Seminary Humor

Princeton Seminary has some folks on campus who enjoy poking fun at Christians, both those on campus and Christians in general. Their underground publication is titled "The Whineskin," mocking the official school newsletter, "The Wineskin." In their summer issue, they had the following quip about the so-called "emergent" church. As in all good humor, it is both funny and sadly true, much like Holy Office's theological lexicon which Shane Wilkins quoted.
After several years of new successful churches labeling themselves the "Emerging Church," the quasi-organizational leaders of the movement decided to eschew categorizations and unjustified accusations of institutionalization. Thus in efforts to remain fresh and relevant, they have renamed the national cohort the "Still Emerging Church." Rumors have it that other names are under discussion for the future. They include the "Come on, We're Still Emerging Church," the "Almost Emerged Church," the "Definitely Emerged Church," and the "OK ... Dammit, You Were All Right ... We've Become an Institutional Church Church."


LOL! Once Emergent becomes too problematic for everyone, I suspect we'll see a string of "Radically Orthodox" churches appearing (since academic movements take about 10-20 years to trickle-down into the congregations).
Anonymous said…
The Emerging Church will soon become the The Submerging Church, and, finally, The Submerged Church. Sic transit the ecclesiastical neologism.

A few years back some modernisers in the URC wanted us to identify ourselves as "The Just, Peace Church", presumably to distinguish us from "The Unjust, Violent Church". Marketing - the pits. And managerialism - that's another Trojan horse. The new General Secretary of "Churches Together in Wales" has remodelled himself as the "Chief Executive". The Church of God plc.
I think Radical Orthodoxy remains too much of an academic enterprise (flawed at that). The whole emergent thing arose because of pastors like Brian McLaren who worked from the "bottom-up," whereas R.O. would be a "top-down" movement.
Jeff Kursonis said…
Love your ideas, especially your Magnolia post. But this idea that the "emerging church movement or conversation" is well along is just wacky - it's barely begun. To say it's institutionalized is to me an intellectual misstep or observational failure. Nobody in the pews or on the street has heard of it. Those of us involved in it spend most of our time explaining it to people that have never even heard of it.

This is a way super early time and there are a number of levels it has to spill over into before it is anywhere near being realized. First, many churches need to be planted that are influenced by it. You can count on your hands the number of churches out there, and on one hand the number of big churches.

The growing number of churches that are planted or "conversion churches" will need to create a vacuum for training that will cause all sorts of new educational initiatives - both new style schools and conversions or additions to existing schools.

All sorts of organizations that do passionate/mercy ministries, charitable work, social justice, political activism, etc., etc. need to be created.

And all these things need to be run beyond their founders generation before they will begin to devolve towards institutionalism. They will and then new generations will repeat the cycle.

None of this has happened. Nothing, nada. The most central organization to the movement, Emergent Village - has no office, a miniscule budget, one part time employee, etc. Look at the vast organizations of evangelicalism or mainline, all the property, the money, the academies, the social and political wings - the churches on every corner...that is "institutionalized".

Emergent is just a little sperm and separate little ovum looking for each other - they haven't even "conceived", let alone become an embryo or a baby. I think the conception will be soon though.

Really, really loved the Magnolia post - had to say that again.

Thanks for the comment! I'm glad you liked the Magnolia post. I love that movie, and it always inspires new thoughts and connections to theology and the faith.

You'll notice, of course, that no one is actually calling the emergent movement "institutionalized." That was a quote from a seminary humor publication which is just finding ways to spark some funny thoughts. I don't think anyone actually thinks it has become anything remotely like the mainline denominations. That said, there is an element of truth in the quote, in that there is a strong temptation (which I see, since I serve in what some might call an "emergent" church) within these young churches to view themselves as starting something like a new denomination. Granted, they are nondenominational, but the seeds for a separate ecclesial denomination are definitely in place.

People like McLaren have stressed over and over that they do not want a separate denomination to challenge the mainline churches, and yet it is hard to see beyond the two most prominent options: (1) nondenominational, individual communities only loosely connected to other churches via parachurch organizations (i.e., contemporary evangelical churches with a different theological framework), or (2) a new "emergent" denomination. The first is the way things already are for most of these new churches, but the second is well within the realm of possibility. There are other options, I think, but it all depends on what the leaders of this movement and the individual churches themselves wish to see happen.

So while the humor of this quote should not be forgotten, I think there is a very real situation here: no matter how young and fresh something is, eventually things become institutionalized. Granted, that is many years down the road, but still a possible future reality.