Skip to main content

Both progressive and emerging?

The Sactus1 video has made me think about an issue that's been rolling around in my head for a while: is it possible to be both progressive and emerging? In other words is it possible to be radical in content as well as in style?

Look at someone like John Shelby Spong: pretty radical in what he says, yet he still wears the dog-colar and purple shirt of a bishop. He looks entirely like a bishop.

Similarly in Unitarian congregations: the theology might be off the wall, heresy of heresy, yet the minister may will still be in a black preaching robe looking terribly formal, there is much resistance if you don't wear a suit (I've experienced it, though it's always been in good humour), we have hymns and organs and pews and everything about our form is terriblly formal and traditional.

But go to the congregation where the preacher is in jeans and a T shirt, where there is a jolly informality, or even where there are people with nose-rings and green hair, then the theology, the message is usually conservative, or at least orthodox. The emerging church, for all its radicalism, is still orthodox in its theology (as Ben is at pains to point out).

Is it possible then to be radical in both form and content? Is it possible to have a christology influenced by Marcus Borg and a ecclesiology influenced by Dan Kimball? I hope so, because ultimately that is the kind of church I'd want to belong to. More than that I think its the kind of church that would have the power to become a dynamic religious force in this country. I would hope it would be the church of the future. Yet where is it? Perhaps it is up to me and you (if you agree with me) to create it.


Anonymous said…
I'm certain that it's possible. But is it wanted?

I'm under the distinct impression, that most Unitarian congregations are quite old, and traditional. Most emergent church congregations are young. I think if that's the sort of church you want (at least in spirit) you're going to have to recruit it yourself.

It's not minister's role to drag people to places that they don't want to go. Gentle pressure over a long period of time might be possible though.
Anonymous said…
It will be possible, but we need to disengage Unitarianism from its traditional building based congregational roots and focus on new congregations where this new form can be established. I don't think there is any point gently persuading people who are wedded to Chapel buildings which will never be conducive to new forms of church. The churches where it is easiest to lead alternative worship are those without the usual restrictions on (and ownerships of) space. The church where I get away with most has no pews, can cope with singing stuff that's not in the green book, and aren't massively surprised when I start a small fire during the service.

However, I'm a big style iconoclast regarding buildings, and I know you won't agree with me Stephen!
Pastor said…
Great question! I posted a link to your blog and this post over at Religion Is A Queer Thing.
Yewtree said…
I tend to think that the "hymn sandwich" is a handrail for the mind, so that you can get all those radical ideas out into the open. But one can gradually introduce more radical stuff, as long as people can see why it might be beneficial.

Mel, I want to come to something where you start a small fire! I've seen you start a metaphorical one, now I want to see an actual one.

Popular posts from this blog

From liberalism to radicalism

I've been reflecting recently on the journey I've been making from liberalism to radicalism, and how I'm beginning to see it as a necessary evolution if you're not going to get stuck in a kind of immature liberalism that fails to serve both you and the world. By liberalism I mean ideas and movements that emphasise personal freedom and not being restricted by the patterns of the past. By radicalism I mean ideas and movements that emphasise justice, solidarity, and liberation from oppression. Yes, I'm using broad categories here. Let me give an example. Let's talk about sexual liberation in a Western context for example. We can talk about women getting more agency over their bodies; gay and bi people being able to have sex with one another and marry one another; we can talk about the work of overcoming shame around sexuality. All of that is liberalism. It's good stuff. It's still ongoing. So we might ask the question "where next for sexu

Am I an activist?

  I remember being at some protest outside the Senedd once, and someone introduced me to someone else, and said, "Stephen is an activist." I remember thinking - am I? I don't know. What does it mean to be an activist? Who gets to use that title? Am I an activist because I turn up at a few protests? Or do I have to be one them organising the protest to be an activist? Do I have to lead? Do I have to do the organisational work to be an activist? Because the truth is that since I moved to Cardiff I have kept myself at the periphery of a lot of activist groups. I go to meetings, I hear about things, I turn up at protests, but I have rarely got really fully involved. Why is that? It's not for the reason that I don't have time. I do, in fact. But often I sit in these meetings and protests and think "Is this effective? Is it worthwhile? Is it going to produce something at the end of it all that is worth the effort?" I suppose, coming from the world of church I

LOST and theology: who are the good guys?

***Spoiler alert*** I'm continuing some theological/philosophical reflections while re-watching the series LOST. One of the recurring themes in LOST is the idea of the "good guys" and the "bad guys." We start the series assuming the survivors (who are the main characters) are the "good guys" and the mysterious "Others" are definitely bad guys. But at the end of series 2 one of the main characters asks the Others, "Who are  you people?" and they answer, in an extremely disturbing way, "We're the good guys." The series develops with a number of different factions appearing, "the people from the freighter" "the DHARMA initiative" as well as divisions among the original survivors. The question remains among all these complicated happenings "who really are the good guys?" I think one of the most significant lines in the series is an episode when Hurley is having a conversation with