I just saw a ten minute snippet of the Religion and Ethics piece on the emerging church conversation-movement. Thanks DJ for the link! In the last moments of this snippet the question was put forth about diversity and the emerging church. Will it break beyond a white middle class demographic? Well it has. Which is not to say that we have arrived. Honestly, I don’t know what it means to arrive there. Only time will tell.
I have been getting emails from people all over the country who are not a part of this demographic but find common ground with many features of the emerging church. There are aspects of the conversation that resonate with people outside of this demographic. Which brings to mind the issue of diversity. I have been wrestling with this issue. But here are some thoughts that are becoming more concrete in my mind. I want to hear your thoughts on this…if there is anybody out there.
I posted these thoughts on Susie Albert Miller’s blog (with a few amendments):
I am hopeful that emergent and the emerging church at large will grow more diverse ethnically and socio-economically as time goes on. As a Christian that comes from a predominantly African American context as it relates to Christianity, Evangelical Christianity in particular (with a dash of Pentecostalism), my journey here to the emerging church has been a wild ride. I am encouraged by the growing amount of ethnic voices I see joining this conversation. I am getting emails weekly of people who are trying to find other ethnic voices that are a part of this conversation. One of the things I am seeing in this conversation is a congruence of strange bedfellows. Many of the people I am talking with have been wrestling with some of the issues Emergent seeks to deal with before they found this conversation. In Emergent many are finding a conversation partner that is on a similar journey in our time and place. This needs to be clear as we begin to seriously talk about diversity and the emerging church. My journey into this whole deal started with a chance visit to a pawn shop in Bremerton, Washington (outside of Seattle on the Kitsap Peninsula) back in 95′ where I picked up a tattered copy of David Bosch’s book “Transforming Mission“. I wasn’t looking to be Emerging…I was looking to be faithful to the gospel given my North American context. Emergent has been one of the many conversation partners that has equipped me to better articulate what I am seeing. This has led me to other voices and texts. It has also led me to a greater appreciation for the Christianity of my African and African-American ancestors. Through the emphasis on ancient-futuring the emerging church has created space and time for me to gain a deeper appreciation of how black folks followed Jesus down through the ages. Hence the name postmodern negro.
My point. I came to this conversation not because I wanted to see “diversity”. Diversity wasn’t the telos that has brought me here. What has brought me here are some of the similar features in my thinking and practice of Christianity and Emergent. Emergent is singing the same song I am singing in many ways. I believe diversity is something that should be intentional but not coerced. We have to be careful to look at the various narratives and ideas relating to diversity that are flying around in our culture…based upon our particular social order. Diversity, in our culture, in many ways, has become somewhat of a ethic of coercion foisted upon the dominant culture. Such an understanding of diversity does not embody the peaceableness of the gospel. Diversity is something, I believe, that is the outworking of participating in the very life of God. When we break bread together, pray together, fuss, fight, dialogue, debate, share our joys, our sorrows together God may see fit to bless with His Spirit to guide our bodies to reflect the sociality of the Father, Son, and the Spirit. Which I believe is true diversity. The telos or goal of our diversity should be living life together in God…not diversity for diversity’s sake. When diversity is sought after for its own sake it can easily turn into some thing…some narrative…some idol that is foreign to the story of God. Let’s break bread together and see what happens.
What has happened in my emerging church journey, thus far, has been the befriending of Steve Knight. If anything, me and Steve’s friendship represents the future of this conversation. There other like friendships spread throughout the emerging church conversation. I know we are not alone.