In the first part of this article (found in Fuller Seminary’s “Theology, News and Notes” Fall 2008 issue) I explore the similarities between the Emergent Presbyterians and the character Harold Crick, played by Will Farrell in the movie Stranger than Fiction. Crick overhears his narrator describing his “imminent death” and reacts with dismay screaming out loud, “What? What? Hey! HELLOOO! What? Why? Why MY death? HELLO? Excuse me? WHEN?”. In the PC(USA) Book of Order we are reminded that the church is itself “the provisional demonstration of… the new reality revealed in Jesus Christ [which] is the new humanity…” (G-3.0200 italics added). The church is “called to undertake this mission even at the risk of losing its life, trusting in God alone as the author and giver of life, sharing the gospel, and doing those deeds in the world that point beyond themselves to the new reality in Christ.” (G-3.0400). While I am a minister in the PC(USA) I have only come to Presbyterianism in the past 10 years. Newer to this whole thing, I tend to deal a little differently with the bad news of our imminent death. I get to be like the viewer in the film, and less like Harold Crick. I guess you could say I see it coming. But that doesn’t keep me from stretching into the life that is mine, and leaning into the script with all the more courage and passion. By the end of the film (SPOILER ALERT), Harold gets to read the script. He sees the poetry in his own ending and he is faced with the choice of leaning into that masterpiece with his very life. And this, I think, is what Mainline Emergents are doing everywhere.
I was asked by Ryan Bolger co-author of Emerging Churches: Creating Christian Community in Postmodern Cultures, to write a theological reflection on the Presbyterian perspective of the oxymoron of “mainline emergence” for Fuller Seminary’s “Theology News and Notes.” I have to begin by prefacing that a similar phenomena is happening in other religions including Judaism as well as many other denominations including our ecclesiastical siblings the Disciple, the PCA, and the EPC. Perhaps discovering others in this Emergence will be more an opportunity for reconciliation and integration and less an opportunity for division amidst an already small tribe. This, at least, has been the fruit of my friendship with Emergent Village, a generative friendship of Missional leaders of all stripes, ideologies, and denominations.