Phyllis Tickle: Beyond Denominations

Posted: August 5, 2009 by Kristy Harding in ReEmergent Church
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By Kristy Harding
The Ooze posted an incredibly interesting interview with Phyllis Tickle yesterday called, “Beyond Denominations, the Hyphenated Church.” In it she posits that the Protestant denominations are like the Church in Jerusalem and the emergence is like the Church in Antioch, and the Protestant denominations have the obligation to bless the emergence like the Church in Jerusalem passed the torch to the Church in Antioch.

Of course, we don’t know what is actually going to happen, but she presented several alternative models of what the response could be.

Here are theories she posited–with names I made up for ease of discussion:

The Ring Model: With a group of “hyphenated emergence Christians” within the denominations being on the periphery of the larger emergence movement.

Protestant Leaders in Diaspora Model: A movement of Protestant leaders streaming into the emergence movement and bringing the charisms of their native denominations to the emergence and influencing it.

The Good Fences Make Good Neighbors Model: The emergence and Protestantism exist side-by-side like Protestantism and Catholicism do now.

While it’s possible that these models are the wave of the future, I believe that all of these models are happening simultaneously right now.

There is already a movement of hyphenated emergence Christians forming. (This blog certainly wouldn’t be the same without it.) I believe that the mainline denominations are already beginning to wrestle, some more quietly than others, but in a big way with the emergence and most are finding ways to respond to the emergence members who want to stay and be apart of church structures and make the level of noise that is appropriate within that particular denomination. As far as the Episcopal Church is concerned, I think it has come pretty close to giving the emergence its blessing by inviting Brian McLaren to preach at General Convention.

There are also Protestant leaders in diaspora. The most obvious example of this is, to use him as an example again, Brian McLaren. As he relates in his sermon, Brian McLaren was once in the discernment process in the Episcopal Church, but the once-future emergence leader felt he had to choose between his call to evangelism and his love for Anglicanism. Would Brian have been able to carry out his call as an Episcopal priest? It’s difficult to say. The point is that he didn’t think he could, and he left. I’m sure there are many others like him who haven’t written bestselling books, and have, thus, flown the coop under the radar.

Then, of course, there is the good fences make good neighbors model. There are emergence churches and Protestant churches already living side-by-side. I’m sure there are other churches in the neighborhood of Solomon’s Porch. There is an Anglimergent community downtown that coexists with a traditional Episcopal Church.

Of course, the question remains, is one of these models going to grow and start to dominate the scene?

Phyllis doesn’t know which way it’s going to go, and I agree. (Of course! Who am I to argue with Phyllis?) But in all honesty, I’m looking at this situation and seeing many, many things that could change the landscape–just within the Episcopal Church.

The biggest way that the Episcopal Church could bless the emergence is to ordain leaders who come out of hyphenated communities. If this isn’t happening already, I think it’s well on its way. There are already priests in hyphenated communities. It’s only a matter of time before those communities are raising up priests. Just having this happen would change the landscape a great deal.

General Convention recently put the onus for evangelism on the dioceses and parishes at the same time that Brian McLaren asked the Episcopal Church to watch out for those with gifts of evangelism, who are in the discernment process. If dioceses take up the torch and put more of an emphasis on evangelism and combined that with listening to the experiences of evangelists, I think that might go a long way to stop the bleeding of emergence members.

If, as a consequence, emergence members don’t feel the need to get their ancient-future on outside the Anglican Communion, it has the potential to change both Anglicanism and emergence drastically. I could see the potential for Anglicanism being pulled in a more Anglo-Catholic direction and emergence being pulled in a more Evangelical direction as those who are drawn to the emergence and the ancient-future stuff ala Robert Webber become Anglicans and those who are more Evangelical become emergence–if the Episcopal Church doesn’t run full speed at the emergence and put aside its own ancient-future heritage.  Most likely, it’ll be a mix.  I predict some places will do one more than others.

At the same time, of course, there’s the whole Anglican Communion wild card. Will there be two tracks within the Anglican Communion within the next few years? Will one be more “friendly” to the emergence? I could envision a future where one track of the Anglican Communion adopted the emergent church and the other track adopted the emerging church. In all honesty, that seems to be happening to a certain extent already.

Then there’s the whole “good fences make good neighbors” model. The Episcopal Church is interacting so much with the emergence right now, it’s difficult to imagine there being a future where this is the case entirely–unless the Episcopal Church decides that emergence is a trend and moves on to something else in five years.

That’s hard to imagine, but, really, who knows where we’ll be–and what emergence will look like by then, for that matter?

But how about you?  Does how does this picture compare with the way you see your denomination?

Photo: / CC BY 2.0


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