“Okay, but what IS Emergent?” “Yes, I get that, but what does Emergent believe?” These are all questions that those of involved with Emergent hear all the time. So, naturally, one would think that Emergent should come out with a Doctrinal Statement, a Statement of Faith that would finally make it clear exactly what Emergent believed, especially on certain doctrines and certain social issues.
But that’s not going to happen [Emergent does have 4 values that they believe to be important, and you can find those here]. I’ve heard many people who are involved with Emergent say that it would totally go against the ethos of Emergent to do that. One of the primary ways to describe Emergent is to say that it’s a conversation. And as soon as you draw those theological lines on the ground, you’ve set up a conversation that is then only open to those who espouse those certain beliefs. The conversation becomes limited and more homogeneous.
I understand that. I have had Emergent leaders explain that to me and it makes sense, but…it’s hard too. I have, for a long time, said that for Emergent, the issue of women in ministry should completely be a non-issue (I have the same desire for any denomination or Christian today). I would hope that we could move beyond the times when we’re reading scripture in such a way that we would think that women were created differently than men when it comes to having the gifts and abilities to serve God in ministry. I feel the same way about my belief and acceptance of the idea of ordination for the LGBT community (obviously this is incredibly more highly controversial than the topic of women in ministry, but equally important). But, for some people who are in the Emergent conversation, they are still wrestling with these issue, and I know that those in Emergent want the Emergent conversation to be a place that is safe for them to ask questions, and to admit that they don’t know what they think about the issue. I understand that.
But there is of course the flip-side to that. There are the people for whom the question of women in ministry is so important to them, perhaps so central to their identity, that they are not going to want to be part of a conversation that doesn’t automatically just make that issue a non-issue. It seems that on the one side you’d be excluding some more conservative Evangelicals, and on the other side, you’re excluding those from the more Mainline/progressive denominations.
And I don’t really know what to do with this. I want people from all backgrounds to feel comfortable at the table of conversation with Emergent. I think that it has much to offer people from all different traditions. But I still wrestle with issues and questions that I think are so important, that affirm or deny humanity, like the issue of women in ministry, that should simply be non-issues.