The Common Good

What Is Happening Is Bigger Than Emergent

[Read more of this blog conversation in response to the Sojourners article "Is the 'Emerging Church' for Whites Only?"]

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Julie Clawson invited me and a bunch of other people to participate in a synchroblog today to address the question "What is Emerging in the Church?" I hesitated to post because I often feel left out when I listen in on emergent church conversations because I don't enjoy reading non-fiction, especially if it's Christianity-related, and so I never got a handle on all the philosophical and theological lingo. The reason I decided to participate, however, is that Julie is organizing this synchroblog specifically to get a diverse perspective on the whole emerging church thing (e.g. perspectives other than those of the white male middle-class which some claim dominates the conversation). I figured I would add to the diversity, and not because I'm Asian and female, but because I've remained on the fringe of the conversation.

I spent most of my life in fundamentalist, evangelical, or charismatic churches. I left the Church with a capital C for a few years when I reached 30. I now identify with Quakers but have never attended a meeting and am part of a small United Methodist church. I think the vast majority of the congregation don't know what the emergent church is. Most of them have never heard of Brian McLaren or Doug Pagitt or Tony Jones. Our pastor was emergent before she even knew there was such a conversation going on. I would also surmise that many of those who are active in our church community do not know what it means to be Methodist as opposed to being Presbyterian (I know I don't). I couldn't tell you what so-and-so believes about original sin or hell or heaven or even Jesus himself. There are those who do not identify as Christian. And yet, we come together and choose to be a part of each other's lives because we know we are better for it. We openly claim our lack of certitude, and yet we can feel that there is something in our midst that is worth being a part of that is beyond belief or theology.

I believe that there are many other churches and faith communities (like mine) who are clueless about emergent church goings-on, but are still asking similar questions and having similar conversations as those who officially identify with the Emergent church with a capital E. I believe what is happening is bigger than Emergent because it is not something that those within the conversation are manufacturing on their own just because they happen to be wiser or more progressive than others. It is this bigger story that is emerging which keeps me connected and hopeful that someday those who follow the way of Jesus will finally be known by their love.

portrait-sarah-jiSarah-Ji is a Chicago-based photographer who collects visual stories and souvenirs wherever she goes. She contributes to Shutter Sisters and Kimchi Mamas and posts slices from her everyday life on

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