A new model Christianity?

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There was an interesting article by Theo Hobson in The Guardian earlier this week about ’emerging church’:

“What is “emerging church”? It is a highly vague movement mainly consisting of ex-Evangelicals, who have found that tradition narrow, inauthentic, illiberal. It is defined by the desire to communicate Christianity to young agnostics – not Alpha Course fodder, but fairly trendy, media-savvy, liberal-leftish types who are wary of organised religion. It is above all a presentation style – of openness, of scepticism towards the old fusty-dusty forms, of irreverence, of irony, of artiness, of political and environmental engagement….But is it just a presentation style – or is it a substantially new form of Christianity? Mostly it is the repackaging of an essentially conventional product….And yet there is also a genuinely radical movement here. A few voices are proposing a major rethink of what ‘Christian culture’ is meant to be….”

Read the full article here.

I would also recommend reading Jonny Baker’s response (here) in which he links to an article he wrote in February 2008 and comments that Hobson’s article:

“….seems to suggest that emerging church is about leaving the institutions as completely washed up and bankrupt…..hobson is clearly only seeing one strand of what is emerging. i am both bored and frustrated with what i perceive to be a very ungenerous view of what people are doing.”

It is obvious that Baker does not totally agree with Hobson’s rather ‘romantic’ view of emerging church in the UK.

To quote Bakers article from February 2008 (as he does in his response to Hobson):

“I am relaxed and hopeful about all of these things. Both ways, staying and leaving, can be good. Renewal comes from the edge and the centre, within and without, and if the church is emerging both ways that seems good. Let some leave and pioneer and let some people stay and pioneer. The wider mission community should certainly be able to celebrate the newness of God’s work, both in and outside of traditional structures, by crossing cultures and setting up new paradigms. It has been a privilege to work with CMS who have invested in encouraging both…

…Church is the whole body of Christ world wide and down the ages, visible and invisible. We only really know who Jesus is as we see the many faces of Christ, the theological takes and expressions of his body around the world and down the ages. It takes a whole world to understand a whole Jesus Christ. Church is not just a nice idea – it is about knowing Jesus. Whichever way the emerging church plays out its mission, that connectivity into Christ’s one holy catholic and apostolic church is crucial. That does not necessarily mean institutionally, but relationally and in the spirit and heart of its leaders.

So my take is that the emerging church in the UK is growing out of contextual mission in postmodern cultures seeking to grow indigenous expressions of church that are both related to the wider body of Christ and faithfully improvised out of the riches of the tradition within and without the traditional structures. Must we reject traditional structures to do mission well? Not necessarily, though plenty will be ditched and new things brought into play out of the tradition, and that will be fine. Are we in danger of throwing baby out with bath water? No – not in the UK. We have an amazing gift at this moment in time that I thank God for, especially when I travel to other parts of the world.”

You know – I think Baker is right!  Interesting stuff indeed.

Any thoughts?

 

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