Emerging versus Ecumenical? More Insights from Doug Gay

douggayAs I continue to reflect on and (attempt) to write about the Emerging Church Movement (ECM), I find myself returning to Doug Gay’s 2011 book, Remixing the Church.

I’ve already reviewed Remixing the Church on this blog, and have written a post called ‘Does the Emerging Church Mix with Ecumenism?’ One of the most impressive aspects of Gay’s book is how he shows that the ECM is in many ways indebted to the ecumenical movement for creating a context in which it is much more acceptable to ask questions about faith, life and theology across denominational boundaries.

But I’ve often asked myself why there isn’t more cross-fertilisation of ideas between people in the ECM and people within the traditional ecumenical movement.

My own experience resonates more strongly with that of people in the ECM and is reflected in a question posed previously on this blog: ‘Is Ecumenism Boring?’

Gay doesn’t offer a detailed analysis for the lack of cross-fertilisation, but as I returned to his book today, I was struck by this passage, which I think is useful to put out there for further thought (p. 69):

I am all too aware of the ways in which [chapter 3] treads on both thin ice and holy ground in attempting to describe how the emerging conversation is renegotiating understandings of tradition and authority within the Church. That conversation has much to gain from deepening its liturgical and ecumenical literacy, not least through the services of a wise and patient ecumenical scholar like [Geoffrey] Wainwright.

But I dare to hope and suggest that broader ecumenical/liturgical conversations might also have things to gain from welcoming the upstart newcomers of ‘emerging church’ into their debates. In an era when ecumenism has been in danger of becoming a theological ‘geek’ topic for many and its achievements on the ground have looked painfully thin, the anarchic explorations of emerging practice have generated waves of excitement and interest around some central ecumenical themes. This contrast is worth reflecting on.

One thought on “Emerging versus Ecumenical? More Insights from Doug Gay”

  1. What I like about the Emerging Church Movement is that it isn’t afraid to identify with the world. Its devotees see themselves first and formost as members of the human family and even the cosmic family. Their search for truth is motivated by curiosity and awe rather than by fear or a need to be right while someone else to be wrong. As such it is open to discovering and celebrating truth from any quarter, including the secular, believing God can and does use everyone and everything to reveal something of the divine. Maybe even in our ecumenical circles we have still too much of an ‘us – together – against the world’ mentality. Up to now I have labelled myself as a ‘post-denomination ecumenist (not non-denominational – I’m rooted in a traditional church and local church community, but do not limit myself to its confines in either practice or teaching). Its a bit of a mouthful, but maybe I’ll change that to an ’emerging post-denomination ecumenist 🙂

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