumbling on the “emerging church”.
I wish I could give a perfect summary of the movement, but the groups and the thinkers around it are hard to define. I have even heard the movement described as “amorphous.”
Very roughly, this group and the people attracted to them are mostly Christians (usually with a more conservative background) who are asking questions and pushing up against Christianity as it has been lived and delivered up to this point. Many of the people attracted to this movement are those who have felt hurt or disillusioned by the church, but still find themselves as believers and/or seekers.
There has been a hefty amount of criticism thrown toward their beliefs and practices. Some are justified (for example, the need for far more economic and racial diversity) and some I feel miss the mark (it is common to find blogs or articles about their naïveté on hopes to “change the system” or how heretical they are in their theology).
Nevertheless, no matter what your opinions, you are probably going to hear about “the emerging church” at some point of your religious education. So I thought I might introduce you to a few of the thinkers and leaders that are commonly associated (e.g. some do not consider themselves as a part of the emergent community, but are nevertheless influential):
Rob Bell: One of Time’s 2011 “100 Most Influential People in the World,” Bell was the founder and pastor of Mars Hill Bible Church (one of the fastest-growing churches in America). Popular Books: “Love Wins” and “What We Talk About When We Talk About God.”
Peter Rollins: A Northern Irish theologian and philosopher, Rollins’ work deconstructs and reimagines religious tradition and affiliations, seeing the Christian faith instead as place of doubt, complexity, and the challenging of tradition. Popular Books: “How (Not) To Speak Of God” and “The Idolatry of God: Breaking Our Addiction to Certainty and Satisfaction.”
Nadia Bolz-Weber: Bolz-Weber is a Lutheran minister (ELCA) who founded and is the pastor at the House for All Sinners and Saints in Denver, Colorado. A former stand-up comedian and addict, Bolz-Weber has found a place to poke fun and push back at the church while still remaining in the mainline. Popular Books: “Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner & Saint” and “Cranky, Beautiful Faith: For Irregular (and Regular) People.”
Brian D. McLaren: One of Time’s 2005 “Most Influential Evangelicals in America,” McLaren is a pastor, activist, and leading figure in the movement. He is also associated with postmodern Christianity, progressive Christianity, and post-evangelical thought. Popular Books: “A Generous Orthodoxy: Why I Am a Missional, Evangelical, Post/Protestant, Liberal/Conservative, Mystical/Poetic, Biblical, Charismatic/Contemplative, Fundamentalist/Calvinist, Anabaptist/Anglican, Methodist, Catholic, Green, Incarnational, Depressed-yet-Hopeful, Emergent, Unfinished CHRISTIAN” and “A New Kind of Christianity.”
There are so many others out to discover and read about. These just happen to be on my bookshelves. Enjoy exploring and discovering new ways of thinking. You may love it or hate it, but this is all about the journey of learning!