Friday, July 01, 2005
Predicting the Emerging Church
Phyllis Tickle, the longtime religion editor for Publishers Weekly wrote in her 1995 book Re-discovering the Sacred about the future direction of Christianity in America. She is uniquely qualified to make these predictions, since her work at Publishers Weekly has basically required her to keep a pulse on religion in America over the past several decades and identify upcoming trends so that book publishers know what kind of books to publish. I was struck by one prediction in particular:

"History would suggest that somewhere in the five present divisions of late twentieth century America's several Christianities [Tickle identifies these five divisions as Roman Catholic, Evangelical Protestant, Mainline Protestant/Liturgical, Pentecostal, and Other (e.g. Mormons, JW's, Christian Scientists, etc.)] and in the interacting tension, differences, and alliances among them there is indeed some much smaller, much humbler center around which the most theologically graceful elements of each are already coalescing. Whatever that attracting center is, once completed it will in time, I believe, become the Christianity of post-Christian America."

At one of her sessions at the Emergent Convention this past May Tickle basically identified this new center that unifies the different streams of American Christianity as the Emerging Church. And indeed if you consider a book like Brian McLaren's A Generous Orthodoxy which stands as probably the definitive work for the emerging church thus far, even the title itself points to the very centering and coalescing of traditions that Tickle predicts. In fact, speaking from her long experience as a trend watcher and religous book reviewer, Tickle even went so far as to say that A Generous Orthodoxy will likely be the most significant religious book published in the next few decades.

All I can say is I hope she is right. I hope in my lifetime I see a movement of Christianity emerge and bear fruit that brings together believers from all different streams of our faith in a way that will celebrate our commonalities and unite us in mission for God's kingdom. And I firmly believe, along with Tickle, that right now the emerging church is the best hope for that.
posted by Mike Clawson at 10:21 AM | Permalink |


At 7/01/2005 09:45:00 PM, Blogger Dave

I wish I could have been at he emerging convention to have heard Phyllis because I agree with her whole heartly. Several weeks ago I sat in a cafe with a friend talking about these same things and wondering if there will be a "convergence" of the whole christian gammit to become the church with a "generous orthodoxy."

To mention, I loved Brians book a Generous Orthodoxy, at the start I thought it might be another Church on the other side clone but it was a book unto itself (meaning different).

As you have a hope Mike to see christians from all backgrounds emerge together I can resonate with this also, great posting.



At 7/01/2005 11:17:00 PM, Blogger Mike Clawson

I'm glad you liked the post...

I do hope we'll see a convergence of the various streams of Christianity. I'm seeing a lot of hopeful signs, and not just among Emergent folks. Richard Foster and Dallas Willard have founded a group called Renovare that is premised on valuing the insights of multiple Christian traditions when it comes to matters of spiritual formation and discipline. And when you look at some of the major Evangelical publishing companies such as Zondervan, Baker, Brazos, IVP and Eerdmans, there seems to be an increasing willingness to publish books and authors dealing with a much broader spectrum of Christian experience and backgrounds.

And on the church level you find a lot more "mixing and matching", so for instance it's not uncommon to meet Evangelical Catholics, or Charismatic Anglicans, or Liturgical Baptists, or Evangelicals who care about social justice, or Lutherans and Presbyterians who are open to contemporary worship. On both the local church and the lay levels there is a lot more willingness to focus on commonalities and learn from each other than to divide over our particularities and distinctives.


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