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July 09, 2005

Tensions in the Changing Face of Church

Andrew Jones offers a thoughtful reflection on the changing tensions in the church today over at Tall Skinny Kiwi. While he defines these tensions as part of the emerging church movement, I think they reflect a broader tension than between two institutional ways of looking at church.

Jones writes:
I have noticed there is still a lot of tension in the relationship between emerging church and the traditional church. Not as much as you think, but there is certainly a lot of heated discussion, mud-slinging and tabloid criticism. There is even the threat of physical abuse and organizations withdrawing favor, or young people leaving their denominations and starting fresh expressions of church without the blessing of their elders. Not good! The emerging church is called to be a reconciling community and part of that reconciliation must happen in the realm of communication.

The points he makes are valid and certainly real tensions, but on the one hand I'm not sure whether they are so easily broken into the two groups he defines. A large part of what he defines as emerging has been my practice in ministry for over 10 years, perhaps with increasing emphasis, but not without abandoning the "other side". The future calls us to find the link between the two and give practical application to the tension.

I like to see the concept of emerging through the lens of tree growth: each new layer emerging through the previous, bearing many of its characteristics, but giving it new shape and new identity, and new strength. To create artificial distinctions between the two increases the capacity to create warfare and disagreement, demonising the other, rather than examining for strength and insight.

These tension points have been around the church for over a decade, and perhaps it is that in the emerging scene they are grappling with it without necessarily having the historical journey... a tree needing to discover its roots?

Nonetheless, the points of tension are worth reflecting upon from the perspective of balance within one's community.

Posted by gary at July 9, 2005 01:01 PM


thanks gary

i agree - we are dealing with a false barrier (an enemy has done this!) and seeing the church as one body is the way to go.
I am still proud to be Baptist and to work alongside and inside many old traditional institutions as well as cheering on the new movement on the fringe.


Posted by: andrew jones at July 12, 2005 08:46 PM

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