So what do you do if you disagree on an issue? I like what happened when Doug Pagitt announced an Emergent Christian/Jewish Leaders Meeting.
It’s hard to replicate all the dynamics of the community Fitch talks about (“humility, the regular confession of sin and repentance, and a ‘vigilant eye'”) online, but you may be able to generate a reasonable facsimile.
The issue: The press release talks about collaborating in ways that “help God’s dreams come true for our synagogues, churches, and world” and partnering to talk about “the future and God’s Kingdom.” While you can work together on issues of social justice, do these statements imply that you can collaborate on God’s Kingdom while disagreeing on Jesus?
Raising the question: I know emerging types are alleged to tolerate everything, but several raise the issue at Emergent What? Note the statement of concern (“I feel as though this is beginning to cross a line”) and yet a willingness to listen (“someone check me on this”). Concerns are expressed pretty strongly (“The ‘Third Way’ must still be the way of Christ, not the way of Judaism or Islam or anything else,” says one) and yet with humility (“to give the benefit of the doubt, until clarity comes”).
The plan: “Well… I know that enough of us have contacts to where a nicely written email could be sent. And since this is happening here, in the open, it seems like posting an open letter would be a positive thing as well… or is that over the top?” This is an attempt to “clarify and correct from within”.
The response: Doug Pagitt comments, rather defensively it seems. It looks like he mistakes those who comment as being outside the emergent community (not sure how that is defined). He says, “What I am trying to do is to give you a bit of pause before jumping to conclusions of the intentions, behaviors of others for whom you know only a press release version of the story.”
The dialogue: The discussion carries on by e-mail.
And that’s where things stand right now.
Personally, I don’t know that the press release implies syncretism. Some of the comments (one example here) point out that the press release is a little ambiguous. I have to admit that parts of the press release make me concerned, and I’d want to find out what they mean. I also don’t understand all of Pagitt’s comment.
Here’s what I love about what happened:
- You can see a concern for truth and faithfulness to Christ in the discussion, contrary to what many expect to see in the emerging church
- There is no presumption of guilt or rush to judgment. The discussion instead turns to two questions: “Am I reading this right?” and “How can we constructively communicate our concerns?”
- Most of the comments move the discussion forward.
- The dialogue continues.
I don’t know how things will end, but I’ll say from what I’ve read so far: Well done.