This is a question that has continually been brought before me lately. I will continue to speak on this in the coming months, but I thought that I should get something out there. The question that titles this blog can be very misleading. There are really three distinct yet related questions that should be asked: Are you emerging? Are you Emergent? Are you part of the emerging conversation? Let me try to explain.
As I have said before, the “Emerging Church” is an extremely difficult concept to define. It should not be thought of as a monolithic movement that has a creed or council to which one can refer and find a solid definition. Because of this, I think that it evidences wisdom when some responds to the question “Are you emerging” with “What do you mean by emerging,” knowing that people are going to ask this question according to their presuppositions of what emerging means.
Most would say that it is better to speak of the “Emerging Church” as a conversation rather than a movement or, more importantly, a church. It is also not wise to equate being emerging with being “Emergent” which draws its association with the Emergent Village. Those associated with the Emergent Village can be more readily called a movement. In other words, to be emerging does not necessarily mean to be Emergent. As well, to be a part of the emerging conversation does not mean that you are either emerging or part of the Emergent movement.
While I do sympathize with and appreciate many of the ideas, ideals, concerns, and frustrations of emergers and the Emergent, I would not consider myself as either. Yet, having said that, I would say that I am part of the emerging conversation. The conversation itself is theological, robust, and greatly needed. It deals with issues of ecclesiology, theology proper, and epistemology. What is the Church supposed to be doing? How and to what degree can God be known? And what is the process of knowing in general? The conversation is very challenging and is no place for the naive or the faint of heart. In it, there are more questions than answers and the questions asked often only find their answers only in dead air of humble silence.
Being in the conversation does not necessarily mean that my sympathies and appreciations are slowly moving me toward a adoption of the title “emerging.” I don’t suspect that that post-it note will ever stick very well on me. I am perfectly comfortable at this point being labeled an evangelical who is semper reformanda (always reforming).