Quick intro to emerging church

In my last pastorate, I called PBS’s Religion & Ethics Newsweekly the “farm report” since it was some news I needed just before leaving to go to church Sunday mornings.

For a change, I was looking forward to a particular story that was getting a lot of buzz on emerging-church blogs about the emerging church itself. I’d recommend it, and while you’re there the stories on TM and Maharishi University and a feature on journalistic ethics are quite good too.

I’m not fully sold on emerging church-iana in part because it comes out of American Evangelicalism, and that’s not my experience of Christianity. (As a thirtysomething whitish guy with facial hair, I could pass, though. Note to self: get more fashionable eyeglasses.) It does, however, seems to drift towards a third point — I’ll call it now “Protestant catholicism” until something better comes up — that some Liberal Protestants kinda drift towards. An example of this phenomenon is the Episcopal Church being the de facto “second church” of so many Unitarian and Universalist Christians. Why them, and not the Brethren or Quakers? I’d daresay there is more of a link with the Episcopalians than even the UCC, and if would be interesting to see where the last generation of UU Christian ministers “who got away” went.

But I’m getting off course.

The article — there’s a second part next week — can be read or watched in streaming video online. If you need a quick primer on the phenomenon, this is the resource I’d choose. It is also a good resource for non-Christian Unitarian Universalists who need some perspectives of the inner workings of American Evangelicaism, so as to explode the monolith theory that so many seem to carry around.

The Emerging Church, Part One

By Scott Wells

Scott Wells, 46, is a Universalist Christian minister doing Universalist theology and church administration hacks in Washington, D.C.


  1. My guess regarding Quakers: I assume that UU Christians probably don’t want the evangelical brand of Quakerism. The liberal brand might not be Christian-identified enough and there is no ritual (other than sitting in silence :)).

  2. Scott, ran accross this in my research for a Humiliati section for research I am doing about worship. I wonder, were Universalists the FIRST to engage the “emergent church” movement?????? See below:

    Check out: http://www.uua.org/uuhs/duub/articles/humiliati.html
    For the origins of Emergent Universalism!

    Under Ziegler’s leadership and much influenced by the teachings of two Tufts professors, Clarence Skinner and Bruce Brotherston, the Humiliati developed a distinct theological position. They called it “emergent Universalism” which they described as at once “functional, naturalistic, theistic and humanistic.” They moved away from Clarence Skinner’s emphasis on the Social Gospel, having becoming convinced that growth and renewal of the spirit must precede ministerial social action. They retained Skinner’s insistence that religion should be functional; that is, integrated into the rest of life, including matters of social justice. Central to their thinking was Brotherston’s “impulse theology” which posited a hunger of the spirit in every living thing, expressed as an urge toward wholeness. They deemed their articulation of this natural and sacred “impulse” consistent with Hosea Ballou’s statement that “God has a good intention in every volition of man,” or, as Ballou also said, “Every individual always does what he deems best for himself at that moment.”

    Cheerfully, Roger Kuhrt

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