An intrepid group of emergent women and women curious about emergent and emerging church gathered the last weekend in April in a little town just outside of Indianapolis at a B&B inside an old round barn, cleverly enough called The Round Barn Bed and Breakfast Inn.
We came together to hear women's voices be spoken and heard. We came to find a community, to create a community really, where the glorious words and values of emergent: inclusive, equal, diverse - would be lifted up in such a way that we felt full partnership and participation. That we had to do it on our own beyond the organization of emergentvillage was sad and noticed. We came to discover a path into the 21 century and the 21century church that allowed for our authentic and genuine encounter and expression of God in us and through us. We came to dare to vision such a community might exist this side of 'the world to come'. We came to share, to cry, to laugh, to celebrate chocolate, to celebrate one another, and to be blessed together as the precious daughters of God, no more and no less claimed and named as our brothers and friends.
We spent some time lamenting that emergent as a group of leaders seemed to be predominantly white, male, between 30-50 years old, of a comfortable economic status and education, and peculiarly connected to one another. Some of us who had tried to engage those men who are frequently pictured in slick brochures announcing conventions and workshops shared as to how we felt something less than affirmed, included, welcomed, and befriended. Some felt that for all the pretty words emergent was pretty much like our denominations or home churches were women's voices and leadership, while perhaps proclaimed as equal and valued, recognized too deeply the great fixed gap between what is and what would be professed. This coming the week before we UM celebrated the 50th anniversary of the full ordination of women clergy made it all the more poignant and sad for me personally.
We did celebrate within ourselves the stunning gift of being called of God to all kinds of ministry in many different kinds of settings. For those participants who came from traditions where women are barred from all word and sacrament ministry, hearing and seeing my seminary friend and me preaching and celebrating communion was, by their account, a "defining moment in my journey". Thanks be to God! I am confident that those of us gathered were blessed and, in turn, blessed one another with the community of gifted and graced and called women that we became.
Emergent seems to have a lot of work to do between the rhetoric and the reality. In terms of confession, our gathering was completely caucasian, although the age, economics, education, and ecclesiastical diversity was good. I don't know what the answer is to this problem. We wondered among ourselves if somehow the glorious possibilities of emergent that we see is not relevant to the context of those from minority or ethnic backgrounds. I was preparing to exit the emergent conversation as hopelessly hypocritical but when I hear the women from those traditions without example or path into genuine leadership within the body of Christ, I know emergent has given them a vocabulary and light that I wouldn't dream of taking away, or not celebrating. So, I don't know how we proceed as the dyfunctional family of emergent. We have to be willing to talk and to listen and not be dismissive or patronizing or defensive.
I am anxious and hopeful to hear from y'all. Grace and peace.