(me)defining Anglimergent Theology



One more internet post for the day, and then I'm really going to go out in the sun and enjoy it. I promise.

This is a conversation starter I just posted on the Anglimergent Ning (it's like Facebook, only more Anglicany--join if you're interested). It's me trying to define theologically what it means to be a part of the emerging movement in the Anglican tradition. Not incidentally, it also outlines some of the key propositions of my own theology. (And why shouldn't my beliefs define a movement?!)

1) First off, we're liturgical/sacramental in orientation, and we affirm the three legged stool of Scripture, tradition and reason. By liturgical/sacramental, I don't just mean that we like structure and wine (who doesn't?), but that we affirm the underlying importance of the physical. That is, to use Alister McGrath's term, we believe in the 'Enchantment' of the world, that God is present around us, in what we do and how we act, and in the physical Eucharist that we eat on Sundays. By 'affirm the three legged stool', I mean that in some form or another, we believe that those are the proper and primary sources for the developing Anglimergent belief and practice--wherever that might take us.

2) In the same vein, we're Nicene Creed-centric rather than Bible or "gospel"-centric. Some of the evangelical wings of the emerging church conversation tend to find their unity in Scripture, while we find it in our common affirmation of the creed. (And our common dis-affirmation of the band Creed).

3) Like other elements of the emerging conversation, we are self-consciously post-modern when it comes to our epistemology. That is, we like to say "I don't know" a lot, because we've realized that we actually don't, and ultimately can't. We're part of a bigger dialogue with reality, and we never finally come to an absolute final 'answer' to any of our questions--particularly religious ones. Like Michael Polanyi and John Polkinghorne, I like to identify this approach as 'Critically Realist' rather than 'relativist', because it's not that we don't believe that ultimate reality exists--we do, and we call it God--but we just are realistic about the fact that we can't totally grasp it. 'I still haven't found what I'm looking for...but yes I'm still running...'

4) Along the same lines, we're conversational in orientation. We don't fully trust dogma, so we try to network with other people with other opinions in the attempt to move closer to the truth. Tied to this, we call ourselves 'conversational' because we don't want to be labeled as a 'movement' or 'trend', although if you think about the definitions of those terms, that's what we are. I don't know what's so bad about that...

5) We're closet Anglophiles with secret crushes on Bono. Just thought I'd throw that in. But seriously, we do embrace the old (i.e., England) and the new (i.e. U23D) --as illustration, we tend to identify as the 'new monastics', the 'new friars', and so forth.

6) We're trans-institutional, and communitarian. I don't like the term post-institutional, because I think that's a little bit over dramatic. We are, however, happy to cross institutional boundaries and disregard institutional requirements when we find it to be expedient. That's because we believe in the concept of the priesthood of all believers, and have a catholic spirit about the unity of the body of Christ. We're CANA, ECUSA, COE, AMiA, non-denominational, etc. etc.

7) We have an ethical/missional/kingdom of God orientation rather than an 'evangelism' orientation. This is almost a cliche at this point, but it's true. We're trying to impact our communities in a way that is different from an Evangelical evangelistic model. We believe in building the Kingdom of God, loving our neighbors, and generally not being assholes (we also curse self-consciously as our little stand against traditional religious authority). We think the Christian message is important, but believe that it is integrally connected to a Christian way of acting. Orthodoxy and Orthopraxy aren't mutually exclusive.

Comments

Cecilieaux said…
I was intrigued by the emergents until I experienced a whole bunch of them online. Essentially, I emerged (pun intended) from the experience with the general sense that they're conservative, red-meat, red-state fundies trying to hide their hidebound literalism, dogmatism and tight knickers behind technology and X & Y gen lingo.
Tim Mathis said…
Yeah. The common mistake is to define 'emerging' as any one thing. It's really just the trends that are identifiable in the way 'post-modern' Christians are expressing themselves. So, that means a scope of things, from Mark Driscoll to Rob Bell to Karen Ward in the US.
Anonymous said…
Sigh. You really think it means anything to use 50-cent words like "orthodoxy" and "orthopraxy" in TEC?
Hint: There is no orthopraxy without orthodoxy. Note the small "o" on each. TEC is light years away from a capital O. TEC cares nothing about either. Hence, you get Robert Taylor. You will continue to get Taylors and Reddings.
Tim Mathis said…
Which, of course, I'm okay with. I think there needs to be a place for Taylor and Redding, and I'll take them as part of my church.
Anonymous said…
Ah, you're obviously trying to be a bishop. Anyone who can take Taylor & Redding seriously can only be destined for complete irrationality.
Tim Mathis said…
Ah, anonymous internet poster...

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