Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Born into the Great Emergence

Phyllis Tickle has emerged (no pun intended) as a key participant-observer on contemporary matters of faith. Her book The Great Emergence: How Christianity is Changing and Why is interesting, insightful, and a bit incomplete. You may not agree with all of her conclusions, but she makes informed observations that provoke dialogue.

In a recent interview posted on the Faith and Leadership site (sponsored by Leadership Education at Duke University), she was asked to share her ideas about the future of denominations. Her statements are both provocative and informative:

People under 40 right now have been born right smack-dab into a fully matured emergence, the Great Emergence. They can’t change their sensibilities any more than they can change the color of their eyes. They’re going to be non-hierarchal. They’re going to be afraid of institutions. They’re going to want to spread out horizontally. They want to be communal. They’re going to be actively involved in social justice as they define it, and not in the usual Protestant way. They are connected to the world. They’re “glocal” -- I hate that word -- but they think glocally. All of those things are sensibilities that are ingrained now; they have no choice.

If denominational or post-denominational organizations want to involve a younger generation of leaders, then they must do several things. First, they must earn trust through transparency and inclusion. Second, they must be decentralized in organization and participative in decision-making. Third, they must promote community. Fourth, they must address squarely the needs of the world.

The final thing I would add is that we must all take more seriously the work of the Spirit of God in our midst. The emergence of a new perspective on the Christian faith is not an assault but a gift—the intrusion of the Spirit that provides new power and strength.

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