“We are in a time of transition,” Tickle writes, “and that transition is not a casual or passing one. … We are citizens living within the Great Emergence, and as Christians of whatever stripe, we are watching the formation of a new presentation of faith. We are attending upon the birth and early growth of Emergence Christianity.” (28)
She helps us understand the context of this movement by giving the origin of the Emergence Theory. She selectively reviews the currents and events in ecclesial and theological history that were formative of Emergence Christianity over the last century and a half. (I found this historical section to be very insightful.)
Tickle comments on the interconnectedness we now experience by way of the Net. She sees a strong emphasis on social justice and ecological concerns. Emergence Christians live in urban neighborhoods, not gated communities. They consider themselves more relational than holy.
I learned much from her review of the pivotal year of 2010, when Emerging and Emergent became no longer interchangeable. Her discussion of “missional” is enlightening.
She contemplates the future. “...Protestantism will not cease to be as a result of the Great Emergence. It will, however, have to reconfigure and adapt.” (182) A recent Barna Group study suggests that by 2020 “40 percent of all church-attending Christians will be worshipping God outside the parameters of a traditional congregational context.” (183)
One area the church will need to address is the question, “Where is out authority?” (191)
Anyone desiring to understand the current state of Christianity and its possible future will benefit from reading this book.
Phyllis Tickle is the founding editor of the Religion Department of Publishers Weekly and an authority on religion in America. She is the author of some two dozen books. She and her physician husband live on a small farm in rural West Tennessee.
Baker Books, 238 pages.