I came into the PCUSA through the emergent movement. Coming from a conservative evangelical background, I followed the emergent movement (before it was called emergent) into an emergent seminary until life circumstances led me to a mainline PCUSA seminary. I feared my emergent postmodern theology would be co-opted by modern mainline constructs, but I found the opposite. My theological imagination went deeper as I read constructive and post-colonial texts and learned to think more critically. Many of the theological and spiritual resources I had been longing for were present in the history and ongoing trajectory of progressive mainline theology.
However, my experience in mainline churches was just the opposite. I felt I had stepped back decades in worship experience, accessibility, and engagement with the world. My struggle went beyond traditional versus contemporary styles. I wondered, where was the imagination I found in the classroom on Sunday morning? How did this exciting theology translate into visible action that invited others outside our communities to participate? Denominational structures and programs felt like an insider’s world that was completely foreign to me.