Emergent Manifesto of Hope, edited by Doug Pagitt and Tony Jones who do a great job in bringing a plethora of American emergent voices together in one book, but don't seem to have anything memorably profound themselves to add. But maybe that egalitarianism is part of the emergent flavor and the token of 2 hosts who know how to be gracious to the many important guests in their book.
I just read through this book in the bathtub. Not every word, mind you. But the water was rather tepid by the time i was done so i have read enough to give a short review.
My first impression was a regrettable tinge of disappointment. “Manifesto” is an ambitious title for a book and in all honesty, this book is overreaching itself to be a Manifesto of the kind one associates with MANIFESTOS. Unlike some of the manifesto-like books i have been reading lately (Perspectives on the World Christian Movement, Transforming Mission, etc) The Emergent Manifesto of Hope doesn't sum up in a climatic fashion the hopes, fears, dreams, struggles, and victories of a movement, or in this case a conversation among friends. The book is more a collection of essays from assorted writers within the Emergent Village community. Its more a snapshot of what these folk are thinking right now about whatever they wanted to talk about. I would have preferred a tighter boundary and stronger backbone of thought.
However . . . its lack of structure has allowed it many varied voices (Native American, black, Hispanic . . .), from disparate traditions (Catholic, Presbyterian, Baptist, Liberty University graduate, well paid and 13k a year . . ) to address a myraid of topics related to emerging church ministry (gardening, sexuality, theology, community, post-colonialism . .) and this variety is its strength.
So its more like a TASTER than a manifesto. But tasters are cool. You get to sample a lot of different things before you invest in the one you want.
But back to the book I thought the best chapter was from Brian McLaren who maps out the next step. This is Brian at his best - eloquent, thoughtful, prophetic, gentle, clear, radical. This is Brian leading the way for the church emerging into a postcolonial faith“, a ”new era of Christian faith as a 'living color' global community, from a religion of conquest and control to a faith of collaborative mission and humble service“ . . ” we are emerging into an integral, holistic, creative and transforming view of the missio dei in which we all participate as colaborers of God.“ [Page 149-150]
I don't see any JELLO ON THE WALL after that chapter . . . do you? Brian attempts to move the conversation from postmodernism to postcolonialism [I also quoted Kenzo Mabiala recently] and i hope his critics will be willing to follow him there for some thoughtful discussion.
I would have liked to have seen more critical self-evaluation of the movement. They [we] have had a good decade to reflect on achievements and mistakes and the lack of self-assessment in the book might create a vacuum that the critics will feel called to fill.
Much of the thinking behind this book has already happened overseas. Many European authors are quoted. Lesslie Newbigin in particular. Brian Mitchell (Catholic) rethinks the parish system in the same way that the Brits have in Mission Shaped Church. Jolly Bob Hopkins from England is quoted in Presbymergent Adam Cleaveland's excellent chapter on bridging between the traditional denominations and new emerging structures.
Dwight Friesen and Dan Kimball both look back to the creeds which i think is a worthy endevor for the entire American church as it figures out where it has come from.
Sally Morganthaller has a great synthesis on crowd wisdom and leadership within flattened structures. This chapter has been singled out by many (Jonny Baker included) as the best chapter in the book. Others say it was Mark Scandrette's piece which opens the book.
Which is a Taster, and not really a Manifesto
I do like Mark . . . and Sally, and Dan and Tim and Brian. And Barry and Ryan. Dang! I think I know almost everyone in the book . . which makes it hard to be overtly critical or affirming. Maybe you should read other people to get the skinny on the book:
- Cleave is one of the authors so he might have a free book for you if your'e quick.
- Jonny, as I said, liked the book but also thinks it incoherent and too thinned out. I see his point.
- Andrew Perriman at Open Source liked it but also thought it annoyingly shallow and too American. I also found the shallowness annoying for a “Manifesto”. Its not a hefty academic tome at all and you will be disappointed if you expect it to be. The writers are practitioners and very few (Dwight Friesen excepted) dig deep into intellectual and philosophical wells.
- Dustin Bagby makes his review the cover story for Next-Wave.
- Surprisingly fair review by Roger at A-Team who responds chapter by chapter.
- Ingrid has major issues with Samir Selmanovic and chastises Doug Pagitt on her Slice of Laodicea site [yes . . its BACK] as well dealing with him on an interview on her Crosstalk radio show (MP3).
- Lighthouse: not impressed at all.
- Steve Taylor (emergentKiwi), like me, lands favorably on McLaren's chapter but questions the Americanness of the book. Doug Pagitt and others give the reasons for this in the comments. And I agree. Its an AMERICAN book and thats fine.
Now lets see the other countries put out some more books and balance the equation.
Buy the book?
Dunno. You dont really NEED to have this book on your shelf but you might want to google the authors blogs and track down their thoughts. If you want to know what Emergent really believes, I think “Listening to the Beliefs of Emerging Churches” is a better book, despite only having 5 authors. But if you dont have any emerging church books on your shelf then, as I have already said, this book could be a good TASTER to discover some authors and leaders whose books might be worth buying.
and its time to make our Friday night pizza so, as Forrest said . . thats all i have to say about that.
But what about the Taster at Rock Bottom Brewery? Well, Alexander and I enjoyed the Stout but Tim was converted to the 'Willow Creek'. Really!
[No not really. Tim just reminded me that we all liked the Heiferweiseen the best. Thanks Tim]