Saturday, August 28, 2010

Book Review: The Great Emergence

The Great EmergenceThe Great Emergence by Phyllis Tickle

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I am admittedly a little late to this book,, but in my defense most reading fell by the wayside during my own great emergence.

At just 165 pages there is no way Phyllis Tickle can take on the fullness of the topic of the Great Emergence, BUT I did find this book very helpful in beginning my own process of understanding what is going on and why and how it has happened before. The mark of a good book may very well be how many other reading suggestions you take from it and my queue of books about the Emergent movement now forms to the left. Next up? Moltmann... but I digress.

I found the time this book takes to restate history is time well spent. Admittedly, no one would confuse me for a scholar, but some of the connections Tickle made were needed to shed light on where we are in the arch of history. I have so many friends and colleagues who define themselves by using the term 'emergent' that it was helpful to know where in the spectrum that falls and how, in a way, this shift in religion and culture is repeating history.

Three other things I found especially helpful:
1)The dichotomy between believe-behave-belong (mainline) vs. belong-behave-believe (emergent). p. 159
2) Resistance to a new movement is actually needed. p. 139
3) When an emergence occurs, the standard bearer (my phrase) improves. p. 17

I am the Head of Staff (old model) of a large, traditional (it's all relative) congregation in the PCUSA (mainline). There are a lot of great things going on at the church, but there is nothing anyone would confuse for 'emergent'. That said, we are mission oriented and a wonderful community and growing! Where do we fit in?

I like where the emergent movement is going as long as it doesn't throw out everything in order to get there. Let's not throw out the baby with the baptismal water. I think Tickle's book and analysis leaves room for both and I greatly appreciated the opportunity to review the facts in the case for the Great Emergence when so much of the rhetoric surrounding it is riddled with post-modern vs. traditionalist angst.


Jules said...

I'm not a fan of the "throw the baby out" model either. That's why I gravitate more towards Carol Howard Merritt's approach. But I recently read Tickle and it shed a lot of light on what the Emerg-y folk are doing and helped me to understand my own stance on what is happening in the mainline.

Now, whenever The Spirit sees fit to help me find a place to work all this...

Now would be nice.

Martha Hoverson said...

I really enjoyed the Church History review. I do think Tickle overlooks some of the major tension points of religion today, and maybe that reflects the way I see them ignored by the male "leadership" of Emergent, particularly the role of women in church and society and the acceptance of LGBT people. Those are *the* rifts in both mainline and evangelical Christianity. To me they are at the heart of what God is bringing forward, so how can you simultaneously emerge and ignore them?