there are a series of comments on the last post which is raising some interesting questions/challenges. i posted a comment but it was getting long so have extended it and added it here, and also for those of you who miss the conversation when you follow along in your newsreaders...
one of the huge differences between the uk and us is that in the uk a lot of the emerging stuff has happened in and around the edges of the main denominations - particularly the c of e (that's the denomination i am part of so know best - apologies if i say most about that). it has a bit of a different feel than the us episcopal church for a number of reasons i think. a few of these might be...
1. youth ministry - the c of e invested in youth ministry in a big way and that has been the back door for renewal (a lot of the emerging people began in youth ministry and realised the problems there were actualy to do with wider issues in the church)
2. charismatic renewal - whilst several new independent churches were set up in the seventies and eighties by evangelicals fed up with the denominations' rigidity, many stayed and were loyal radicals. this meant that charsimatic worship and renewal has had a big influence on worship in anglican churches albeit in polite anglican ways (led by the likes of david watson). so rather than evangelicals having to leave to get the worship and church they wanted, they simply got the right vicar and did it in the c of e churches. it's a much softer sort of evangelical on the whole.
3. permission giving bishops - for whatever reason the c of e has ended up with a number of people in leadership who see the need for new forms of church - and with the report mission shaped church and a number of other things, they have sought to encourage and create space for things to happen as part of the c of e rather than pushing them out.
4. alternative worship - this movement that grew in the uk was fairly aligned for whatever reason with denominational settings - the main exception i think was the late late service though they also did do work with the church of scotland. alt worship really was the forerunner of the emerging church conversation in the uk - people realised that it wasn't just about worship - it was also about church and mission.
5. pressure - the church numbers have been declining for twenty years. so everyone knows that the money isn't going to go round in the same way. the parish system is unsustainable particularly in rural settings where a vicar now has so many churches to oversee. all this has created a pressure. there's nothing like pressure to fuel creativity. (the pressure just isn't on yet in the same way in the us).
it can still be very frustrating at times but when i visit other places in the world i see how good a situation we have found ourselves in. grace, the church i am part of is a congregation of the local c of e church, st mary's, here in ealing and they are more than happy with that, as is the bishop and so on. and that's not unusual. it's a great gift.
i do think (and cms are actively encouraging) we also need stuff that is outside of those structures - post church, people meeting in houses, experimental things, way out on the edge etc. renewal and change flows that way as well and in fact if it comes from both directions it is likely to be stronger. at least that's my experience.
having said that i am increasingly meeting episcopal, lutheran, presbyterian, methodist and so on people in the us excited by mission in the emerging culture but wanting to improvise out of their denominational setting rather than feeling you have to rubbish the tradition in order to do the new thing. this is where emergent it seems to me from the outside is shifting and changing with openness and encouragement to that even though it's not the roots it grew out of. i may be wrong but that's my sense of it. that's partly the reason i said it's a time for generosity and maturity because for some people who have not been part of mainline denominations they have sort of set up identity almost in opposition to mainline (that's what happened in the seventies here) so it takes some humility to realise that god is at work in those places as well when you left them because it didn't seem like he/she was. the issue of sexuality in the episcopal church or united church or whatever has heightened this identity issue in the us - some emerging people are deconstructing a lot but still think the mainline denominations are washed up on this issue (i don't want to discuss what i think about that here - it's just part fo the complexity of the map). i hope i'm making sense here - i'm not feeling that articulate.
it's interesting observing the new zealand context as well. unlike the us or the uk a lot of the pioneering there has come out of baptist churches - notably led by steve taylor, mark pierson and mike riddell so the instincts about ecclesiology are different again. and in australia wrestling with denominations is played out differently again with the likes of forge having a pretty anti-institutional take, lambasting constantine for the evils of the world while at the same time people in denominations feel frustrated by that tone and get on with renewing and changing from within their set ups that they don't read as so terrible. all in all i think god is a lot more gracious than all of us and breathes life and spirit in places we have all written off a long time back. and that's a great job! in the uk i know of at least two emerging churches growing out of gay denominational settings which shows me the same thing - god is much more radical, surprising, and wonderful than most of us...
so blessings for the journey whatever context you find yourself in. i'm off to croatia next week to meet with some young leaders there who again have another set of challenges to deal with.