Yee Haw

Written by Mark Van Steenwyk : May 19, 2005

I’m blogging from Nashville.  My friend Jeff and I are at the Emergent Convention.  Yeah, I know…why would I be at the EC, when I gripe so much about Emergent? Well, three reasons: 1) Jeff has been persistently bugging me to go with him. 2) I realized that I needed to be more open minded and converstant with Emergent as I challenge some of the problems within Emergent. 3) Jeff and I want to promote the Consumerism conference a bit. 

I’ve been pretty impressed with how open and warm the leadership of Emergent has been.  The idea that they are only a bunch of pissed off people who hate Evangelicalism no longer applies (if it really ever has).

However, I’ve noticed that there is a clear inner circle…there are high priests of the movement…if you aren’t an insider, then your chances of becoming one is difficult.  This is a problem.  It is hard not to have an inner circle…but having one seems to be at odds with the Emergent ethos. 

I was impressed by the number of women (perhaps 30%).  WHile that might not sound impressive, it is above the number of women who are statistically involved in church leadership.  Emergent has been helpful overall in empowering evangelical women for leadership.  Much more can be done, but progress is happening.

However, almost everyone was white.  This is a clear problem.  I don’t blame Emergent for making things that way, but it is incumbent upon them to bring about change.  The general style and approach Emergent has towards ecclesiology and ministry is much more accessible to middle class whites.  If I were part of the leadership of Emergent, I would work hard to build bridges in various ethnic religious communities and ask them to join the conversation…to the point of getting on my knees and begging them. 

Just a few thoughts from Nashville.

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7 Responses to “Yee Haw”

  1. jeremy on May 19th, 2005 2:51 pm

    Going to a convention you’re not interested in so you can plug your own convention sounds a lot like “networking” in the business-model/consumerism sense of the word. [wink]

  2. Gregg Schacher on May 19th, 2005 7:24 pm

    How’s the food with the emergers? Do the high priests eat like kings? I hope they’re not serving White Castle a la carte…

  3. Anonymous on May 21st, 2005 1:18 pm

    Mark, I was thinking about the confrences (both emergent and consumer culture confrence). Two thoughts came to mind:
    #1 It seems that a good confrence must embody much more than good speakers. It seems that in order to make a confrence worth the 300 dollars + travel expenses and time, it must offer something that one could not get through reading a book or listening to a recorded talk. I have been to conferences where I would have been better off reading books by the speakers rather than wasting my money to hear the same thing from authors behind a podium. I am wondering what ways Emergent may or may not move beyound good lectures that one could absorb through books and tapes, and into the territory of a confrence where people are truely confering with once another. In reguards to the consumer culture comfrence it would seem to your advantage that the important confering aspect of a gathering should happen more naturally in a smaller setting.

  4. Anonymous on May 21st, 2005 1:21 pm

    #2 The second thought I had while at work today while thinking about your statement on American mega churches as the was a question about consumer culture and cultural communication style. This might not make sense, but I am wondering what aspects of consumer culture functions as our language in the sense that consumer culture forms a canvas for our interpersonal/cultural interchanges. An anthem of the seeker movement was to “speak the language of the people who we are reaching out to”, in what ways might the mega church be meary communicating its message more effectivly than earlier evangelicals by better understanding the cultural meta-language. While some might say that the consumerist language needs to be redeemed, On my more heretic prone days, I might be so bold as to suggest there is something foundationaly wrong with the message itself. Today, is seems true, the media is the message, but I’m not sure I’m evangelical enought to think that the Christian mission is either message or media. Sorry, that veered off topic, The original question: Is consumerism a cultural meta-language that can be used for both good and evil?

  5. Anthony on May 21st, 2005 7:03 pm


    I have been hearing some good things about the conference. I have to admit though I do struggle with the ethnic diversity issue. But it seems that there are more people coming to the table. I hope to be able to go to one of these conferences in the near future. I may be the only spot in the room but I think I’ll be ok.

    Thanks for the report.


  6. Van S on May 22nd, 2005 3:27 am

    Ant…I am hopeful. I think Emergent and other folks are desiring diversity more and more. People are begining to realize that we have so much to learn about our faith and to try to see it through one lens is foolish and anemic.

    To the anonymous question-asker: We should be careful about using the language of consumption. I think it could have some uses, but only if we are able to consitently challenge and confront some of its darker shades. I would be open to “redeeming” the language of consumption, but currently we are utilizing it without much critique, and it is taking the “good” out of the “good news.”

  7. on June 2nd, 2005 11:27 am

    becoming a multiracial church, part 5

    Last weekend at The Vine, I was part of a panel discussion on racial reconciliation. I read excerpts from my blog posts on becoming a multiracial church. It was a good mix of presentations with personal stories, offenses, forgiveness, and (occasional)…

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