I just finished An Emergent Manifesto of Hope. Here are my final thoughts:
The last several chapters were, for the most part, very good. Dan Kimball’s “Humble Theology: Re-exploring Doctrine While Holding On to Truth” was excellent! Is he United Methodist? We should be able to continually think and learn about theology with open hearts and open minds (216). Either he is, or he helped come up with the UMC’s slogan: Open hearts, Open minds, Open doors.
Kimball is becoming one of the people that I really resonate with from Emergent. I think it is because he seems to be willing to do whatever it takes to speak to people about the gospel in a way that they can understand. Yet, he seems to be a bit more concrete in what he is saying than some of the other folks I have read. If I could have lunch with someone from Emergent today, it would be Dan Kimball.
Disturbing thought from Tim Keel’s chapter “Leading from the Margins: The Role of Imagination in Our Changing Context”:
Our serminaries have entire ministry and theological training programs designed exclusively around the left hemisphere of the human brain. They are training men and women for a world that no longer exists (232).
Part 5: Hopeful Activism: The Jesus Way in the Realities of Life contained 5 thought-provoking essays which were focused beautifully by Tony Jones’ introduction. What I found to be very interesting about these chapters was that, to me, they provided a much more helpful way forward than some of the compilations of liberation theology I have read. In other words, these seemed to get beyond the problem to actually showing an example of how to do something about it (see especially Rodolpho Carasco’s “A Pound of Social Justice: Beyond Fighting for a Just Cause” and Deborah and Ken Loyd’s “Our Report Card in the Year 2057: A Reflection on Women’s Rights, Poverty, and Oppression”).
The need for accountability in the Christian life was featured again in Karen E. Sloan’s “Emergent Kissing: Authenticity and Integrity in Sexuality.”
Even more disturbing quote from Sloan’s chapter: Collecting data over a span of years, the studies suggest about two-thirds of pastors while in ministry will be sexually intimate with someone other than their spouse (265).
My overall feeling about this book. My main criticism would be that it is difficult to see a common theme that brings all of these essays together. It felt like at times the plan was some like: get together as many different voices from this movement and have them write about whatever is on their hearts at the time. This is not a big issue for me because the vast majority of the essays are well-written and thought provoking. On the other hand, and maybe ironically, I feel like this book has given me a better feel for the pulse of the emerging church than anything else I have read. In reading from 25 different voices, engaged in ministry in different ways, you really get a feel for how diverse the movement is. You get the feeling that not all of the authors are coming from the same place, that they don’t agree on everything. I can see this as an encouragement, because it is similar to the reality that if you get enough United Methodist pastor’s together, they are going to have some pretty substantial disagreements too. Ultimately, I am definitely glad I found this book and bought it. It was worth the read, and I would recommend it to anyone interested in the emerging church. I have a feeling I will be referring back to a few of the chapters in the future.