What some call “Emerging Christianity” has four common elements, in my opinion, even if they might be described in different ways:
- There is a new honest, broad, and ecumenical Jesus scholarship. We are reading what theologians of all denominations are saying. And the amazing thing is that, at this level of scholarship at least, there is a strong consensus emerging about what Jesus really taught and emphasized.
- There is a reemergence of a contemplative mind in all of the churches. It’s not content with the dualistic mind which has dominated for the last five hundred years. Contemplation receives the whole field of the moment and lets such an open lens teach us—both what we understand along with what we don’t understand. Finally there is room for mystery and the acceptance of even being wrong or just partially right.
- This consensus (both at the scholarly and experiential levels) is revealing that Jesus tended to emphasize very different things than present organized Christianity tends to emphasize. Present organized Christianity (in all denominations) tends to be preoccupied with things that Jesus never talked about ever, and sometimes even disagreed with.
- New community structures and new parallel church organizations are often emerging and flourishing to make this possible. (The CAC would be an example of such a “parachurch” group, as well as Hospice, Habitat for Humanity, various social service ministries, contemplative prayer groups, and volunteer and mission work, etc.) None of these are in competition with Sunday religion, but they give us ways to actually do what we are told to do on Sunday. The emphasis is often orthopraxy (practice) instead of just repeating the orthodox creeds every Sunday.
- Richard Rohr