Good writing, with a strong point and with life oozing out.

Emergence with Phyllis

September 6, 2012

The generous folks at Baker Publishing Group sent me a pre-release copy of Phyllis Tickle’s forthcoming book Emergence Christianity several weeks ago, so I’ve been able to digest this wide-ranging survey of Emergent Christianity’s influences and history with some time and attention.

In her previous book, Tickle looked at the major theological, cultural, and ecclesial threads that tie the nascent Emergence church movement together.  Now with her Emergence Christianity, she goes even wider and much deeper as she surveys more of the influences and impulses that coalesce and motivate the church that is emerging.  And she does it in her hallmark way, combining a breezy, conversational writing style with real academic rigor and precision.  Plus, she uses plenty of commas and colloquialisms, with fancy words stirred in like so many chocolate chips.  Behold the wonder:

Emergence Christians approach their faith, logically enough, as Emergence citizens.  …and like their fellow citizens, they by and large are dialogical in their pursuit of understanding; hospitable to a fault; decolonized in their worldview, be it political or missional; antiauthoritarian in more than just their declericalization; enamored of paradox; demanding of authenticity as a prerequisite to any engagement of any sort; and, almost as a logical extension of authenticity, even more demanding that there be absolute transparency in whoever or whatever is.  Unlike their fellow citizens of a more secular bent, however, Emergence Christians are both spiritual and religious.”  (167)

Which might be a bit of bad news for those of us who want to feel like we’re so very special and unique (read the now-dated books  Tribes and Bobos in Paradise to further disabuse yourself of this notion of innovative particularity).  And it is perhaps worse news for those who want to demonize Emergence Christians, for these oppositional folks must see themselves in their imagined opponents.  As Tickle has been contending for years, Emergence is happening all around us, and not just in religion.

Indeed, Tickle contends that this new stream of Christian belief and practice is marked by people with a kind of double or triple citizenship, and then suggests many fascinating lenses through which to see this polyvalence:

  • members of culture, of church, and of a particular expression of church
  • part of political/cultural Christendom, and a part of God’s Kingdom on earth
  • participants in a civil polity, people of faith, and people of a particular religion
  • citizens of a nation-state, of a great cultural Emergence, and of Emergence Christianity

She writes as both an insider and outsider– though 70-plus years old, she clearly resonates with this Emergence, yet she is a lifelong and avowed member of the Episcopal church who has publicly promised that her funeral will have all of the “smells and bells and smoke” of high-church tradition.  So she knows the paradox from which she writes, even as she shows a wonderful way forward, one foot in (at least) two worlds.   She concludes her great book with an outstanding annotated bibliography, demonstrating her wide research and also providing a path of insight for readers.  And with a nod to the Emergence integration of arts, she even includes a 32-page photo essay.

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In their own show of Emergence hospitality, Baker also sent me an extra copy to give away.  To enter the drawing, leave a comment on this thread and one of my lovely assistants will (hopefully) pull your name out of my ironic hipster hat.  The drawing will take place on the official release date of the book, September 12, and you need not be present to win.

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14 Responses to “Emergence with Phyllis”

  1. Greg Woodard says:

    Sounds like an interesting book from an important author. Please enter me in the drawing.

  2. Mike Croghan says:

    I wonder if bribing your lovely assistants with cookies would help my chances.

  3. Elisa Wiebe says:

    I really would be grateful if I won this book. Please enter me in the draw.

  4. Roderic Delaney says:

    This sounds like a great addition for further immersion in Emergent (or Emergence) Christianity. I am looking forward to this book too.

  5. Maggie Mraz says:

    Emerging in Durham, NC! Enter me. I’ll read it and then give it away to somebody. Share the love. Peace, Mike. Maggie

  6. Meghan Stehlik says:

    Croghan thinks bribing with cookies will increase his chances…little does he know that if your assistants are my beloved 3 little blonde neighbors, I can beat his bribe with rainbow nail polish.

  7. Peter S. says:

    Sounds good, I’d love to read it.

  8. Jason Derr says:

    count me in

  9. Steve Pankey says:

    Is the hat ironically hipster or ironic such that it is hipster? Also, this book sounds amazing.

  10. Mike Clawson says:

    Hmmm, hope Phyllis didn’t scoop my dissertation topic. I think I need to win a copy in order to read it and make sure. :)

  11. Brian Stone says:

    Ok, so, Sunday I told my peeps that I am like my mom and believe that rules are for other people… How is that for irony. I would love to have a copy of this book, Mike!

  12. Lori Wilson says:

    I’d love a copy (presuming you can ship to the UK.)

  13. Elizabeth W says:

    I can’t wait to read this and have enjoyed the excerpts. I’m prolly the least schooled in Emergence Christianity in our small but might flock. I stumbled upon Church of Common Table by the grace of God and the wondrous friendship of this hip Dad who liked to talk theology in a preschool parking lot while our curly haired daughters learned to love each other and school for the first time.

    However, I pre-ordered the book. So could I have some ribs instead? Just don’t stick them in a hipster hat.

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