Brian McLaren – one of the leading voices of the Emerging Church movement had the following exchange with an audience lately:
“Brian McLaren was about to speak at a church youth convention when his host asked the audience a provocative question.
How many considered themselves liberal Christians? A smattering of hands and a few cheers. Conservative? Louder claps and hoots. Then he asked: ‘How many of you wish there could be a third alternative?’
The room erupted with cheers. The host then introduced McLaren as a fellow pilgrim in search of the third alternative. The nondenominational evangelist —- labeled a ‘sage’ for ’emergent church,’ a growing theological movement aimed at a new generation —- was surprised by the response but says he understands it now.
‘One of the reasons they cheered is their sense that the polarization between conservative and liberal, evangelical and mainline, left and right has gotten so extreme, it seems like a cartoon,’ he says. ‘People have this sense that we’ve lost our balance.'”
The clergy retreat I just attended featured Howard Anderson (from the College of Preachers) as one of our presenters. One of the points that Howard made again and again is that the idea of dividing up the Church between two poles of liberal and conservative (or reappraiser and reasserter) is really modernist view of what is happening. In fact, as Diana Butler Bass has pointed out, there are many more strands present in the present controversy.
I’ve often thought that the idea of “centrism” which has been discussed so often on this blog is really just a way of saying that we represent the party of the intentional Church rather than the established church (to borrow Butler Bass’s category). Centrists seem more focused on gathering in worship with people than on making sure that everyone has the same agreed upon world-view and understanding of the mechanisms of salvation. It’s a community focused on the praxis of work and worship more than on the question of who’s in and who’s out of the Kingdom.
McLauren’s work in the Emerging Church movement has been one of my chief guides in coming to recognize the way this dynamic is being played out in the conflicts being seen in the mainline churches these days.
Read the rest here: Faith & Values: Voice of ‘sage’ inspires, unsettles | ajc.com
Thanks TitusOneNine for the pointer.