A few weeks ago, I wrote a “post-op” piece on the recent “Wild Goose Festival” that included a variety of reports about how the conference went. It turned out to be a kind of would-be-Woodstock for Emergent church types. The speaker line-up was a list of progressive all-stars: Brian McLaren, Jim Wallis, Shane Claiborne, Tony Jones, and many others. Musicians included Derek Webb, Jennifer Knapp, and others. A reporter from The Economist said that about 1,500 people showed up, and they included “artists and musicians, nonconformists, post-Christians, non-Christians, disaffected evangelicals and a liberal evangelical subset known as the ’emergent’ church.”
Recently I came across another report on the conference that I that was particularly interesting. This one comes from Brandon Morgan, who was invited by Roger Olson to write on Olson’s blog about his experience at the Wild Goose Festival. Morgan is a participant in the emergent church and a leader of “The Void Collective,” yet his take on the Festival and the entire Emergent “conversation” is pretty critical. There is nothing in his critiques that hasn’t been said before, but these remarks are worth noting because they come from an insider. Here’s a piece of what Morgan wrote:
Upon returning from the Wild Goose festival, I felt that the festival was, among others things, a blatant attempt to show how well Emergent folks and mainline folks get along (particularly regarding the LGBTQ community) and how they generally have the same enemies (conservative evangelicals)…
Have Emergent folks succeeded in transcending the evangelical-progressive division in American Protestantism. Have they formulated a holistic theological approach able to include the benefits of both sides and jettison the negative aspects? Some may question whether this is actually the goal of Emergent folks. If this is not their goal, at least peripherally, then my personal understanding of being involved with the Emergent conversation is perhaps questionable. But more importantly, if this is not at least a tertiary goal, then my question is: why haven’t Emergent folks joined the mainline denominations? Why have the negatives of evangelicalism been so easy to describe and virulently rebuke, while the negatives of the mainline denominations have barely shown up in Emergent concerns?…
Another issue is the inclusion of the LGBTQ community. Many Emergents unquestionably advocate the way Mainlines have dealt with this issue, which is to see the church as a tool for social justice in America whose goals, therefore, tend to be ineradicably tied to the maneuverings and structures of the American nation-state. While I have deeply sympathetic opinions about the LGBTQ community and its relationship to the church, and while I also have my opinions about economic investment in Emergent projects, my more fervent concern is to ask if Emergent folks are really going to question the Mainline denominations’ political and theological liberalism in a similar way they criticize evangelicalism’s theological and political conservatism. If not, then it’s a question whether or not Emergent folks have anything new to offer to American Protestantism.
Read the rest here.
(HT: Scot McKnight)