There have been some discussions about the so-called “emerging church” at Adventist Today, with contributions by Herb Douglass, Monte Sahlin, and yours truly. The subject now graces the cover of the Adventist Review, with articles by Fernando Canale and James Coffin.
Canale dismisses the “emerging church” as liberal compromise with postmodernism and Catholicism. He goes so far as to make the statement that they “unavoidably embrace theological pluralism, relativism, and Roman Catholic ecumenism.” Well, which is it? Those are mutually exclusive categories. He appears especially fearful of the Eucharist (I would remind him that it is a Biblical command and that we observe it).
Neither author discusses what “emerging church” leaders would say is the critical issue: mission. It isn’t about changing us to make us attractive to them; it is about changing our approach so that we are out there, doing mission among the world, as Jesus did. It is about taking on flesh and blood in the real world, responding to the questions and problems the world raises, realizing the world has changed, and no longer shares our assumptions. It is to recognize that there is deep spiritual hunger in the world today, and that ancient practices of spirituality (like the Sabbath?) and a wholistic lifestyle (like our health message?) may find a receptive audience today.
Yes, different folks associated with the “emerging church” take different approaches, as Coffin notes. I think he’s right, though, in his bottom line:
The emerging-church conversation has clearly identified a number of real problems—problems that definitely afflict the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Could it be that the proposed solutions are a mixed bag, ranging from spot-on to out in left field? If so, the advice of Scripture is particularly apropos: “Test everything. Hold on to the good” (1 Thess. 5:21).