I've been listening to Doug Gay's excellent talk at Greenbelt 2007 Learning to be Church: Unpacking the Emerging Project. Knowing "emerging" is a hyped term, he deliberately kept it analytical. He sees it as not being a organisation, a church, or even a movement. Instead as more of a growing Sensibility particularly amongst low-church evangelicals.He structured it this way:

  1. auditing - the continual task of the church to listen to Spirit, to detect where continual reformation is needed to remain faithful to the gospel. He thinks a side-effect of the Reformation was that in worship we were robbed of our bodies and senses.
  2. retrieval - getting over the post-modern desire to be 'relevant', deciding to look back into the church traditions - particularly the catholic ones. The Taize and Iona Communities have been 'portals' into catholic tradition for low-church protestants, helped by them being independent of the official Catholic church.
  3. unbundling - picking apart the theology from the religious practice. For example, for many protestants, lighting a candle in worship meant you were praying for the dead. But the Emerging project questions the inherited packages, and has appropriated some other elements of catholic practices. Like children playing with a dressing-up box. "It's about recovering the babies that the Reformers threw out with the bathwater."
  4. supplementing - his least developed section. Looking at the political, technological (eg, electronic music), theological (eg, anabaptist, feminist, missional, and priesthood of all believers) and cultural supplements that are being added. This is a part that isn't just historical.
  5. remixing - the low-church protestants bringing these parts together with some confidence but not stopping to ask for permission.

His summary of the Emerging project is "a new wave of bottom-up irreverent ecumenism, not waiting for permission ... but seeking to mend their traditions to help them be church in the post-modern culture".My main disappointment was that he didn't explore how Alt.Worship links with the Emerging conversation.The best phrase of many was when we was asked about Priesthood and Emerging: in his reply he went personal noting "no-one could limbo under my view of priesthood". Incidentally he was fairly dismissive of Don Carson's book on the subject ("Becoming conversant with the Emerging Church") favouring "Emerging Churches" by Brian Bulger and Eddie Gibbs instead.(His careful delivery and Scottish accent also helped make it a joy to listen to. I normally have the same reaction to John Bell, for the same reasons. What is it about that accent that makes it so much nicer (to me) than the Gloucestershire one I hear around me a lot?)

AuthorJonathan Clark