Emergent United Methodism

A few years ago, I became interested in the Emergent Church
movement, which represents (among other things) an ongoing experiment with cross-traditional
liturgical and formative Christian practices. 
The United
Methodist Church
has also shown interest in this young movement, since it may be instructive for
their own efforts to reach out to these missing generations.  In other words we United Methodists believe that
if it works for the Emergent
Church, we should try it
too. 

            There is an ongoing conversation
between the UMC and the Emergent
Church movement
.  However, are these conversations subject to distortion
by the influence of the consumer market? 
Read how one leader describes his emergent community: “Individually,
each [member] adopts what practices they [sic] want and asks for help. Some do
the Book of Common Prayer, some the divine hours, and some the Eastern Orthodox
prayer book” (Gibbs/Bolger p.230).  Such
practices are offered as new programs that will hopefully awaken interest and stimulate
growth in a dormant church. 

            Could this be a subtle form of what Michael Budde describes as the “appropriation of religiosity?”  By appropriation of religiosity, Budde means offering
religious symbols and practices (extracted from their respective traditions) in
order to attract new members (or consumers?).  While the search for a greater catholicity in
the life and practice of the United
Methodist Church
is good, United Methodism is by no means insulated from the drive of the market
that seeks to appropriate these traditions in the interest of seeing its churches
be more successful, relevant and popular.

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About Corey Sharpe

Where do we get our beliefs? Three theological perspectives have significantly shaped my Christian identity: Evangelicalism, the early Methodist tradition and liberation theology. From my coming to faith in a Baptist church and throughout my education in a Baptist school and college, I was nurtured by convictions that emphasized a spiritual rebirth, a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and the centrality of the Bible. Even when I disagree with certain aspects of evangelicalism, it has deeply influenced my sense of what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. My seminary studies spawned my interest in early Methodism, particularly its approach to spiritual formation. Its leaders were convinced that only a foundation of doctrine and discipline would lead to a meaningful transformation of the heart and mind. In other words, having the mind of Christ enables me to be more like Christ. Life in a suburban culture obscures the increasing gap between the poor and rich, as well as the Bible’s close identification with the poor. My doctoral work in socio-cultural context exposed me to liberation theology, which helps me see redemptive history as a history of oppressed groups, written from the perspective of the powerless, about a God who is actively involved with the poor in their struggles. I am now the pastor at Huntingtown United Methodist Church in Calvert County, Maryland. Together my wife and I are raising 4 young theologians.
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