In case you haven’t figured this out, I’m working my way toward an article on the Emerging movement for a magazine and so I’m testing some ideas as I move forward each day with some reading (in the time I can manage). So, thanks for the comments and observations.
I’ll use “EM” for Emergent movement.
The EM is pro-Church. To make this claim requires some nuance and some careful thinking. The EM is pro-Church more than it is critical of the Church, and it is plenty critical. The EM is both (at some say it is) post-Evangelical and post-Liberal churches but that critical stance over against the way “Church as it has been done” is not left dangling. The EM is pro-Church in that it is ecumenical. It is not ecumenical in the classical sense of the Ecumenical Movement, which is a failure because it was set on a course of finding a doctrinal basis among sets of Christians who could not agree, but in the sense of being missionally focused. Because it is missionally focused, it finds it much easier to cooperate with other Christians with a similar missional focus and to cooperate with other Christians because its own theological agendas are less central. Andrew Jones calls, at Tall Skinny Kiwi dot com, this “deep ecclesiology.”
This is why the EM is taken with the ancient creeds: its belief that the Church is ultimately one, because it can be focused in its kingdom mission, can embrace the creeds of the entire spectrum of the holy, catholic Church. Robert Webberâ€™s notion of an Ancient-Future faith, with its profound appreciation of Eastern Orthodoxy and certain themes of the Roman Catholic Church and its disappointment (at times) with the Protestant Reformation, has had a deep influence on the EM. Here you will find a genuine evangelical ecumenical posture.
It is also pro-Church in that the Church is designed to be a community. Here again, the EM reminds one of the Anabaptists or the Jesus movement of the 60s and 70s, where Christian communities grew out of a radical commitment to the Church as a community. For the EM, while it shows similarities to these early Christian experiments (some of them, like Reba Place in Evanston Illinois), community is more missionally-driven than fellowship-oriented. It should be noted that the community emphasis is on a community that seeks to blend with the local community into a harmonious effort to realize the ideals of the Kingdom of God.
Once again, this pro-Church community focus leads us back to its local expression. The EMâ€™s focus on Church is not on ecclesiastical structures or denominational politics, but on a local church community of faith incarnating the kingdom vision of Jesus in its local community for the good of the world.