Sunday, January 06, 2008

The Emergent Wesley

I was going to blog big today. And then I ended up commenting (again) on Rhett's blog. He's posted some good thoughts recently on the Emergent movement, its recipe for sustainable improvement of the church, longevity and the strange way it engages the consumer culture through massive book and DVD sales (when it seems down on the consumer impulse in other spheres). So if you want to go there and sample the discussion please do!

But it runs in parallel to some other thoughts I've been having that really were heading in the opposite direction. And that is Wesley the Emergent. So much of (original) Wesleyan thought seems to me to run in tandem with the distinctives of the emerging movement. My premise then was along these lines: is this part of what the Wesleyan movement offers to the NZ culture? An ability to engage the culture more intuitively because its not fighting its own roots in doing so?

I went searching for some writing on this idea and found an excellent article by Hal Knight titled John Wesley and the Emerging Church. He makes some great observations about the Emergent movement and draws some compelling comparisons with other reform movements in the past. I noted these particular thoughts which reflect some of the ideas I'd been throwing around on Rhett's blog:

"...the emerging church is driven by an increasing dissatisfaction with the assumptions and practices of churches at home in Western culture, which has largely been governed by the Enlightenment. This is why emerging churches are largely found in North America, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand, where Western culture has long been dominant. Its leaders are deeply committed persons who are creatively envisioning a new postmodern Christianity ...Emerging churches are not responding to a passing fad but to deep, permanent, and pervasive cultural change. Subsequent generations will be shaped to an even greater extent by postmodern culture."

He then outlines 7 features of Emerging churches and comments on their resonance with Wesleyan thought and practice. 2 things occur to me - yeah maybe this is a happy marriage and that Wesleyan thought (the unfrozen kind) is well-positioned to respond to the culture. Secondly, should we be surprised that reform movements bear similar distinctives? After all, humanity tends to remake its mistakes over time and that has certainly been the unswerving practice of the church since it got itself institutionalised!

Keith Drury has put the article in conversation with Wesley himself - this is an interesting and quite amusing effort! Some of the comments are also interesting and maybe even typical which saves me the work of dealing with the wider commentary...

No comments: