Life, Faith and Urban Farming

The life and happenings of an unconventional pastor and urban farmer living in the city with a family of five.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

The Emerging Church's Biggest Deficiency

I was out to lunch today with BJ, two other pastor's of emerging churches in Pittsburgh and the woman at the Pittsburgh Presbytery who does tons of stuff to help us out as a new church development. She brought up what I think is the biggest deficiency of the emerging church in the United States. So far churches that consider themselves "emerging" are led by men, rarely women, and these churches are mainly white and middle class.

So... Why is this? I don't have answers, please comment and help us think about it.

What can we do to be more open to African Americans and Latinos in our communities?

What can we do to encourage women into leadership roles, pastoral roles?

That's all for tonight, just some questions, I'll write more tomorrow.


Terry L. Mann said...


I am glad to see someone else asking that question. I first mentioned it about a year ago in a gathering and you would have thought I questioned the deity of Christ or something! Since then I have brought it up repeatedly and folks keep saying, "Yeah, you are right." But the issue remains.

I am working to at least address it in my location. If men and women are created as co-regents (and I believe they were) and in the image of God (and we are), then there is something about the image of God we are missing without the feminine perspective. Should that not be more true in the leadership of emerging churches and not less true?

The older I get - the more questions I have - with far fewer answers.

Terry / Matrixminister

loren said...

Hi John,

I clicked on the 'next blog' button and yours came up. I first became familiar with the emerging church in 1999.

Some of the 'problems' you've mentioned are culturally based. For instance, my wife and I are the only white folks in a black gospel church, and their culture is such that the emerging church would be fairly foreign to them. It's not that one's right and one wrong; even in church, people prefer a cultural background that is familiar.

If you've spent much time surfing blogs in the past few weeks, you've probably seen a bigger problem in emerging church circles. Some books and articles have recently come out against the movement and they have drawn the emerging church into debates. As an example, here's one that I was recently involved in:

I think the real problem with the emerging church is that they do not yet have a unified basis of doctrine, and they need to define some things better. When they don't, other voices rise up to fill the vacuum by default.

Here's my suggestion (if you read the link I mentioned, you'll see why). On my blog I am going over the basics in a systematic way, with a very purposeful focus on Jesus. I would like to suggest that some folks from the emerging church look into this blog and follow the course it offers, starting at the beginning.

The material in this blog would become a 'foil' for your own discussions. It would help the emerging church cover the basics thoroughly and, between their own comments and discussions, decide what they believe and would like to teach on these subjects.

I actually think this is great chance for a breakthrough, so I hope you'll pray about this and mention it to some of your emerging friends.

marlaena said...

john -

thanks for asking some hard questions. as a 30-something woman in a leadership and teaching position in an emerging church, your question is much appreciated.

my answer to how to encourage women into leadership and pastoral roles - helping them feel like they belong.

we discuss belonging all the time in the emerging church, you can belong before you believe, etc.

i desire to feel that i belong to the community of faith to which i am called and to belong to the larger community of leaders in the church (which is mostly men).

there will always be voices telling me i don't belong, so having voices intentionally reminding me i do belong is so encouraging.

quite honestly, i have found being a woman in a leadership role the most difficult thing i have done so far in life (and i went to law school which was not a piece of cake). and at times it has been very lonely.

this is a little bit broader of a topic but i am doing some reading trying to answer the question of what does it look like for men and women to live in community together. i find in our churches we tend to segregate men and women and maybe that plays into this lack of women in leadership/pastoral roles. what can men learn from womoen? what can women learn from men? we'll never know unless we come together and dialogue (or trialogue as you all say at the Open Door) and share life together.

i'm reading a good book (so far) written by Ruth Haley Barton, Equal to the Task: Men and Women in Partnership - here's a brief description:

God has created male and female to live in community as one. Yet in the church we have created systems that segregate and limit us rather than unify and free us. But we can be together the way God intended - not only as husbands and wives in the safety of marriage but also as brothers and sisters in the safety of community.

John said...

Marlaena, Thanks for being brave and forging ahead where few women have gone!

Loren, I think doctrinal issues are very difficult within the Emerging Church. I agree that we must think about doctrine, but not from the fundamentalist point of view that creates a list of cognitive absolutes. It seems you agree with me here, Jesus Christ is our doctrine.

The Emerging church is so crazy because it's not one denomination, it's not just conservative churches. We have post-liberals and post-conservatives coming together in dialogue all the time, we have Catholics, Presbyterians and Menonites coming together in worship. These people are not leaving behind their doctrines, but we're uniting in Jesus Christ, the one absolute that we all hold on to.

I don't find much benefit in arguing with people like this Pink guy, though dialogue would be great fine. I also don't think it's a bad thing that we don't have a leader to say what we beleive. We beleive in Jesus and we believe that the Gospel of Jesus Christ will save even people with a postmodern world view.

derricklw said...

Hey John,

Can I offer another take on your question? I think what is central to the emerging church movement are the ideas of postmodernity. It is, in some ways, the conscious rejection of all things modern. Modernity, as it was (is?) favored the dominant members of society, namely white men. Postmodernity calls into question many of the institutional norms that the dominant class put into place, something that women and minorities have been doing for a long time. In many ways, women and minorities were victims of modernity, not participants in it.

My theory is that the emerging church is in some ways the dominant class (specifically mainline denominantions) beginning to question its own methods and practices and how those methods and practices have advanced or hindered (if it can be hindered) the spread of the kingdom of God.

To solve its most glaring problem, the emergent church, again in my opinion, has to invite women and minorities into positons of power and then step back and let them lead. Reconciliation needs to be celebrated as a value of the emerging church, and that reconciliation requires the acknowledgement of past wrongs and a conscious effort to correct them for the future.