Does Presbymergent Still Have a Voice in Emergence Christianity?

IMG_9577Back in 2007, many of us Presbyterians were starting to get more and more involved in the Emergent conversation. The question of how to incorporate the Emergent conversation into our Presbyterian ministry contexts became extremely relevant to many of us; thus, the formation of Presbymergent.

We worked with some folks and hosted a conference at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, participated in the Mainline Emergent/s conversation at Columbia Theological Seminary, started hosting Presbymergent gatherings at PC(USA) events and formed a Coordinating Group of Presbyterian pastors and lay people interested in the conversation.

In February of 2009, 30+ Presbyterians gathered in Louisville for a conversation about Presbymergent. I was just looking through a few videos I had taken at the event, and saw how many cool people were in the room together for those couple days, some of which were: Troy Bronsink, John Vest, Landon Whitsitt, Chad Herring, Ryan Kemp-Pappan, Neal Locke, Nanette Sawyer, Carol Howard Merritt, Jud Hendrix, Jan Edmiston, Erik Ledermann, Seth Thomas, Karen Sloan, Jenny Warner and many others.

Unfortunately, shortly after that gathering, it seemed like everyone involved in Presbymergent found their energies going elsewhere.

We’ve kept the website up, and maintained our Facebook & Twitter presence (though, not actively). But I’ve often wondered if Presbymergent still has a voice in this conversation about the future of the church. I think there are other groups now, most notably the NEXT Church folks, who have been active in conversations about the future of the church. I think part of that comes with the financial support the folks involved have been able to get, which is helpful for bringing people together for the national conversations.

And yet…I’ve continued to hear about Presbyterians who, when they hear about or first get exposed to the Emergent conversation, often ask, “Where are the Presbyterians who are engaging with these ideas?” For those of you who have gone through this process, you know it only takes one Brian McLaren book to screw you up.

So, here’s my question. What role does Presbymergent have in the larger Emergent conversation? What about in the larger PC(USA) conversation about the future of the church? What do you think?


  1. The PC(USA) tribe is, for me, a place of potential and often realized refuge and authentic conversation, a community to which I am committed. My growing edge, and I suspect an invitation to the whole church, is to engage in conversation with those of other tribes. So I journey into other “clearings” where I sit around the fire with the so called “other” to hear and allow myself to be changed by the words shared. The invitation is to wake up to others who sing a different song, remember a different story, have different names for the Divine. After such conversations I always return “home” with the gifts I received and share them with “my people”. Here is a poem I wrote about such gatherings:

    The Gathering of the Tribes

    Deep in the forest of inquiry
    separate tribes gathered around
    camp fires in familiar circles of wisdom.

    Lighting a torch from the fires,
    each elder spoke
    with one voice:

    “And this our life exempt from public haunt
    Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks,
    stories in stones and good in everything.”

    It is now time to reach out
    beyond our tribe to join
    this flame with allies who share our vision

    that those dwelling in the shadow
    lands beyond the great divides
    may find that for which they long.

    Let us take this bright torch
    of intention and join with
    our sisters and brothers

    whose fires also burn
    so hot with love
    that dark fear is cast out

    and the whole world
    a little brighter.

  2. Terry Chapman, can I have permission to publish this poem in a blog on Patheos? I LOVE it!

  3. Sure, be glad to share it.

  4. “For those of you who have gone through this process, you know it only takes one Brian McLaren book to screw you up.”

    I read more than one and a sevral by others. Then I read Belcher’s “Deep Church” and it gave me a place to stand. That’s where my heart is now.

  5. What’s the status of Presbymergent? Still in existence? The fact that there are only 4 responses here says something. Didn’t Phyllis Tickle give us like an 18 month window of opportunity… about 2 years ago? I am hoping that the emergence thing is percolating down at “lower” levels of our denomination, ie. congregations. I am glad that the Louisville hierarchy gave so much time at GA to Tickle and Brian McLaren. NextChurch? Can we hear about what may be happening locally? What are the 30+ “cool people” of 2009 up to?

  6. Matthew Moorman says:

    I believe as the PC(USA) continues to dwindle in numbers, those of us who are asking serious questions about the nature of God, Church and humanity in the 21st century will become the undertakers of the church as we know it. I love our mainline tradition, and I believe that means giving it a dignified death and burial. I believe it means helping people within our dying mainline tradition to mourn our loss–the loss of a world that no longer exists, the death of a conception of God that no longer suffices. And I believe it means we wait with baited breath for that which will be resurrected–in a form we might not recognize.

  7. Richard Miller says:

    I am new to Presbymergent. I don’t yet know what it means, nor do I know what “emergent conversation” is all about. I am a Presbyterian minister for a long time and a pastoral counselor for almost as long. I have not been directly involved in parish work for a number of years. I got to this site by googling Presbyterian radicals. I be radical in my approach to most everything, except food… but some would say my cancer diet of 20 years ago was radical. I write on a wide variety of topics, and recently, I was reflecting on my understanding of radical. Would someone let me know if I happened upon friendly ground or not.

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