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“Emerging” vs. “Emergent”

On Sunday night, I spoke with a small group — the young adult ministry at a local church — at the invitation of a long-time friend.  We had a great time.  But I was struck that among the questions was this, posed to me by a young woman: “Someone told me there’s a real difference between ’emerging’ and ’emergent.’  Is that true?

I said, “Well, that depends on what you mean by true…”

Just kidding.  What I really thought is, This used to be an inside baseball conversation, but if vaguely interested laypersons are asking about it, now we’ve really jumped the shark.

I get that this whole thing — emergent vs. emerging — is a meme being repeated by some people who mean well and others who, well, mean less well. But those people are making a huge mistake, methinks, because they are perpetuating the very modern mistake of separation and fragmentation.  This hyper-defining  is no different from the early Methodists saying, “We’re not Anglican,” and the Anglicans saying, “You’re damn right you’re not!”  But what’s interesting to me is how often I’ve lately heard Anglicans say, “We never should have let John Welsey go; that was a real mistake,” and Methodists say, “Too bad we couldn’t have stayed under the umbrella of Anglicanism, because I think we’d be better for it.”

Note well, O Definers, you may define me “out” of emerging or evangelical or orthodoxy, but beware, it’ll be you next.  Drawing lines and defending borders never ends well for the line-drawers because before you know it, someone has drawn a line right behind your heels and, guess what, you’re suddenly on the other side of the line with me.  Line-drawing is yet another form of infinite regression.

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