I have been watching with some interest recent trends within the emerging church to forge a clearer self identity. Within the emerging movement itself there are recognisable groupings and trends of movement and migration that would make for fascinating sociological analyses.
Being inherently full of diversity, the emerging church will have a tough time hanging together. As those with similar interests and goals discover each other (a lot of this via the blogworld) and start forging separate identities, some signs of tension and splittiness have become evident.
We, as a species, have a tendency to classify things. Adam’s very first action was to name all of God’s creatures. I do think though that we don’t often realise that our tendency to be taxonomists is also now a fallen tendency and can lead us to sin. Celebrating our individuality and our uniqueness is not the same thing as lumping ourselves into this or that camp.
Branching is a natural and necessary part of being a good tree. But just because I am in this branch on the North side of the tree and you are in that branch on the East does not make either branch less a part of the tree. My self identification and attempt to classify all ‘other’ branches should not lead me to conclude that the differences outweigh the essential unity of the tree.
When we classify we involve ourselves in making judgements and these judgements usually lack righteousness. Yes there may be discernible differences, unique and outstanding features, trends and so on but where is the equally important acknowledgement of the ties that bind? “I am missional” should not be opposed to “I am emergent”. The fact is that all shades of mixtures exist together, and more to the point there are many who choose not to think in terms of taxonomies at all. When we declare a classification we inadvertently (I hope!) force a division and create camps that actually do not ‘really’ exist. All those ‘in between’ or undecided or unaware are forced suddenly to choose or, even worse, a label is attached willy nilly. Certainly, apart from being a fun thing to do, we have not elucidated anything of eternal significance. Is the fact that I am of a Reformed, Calvinist, Evangelical, Anglican Free Church, and now postmodern bent, going to make me any more or any less of your brother in the Lord?
if we are to learn anything from our history, let us at least learn that diversity does not entail division. Diversity is good and has been created by God, division is satanic and antichrist in every way.
In fact, I would argue that we should be proud of the breadth of the emerging church and try desperately hard to retain that very precious diversity. Yes, we should recognise real differences but let not our tendency to be taxonomists be exercised to the exclusion of our real oneness in our Lord - let us celebrate our differences without a spirit of fear.