A year-long series of weekly essays re-imagining the Reforming Church. This is not a scholarly effort, crafting neither an ecclesiastical nor a theological system. Rather, it is simply a futurist’s snapshot – it is how I imagine the church proceeding forward through the next decades in the tradition of the Reformation.
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.
I realize that “The Emergent Church” is an idea that is already out there. I am not as sure that the idea as used in systems theory or philosophy is the same idea that has informed the Emergent Church. I want to be clear as I write, that I am not writing about the Emergent Church which is bearing wisdom from the edge of the mainline born out of disillusionment.
Indeed, my own story of the church has chapters of disillusionment. Try as I may to write in the indicative voice, the imperatives born out of my own pain and hurt and disillusionment shadow everything I say. Yet, I shall attempt to hold to the promise of pointing in a new direction without condemning the past.
My re-conceptualization of the emergent church is rather more organic, more a biological/spiritual phenomenon. The Reforming Church, as I see it, is more evolving than reforming, becoming something new, that is sustainable, that can neither be returned to how it was before nor replicated and passed on in a form that becomes liturgical practice. It emerges out of the Holy Spirit’s immersion with each specific new historical context – and even more today, as that context changes so rapidly.
We together are more than any of us is alone. The church is more than what I am. It is what we are together. This is a basic truism of the emergent church.
Groomed in the Reformed Tradition which emphasizes that the Church is constantly changing as the Scriptures are read and interpreted by the Holy Spirit, the Reforming Church is evolving. It becomes new every morning (Lamentations of Jeremiah 3:23). In keeping what I consider a divine promise, the Reforming Church is constantly becoming the new thing God creates (Isaiah 42:9, 43:19, and a rather hot oracle in Isaiah 48:1-11).
What is past is past (Isaiah 42:9-25). The Reforming Church is released from its commitments to what is past. The commitments of the Reforming Church race to keep up with God’s activity in the lives of the Followers of the Way of Jesus Christ and his church. The Church’s liturgical and theological formulations, often repeated over and over until they become indelible, are released from the past. The past is gone leaving a clear slate for a new liturgy and a new song. For this reason, the Reforming Church only acknowledges that it comes out of the Reformed Tradition, but what the Reforming Church is becoming is no more like the Church of the Reformation than a hen is like the egg from which it emerged. The Reforming Church goes forward into the decades with only a sense of its best directions. And yet, its course is constantly diverted by the serendipities of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the disturbance in the Reforming Church’s field of direction – where it finds its mission.
To the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever!” – Romans 16:-27