The Emerging Christian Way: Thoughts, Stories, & Wisdom for a Faith of Transformation
Edited by Michael Schwartzentruber (Kelowna, Copperhouse) 256 Pages
This book is a collection of essays looking at one vision of the future path or the Christian church (perhaps particularly the mainline church). It begins with a chapter by Marcus Borg where he outlines his understanding of an emerging paradigmatic understanding – which he calls Transformation Centered – of how to be the church (as opposed to an earlier paradigm which he calls Belief Centered). This lays out a basis for the “Emerging Christian Way” that the rest of the writers discuss. It is also not new to readers of Borg's work, particularly Heart of Christianity. In reading this chapter I was reminded how much I like Borg. The other chapter in Part One of the book is by Tim Scorer, who invites the reader to participate in an exercise that looks at five ways that faith can help us embrace transformation in looking at a key dilemma or issue in our lives. Interestingly when I was invited to name that key dilemma the first things that came to mind were issues of identity and belonging and acceptance. Some things never change apparently.
Part Two of the book is called “Key Perspectives”.The writers in this section look at creeds (Tom Harpur), the “great work” of our era (Thomas Berry), relationships to nature (Sallie McFague), post-denominationalism (Matthew Fox), multi-faith issues (Bruce Sanguin), inclusion (Anne Squires), and social justice (Bill Phipps). Some were very good – I was surprised how well the Tom Harpur piece resonated with me and could easily affirm his draft creed. Some were disappointing, in particular the last two. Squires' piece on inclusion was very familiar in this United Church that has made inclusion/inclusivity an idol. I agree that we are called to be a place where all are welcome, but that does not mean we need to be a place where everyone will be able to find a spiritual home. But in UCCan circles it is almost a heresy to point out that we are not called to be a spiritual home for every one. Phipps' piece was not something I disagreed with, but was also not new to me and so I had a “been there” feeling.
The third and final part of the book is “Emerging Forms” and is, I think, intended to give some practical advice for living into the emerging Christian way. The chapters here look at worship styles and liturgy (Mark McLean), singing in worship (Bruce Harding), Christian education (Susan Burt), pastoral care –though really focused on spiritual formation not crisis care – (Donald Grayston), and spiritual discernment (Nancy Reeves) before a short concluding essay by the editor to wrap things up. The most challenging piece in here was the chapter by Donald Grayston and his ideas about providing rites of passage (separate from confirmation) for youth. The Bruce Harding piece was good but again not new to me as I have hear Bruce say many of those things before.
All told this was a good read. Probably would make a better read within a group context, preferably with a leadership group/team of a Christian community, so then the group could discuss “what does this mean about how we are a community of faith?” in response to the various chapters.