Thomas McKenzie
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I Have Emerged

Yesterday, I resigned from the local Emergent cohort. The leader is a friend of mine, and I sent him a brief e-mail letting him know that I wouldn't be coming back.

I have been part of the Emergent "conversation" for about five years now. What does that mean?

  • I have been going to a local discussion group, called a "Cohort," since it was founded. (Cohort meets once a month to discuss "emergent" things over lunch).
  • I have read numerous books by Emergent authors, beginning with the book that kind of started it all, "A New Kind of Christian" by Brian McLaren.
  • I have faithfully listened to the Emergent podcast for the past year or so.
  • I have gone to a couple of Emergent conferences.
  • I have taught about Emergent in my local church, and have been writing an academic article about it as well.
  • I was briefly a member of the Anglimergent website. (I got out of that quickly, it's a pretty hostile place).
  • I have had numerous conversations about Emergent with Emergent-lovers, Emergent-doubters, Emergent-haters, and Emergent-wonderers.

In all this time, I must confess I always saw myself as an acquaintance of Emergent, rather than as a friend. I wrote a post about this back in 2006, and you can read it here.

In the past few months, I have begun evaluating my relationship with Emergent. Yes, I was never a contributor, I never wrote for an Emergent publication, I never saw myself as proponent of the movement. But I was there, having conversations.

What I liked about Emergent was that I was in a situation in which I got to discuss important questions. Specifically, I asked "how does the Church respond to post-modernism?" That was, and is, an important question. As the philosophical ground of the West shifts, how should the Church respond? Better yet, how can I be a voice for the Gospel in the midst of my culture. How can I lead others in proclaiming Christ during a time of change?

These are important questions, and I'm glad to have been part of discussing them.

However, I have now decided to fully step away from the entire "conversation." There are many reasons for this. Some are easy. Emergent, as a movement, seems to be disintegrating. It has chosen to not have leadership at the national level anymore. Major leaders in the movement have decided to not even use the word "emergent". That's always a bad sign.

Another easy one is that the books being published under the heading of Emergent are becoming increasingly bad. Tony Jones' "The New Christians" and Phyllis Tickle's "The Great Emergence" are examples of this.

Back in 2006, I wrote "Sometimes I wonder if Emergent isn't just Evangelicals discovering Christian Liberalism . . . with candles." This is obviously a caricature. But, it reveals the reality that I have been experiencing. Emergent isn't becoming classic liberalism. Classic liberalism had intellectual depth. Emergent is becoming the liberal version of modern American non-denominational Evangelicalism (with some main-line folks joining in the party). I shudder to imagine how bad its going to get.

The Emergent conversation was great for questions, but not for answers. I wrote in my e-mail to my friend that it was like watching a snake eat its own tail. And when answers are given, they seem to be less and less Gospel and more and more squishy. At this point, I don't see any purpose in the Emergent conversation for me.

So, there it is. I will miss seeing some of the folks who go to the local Cohort. But, other than that, I'm happy to put a marker on the road and say good-bye to that aspect of my life.

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