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A look at the Emergent Church movement

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No pews here
Members of Solomon's Porch, a holistic missional Christian community, sit on sofas and loveseats that face the middle of the church, like a theatre in the round.
MPR Photo/Elizabeth Stawicki

The Emergent Church movement, organized with the help of a Twin Cities pastor, is being called one of  three "channels the adversary is using to bring America down," according to an upcoming Values Voter Summit in Washington, D.C.

The loose network of evangelical Christians, part of the Emergent Church Network, say they are trying to rethink religion and shape it to modern life.

Art Ally, president of Florida-based mutual fund company The Timothy Plan, focuses on biblically responsible investing and is leading the discussion at the summit. He says the other adversaries are Islam and communism.

"These guys don't even talk about sin for fear it's driving away the postmodern generation," Ally told Religion News Service. "The Emergent Church has watered down biblical Christianity to the point that John the Baptist would have been shocked."

The pastor at Solomon's Porch in Minneapolis, Doug Pagitt, helped create the Emergent Church Network. He told MPR News he believes there shouldn't be a hierarchy within the church.

"This tendency for Christians to see themselves as the most elite of the spiritual people in the world is not only distasteful to a lot of us but it's sort of maddening, because that image has been well-earned over the last 50 years -- that Christians speak as if they're the elite, they're the believers and everybody else are the non-believers," he said. 

Nadia Bolz-Weber, pastor of ELCA church House for All Sinners and Saints in Denver, is a rising voice in the movement. She will be  in Minneapolis Sept. 12 to speak at Central Lutheran Church about her new memoir, "Pastrix: the Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner & Saint."

From The Denver Post:

Bolz-Weber sums up her own small mission church as "a group of folks figuring out how to be liturgical, Christo-centric, social-justice oriented, queer inclusive, incarnational, contemplative, irreverent, ancient-future church with a progressive but deeply rooted theological imagination."

Bolz-Weber makes it seem reasonable and fun to be simultaneously traditional and innovative, ancient and postmodern, devout and irreverent, brash and humble, flip and profound, and so on...

While she exudes the natural ease of an entertainer, she works hard on her message, taking 20 hours to write each weekly 10-minute sermon.

"You have to be rooted in tradition in order to be creative with integrity," she said.

Bolz-Weber and Pagitt join The Daily Circuit to discuss their faith and religious practice.