Thursday, April 10, 2008

The New Baby Boomers?

Just when you thought the aging post-WW2 "boomers" were the most self-centered, narcissistic, generationally-chauvinistic demographic in the "Church Militant," along came the "Emergent/Emerging" generation.

Lord, have mercy!

You know, I think they may just be baby-boomers with iPods. Take away the boomer dashiki and add a cellphone, and you now have an "emergent". They speak in reverent hushed tones about their unrequited hipness, their utter uniqueness, and their wonderful sense of "me, myself, and I" - as well as what a gift they are to God's creation. In fact, the entire Church must bend to them, to their ways, their mores, and their quirks. Their motto would be "L'eglise, c'est nous!" if they had time of day for such quaint practices as modifying once-universally-understood historical sayings as a means of social commentary. At least the boomers had some sense of history, even if it was distorted by Freud, Marx, and George Harrison.

By way of example, here is a blog post written by a woman "vicar" in the ELCA who is trying to start a trendy hipnewemergingcoffeehouse "worshiping community" called "House For All Sinners and Saints" or (of course) "House" for short. The "vicar" of "House" is the self-described "Sarcastic Lutheran" who enjoys showing off her tattoo (now that's different), who enjoys using profanity on her blog and in theological discussion (cutting edge stuff...), and who has never met a tradition she likes (kind of conformist non-conformity). Cloned cookie-cutter coolness.

Her generationally self-centered manifesto reads like a cross between The Who's My Generation and a Woody Allen movie. It is interesting to count the number of times the pronoun "we" is used and compare it with the number of times "Jesus" is used.

And we thought the boomers were the "me generation." These are the boomers' grandkids, and I don't think we've seen the "me generation" yet!

Well, the only saving grace is that this neo-boom generation hasn't yet managed to get its music played on Cadillac commercials, nor have they developed a need for Viagra, like their older "baby boom" cousins.

But just give them time!

And keep in mind, this kind of "notcher grandfather's church" mentality is the goal of Ablaze!(tm) and other marketing schemes the suits in St. Louis are pushing on us. Read below, and welcome to the LCMS of the future (after this kind of thing has become terribly outdated in the mainline denominations, that is).


(Remember, this is a blog post from Sarcastic Lutheran). It reads like emo-teen angst. It's embarrassing. Really. You have been warned. Prepare to cringe.

House's Who We Are

***Before I get any more scolding comments I thought I'd clarify that the following statements are the result of a long and prayerful effort to be as honest as possible about the characteristics of the group of people who have gathered together over the last 9 months to do the initial work around developing a new worshiping community. Rather than compiling a list of who we wish we were, or who we ideally think we are, we chose to just stick with who we and our friends and partners really are (hopefully with a modicum of humility around the fact that we can't do this perfectly). Worshiping communities, despite what most would say are niche groups. We are admitting we too are niche. We are not trying to be all things to all people, but we are located in a very particular cultural context in which we seek to create a Word and Sacrament community. My friend David put it like this: "Look at Chipotle. They are really clear about who they are and what they do; Burritos. They are not going to start cooking burgers, but are burger eaters welcome there? Absolutely." We also are seriously aware of our need to be in relationship with "the other" whether that be more conservative Christians, people of color, those less fortunate, those more fortunate etc. To that end we are guests in a space which is the 4 Winds Cultural Survival Project - A Native American community center. In a meeting with some of the leadership of 4 Winds we told them of this document that we created saying who we are and they were impressed that we would be honest enough to admit that we are White. We hope to be their allies and perhaps even friends. We also are seeking out prayer partner relationships with close-by worshiping communities regardless of how similar or not we are theologically or culturally, acknowledging our need to be transformed by contact. And yes, we get the irony of having a particular population in a House for All.

This describes who we are right now. It does not describe who is welcome. We wish to welcome all.

Who are we, and for whom do we do this work?

We are people who went to church once and are now Evangelical refugees.

We are people who never stopped going to church, yet are seeking a community that provides a different level of engagement.

We are youngish and adultish.

We resonate more with the mystical and contemplative than the obvious and simplistic.

We work in non-profits (and non-prophets), we are graduate students, social workers and young professionals.

We participate in virtual culture and are tech savvy enough to realize that we are not actually.

We are artists, who mediate progressive culture outside the mainstream.

We are post-modern urban dwellers who are delighted to not live close to such things as “Applebees”.

We are terminally ironic, white, and educated.

We are the injured who are striving to be self-aware; struggle is an almost constant.

Our cynicism can sometimes just be masking our confusion and vulnerability.

Our idealism is based in the trust that transformation is possible in the individual, the church and the whole world.

We are queer.

Some have children, some live alone, some are alone, some are partnered.

We tend to over-think things because we’re geeky and analytical.

Some of us are rooted here, but most are somewhat transient.

We are friends and allies of all the above.



Lyonsferocious said...

My high school history teacher always said: Show, don't tell.

I figure, I don't have to use Jesus as every other word out of my mouth, because I strive to have my life reflect the Gospel message. That seems like a worthier project to me than trying to see how many times I can say jesus (10 times fast?)

House, like other emergent churches, is a way of salvaging and making relevant a faith which has ALWAYS changed with culture and context. You don't have to like what we do and who we are to continue to be a part of the body of Christ with us.

And while I recognize I'm biased, I see far less "emoteen" angst in our "who we are statement" (the result of a group process that was informed by prayer) than in your "I'm not a part of this so I'm gonna make fun of it" rant.

But we're all entitled to our own opinion.


Jeff said...

These are fun!

I'm tired and wakeful (or perhaps I'm tiredish and wakfulish).
I'm still and dancing.
And Lyons- While I appreciate your life 'reflects the Gospel message' (not knowing what that means)- God doesn't ask for that. He does ask for us to believe and confess Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior (See Romans 10). No other name than Jesus will save you- it's probably a name worth mentioning (both to God and your neighbors)

Secondly the gospel has never changed with culture and context. The Gospel is inherently counter-cultural... hence why it often produces martyrs. Hence also why the world hates it. The true faith passed down by Jesus through his apostles doesn't need to be 'salvaged' or 'made relevant.' It's perfectly able to stand on its own.

I, personally, would be worried about having to change God's message to make it fit- it would worry me that it's no longer God's message but instead my own.

And finally- on a personal note- your post is much too relative. if you're right- we should have to like it. We're all 'entitled' to our own opinion perhaps, but on something like this- there is a right opinion. One of us is right- and one of us is wrong. It's a simple fact of life (and logic).

If you choose to be on the opposite side- so be it. But defend the choice you've made. Fight for it. Care about it. Don't make this wishy-washy 'oh it's all ok, believe what you want' confession. There are things that are good, right, and salutary. That means there are also (by definition) things that aren't.

Not to worry- this post too was informed by prayer (but then- so were the 9-11 terrorists, Judas, and Hitler). Just because you pray doesn't mean you'll end up in the right place - otherwise everything is totally subjective and based upon yourself.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Andie:

What you say is reasonable - that "every other word out of [your] mouth" need not be Jesus. I agree. But that's not what anyone is saying here.

The "Who We Are" statement is what it is: a self-defining, almost creedal, confession of this particular community in the words of one of its leaders. Sadly, there is nothing in that statement that identifies this community as "Christian." The identical statement could have been written by a stamp collecting club or local atheist society without modification.

A self-definitional statement about a community of Christians need not have "Jesus" as every other word, but it would seem that Jesus would warrant at least as many mentions as the word "queer."

There has been an explosion of "niche churches" or "lifestyle worship" in which the commmunity is not gathering around Christ, the Word of God, and the sacraments, but rather a mutual love of Elvis, rodeo, motorcycles, conservative politics, patriotism, high liturgy, U2 music, or what have you. It is a real danger when churches go down the path of demographic marketing - which is essentially what the "emerging" movement really is if you honestly think about it (e.g. "reaching the youth").

My "traditional" church that is supposedly doing everything wrong in the eyes of all the latest experts and gurus is, by contrast, wonderfully diverse. I would be willing to bet a week's pay, way more diverse than St. House. My flock includes newborns, folks in their 90s, blacks, whites, Germans, Cajuns, married, single, divorced, widowed, wealthy, poor, educated, not educated, metal-heads and opera buffs. We don't "cater" to any demographic group, neither twentysomethings nor baby-boomers. Instead, our focus is on Christ, the Word of God, and the sacraments. We are transcultural in that sense, as the church has always been (which is part and parcel of the adjective "catholic" in the historic creeds). The church is its own culture. You will never have diversity in your church so long as you see yourself in generational or political terms.

I do disagree with your statement that the Christian faith is one that (your words) "has ALWAYS changed with culture and context." If the faith itself has changed, it is no longer the faith.

That is the problem. You have changed the faith. The idea that you can have the historic faith while radically changing the style is simply wrong. The faith you espouse is self-centered and rooted in a passing faddish culture.

The traditional liturgy, however, being the Word of God, being centered on Christ and the sacraments, is different. It transcends all cultures. That's why it has survived for as long as the unchanging faith itself. It adapts and evolves over centuries. It does not reinvent itself to each and every generation of young people who think they are different than every generation that has come before them. You're not different. It's not about you, your music, your tastes, or anything else about you. It's about Christ. When that's the focus, you will have diversity. Otherwise, you're only going to have a club of people who look just like you.

Finally, try reading the first ten chapters of 1 Cor and see if Paul is ridiculously overusing the name "Jesus Christ." I wonder if he is trying to make a point here?

Lyonsferocious said...

What's interesting is this: House is actually a very highly liturgical community. It's also highly "traditional." - Most emergent communities are. What offended me about this particular post is this: you took a single document from our community and determined who and what we were from it. You didn't contact our vicar, our community members . . .you didn't worship with us, speak to us as individuals about our community, look at our location in the culture, or do much of anything but quickly cite a single blog post.
And that's too bad, because I think all of us have a lot to learn from each other. And we were immediately dismissed. And in turn (to be fair) I dismissed you.
I don't want to argue theology (cause probably we'll never agree) or church history (cause that's up for interpretation as well) but I do want you to know this: The christian faith has been entirely inaccessible to me - as a queer white woman raised in a UU house in the suburbs - UNTIL NOW. I can relate and engage with the Gospel, with Jesus, and with God now. Why? Because the same story I'd heard all my life started making sense. The same great faith that has existed for two millenia took root in my heart.
And that's something, right?

I don't want to continue to have a fight over things that we might never agree on. I just want you, and other folks who are (perhaps justifiably) skeptical over emergent movements to know that, for some of us, this is the way to the way, the truth and the light.

Fair enough?

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Andie:

If it's traditional, why the quotation marks? Traditional and "traditional" are not the same thing. I think being "traditional" may be like being a "virgin." An altar facing the wall is traditional, couches aren't - at least in the way I use the word. Others are free to disagree, of course.

I drew conclusions based on a document that you yourselves wrote and published. When the word "we" is used umpteen times, and the word "Jesus" is not used at all, it does seem rather self-centered, if not self-obsessed. Isn't that a fair assessment?

You are absolutely free to practice any religion you want, free to worship with whomever you want, and in any style you want. But you can't expect everyone to approve - particularly when there is 2,000 years of tradition behind that disapproval. As a Lutheran pastor, I don't approve. I'm warning my flock, and anyone else who reads my blog, of the danger of this kind of cafeteria approach to the faith. It's very seductive, but antithetical to Scripture. Of course, we disagree, and I would oppose any and all attempts to silence your opinion - and I would hope you equally defend my right to my opinion.

The faith is not a cafeteria. Unitarianism is contrary to the Christian faith, not merely something that is open to interpretation. Ditto for female clergy and for homosexuality - which St. Paul calls idolatry (Rom 1). Our churches need to call all of us "poor miserable sinners" to repentance. If you and I are comfortable in our sins, our churches aren't proclaiming law and gospel.

Not proclaiming law is an easy temptation. By far, I'd rather preach all gospel and no law. I really dislike preaching the law - but that's what pastors are called to do - not excuse sins (especially open, manifest sins of which the sinner is proud) for the sake of being welcoming. Rather we are to bring people to confess their sins, receive absolution, and encourage repentance - not merely redefine sin as an alternative lifestyle or arbitrary interpretation that we have decided to reject.

Even Dan Kimball, who is on the conservative side of the emerging movement, really waffles when it comes to gender, be it homosexuality or women's ordination.

I see the emerging churches' lack of focus on Jesus to be the root of the problem. The Christian faith is *submission* to our Lord, to the Scriptures, to God our Father and the Church our mother. Instead of submission, the emerging church offers a cafeteria, a hobbyist approach to the faith. And that explains why it's popular. Submission is a very unpopular cross. The Old Adam would rather make Scripture say what we want it to say.

I'm sorry if that sounds harsh - but you engaged me in this discussion on my blog. That's what I am convinced is the truth based on Scripture.

As far as the emerging movement being "for some of us, this is the way to the way, the truth and the light," this isn't taught by our Lord. Jesus established *one* holy catholic and apostolic church, not a plethora of paths. Jesus *is* the path (the hodos, or "way"), the truth, and the *life*. The danger of post-modernism is an indifference to the exclusive *way* in exchange for a multiplicity of *ways* - which is not what our Lord taught. Jesus said unpopular things. That's what got Him crucified. The Christian faith is not simply telling people what they want to hear. In fact, it's often the opposite.

Regards, and blessings to you in your search.

Mark said...

The "Who We Are" statement is what it is: a self-defining, almost creedal, confession of this particular community in the words of one of its leaders.

I'm sorry, but no, you're simply wrong here, and need to learn the difference between a descriptive statement and a prescriptive one.

Sadly, there is nothing in that statement that identifies this community as "Christian."

Did you pay any attention at all to the blog context of that post? You know, all the links to Christian people and books, explicitly labeled as such. And the other posts, full of sermons and theological reflections and, well, posts like this one, which say things like:

"Two days ago when House met at my home we talked about the service and the gal (cello player and all around force of nature) who had invited her friends shared with us that they had all said how much they realized that there is no space in their lives in which their deepest longings and concerns are voiced and held. This is why the Gospel is the Gospel. It is good news, good in that it frees us from the bondage of self and news in that it is not something we can create ourselves, it is always new. And this Gospel of Christ - God with us, incarnate, wise, crucified and risen addresses our deepest longings in a way that recycling, yoga, eating organic, therapy and even human love cannot. It is a wild and unbidden laughing tale which calls us to our fullest and most broken selves."

Maybe it's not an expression of the historic Christian faith that speaks to you, but it does speak to many of the rest of us. We worship the Trinitarian God, we celebrate the Eucharist, we serve each other as members of the Body of Christ. And we reach some people who the standard churches simply don't. If you want to play the elder son in the parable of the prodigal, go right ahead; me, I'd rather enjoy the party.

Mark said...

Jesus established *one* holy catholic and apostolic church, not a plethora of paths.

Ah yes, that explains why we've undone the Reformation and the Great Schism.

Given the rest of your comments, I don't think your real trouble with us is that we identify as Emergent--it's that we are ELCA.

The Priestman said...

Well, bully for them. The Episcopalians were once said to be the GOP at prayer (loooong, time passin') - these folks would be NPR at prayer.

The Priestman

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Mark:

Whether it is descriptive or proscriptive is irrelevant. If you ask a person about their religion, and then they proceed to talk about NFL football or golf or chess or stamp collecting for twenty minutes, whether or not they are being descriptive or proscriptive is purely academic. If I walk up to the average "emerging" Christian and ask them about their religion, would they a) tell me what they confess, or b) talk about how cool their church is?

Whenever you read blogs written by self-described emergent/emerging Christians, you inevitably hear more about tattoos, music, sexual preferences, youth culture, couches, and latte than you will hear anything about Christianity.

Please understand, I am not saying the emerging churches are not necessarily Christian churches, but there is a focus there that is, in my opinion, way too self-centered.

Hence my comparison to the baby boomers.

There is an irony that, even per the "who we are" statement, there is a lack of diversity in the emerging movement. Well, duh! How many nonagenarians are you likely to find? And would you even want them? There is an obsession with youth, when, as just about any parish pastor will tell you, being in the ministry means spending a lot of time in nursing homes, hospitals, the homes of the aged, and among hurting families - families that aren't all hip urban white educated coffeehouse dwellers.

As far as the Reformation and the Great Schism go, surely you're not saying these are three different paths? Certainly three traditions, but still only *one* church and *one* path to heaven: Jesus Christ. All other religions are simply false. While this might be controversial in an Emerging setting, this is simply what Jesus taught in Scripture.

If your church recites the historic creeds, than you must agree that there is only *one* church, and that it is both holy and catholic. There's very little catholicity, however, reflected in the "Who We Are" statement. It sounds to me like you are, by your own admission, a lily-white clique of educated young people with rather homogeneous political views and similar tastes in music.

I would simply warn you that there is a danger that this constant discussion of how to make the church conform to the "youth culture" will become a form of idolatry, just as the Fundamentalist runs a risk of bibliolatry, the high-church Anglican runs the risk of turning the liturgy into a demi-god, the Lutheran runs the risk of anti-nomianism, and the Reformed are more in danger of believing in salvation by doctrine.

I am offering this criticism not so much for your sake as for my church's sake, as the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod is constantly pushing this youth-culture- and market-driven model down our throats.

The fact that you are ELCA isn't really the issue at all. That's a whole different kettle of fish. But I will say this, there are some outstanding, orthodox ELCA pastors and congregations out there that would want nothing to do with the various fads in church marketing - including this one.

Lyonsferocious said...

The original plan for the "who we are section" was the Apostle's Creed.

That good enough for ya?

Furthermore, we do not have the same taste in music.
And I hate lattes.

But I'm just a dyke girl seminarian. So probably I don't know what I'm talking about.

Father Hollywood said...

"The original plan for the 'who we are section' was the Apostle's Creed.

That good enough for ya?"

The apostles creed? Yes. But I guess it wan't good enough for you.

Oh well, I'm just a heterosexual pastor, so I probably don't know what I'm talking about. But I know this much, I don't just talk about diversity as a theoretical social construct, I *have* it in my congregation. That's because we don't cater to a generational demographic or try to force the Holy Spirit's hand with marketing gimmicks.

The Church has its own culture that transcends time and place. That's what the word "catholic" means. Somehow, we all manage to sing the same hymns and love each other as a community.

It's funny how *everyone* is a sinner in need of the Gospel - the people with tattoos and piercings, the old guys in suits, the single mothers, the intact family with six kids, black people, white people, Jewish converts, the homebound, the ones on the death bed, the children (I preach to some 270 of them every Wednesday at chapel), my parishioner who teaches Pre-K and has an AC/DC poster on the wall, my older lady parishioner who used to sing opera at the Met, and Uncle Buddy, 85 years old, who conjugates Latin verbs for me every Sunday after church.

Can you find this kind of diversity in an Emerging church?

I have a coffee shop up the road. I have an MP3 player in my pocket. If I want coffee and hip music, I can have that any time. But when I'm in church, I have no right to demand everyone cater to my culture. The Church is a "democracy of the dead" (Chesterton) and we Christians ought to submit to that - unless we don't believe the Church Triumphant and the hosts of heaven are present in our worship.

Of course, you are free to disagree. I'm just being candid with you. I love the diversity that the church's own culture produces. As long as you limit yourself to appealing to young people, that's all you'll get - and you'll be the poorer for it, in my opinion.

Nick Biehls said...

My own church community continues to be engaged in the question, "How do we best translate the message of the Resurrection, the message that we are saved by grace through faith, the message that Jesus proclaimed and that is attested to in the scriptures?" in our own particular context.

I grew up in rural America, have been a pastor in small-town America and in suburban America, and have some experience with church in urban America. The farmers understand the parable of the sower much more easily than the city-dwellers ~ and the mid-level executive understands the problems that can come with the appearance of the authorities (whether Pharisees or subway cops). For these two different groups, I must articulate the Gospel message in different ways.

The way I read the blog entry you reference, it seems like this community is doing their best to communicate the Gospel to a particular context ~ and in the process, they are being honest about who they are (my own congregation would be remiss in reaching out to the local Mexican immigrant population without first recognizing that we're privileged white people). They are connecting with a demographic who I don't ever expect to show up in my congregation (since we can't be all things to all people). And they seem to be drawing deeply on the resources of their tradition ~ liturgy, creeds, etc. ~ to do so. My guess is that no matter how diverse Salem Lutheran is, the folks who are part of 'House' wouldn't show up there.

Thanks be to God that there is a place where even more people can experience the overwhelming grace and love made known in Jesus the Messiah.

Grace and Peace.

Father Hollywood said...


There is an assumption that the Holy Spirit isn't getting the job done in certain contexts, that we must "translate" the "message."

Did the Holy Spirit make a mistake to record Jesus' parable of the sower, considering that so few people these days are farmers? I'm not a farmer, but give me a little credit, I know how a seed works. Let's give our Lord Jesus a little credit too.

There is also the assumption that the current generation is unlike every other generation. In all the hundreds of generations, this one is God's Own Special Snowflake that has to have its own liturgy, its own hymns, and its own micro-culture. o

Actually, people f all ages are way more alike than different. All people sin and need absolution. All people have family and friends die. All people face the same crosses. All people face temptation. All need law and gospel. All need the same Bible. Demographics are meaningless when it comes to the need for Confession and Absolution, Baptism, and the Lord's Supper.

How did the fathers of the ancient church manage to preach to congregations filled with old, young, rich, poor, Jew, Greek, men, women, educated, and peasant? I mean, it's not like people could pick and choose which church they would drive to based on whether or not they could get Starbucks. Somehow, St. John Chrysostom's preaching was able to reach his congregation without having a youth pastor or a praise band.

I believe the good intention of bringing the Gospel to young people is having an unintended consequence of creating segregation in our churches. I think this is unhealthy and unchristian. It also creates the expectation that the church caters to me instead of me submitting to that which is greater than I. We are creating self-centeredness instead of a community of faith rooted in submission to Jesus.

There is also a "consumer" mentality at work, and that is simply antithetical to the Gospel. We aren't selling laundry detergent or designer jeans.

But the bottom line is that some people will hear, others will not. Some will be converted, others won't. No amount of gimmicks and niche marketing will convert anyone.

And if you must change the faith to win people over, what are you winning them to?

Thanks for your thought-provoking discussion. Pax.

Nick Biehls said...

I think you're making an inaccurate assumption ~ namely, that all so-called emergent communities are all the same. As I understand this community, they haven't made up their own liturgy, or written their own hymns (though I would argue in support of the writing of new hymns, in the tradition of Bach and Watts and so many others). Rather, as I understand it, they use the ancient liturgy for worship, handed down through the generations and centuries. They sing orthodox hymns that have stood the test of time theologically, liturgically, and melodically. They practice confession and absolution, they receive the sacrament of the Eucharist (with an ordained pastor presiding).

And in no way do I intend to say that the Gospel message is different ~ but even Jesus 'translated' the message in different ways for different contexts. For instance, compare the 'cleansing of the temple' with Christ's interaction with the Samaritan woman at the well ~ both carry the same message that we human people have a deep-seated need to repent and turn toward God. But the way that message was communicated is different for different contexts.

As to the issue of segregation versus inclusiveness ~ or homogeneity versus diversity ~ the blog post states explicitly that they are not identifying who they wish they are or who they believe they ought to be. They are simply stating who, at this point in time, they are ~ and that they wish to welcome all. I would expect that this community will grow, both spiritually and numerically, and that in the process, the 'who we are' will necessarily change. Five years, two years, perhaps even six months from now, if they take a serious communal look at who they are, the list they came up with will be inaccurate. In fact, I hope the same is true for all churches, including mine and yours.

You say that "... some will hear, others will not." This is most certainly true. At the same time, this truth doesn't give us an excuse to ignore those who haven't yet heard. And I don't think I'm discounting the work of Holy Spirit in this area, as you seem to imply. But I do wonder, how will they hear without a preacher?

I, for one, am glad that there are folks who God has blessed with the gifts to be sharing the Gospel message in places and among people who are not typically in church communities.

Grace and Peace.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Nick:

You write: "they use the ancient liturgy for worship, handed down through the generations and centuries. They sing orthodox hymns that have stood the test of time theologically, liturgically, and melodically. They practice confession and absolution, they receive the sacrament of the Eucharist (with an ordained pastor presiding)."

If all the above is what constitutes the Emerging Church movement, then that must be what my church is. I can sure see where people disaffected by the way most churches are today would be attracted to such a church.

I guess Salem Lutheran Church has been part of the Emergent Church since 1871!

If this is the case, why you think people who attend House would not attend Salem is beyond me. It would seem they'd feel right at home.

So, how is it that my Emergent parish has the kind of diversity that House (not to be confused with Hugh Laurie, though he is a compelling actor) bewails is lacking in its own congregation?

I guess if you really want to go whole-hog Emergent, ditch the couches and coffee, install a marble pulpit with no sound system, have a communion rail for people to kneel at, get rid of the free-standing altar, go back to the one-year lectionary, chant the introit, restore the male pastorate, adopt and confess the biblical view of homosexuality and life issues, rigorously catechize using the 16th century catechisms, teach that wives are to submit to their husbands, and don't forget to install the pipe organ (though ours is electric, but you really can't tell).

Thanks to Pope Benedict, the Roman Catholic Church now also has an Emerging Wing with the re-emergence of the Tridentine Mass. I have to admit I never associated the wearing of a mantilla with the ladies of the Emerging Church.

I'm glad you straightened me out regarding this Emergent Church thing.

In all seriousness, I too rejoice wherever and whenever the Gospel is proclaimed. However, most of what I read from those who have adopted the label "Emergent" is a near deification of American youth culture, an almost in-your-face use of profanity and attempts to shock (which actually come across as juvenile and not befitting the body of Christ), a celebration of postmodernism over and against the confession of absolute truth, an indifference to (if not an outright lack of respect for) older people, a disdain for doctrine, and a lot of weaseling when it comes to difficult (and politically incorrect) teachings of Scripture regarding the roles of the sexes, the institution of marriage, and the fact that there is a hell for people who reject the Word of God.

There is a difference between tailoring your approach depending on your hearers (as our Lord and St. Paul certainly did) and simply capitulating to a group of people who have determined that they no longer wish to have sins described as sins.

The Church can try to blend in with the hostile culture, or she can be counter-cultural. If you really want to see the Church grow, keep in mind the explosive growth that happened when Romans were slaughtering Christians in the arena.

Ironically, Christianity is its most popular when it is most unpopular. This flies in the face of the Emerging movement's desire to make the holy faith the hip faith.

You can't have it both ways.

Nick Biehls said...

"... I'm glad you straightened me out regarding this Emergent Church thing."

I have plenty of opportunities in my life to be attacked and/or made fun of ~ and not nearly enough opportunities for respectful dialog.

I was hoping this could be the latter ... apparently not. I won't be back.

Grace and Peace

Lyonsferocious said...

all you've done is show your wholesale misunderstanding of emergent churches.

We do use the one year lectionary, absolution and confession, the eucharist, ancient liturgies and hymns - just like you. The primary difference? My pastor leaves the judging to God, which is where it belongs.
I need absolution. But not from you. From God.

Lyonsferocious said...

(and while you're at it, don't forget to switch over to biblical views on diet, stop wearing mixed fibers, and don't cut your hair.)

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Andie:

You wrote: "I need absolution. But not from you. From God." I realize this can mean different things. There is an ambiguity at work here.

This is part of my complaint. The Emerging churches embrace a postmodernism that is antithetical to the Christian idea that truth is absolute.

The ELCA does not teach that people need absolution which is from God yet apart from pastors (e.g. AC5). But is the Emerging world, there seems to be a cafeteria approach. There really is a desire among many in the movement not to be wedded to specific doctrines.

For example, you call yourself a "universalist" in your blogger profile - not my words, your words. But the ELCA does not teach universalism. In the Emerging movement, there seems to be the sense that my religion is whatever I want it to be - which is really a spin-off of the New Age movement.

But at the same time, it is being sold as a "traditional" form of Christianity.

You keep telling me I'm misunderstanding the movement. Then another guy explains it to me as exactly what goes on in my traditional Missouri Synod church. You claim to be a Lutheran, but at the same time, a universalist. The Emerging movement seems to shun labels, but at the same time, you have made it very clear to me that you want me to know that you are a "dyke" - a word I consider very rude, one that I would punish my son for ever saying to a lady.

So, until there is some honesty and consistency, don't be surprised when people draw conclusions you don't like.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Seminarian Andie:

So, you're implying that the OT dietary laws and ceremonial laws of ritual purity that our Lord Himself fulfilled - the ones that Peter was told by divine revelation are no longer in force - are the equivalent of the moral law and the order of creation?

If I can wear clothing of two different weaves or eat a Philly cheese steak, then it follows that I can marry a man?

But I guess Paul's exhortation in Romans 1 can be safely ignored because: a) Jesus didn't say it, b) Paul was a misogynist, c) Paul was not condemning homosexuality in verse 27, but rather rape, d) The Scriptures contain human error intermingled with God's Word (and the reader gets to cherry pick).

I have heard all of these excuses in one form or another before.

I'm a libertarian. My tendency is to simply live and let live. I don't like being made to look like I hate gay people - far from it. I don't want to tell people how to live. I really don't like having to preach that homosexuality is a sin. My job would be a heckuva lot easier if I could wiggle out of it. But the Word of God is what it is, and we must submit to it, even if our Old Adam doesn't like it. That is what the Emerging movement rejects: submission. That's my beef with it.

The holy faith is what has been revealed and handed over (paradidomi, traditio) to us. We submit to it, not the other way around. As Chesterton said: "I did not make it... it made me." We are not free to pick and choose according to our tastes, or according to what sins we wish to retain because we like those particular sins.

If your pastor refuses to preach the law and call you to repentance, your pastor doesn't love you. I *hate* calling people to repentance, just as I hate to have to punish my son - but the most unloving thing in the world to do is to just ignore transgressions.

Fr. Timothy D. May, S.S.P. said...

This post demonstrates well that there is a segment in the church that has embraced and even married (if not "partnered" with) the culture in which they live. They see themselves in the culture and the culture reflects who they are. The culture reflects who they are and they are more at home there than they are in the church. If the culture does not understand or appreciate what the church is all about what becomes of this generation that appears to be "in" the church but is in love with the culture? There is nothing new under the sun.