Emergent church

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The emergent church, sometimes called the ‘’’emerging church’’’ refers to a movement of evangelicals towards accepting modern theological ideas and adopting liberal values. It is primarily associated with younger members, using new music and non-traditional rituals such as the house church. This article will not attempt to define the emergent church, only provide some history and identify some players.


In 1998 in Glorieta Mexico over 500 young leaders gathered for The National Re:Evaluation Forum to discuss the new millennium’s emerging church. Tony Jones, Doug Pagitt and others continued the evaluation in 1999 with regional gatherings during which the term “emerging church” began to be used.  ;Very few scholarly works have been done on the emergent church. Two are:
“Emerging Churches: Creating Christian Community in Postmodern Cultures” by Gibbs and Bolger.
”The Great Emergence: How Christianity is Changing and Why” by Phyllis Tickle
Tony Jones
Tony Jones was involved in the early evaluations and founded and is still part of Solomon’s Porch in Minneapolis, MN.
Everything Must Change
Brian McClaren, who is sometimes referred to as the grandfather of the emergent church, wrote this book in 2007. In it he describes his journey into ministry and then mission in the Third World. He expresses many liberal ideas such as sharing wealth, providing aid and understanding the economics of underdeveloped countries in relation to developed ones. He intersperses quotes from Jesus in this discussion. The title comes from an African woman participating in a discussion about how the church should be acting in her country. Exactly that McClaren thinks “everything” is, is not clear. He claims to draw on many traditions although he has stated that the death of Jesus was a significant historical event.

Other Personalities

Doug Pagitt
Doug Pagitt is head pastor at Solomon’s Porch in Minneapolis, MN and author of several books about the emergent church.
Mark Driscoll
Mark Driscoll was a member of an Evangelical denomination, but became disenfranchised and started his own church, outside of any organization in Portland, OR, called Mars Hill. His presentation involves new music and wearing jeans in the pulpit, but his theology is Calvinistic. He takes a strong stand against homosexuality, shunning members if they don’t repent. In 2012 his methods have been questioned and at least one violent protest by the LGBT community occurred at a Mars Hill affiliated church.
Tony Campanolo
Christian Piatt
Christian is an artist and author of books targeted for today’s youth. His books deal with issues of sexuality and modern questions about theology. His advice alternates wildly between traditional and modern. He has blogged extensively on the emergent church, usually stating that it defies being labeled.
Rob Bell
Rob Bell has published best selling books, including “Love Wins”, controversial for its “universalist” message. In the book, he did not specifically state that hell does not exists, but he does theorize that everyone eventually will experience the love of God. He has disavowed the “emerging church” label. Bell left the organized Calvary Church in 1999 and founded Mars Hill Bible Church in Grandville, M. This church is not affiliated with the church of the same name in Portland, OR.


Jesus Seminar
The Jesus Seminar is a group of scholars and laymen who produced new translations of the New Testament and questioned its historical accuracy in the 1990’s. Their methods have been criticized. Members have published scholarly as well as popular works. Famous members have included Robert Price, Dominic Crossan, Marcus Borg, Robert Funk and Stephen L. Harris.
The Liberal Catholic Church
This church is not affiliated with the emergent church or the Catholic church. It has been around since the early 20th century.
Individual liberal churches within non-evangelical denominations
Some evangelical churches are modern and liberal but do not want to be called emergent. This may be because they do not want to be associated with those who do claim the title, or because they may want to keep to quiet about their liberal values to maintain peace with their organization or individuals in their congregation.
John Shelby Spong
John Shelby Spong was an Episcopal Bishop. Late in his career he realized that he might be wrong about his stand on what the Bible says about homosexuality. He approached psychologists and asks them to educate him. Since then he has retired from the Church and written several books. Among them “Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism” discusses the possibility the Biblical “thorn” in Paul’s side was his struggle with homosexual feelings. His other books discuss problems with Protestantism, explain inaccuracies and reject many truth claims. Despite all this, he professes his love for Jesus Christ.
Michael Dowd
Michael Dowd is an independent theologian. He and his wife Connie Barlow speak to religious audiences of all ages about evolution and science. They claim a Christian perspective of science. His 2008 book “Thank God for Evolution” is endorsed by six Nobel Prize-winning scientists. He equates “God” with “everything” and says God is revealing himself through scientific evidence.
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