This set of characteristics is drawn from a trio of works by Phyllis Tickle:
- The Great Emergence: How Christianity is Changing and Why
- Emergence Christianity: What it is, Where it is Going and Why it Matters
- Embracing Emergence Christianity
Major Characteristics of ‘Emergence Christianity’
- It is deeply incarnational. It calls for embodiment – in worship and in many other ways.
- It approaches scripture from an ‘actualist’ rather than a literalist frame. Scripture opens a window to what is real – there is a truth beyond facts. It is dependable, foundational, demanding … but we must look to the Word beyond the words.
- It leads to radical obedience – which is part of the incarnational expectation; partly reflective of our dual citizenship
- It has a different understanding of the Trinity – more like a dance, more inclusive of the Holy Spirit
- It is de-institutionalized – it is not fond of hierarchy and wants no bishop
- Smaller gatherings turn to bi-vocational leaders in conversational exchange
- It will require that we redefine the diaconate, and will have a real impact on seminaries
- It is expressed in both the resistance to property and to ecclesiastical structures
- There is an embrace of the transitory. No group is permanent – scattering spreads the seeds. Jesus was itinerate for a reason.
- There is a distinction made between the Christian and the secular mode of ‘good works.’
- Tickle uses the term ‘inhumane kindness’ to describe works of ‘charity’ that maintain a difference between the ‘helper’ and the ‘helpee.’ There is good reason to help – socially and economically – but a Christian approaches it in a relational frame – springing from our commonness and leading to greater community.
- Sustainability is not just about preserving the world for our grandchildren, but the Christian reverence for and celebration of God’s creation – honoring the sacredness of that reality
- There is a commitment in the context of community
- Expressed in neo-monasticism – with variations of common table / common purse / common rule of life
- House churches and other gatherings (10% of current Christian community)
- There is a difference sense of what it is to be missional. It occurs all day every day, in common life. It is not a program, which would imply something separate.
Across this set of characteristics are themes of wholeness, commitment, community, balance, mystery and grace. It is an expression of Christianity that provides for some a new way to take their faith seriously, even in the context of questions.
[photo of Phyllis Tickle from Wittenburgdoor.com]