Emergence Christianity conference.
First there were Phyllis Tickle's confusing statements about how women working outside the home was a key factor in the decline of Christendom. Say what now? Tickle is an intelligent and progressive woman, so her comments left most of the audience baffled, including Julie Clawson.
And then a few days ago Peter Rollins tweeted this: "There's a lot of talk about diversity around the latest EC event. I find myself more interested in rigorous thinking, wherever it comes from." Which then led to a huge debate between Rollins, Sarah Moon, and Suzannah Paul about privilege and diversity with in the EC movement.
And so on their respective blogs, Sarah and Suzannah fired back, criticizing the EC movement's leaders of not recognizing their own straight white male privilege. Amy Mitchell also joined the conversation, and said that the movement is too obsessed with intellectual mumbo-jumbo.
It's obvious to me that something is wrong.
When it comes to the Emerging Church movement, I often feel like I'm sitting at the misfits' table. I feel like because I've never been to seminary, I can't contribute much to the conversation. Sure, I might post something on the Emergent Village's Facebook group that starts a conversation, but I don't feel like anyone takes my insights seriously because I'm not as intellectual as they are.
And yes, there is the diversity issue. The Emerging Church movement is open and affirming of LGBT people, and they do believe in ordaining women, but if you look at all of the leaders of the group, it's all straight, white, cisgender men. That's not to say that straight, white, cisgender men are not allowed in the conversation. Far from it! But we misfits kinda want to have our say, too. We want to sit with the popular kids and join the conversation. We want our voices to be heard as much as Brian's voice, Tony's voice, and Peter's voice.
Now like I said earlier, I never went to seminary so I don't know exactly how to fix this. But if I may make one small suggestion, I think the Emerging Church movement needs more storytellers than theologians.
Don't get me wrong, theology is important, and has its place in the Emerging Church. But stories put human faces to abstract concepts. Stories give theory flesh and bones. Stories breathe life into tired old theology. For example, the LGBT community. Yes, it's good to be open and affirming. Yes, it's good to be pro-marriage equality. But it isn't enough if you don't hear the stories of LGBT people. And yes, I said stories with an "s" because no one single queer person can represent the entire LGBT community. Our stories may be similar, but no two queer people have the exact same story. Also, even among the LGBT community there are various voices. Not only do you have lesbian and gay voices, but there also bisexual voices, transgender voices, and even genderqueer voices. And in order to be an ally, you need to hear all voices.
The same goes for people of color, women, and even people with disabilities.
So I think first step in reforming the Emergent Church is listening. Yes, there is a time to preach and to speak at conferences. But more often than not there's a time to listen. Listen to the marginalized. Listen to the misfits. And yes, even listen to the critics. There's plenty of room for the Emerging Church to evolve, and I still believe there is hope. But it needs to make that first step, and that's to listen.
1 month ago