When people want to accomplish something they organize. They set a goal, make a plan, design a strategy and you know the rest. We also know that together we can accomplish what we can’t alone. That is if we want to actually accomplish something. And herein lies the key to creating an emergent institution. If we just want to have a talk around a beer or coffee, if we just want to vent our theological or church frustrations, if we just … well then, we can just go on like this without a change. If, however, we want to accomplish something, if we really believe in a different kind of Christianity that means something for the society we’re in, for the world, for our generation and the ones to come … well then, we need to organize; yes, we need an institution, a new kind of institution.
The following is the beginning of a sketch for how this institution can look if it is to be inspired by emergent ideals. Feel free to improve, change, perfect along the way.
I sense great resistance to the idea of institutions because the history has proven them to be rigid and inflexible. But let’s not forget that they were like that because they were designed to be precisely this way. Which means … ding, ding … we can design new ones to be different. So the first guiding principle is that this new institution is to be built with the expectation of ongoing reformation. Or in emergent lingo, it needs to be regenerative. If emergents cannot actually accomplish this then I really don’t know what value is there in our treasured humility. One prominent feature of the emergent thought is the realization that we can never figure out things perfectly, that we need to constantly perfect them. Therefore, an emergent-type institution will be first and foremost open and flexible.
Another resistance toward institutionalizing is the top-down, inside-out, few-to-many typical approach. We can not only change this, we MUST do it.
- We don’t correct something by simply eliminating it (by “killing” the institution); we do it by replacing it with a different kind.
If this dream is to be realized then I don’t know who will do it if not emergents. Emergents are the ones recasting traditional roles, blurring the lines of demarcation between categories, flipping paradigms upside down, displacing the uni-directional nature of authority and on and on. We’re the ones capable of imagining the very possibility of a different way of being, faithful to Scriptures and to the way of Jesus, on the background of such a rich tradition. So this new kind of institution will assume the role of destabilizing any human center of authority. Its leaders will succeed not by domination, but by their ability to bring the best in people. They will assume the roles of facilitators. They will discourage uniformity and genuinely celebrate diversity. They will be the creators of a network that will not connect people, but will allow them to connect (the difference is deeper than a play of words!). They will encourage the meaningful participation of everybody in creating theology, in imagining a new kind of Christianity.
Since this is not an easy task, as you might imagine, it cannot be done by people in their “spare time”. This necessitates the commissioning of a group of people who does this full-time. Through an open-source process they will guide the shaping of a new kind of institution that will help realize in the world the emergent ideals, the ideals of God’s loving kingdom.
There’s more coming next Monday. Meanwhile let’s reflect on these ideas, let’s interact with them. Spread the word. In the words of Phyllis Tickle “it’s an important conversation to be having”.