Abstract: The Emerging Church Movement (ECM) is a primarily Western religious phenomenon, identifiable by its critical ‘deconstruction’ of ‘modern’ religion. While most prominent in North America, especially the United States, some of the most significant contributors to the ECM ‘conversation’ have been the Belfast-based Ikon Collective and one of its founders, philosopher Peter Rollins. Their rootedness in the unique religious, political and social landscape of Northern Ireland in part explains their position on the ‘margins’ of the ECM, and provides many of the resources for their contributions. Ikon’s development of ‘transformance art’ and its ‘leaderless’ structure raise questions about the institutional viability of the wider ECM. Rollins’ ‘Pyrotheology’ project, grounded in his reading of post-modern philosophy, introduces more radical ideas to the ECM conversation. Northern Ireland’s ‘Troubles’ and ‘marginal’ location provides the ground from which Rollins and Ikon have been able to expose the boundaries of the ECM and raise questions about just how far the ECM may go in its efforts to transform Western Christianity.
Abstract: The emergent church movement has fashioned itself as an alternative for Christians who do not want to walk away from their faith, but feel uncomfortable with the dogmatic conservatism found in mainstream evangelicalism. The emerging church movement has portrayed itself as diverse and inclusive, which is a direct result of evading ingroup-outgroup boundaries. However, despite the desire for a plurality of opinions, the movement’s leaders have been known to take political positions that are largely left-leaning. We use the first dataset known to gather this identity from a sample of Protestant clergy, and assess whether denominationally connected emergent church clergy do, in fact, present a distinctive political profile. Emergent clergy are what they say they are—diverse and inclusive—while they are, on average, more liberal than nonemergent clergy in the sample.
Publisher’s Description: The Emerging Church Movement (ECM) is a creative, entrepreneurial religious movement that strives to achieve social legitimacy and spiritual vitality by actively disassociating from its roots in conservative, evangelical Christianity and ”deconstructing” contemporary expressions of Christianity. Emerging Christians see themselves as overturning outdated interpretations of the Bible, transforming hierarchical religious institutions, and re-orienting Christianity to step outside the walls of church buildings toward working among and serving others in the ”real world.”
Drawing on ethnographic observations from emerging congregations, pub churches, neo-monastic communities, conferences, online networks, in-depth interviews, and congregational surveys in the US, UK, and Ireland, Gerardo Marti and Gladys Ganiel provide a comprehensive social scientific analysis of the development and significance of the ECM. Emerging Christians are shaping a distinct religious orientation that encourages individualism, deep relationships with others, new ideas about the nature of truth, doubt, and God, and innovations in preaching, worship, Eucharist, and leadership.
Abstract: In the United States and elsewhere, many religious organizations have adopted structures, mechanisms, and ideologies that can be understood through the concept of corporatization. More than a process, corporatization creates a schema through which social relationships are structured and particular values and beliefs are emphasized (particularly, the valorization of the consumer). The authors of the present article draw on Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari’s conceptualization of ‘lines of flight’ to illustrate how the Emerging Church, a new religious movement, has leveraged the discontinuities within corporatization. The participants of this movement do so in order to resist institutionalizing systems that rigidify and indoctrinate participants. The authors use ethnographic field methods to demonstrate how Emerging Church participants rely on the tropes of ‘messiness’ and ‘conversation’ to embrace a radical contingency, to foster dialogue, and to avoid adopting rigid, rationalized systems of meaning.
Excerpt: ‘Marcia Pally’s post tracks the important fact that contemporary American evangelical social and political engagement is fragmenting. She rightly observes that such fragmenting is not historically novel, and is a self-consciously critical response to the power of the Religious Right.
To read of “robust polyphony” among evangelicals was especially welcome to me, as I addressed this phenomenon in a recent ethnography, Emerging Evangelicals (NYU Press, 2011). As a cultural anthropologist, I explored the identities fashioned, practices performed, histories claimed, institutions created, and critiques waged among evangelicals influenced by the Emerging Church movement. Pally’s astute analysis returned me to a question I stopped short of fully developing: does fragmentation equal change?
While it is clear that evangelicalism is diversifying, it is unclear what this amounts to. We see voting blocs split, financial donations broaden, volunteer labor disperse, and moral-political agendas expand. But, do these fragmentations signal tectonic, hard-wired, all-bets-are-off cultural change? Or, is it more superficial (which is not to say unimportant or not deeply felt) social change? Do electoral politics and other shifting forms of activism amount to fundamental change, or merely changing patterns of action?’
Publisher’s Description: The Emerging Church movement developed in the mid-1990s among primarily white, urban, middle-class pastors and laity who were disenchanted with America’s conservative Evangelical sub-culture. It is a response to the increasing divide between conservative Evangelicals and concerned critics who strongly oppose what they consider overly slick, corporate, and consumerist versions of faith. A core feature of their response is a challenge to traditional congregational models, often focusing on new church plants and creating networks of related house churches.
Drawing on three years of ethnographic fieldwork, James S. Bielo explores the impact of the Emerging Church movement on American Evangelicals. He combines ethnographic analysis with discussions of the movement’s history, discursive contours, defining practices, cultural logics, and contentious interactions with conservative Evangelical critics to rethink the boundaries of “Evangelical” as a category. Ultimately, Bielo makes a novel contribution to our understanding of the important changes at work among American Protestants, and illuminates how Emerging Evangelicals interact with the cultural conditions of modernity, late modernity, and visions of “postmodern” Christianity.
Abstract: In this article, I examine how urban missional evangelicals in the United States cultivate a sense of place. Being “missional” refers to the desire to be a missionary in one’s own society, an idea that has spread widely through the Emerging Church movement. Proceeding from an ethnographic analysis of two urban pastors, I argue that being an urban missional evangelical means having an intricate, nuanced, but ultimately mediate sense of place. Grounded in a cultural logic that seeks distance from suburban evangelicalism, the urban missional sense of place exists as a lived critique of modernity, which I explore through Mary Douglas’s classic analysis of purity and danger.
James Bielo (2011) “City of Man, City of God: The Re-Urbanization of American Evangelicals” City and Society 23(s1):2-23
Abstract: In post-World War II America, U.S. Evangelicalism became a religion deeply entrenched with suburbanization and commercial sprawl. This article examines the growing phenomenon of middle-class white Evangelicals who are returning to the city. Since September 2008 I have conducted ethnographic fieldwork with nearly 100 Evangelicals in the post-industrial, Rust Belt cities of Cincinnati, Hamilton, and Middletown. I argue first that Evangelical re-urbanization is structured by two cultural logics: a biting cultural critique of suburban megachurches, and a desire for the “reconciliation” of urban life to “the kingdom of God.” Second, re-urbanized Evangelicals necessarily encounter the dilemmas of late modern urbanism, including structural processes like neighborhood gentrification. I stress the importance of this phenomenon for both the impact of religion on America’s cities and the impact of urban restructuring on American religion.