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I'd say the same holds true for Canada, and elsewhere. It would take a work of some detailed collaboration before any attempt at a holistic picture of the 'emerging church' could be possible, no? That said, McKnight's is, obviously, a valuable starting point.

Scot Longyear

We started our community (www.exchangemcc.org) under a Gen X banner 10 years ago. That became uncool so we were "postmodern." That wore off and the hip thing was to be "Emerging." When asked to define "emerging" some of the guys leading the communities had a hard time defining it. We don't label ourselves anymore, other that to state our identity as a community of people following Christ and serving in his cause. We have our own style and flavor, like everybody else.


Anthony stiff


Thanks for putting the word out about Scot's paper. I have a more positive evaluation of it though i picked up on the political comment being an American distinction. I'm curious what other streams would you say don't work out as much in the UK, what streams are missing that you guys would slot in the metaphor?

Also I wanted to thank you, though you didn't realize it I used your connect link to proost for background music at our Forum intro PPT, and I guided our guests to your site as an example of an Emerging Church blogger in the UK as well as someone gifted in photo-journalism, etc.

Anthony Stiff, Forum organizer

Sarcastic Lutheran

One frustration I and other Lutheran emerging church folks have is the focus on the EC being post-evangelical. Don't get me wrong, I'm pleased to see evangelicals questioning their theology, but Lutherans don't come to postmodern Christianity because we're questioning our theology, just the opposite really, we are more fully submerging ourselves in our theology, especially the grace centered Theology of the Cross.


i wasan't meaning to be negative about the article. i enjoyed reading it. but maybe a few more comments will help?...

1. one of the gifts of postmodern thinking is that none of us have access to an objective view of things so the best i can say in response to a question such as 'what is the emerging church?' is the way i see things from where i am standing. so my suggesting that the answer scot gives is through a USA lens and even that may be optimistic (i.e. it's from a particular perspective from within the US that probably is very different from the way some other emerging church US people see it) shouldn't surprise anyone. it's not a negative comment. it just means we can all chill out a bit about our perspectives. as we add the many takes on things together from round the world we'll get a richer picture.

2. i read it and i recognised quite a bit of what was said of course but the nuances are different (as you would surely expect as i live in another context). i haven't got time to go through them all but a couple of examples
a) post evangelical - this was a book that came out in the uk in 1995. it's a conversation that we had 10 years ago. so whilst i recognise it, the nuances are very different. in fact the word evangelical plays out very differently in both contexts. the whole don carson thing that i mentioned in my post is simply an internal US conversation. we don't need it in the UK - or at least it would be relevant to a pretty small group of people. we're not fighting that battle. so when the blogosphere was dominated by that in teh US we watched in bemused fashion. tallskinnykiwi was the only brit i can think of who joined in but then he has lived in the US and knows the scene. i'm not saying it shouldn't be a stream from a US perspective or that it isn't a factor here but it is nuanced very differently.
b) scot makes a throwaway line about the emerging church seeming to be anabaptist. i just don't see that resonates at all in the UK. stuart murray is anabaptist and there are people drawing on that tradition. but a lot of the action is in mainline denominational churches. i actually think this is a huge difference. the roots of emergent in the US are vineyard/baptist/independent evangelical - at least that's the impression i get of how it grew out of the young leaders network. that is very different to how things have developed in the UK. in fact i think it may be why several US people in mainline churches have resonated strongly with some of the Uk stuff because it relates a bit more to the church contexts they are in and wrestling with.
c) politics - scot himself says that this addresses the US.
d) emergent - emergent village is a big player in the US conversation. it really isn't in the same way in the UK, though we are friends with many of the guys involved and there is an emergent uk network, but it is just one of many networks here.

3. so i read it and i'm sort of finding myself saying 'yes and no'. or 'yes but that's not right' or 'i don't see it that way' or 'why are you going on about don carson for 6 pages?' etc... hence i think my suggestion for a more humble title is a good one. i am enriched by seeing someone else's take on things from another context in the world.

4. i like scot's comment above. labels are inevitable but language quickly becomes problematic. alternative worship suffered from that. emerging church suffers from that. missional communities wrestle with it. i know a lot of people who i think of as being part of the emerging church movement (if that's what it is) but they are uncomfortable with being labelled emerging church. we have this issue in the community i am part of - grace. are we an emerging church? are we an alternative worship group? are we a missional community? most of the people involve either wouldn't care or might well say no! it's just not that important.

hope this makes some sense?...

Tom Allen

Agree very much Jonny. I think your indifference to what is being said "about" the emerging church" by evangelicals in the states is important and proper because taking it too seriously runs the danger of applying the same criteria to the church is emerging in the UK - where I happen to think we have more in common with our aussie and kiwi brothers and sisters. The emerging church of the states ( and crituiques of it) should not be allowed to define "the church" which is emerging here in the UK.

From the outside (and what I read and hear about) there are two key differences in the States. The US 'emerging church' seems to have emerged primarily as a reaction to the evangelical end of the Church (links with the post-evangelical phase of the late 80s and 90s perhaps)and with little sympathy from the parent groups. By contrast "the church which is emerging" in the UK has a much more diverse denominational and theological background and closer and more sympathetic links within the formal church. Secondly (and I would add intentionally or not) - the emerging church in the US seems to be adopting denominational trappings - "who is and who is out" for example. In the UK it is again a much more diverse body of small groups who often retain links with other local churches.

Sarcastic Lutheran

RE: 2b - I know for myself that I feel a great deal more simpatico with the emerging churches in the UK that I have developed relationships with (hOME, MayBe, Moot) than with any non-Lutheran emerging churches here in the States. Perhaps for the reasons you mention - that we too (Lutherans) are not reacting to an evangelical thing so much as creatively raiding our own tradition for stuff that speaks to our contexts.

Existential Punk

i so resonate much more with the uk emerging church. the uk feels more like home to me and i get a bit frustrated here in the usa with converstaion at times. i hope i have the honour of moving back and working in the uk again some day.

thanx, jonny, for your candor! i love that about you!


I think that the article is good for provoking the question - what is the emerging church? It is a term that people use a lot without definition. I'm not sure the article has the answer - but that's very post modern of me apparently :D

Scot McKnight

Well, Jonny, I promise to spell your name accurately if you do the same for me: there's just one "t" in Scot and my family name is McKnight -- that's Scottish.

You're right: the emerging movement I addressed in the paper was mostly American, though I try to keep my eye as I can on the whole international scene. And I'm open for criticism -- and would love to see how you'd describe it.

On anabaptism: all low church, free church movements derive from the anabaptist movement (compared to Orthodoxy, Catholicism, and the main branches of Lutherans and Reformed). By nature, most emerging churches -- since they are unaffiliated -- are anabaptistic. It does not mean Mennonite.

And, thanks for your comments.


scot apologies for the name spelling - i'll change that. thanks for dropping by...

i understand the anabaptist thing but in the UK most emerging churches are affiliated - a lot to the c of e.


bill victor

You said, 'why are you going on about don carson for 6 pages?'
Scot really did need to address Carson, seeing that he was in an academic setting and Carson is extremely influential in American evangelical scholarly settings.
Thanks for your work.


i wasn't meaning to criiticise scot for addressing carson - just pointing out that that was relavant to the US conversation. i.e. his paper is a US answer to the question. i'm sure if i was lving in the Us i would have to address that too?...

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