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November 27, 2005



i am reminded of the oxford movement in the church of england - it had a great affect, but never became a 'thing unto itself'. i think it is possible for the 'ec' to be an influence on the body of christ without 'selling out' into a list of attributes and distinctives.




The trackback I sent must have fallen of the edge of the digital earth. But I posted an attempted reply to your exellent question at "Will the Emergent Church Become a Denomination?"

My take on emerging things and Emergent in particular is that it fits into the circle of life--as it were. Here's the conclusion.
Church, which is the King James English word for the Greek word ecclesia or assembly, is a gathering of like-minded people. Like clumps of sage in the desert sands, they grow where they can, for as long as they can. Then when conditions no longer support them, they die out. But they leave their seed behind, secure beneath the surface. And when again the desert rains are sucked up into the sand like a sponge, these sleeping seeds germinate, grow, and splash color over the desert with a beauty that's incomparable because of the stark contrast between its blossoms and the drab monotony of the desert floor.

And so will it be with emerging church. It will grow for awhile and flower, bringing beauty to the ecclesiastical desert. But when it grows too large for the supply of living water, it will die into larger buildings and staff, until it too becomes a wasteland of structure. But the seed will remain safe and dormant for a season or more, until again come the storm clouds and the violent thunder and lightening. Then from the violence of a desert storm and the rush of flash floods, will the environment support, once again, the blooms of emerging church.

Keep up the good questioning. We mustn't let the modern corporate church buy up Emergent like some technology startup and put it out of business.



Good thoughts Bill... Sorry the your initial reply fell off the digital flat earth!

The circle of life is good... But, as you conclude, what is important is that what we do is intentional, and we don't just walk into things blindly. The analogy of buying up a start-up is perfect. Just what so many of the oil companies are doing with small green energy innovations.


Granted that I'm in Australia and so very removed from Emergent and the UK/US EC discussions, but much of my conversations around Emergent already uses denominational language.

Emergent in the US already looks, smells, writes like a denomination, although it's not affiliated as one it's hard to see how it's not.

Intersting questions.


Are we un-church/non-church/unseen-church the lowest common denominat...ion?


I think Vineyard has sought to throw off the title of Denomination by referring to itself as an affiliation of churches. But, we all see through such language.

Honestly, I have a lot more hopes for the Emerging Church than just another denomination, and I think there are indications there will be something more.

The first is the reality in the US denomination affiliation (that's a fun phrase to say!) is on the decline. Here in California denominations mean just about nothing except for those who get paid by the various denominations.

The second reality, in my estimation, is that the Emerging Church by nature revolts against a hierarchical structure. This reality means it would be difficult to have any central leadership for a large community let alone a network of large communities.

Third, the money structure of an Emerging Church would never support a denomination. The finances would be poured back into the local community. Thus a central structure could not fund itself.

Fourth, the Emerging Church bunch are welcoming of companions but distrustful of any real guru. I think if McClaren were to assert real ecclesial authority he would be tossed out by most folks.

With a hierarchical power structure anathema to the movement it seems a denomination as we know it cannot come forth. Yet, within a philosophical alignment of various churches there can be a connection, even a vital connection implying a unity of purpose without a path of command.

Recently I had the image of the Emerging Church as similar to the blogosphere. There are seeming leaders who emerge because of expertise or other reasons, who then have an ability to "bless" others by providing links, and thus influence. However, this isn't a regulated system. It's a fluid system, and one which defies older style controls.

This would make Brian McClaren less of a John Wimber and more of a Glen Reynolds (instapundit).

Indeed, like the blogosphere the formation and development of a central controlling body would may come about, but it would in essence destroy the very philosophy it seeks to manage.

The present forms of the Emerging Church may denominationalize, but if the present network does so, it will no longer be Emergent.

However, I doubt this will happen. I think the value of local and fluid leadership is too important to be tossed aside.


Very interesting thoughts Patrick. Thankyou. And I hope you are right. It's just I'm not sure some groups will be able to resist it, and then the inevitable pattern (as described above) rolls out.

I'd agree - I don't think many groups would necessarily join up and become 'affiliated' or whatever, but they might well react against and start calling themselves something else, or stop using the EC words. Not that that's necessarily a bad thing.

How does your situation play out in this?


I'm convinced that the Emerging Church could never grow into a denomination because it's just too diverse (as if that was a bad thing).

When I'm talking about the Emerging Church I'm not talking about “Emergent” US or UK (although they are surely a part of the diversity)
Not even really just "Post-modern Church"

I think the Emerging Church is just so much bigger than what any person can put a finger on or put together a list of, Although I think Andrew Jones (Tallskinnykiwi) probably has one of the best list's or understanding of it around. But because of this bigness both geographically and theologically/philosophically it can’t really ever become a denomination. It probably disagrees within itself far too much become a denomination. And why conversation is such a good term for what is happening much more than maybe movement even. When you think about the breadth of view points from café churches to house churches , simple/organic churches to “Emergent Churches”, Post-modern youth church plants to justice based monastic order’s in poor urban area’s to Alt worship groups in Urban Metropolises. It just not going to happen imho. Too many different opinions, prejudices, preferences and beliefs.

On the other hand I could really easily see Emergent US grow into a Denomination of it’s own over the next 10 years. Probably dispite the best intentions of it’s leader’s. There was time when John Wesley would say "When the Methodists leave the Church, God will leave them." Insiting that all his followers always attend Anglican parish services, and never talk about having their own "ministers" or "churches".
In just the same way as Vineyard and other (non-denomintation movements or networks of church proclaim not be denominations they really are) Emergent in the same way is going the same direction and in some way's is already there and I fear will become less diverse as more and more church's and pastor's look to they're models of church and the teachings of they're books and try and replicate them to fit in and find something new.

Interestingly Steve Addison ( has some really interesting stuff to say on some views on the difference between movements and churches in relationship to church planting movements
“1. Churches vs. Movements
We are quick to call anything that moves a “church planting movement”.
They believe you don’t have a church planting movement until you have four generation of churches—a church that plants churches that plant churches that plant churches”
It made me thing differently about how we think about Emergent in particular as well as the emerging church wider.


Good points there, and I certainly appreciate your worry about denominization here in the States.

A couple of things come to mind. The first is there will certainly be those who try to make some sort of association. We're already seeing this under the banner of various groups and conferences who are less active communities and more attempts to network. The fact is that being a cutting edge movement there are people involved who have less of a heart for the essence involved, and are more interested in finding a new source of authority and power. They would track with whatever movement happened to be going on, trying to manage it so as to bolster their own ego and power structure. These folks may not do this consciously, but it's part of Church history to see fluid movements taken over by rigid thinkers out for authority.

So, people will try.

However, I don't think they will be successful, not even near what even Wimber was able to do. The various gurus are not the founders of the movement or even leaders, they have been adopted as reflecting the values. Any move to control or define, they can just as easily be let go. The diffuse beginnings help keep a diffuse structure.

Also, some of the real leaders of the movement who have started communities have already decided to pass on any sort of hierarchical control. Dieter Zander comes to mind as one key figure who has purposefully distanced himself from anything more than suggestion and advice.

There is also the broader trend in the US of almost entire denominational breakdown. Here in southern California denominations are all but meaningless. This trend is spreading throughout, so to have a denomination form within a context where denominations as entities have been lessening for two decades is extremely unlikely.

Not that people won't try to assert influence or authority. They just won't be able to get their hands around the movement enough to be more than a subset.

The key to Emerging Churches, in my estimation, is a complete reordering of the power structures. Denominations are formed from an already existent hierarchy. This theologically deduced hierarchy, whether it starts with a mega-pastor, priest, bishop or other lead, then expands into a denomination as the movement expands. More people mean more bureacracy.

The EC, however, breaks down the hierarchical structure almost completely. I don't think hierarchy has anything to catch on, even if people try to assert such for themselves.

Wesley is a wonderful example, not least because the EC echoes much of the early Methodists. However, when we think of Methodism we have to think of Wesley. Indeed Wesley for all his good qualities was rather obsessive about control. He developed a hierarchy and thus a hierarchy persisted. The EC has no such founder, and no such structure to build upon. The diffusion of authority is almost the very definition of the Church.

In my situation I found that the proto-EC church I attended slowly became non-EC. It was started in the late 80s, and went through the various adaptations as it discovered the movement. Then the head pastor left to go to WillowCreek, leaving the Church in the hands of others. For various reasons these others drifted away from the core values, partially in their increasing assertion of authority. They created a strong hierarchy, and the church transitioned from being one of the most dynamic congregations in the state to becoming mediocre and no different than any church around.

Sad, but a very good lesson to watch.


I've always marvelled at how well my non-church mates grasp what our "murdered" church has done to itself,and understand the hwy. But, conversely, the same people were asking me what we are all doing now, and when I explained that we dont have meetings thy were kind of downcast, thinking I was lacking something now cos they envied my community. This made me pause for a bit wondering whether having no meetings is so hot? Then it came to me, I said, well you can start something up,and we'll all attend, how does that sound.

They will get back to me soon... at last, church-meetings initiated by non-christians!

(this is probably in the wrong section.... well, if u will make these open forums,yer gonna get all sorts of disorganisation!)

hmmm.... denomination v's disorganisation.
oh, and my 9 year old asked what a "DEMONination" is. LOL.LOL.LOL.

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