“What Do You Want Anglimergent To Be?”

Tony SigA few days ago I was browsing around at the Anglimergent site and came to realize that I didn’t have a profile there.  This was a surprise to me as I thought I had signed up so I went ahead and created one.  One of the questions they ask you is “What Do You Want Anglimergent To Be?”  Now we could nitpick and point out that the more important question is, “What does God want Anglimergent to be (provided that God has an opinion on the matter)?;” but that’s not where I want to go, not least since the original question doesn’t preclude the second.  This is what I put:

“I’d really love to see Anglimergent resist the anti-institutionalism of many other emerging groups and be a renewal movement for TEC as a denomination. We need priests who can do more for rural and struggling parishes than simply let them die easily. And so we should resist the easy temptation to “attract” only like-minded young adults.”

In a way, as I reflected on my answer, I want Anglimergent simply to be the Church, or, if you’d like, to continue to become the Church – more humbly, to be a part of the Church as it becomes what God calls it to become.  I want it desperately to avoid the agist naval-gazing ethos I often perceive in the “Emerging Church” (understood broadly).

I think I was prepared for this question in part because of some nose poking I was doing electronically around the Episcopal parishes in Minnesota.  I’ll have more to say about this snooping soon but for the purposes of this post I was noticing that there are Episcopal parishes in places as remote as International Falls, Warroad and Hallock.  This set me to wondering…how old are the priests there?  What do those parishes look like demographically?  Who do I know my age who feels called to the priesthood and who would be willing to serve in some small obscure parish in the middle of nowhere?

It was with this in mind that I came to the Anglimergent site and I realized, yeah, if we deep down want to see Anglimergent be a group of 25-35 yr old mostly white (cheers Karen Ward!) folk who are really into craft beers, indie rock and Anglican plainchant -that is, a church of the like minded, of the market – then it’s a group I’d feel quite at home in, but it’s not a group that has a heart turned toward a catholic church composed of young and old, black and white, etc…  But if we were to want it to be a group of energetic Episcopalians who are dedicated to parish renewal, to ever making the tradition strange and new and to following calls to places where we’re needed, being missional in a full sense – then that’s a group I can really get behind and be willing to put energy into.  I hasten to add that looks around discussion pages on the site are encouraging!

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17 Comments

  1. In sum, you want Anglimergent to be postliberal, and not emerging? 😉

    “…a group of 25-35 yr old mostly white (cheers Karen Ward!) folk who are really into craft beers, indie rock and Anglican plainchant…”

    This is precisely why I avoid those things. Not to be “more indie than thou,” but rather to go against this trend. (I have in mind Smith’s essay to the Ooze, about the bourgeois demographic of the emerging church.)

    Great thoughts. It’s comforting to have other likeminded individuals with similar passions for the Church.

    Reply

    1. Aaron,

      “In sum, you want Anglimergent to be postliberal, and not emerging?”

      – Ha! Not quite. This post is nothing if not an indirect commentary on a large portion of the “emerging conversation” as I’ve followed it for a few years. As far as I can tell in discussion threads and the like, Anglimergent tends toward the direction I would be excited about. They really grasp at the Anglican tradition and don’t try and be an ad hoc mix of ecumenical protestantism. I’ve looked at threads about rural ministry, right and wrong uses of technology and others that say to me that there is a genuine passion for the totus christus.

      So…it’s almost like a a comment on where I fear Anglimergent could go if it “did” the “conversation” like the free church (and, frankly, the presbyterian) manifestations. Both the Anglicans and the Lutherans, as far as I can tell, have a much lest arbitrary and far more healthy grasp on what it means to inhabit a tradition. In fact some of the coolest Anglimergent churches are actually “AngliLuthermergent” churches run by both TEC and the ELCA, who are in “full communion” with each other.

      Reply

  2. Fascinating. I haven’t followed any emerging stuff whatsoever, just for fear of it being a passing fad, so I didn’t get invested.

    Is the Presbyterian strand particularly bad in this respect? Obviously the free church folks would be (at least I would suspect). But that’s great about the Anglicans and Lutherans.

    Reply

    1. Aaron,

      Well, one can only be so accurate when generalizing. It’s not like I have any beef with “Presbymergent”. In fact, if anything, they’ve been the longest running of the instances of “emergent” in real denominations. Still, a good handful of the presbymergent voices (I’ve heard) have been very “religionless christianity” dialectical-turn kind of Christians who in a way reject (rather than reinterpret) tradition in order to be “true” to “real” Christianity.

      But I’m sure some will object to my understanding. Certainly I don’t follow “the conversation” in any dedicated fashion.

      But you’re still an evangelical Aaron inasmuch as you’re still living in the evangelical churches. (This isn’t a “diss”!) So you’ve gotta understand that in many ways, for a Mainline denomination like TEC, Anglimergent is one of the only games in town besides the recent (and very short lived and uninfluential) “progressive christianity”. So for someone like me who looks to be a part of denominational renewal, Anglimergent is an ally. The “figurehead” of the group, Karen Ward, and her parish Church of the Apostles (see the link under “Some Anglican Sites” here) are a great example of what “Anglimergent” parishes could look like.

      Reply

      1. Yet another clarifying note:

        I’ve by no means handed history over to “emergence.” Discerning what the Spirit is doing is always a matter of judgment; of discernment. I have a very loose attitude to it, I don’t think it’s the “future” of the Church or anything, but I have an appreciative eye to it and “discern” something in it that I “judge” to be healthy.

        Reply

  3. In a way, as I reflected on my answer, I want Anglimergent simply to be the Church …

    Then what’s the point of Anglimergence (and Emergence in general,) what do we need it for?

    …a group of 25-35 yr old mostly white (cheers Karen Ward!) folk who are really into craft beers, indie rock and Anglican plainchant…

    That’s a beautifully concise summation of why I could never get into the whole Emergent thing. My hipsterish tendencies just aren’t strong enough (y no soy lo suficientemente blancos) to go to that church.

    Reply

    1. Jordan,

      We “need” Anglimergent because it’s a grassroots renewal movement that remains loyally and vocally creedal and whose manifestations tend to retain and even reinvigorate the Anglican patrimony. They tend to be charismatic and liturgical as well. So when I look at the life of a parish like Church of the Apostles, I see a living kind of “anglo-catholicism.” As much as I love vestments and incense and stuff like that, when I witness old-line anglo-catholic discussions of liturgy and ministry, it too often feels like a conversation from the Oxford Movement period. It’s almost exclusively an aesthetic thing rather than a vision of the church as a universally reconciled people.

      Just to be clear, I haven’t gotten the impression that Anglimergent churches are actually so monolithic, but I’m saying that if it went the direction of many other “emergent” churches, then it could quite easily turn out this way. The jury is still out on this whole thing IMO, it’s too early to tell where it’ll end up. So for my part, I want to be there adding my own very loud voice.

      Reply

  4. Very interesting! And that makes sense, about mainline versus evangelical goings-on.

    a good handful of the presbymergent voices (I’ve heard) have been very “religionless christianity” dialectical-turn kind of Christians who in a way reject (rather than reinterpret) tradition in order to be “true” to “real” Christianity.

    Gross.

    On a related note, see me and Matt Dodrill’s recent thread on his FB wall. It sounds like you may soon have a fresh and new ally in the Anglican communion coming soon.

    Reply

  5. “When I witness old-line anglo-catholic discussions of liturgy and ministry, it too often feels like a conversation from the Oxford Movement period. It’s almost exclusively an aesthetic thing rather than a vision of the church as a universally reconciled people.”

    Great summary, Tony! It will be interesting to see IF the emergent types pick up on “the vision of the church as a universally reconciled people.”

    You talked about remote, rural areas; I’m also wondering about the spiritual wasteland or uncool pockets of suburbia.

    Robb

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  6. Tony’s fear of “emerging” as rejecting tradition in order to recapture “true” Christianity is very much the road that I traveled before “falling into” traditional, liturgical Christianity (if Episcopalians can be called such a thing). These travels included stints of worshiping at home and worshiping with a small group of disgruntled AG folks in a kickboxing studio (sounds like the setup for a joke, but it’s not).

    It didn’t take long for the leaders at St. Alban’s to notice that I was a thirty-something, white, rock musician and to ask me to go to Pasadena to check out some sort of “emerging church” thing a young priest is doing there. I didn’t know how to tell them that I would rather sing hymns from the 17th century than drink craft beers (sorry Tony). The one time I did lead worship on guitar I felt like I was scribbling with a sharpee all over a Van Gogh.

    I don’t know if emergent is like Wittgenstein’s ladder for me (climb up it, then kick it away) or if it’s still a strong part of me…I suspect the latter rather than the ladder. But still, I wish the emerging church were postmodern enough to deconstruct postmodernism.

    And, to be completely honest, I have written a few rock ordinaries. The Gloria and the Luke 6 Kyrie are the only ones that are any good. The Our Father has potential. I just don’t know if I want to be involved with anything like a targeted ministry to ageist white suburbanites…haven’t they been hogging all the ministry trends for, I dunno, eight decades?

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  7. I think it’s largely a matter of perspective whether Emergence is all about “Hipster-R-Us.”

    It’s hard for me not to see the whole Emergent thing as simply a cultural movement among 25-35 year old (post)evangelicals with a taste for indie music, and this has a lot to do with the fact that I live in LA. Every Christian body and movement is represented here en masse— Catholic, Episcopalian, Evangelical, Eastern Orthodox, Lutheran, Emergent, etc. And you can pick whichever tradition suits you and live within its enclave, culturally and geographically. I could live in Hollywood, work in the entertainment industry, go to Mosaic, and as long as I stay out of Orange County I’ll be immersed in Emergence and hipsterdom 24/7.

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  8. “Parish renewal”, now that does sound good! My biggest critique of much of the emergent movement of whatever stripe is that the gospel is for all and that means all should be welcome at the Sunday service. To tailor make services so that at 8am service is for those with grey hair, the 10am service for the middle aged with kids, and the 6pm is for those who are young & hip. This runs contrary to the principle that at the Sunday Eucharist God’s people (as a people not a specific demographic group we are marketing our church at) gather to hear his word and feed on Jesus etc.

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  9. Richard! Where the heck have you been?! I tried finding your old blog the other day. I’ll go check out your new site, good to hear from you.

    I concur about parish ministry, as well.

    Reply

  10. Good post.
    Emergent is tricky… it’s a term used by many people who maybe wouldn’t have used it when it first hit the scene. I saw that a conservative Anglican bishop is claiming that he is emergent… could be I guess… maybe there is an “emerging” conservative Anglican church… of course “emergent” is at least very difficult to “narrowly” define. In any case Anthony, you’re statement, “…do more for rural and struggling parishes than simply let them die easily…” really strikes a chord with me… and I think you knowingly hit on something at the root of the “emergent renewal” it is an anti-institutional emergence isn’t it… and in TEC probably more “lay”-renewal… the clergy of TEC in general and at least maybe in MN seem a little numb to “emergent”… that’s not very nice I know… but on the other hand the new Bish. may bring some change that might open things up a bit.
    Anyway… good post and comments… as usual.

    Reply

    1. It’s interesting what you mention about TEC clergy. I’ve noticed that more than a fair share of responses from the few clergy who express interest, especially – nay exclusively! – older clergy, try and fit emergence into the liturgical and theological changes of the post-60’s era, including the most recent incarnation of this, “progressive Christianity,” which takes folks like Marcus Borg and JD Crossan as the theological norm. But I’ve very often found younger Episcopal clergy who affiliate, even loosely, with emergence are “ancient/future” types who take non-fingers-crossed Nicene Orthodoxy as the fundamental ground of the faith and who would rather sing a hymn by St. Ambrose than some late 20th century atrocity. Now, I’m generalizing again but I think it holds. There seem to be very few classic liberal Protestants in emergence, even in those who have a very generous orthodoxy.

      Reply

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