emergent manifesto of hope is the first in a new publishing line from bakerbooks. edited by tony jones and doug pagitt in consists of 24 chapters of around 3000 words by different authors from north america. these chapters are by some people who have been around the emergent scene in the us for a long time (brian maclaren, mark scandrette, doug, tony, dan kimball etc) and some people who are newer voices in the conversation. brian maclaren suggests that the book will work for 4 groups of people - participants in the conversation already, people looking for an intro to the conversation, critics looking for ammunition, and those round the world interested in seeing what's going on in the us corner of the emerging church. that's a pretty fair summary i think.
the strength of the book is the range of issues touched upon and the diversity of people engaging in the conversation. it will be surprising if there isn't a chapter on something you are interested in. my favourite chapter is by sally morgenthaler - i think it's a stunning piece on flattened leadership. sally has been an inspiration for years so it's great to bump into her work again. i may like it because i seem to have read a very similar selection of books and share similar concerns about leadership. she very poignantly isues a challenge to patriarchal hierarchical leadership structures pointing out that they are as alive and well in twenty and thirty something church circles as they are in the older ones. she suggests that the changing world we live in presents unprecedented opportunities and challenges becuase the rules of engagement have changed and for a number of reasons women's instincts and approach sits well in the emerging culture. i also really liked the challenge about diversity presented by samir selmanovic in the chapter 'the sweet problem of inclusiveness' and anthony smith in 'practicing pentecost' - this is a challenge that seems to be faced by the emerging church everywhere. we have got a long way to go in the uk.
my impression from across the pond is that when emergent grew out of a network of young leaders in the us it was located in baptist/vineyard/evangelical circles - those were naturally the friendships that existed. so it's good to see the conversation moving beyond the original edges - and being picked up in mainline denominations (with chapters discussing the need for loyal radicals in the presbyterian church for example) and across the church spectrum in the us. i hope this continues and hope this book nudges it in that direction. it's a time for maturity and generosity.
the weakness of the book is that it's spread thin. the chapters are short and whilst the book is woven together in sections the chapters don't really join up much - i didn't find it cohered. they are stand alone essays. so you get a taster which is what makes it a great intro if you are not new to the conversation. but if you have been around a while i suspect you'll skim a lot of familiar territory. i realise i'm stating the obvious and this is the first in a new line of books so i'm sure the depth is yet to come - kester's book is next up which i am delighted is gettign a us release. the title is also a misnomer - it really isn't a manifesto, at least i can't work out how it is though it is hopeful. and of course this is a collection of us voices - so many of the contextual issues play out very differently in the uk or eslewhere in the world.
overall well worth getting, and finding the chapters that connect with where you are at. you've got to admire the way the emergent crew remain on focused on getting this conversation out in the public domain through publishing. i have several friends i have got to know over the years who have conributed to the book, so it's great to see them getting published, especially those for whom this is their first step into print...