Ryan Bell makes his home with his wife and two daughters in Hollywood, California and is the Senior Pastor of the Hollywood Seventh-day Adventist Church. He writes a blog called intersections, at [This article was pulled from Ryan Bell’s...

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  1. An Emergent Manifesto of Hope, reviewed by Ryan Bell
  2. An Invitation to a Deeper Journey
  3. Podcast Interview Series: Karen Sloan
  4. Listening to our brothers and sisters around the world
  5. Podcast Interview Series: Doug Pagitt
  6. More Recent Articles

An Emergent Manifesto of Hope, reviewed by Ryan Bell

Ryan Bell makes his home with his wife and two daughters in Hollywood, California and is the Senior Pastor of the Hollywood Seventh-day Adventist Church. He writes a blog called intersections, at www.ryanjbell.net

[This article was pulled from Ryan Bell’s review in the July issue of Spectrum Magazine (www.spectrummagazine.org).]

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Emergent Village has always been about friendship, and if the recent book An Emergent Manifesto of Hope is any indication, this friendship is growing and bearing fruit in remarkable ways.

Though this book is the first volume of a publishing partnership between Emergent Village (also known as simply Emergent) and Baker Books, Emergent is far from new. This friendship has been evolving since the mid-1990s and is just now hitting its stride. Emergent self-describes as “a growing, generative friendship among missional Christians seeking to love our world in the Spirit of Jesus Christ.” Through the years, this loose and amorphous network of Christians has defied categorization, but it seems fair to say that the glue that holds this broad friendship together is a shared vision for a theology and practice of Christian life that both blesses the world and gives witness to God’s kingdom, now present and yet to come. I and others have also observed that Emergent is a kind of “third place” for post-Evangelicals and post-Liberals to fellowship and engage in serious conversation about how Christian faith is “emerging” in our increasingly post-Christian world.1

Though this book is organized around the theme of hope, the reader will quickly realize that the diversity of topics and perspectives defy categorization. At times I struggled to understand how the individual essays related to the section themes. Part 5, “Hopeful Activism,” is the most thematically consistent section, while Part 1, “People of Hope,” is the most general, but never mind. Each essay reflects deep theological thought, feet-on-the ground experience of living in God’s kingdom, and unwavering commitment to the gospel of the kingdom and the way this good news takes shape in diverse places.

A pleasant surprise for readers of this journal will be chapter 16, “The Sweet Problem of Inclusiveness: Finding Our God in the Other.” The author of this chapter, Samir Selmanovic, is both a Seventh-day Adventist pastor and a long-time participant and contributor to the Emergent conversation. I first met Samir when we were both pastors on the East Coast and the content of his essay is true my experience of him as a person and as a leader.2

With his characteristic insight, he wonders “whether Christ can be more than Christianity”3 and whether Christianity has become an idol—something greater than God. He reminds us that “Christ never proclaimed, ‘Christianity is here. Join it.’ But Christ did insist, ‘The kingdom of God is here. Enter it.’”4 In short, Samir, like all the authors in this volume, rather than railing against a faith and a church that somehow let them down, is calling the church to her better self. While the topics range from “postmodern parenting” to sexual ethics and from leadership to ecclesiology, each essay is, in its own way, faithfully reappropriating our various traditions for a vastly different world.

The other thing to say about this book, from my own personal experience with Emergent Village and from knowing a number of these authors personally from years of meeting together at conferences and other gatherings, is that it is above all honest and real. There are no airs, no pretenses, in these essays. These authors have no burden to make claims for things that are, as yet, unknown. But if you listen carefully to this choir of authors there is a melody that emerges amidst the harmony: a deep conviction that God is at work, here and now, in our world in surprising ways. In the words of Mark Scandrette, “We are recovering from a legacy in which religious experience and devotion have been significantly separated from the domain of everyday life…. Embracing the reality of the kingdom means that everything matters and that all of life is spiritual.”

If there is an organizing principle to this book, it is the word “Hope.” Some have been critical of the word “Manifesto” in the title. I like the evocative nature of these two words colliding: “Manifesto of Hope.” It rings in my ears and enlivens my imagination, like “Waging Peace” or “Loving Babylon.” It is hard to speak into the “noise” of contemporary culture. Hope is a value that has difficulty getting traction in a world full of pain, suffering, and injustice. It sounds like little more than wishful thinking. This book launches a volley into this fray—but it doesn’t incite violence. To the contrary it is a manifestation of hope, inciting goodness, mercy, and justice in communities all over the country and around the world.

This is vintage Emergent Village—creative, forward-looking, messy, exploratory, intelligent, passionate, and missional.

1 For more information about Emergent Village, visit their website at www.emergentvillage.com.
2 Samir blogs at www.faithhousemanhattan.org. At this website you can find both audio and video of Samir speaking on the same topic, “Finding Our God in the Other.”
3 Emergent Manifesto, 192.
4 Ibid.

    

An Invitation to a Deeper Journey

Bmclaren_116x87Brian McLaren was a church planter and pastor for 24 years. Now he is an author, speaker, and networker. You can sign up for his enewsletter and check his schedule at brianmclaren.net.

One of the critiques of the Emergent Manifesto of Hope is that it didn’t go deep enough in any of the subjects it covered. This, I think, is inevitable in a book that tries to bring together many authors. Each of us had one brief chapter to address a topic of personal concern. If we had one person write a book on one topic, he or she could have gone deeper, but then we would have lost the variety of voices and the breadth of topics.

Also, we were trying to mix together experienced writers and new writers. If we had excluded the new writers, something may have been gained, but something more valuable (in my opinion) would have been lost. We have to resist the tendency to create a few “stars” or “sages on stages.” We need to keep bringing more and more voices to the table, and the book attempts to do that.

Another critique is that the book didn’t do much in the way of deep biblical or theological reflection. Again, this is a valid observation, but many of us are working hard at writing other books that contain deeper reflections; this particular book had other purposes. I think book with deeper biblical reflection will be an especially fertile area in the coming years.

For a lot of people, the emergent conversation begins as a matter of pragmatics—changing methods while leaving the message unexamined. Over time, though, we also begin to re-examine our message.

This conversation isn’t, as is commonly asserted, simply a matter of trying to accommodate or water down our message to suite postmodern tastes. Rather, it is an attempt to assess the degree to which the message we inherited had already been watered down by modernity, by colonialism, by consumerism, by racism, by nationalism, and so on. I know from my own experience that it takes a surprising amount of time to begin to see the Bible in fresh ways, and not colored by the particular, inherited lenses. The process is ongoing.

So, the Emergent Manifesto of Hope is what its title says: a hopeful statement that we believe exciting things are emerging and exciting discoveries are waiting to be made. The book doesn’t claim that we have arrived, only that we are so hopeful we’re setting out on a journey together—a journey which all interested people are invited to join.
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Podcast Interview Series: Karen Sloan

This is the fifith interview of this five part interview series. Karen Sloan is interviewed by Doug Pagitt. Karen wrote the "Emergent Kissing," a chapter in An Emergent Manifesto of Hope.

Karen_sloan_manifesto_picKaren Sloan’s Manifesto chapter is about sexual integrity and authenticity. A minister in the Presbyterian Church (USA), she’s a part of the ‘presbymergent’ conversation. She regularly spends time with those in Catholic orders, which she speaks about in the recently released Flirting with Monasticism: Finding God on Ancient Paths.

    

Listening to our brothers and sisters around the world

Bmclaren_116x87Brian McLaren was a church planter and pastor for 24 years. Now he is an author, speaker, and networker. You can sign up for his enewsletter and check his schedule at brianmclaren.net.

Although the Emergent Manifesto of Hope was largely by and for people in the US, it remains inescapably true that we in the US need to listen more than ever to voices from our brothers and sisters around the world.

Fortunately, this is beginning to happen. For example, the recent Amahoro gathering (amahoro-africa.org) marked a milestone in global conversation about faith and mission in the emerging post-modern, post-colonial world.

Even within US borders, there are signs of progress in global listening. In an Emergent Village “emergent/c” email newsletter earlier this year, we posted a beautiful piece by an Asian theologian, and response was grateful and positive. Blogs like those of Sivin Kit , emergentafrica.com, converse.org.au, and emergent-uk.org also strengthen interaction.

For obvious reasons, the internet facilitates this kind of international interaction more than book publishing does, but in the end, I think there’s something better than mediated conversation, whether on paper or screen. Face to face meetings can’t be replaced.
This is costly in terms of time, energy, and travel (as the Apostle Paul knew through his many journeys) but a number of us— in all directions—are making these investments, and relationships are developing.  It’s great to see more and more visits happening and friendships developing as people in one country discover conversation partners in other countries.

The US, because of its wealth and media and politics, easily becomes an echo chamber, and we Americans often engage in monologue and show ourselves unwilling to listen. This is true both in politics and in matters of faith, sadly. There’s a lot of work to be done, and the book acknowledges this need in several places. I hope the book will not be seen as another case of American monologue, but will rather give people in other countries the chance to eavesdrop on what we’re thinking about—and in so doing, stimulate conversations within and among countries around the world.

    

Podcast Interview Series: Doug Pagitt

This is the fourth interview in this five part series. Doug Pagitt is interviewed by David Robertson of Emergent Village. Doug is a co-editor of An Emergent Manifesto of Hope and wrote three section introductions: " A People of Hope," "Communities of Hope," and "A Hopeful Way Forward." Our last interview with Karen Sloan will be posted next Tuesday.

Doug1

Doug Pagitt pastors Solomon's Porch (www.solomonsporch.com) in Minneapolis, writes (www.dougpagitt.com), and seeks seeking to find creative, entrepreneurial, generative ways to join in the hopes, dreams and desires God has for the world.

    

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