It goes without saying that religion is intricately entwined with culture. And since this is so, when we find that the various ways of thinking and institutions that create culture are shifting, so will we find religion in all its forms asking new questions, sorting through “the way things have always been done” and asking if these ideas and forms are meeting today’s needs, lamenting the decline in previously transformative energies and searching for revitalization. Many claim that such shifts are happening today, and within western Christianity, the upheaval and reconfiguration that is taking place has been labeled “Emergence Christianity.” In its most dynamic places, individuals and congregations are looking in fresh ways at scripture, at mission, at liturgy and all the ways they “do” church, at the stories and narratives they tell and inhabit, at what it means to be a Christian–if the most important focus should be about afterlife salvation or this-life transformation and truly working as the Lord’s Prayer states to have God’s kingdom come here to earth just as it is in heaven. This is a moment that defies easy description, but it is very exciting to give ourselves permission to really think of new possibilities seek new forms for renewal.
Is something analogous happening in Mormonism? What are similarities and differences between the questions and sensibilities that are animating Emergence Christianity and those at play in Mormonism, especially among online discussion groups and grassroots associations that are putting new ideas and ways of relating into practice? What can Latter-day Saints learn from the discussions and new forms of church taking wing in Emergence Christianity? What would be easy sensibilities and practices to fold into Mormon Christianity? Which ones might be harder to connect with?
For this two-part Mormon Matters episode, we are extremely blessed to have been able to spend an hour with two of Emergence Christianity’s most eloquent thought leaders, cultural historian and publishing icon Phyllis Tickle and dynamic author, speaker, and former pastor Brian McLaren, learning from their descriptions (through their telling stories from their own lives, as well as in all they see going on around them) of these shifts. Incredible friend and Mormon Matters podcast favorite Jana Riess arranged for their appearance on the show, and she leads this discussion. Following this initial focus on Emergence Christianity as a whole, we say goodbye to Phyllis and Brian, and we welcome Katie Langston and Parker Blount, two Latter-day Saints with a deep interest in Emergence Christianity, to discuss connections, hesitations, and their hopes and dreams for new discussions and renewal within Mormonism.
We are excited to have you listen and then share your own stories and ideas in the comments section below!
Find Phyllis Tickle books, including information about her newest, Emergence Christianity: What It Is, Where It Is Going, and Why It Matters, at her website.
Find Brian McLaren books, including information about his newest, Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammad Cross the Road?, at his website.
H. Parker Blount, “The Word of God: A Tale of Two Paradigms,” Sunstone, June 2012.