Faithful Transitions

Becky Garrison: Who is the intended audience for The Great Emergence?

Phyllis Tickle: First, I hope Christians in established denominations find an explanation—and relief—for what’s happening. Every time I talk about a Great Emergence, someone says, “Oh, thank God I didn’t cause this thing.” It’s a social phenomenon and a repeated pattern. I hope emergents themselves will find it informing, and that’s the second part of the audience. The third group, the ones who excite me the most, are those who are al­ready following emerging practices within established denominations and can’t quite figure out where the disconnect is.

What signs are there that we are in the midst of another reformation?

Superimpose everything happening to us on the Great Reformation of 1517. For example, lay the Internet on the printing press, the music Luther used to carry the theology, the science of Copernicus. The Reformation era was characterized by the rise of nation states; now we have the rise of globalization. We’ve gone from a cash-based society to an information society. The social unit has changed—the Protestant Reformation configuration of the nuclear family doesn’t occur now. We’ve gone from hierarchy to globalized networking, from the growth of the middle class to the death of the middle class.

What do you mean by a church “rummage sale”?

Bishop Mark Dyer says this; every religion is subject to incrustation given enough time. Apparently it takes the Abrahamic faiths about 500 years to institutionalize whatever the dominant form is. The religious vigor and passion burst out and scatter. Those pieces are freed of a lot of their burden and become a different form. Catholicism went through the Council of Trent and reconfigured because of the pressures of the Reformation.

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Sojourners Magazine August 2008
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