The Great Emergence

by Christine Sine


The Great Emergence National Event is coming up in Memphis at the beginning of December.  It is timed to coincide with the launching of Phyllis Tickle’s new book The Great Emergence: How Christianity is Changing and Why.

I will not be able to attend the event but I am thoroughly enjoying the book just as I enjoyed the privilege of meeting Phyllis when she was in Seattle earlier this year.  I was fascinated by her thoughts then and was delighted to see how well she expresses them in this new book.  Phyllis writes in an easily readable style while sharing weighty and thought provoking concepts.  It is her contention that every five hundred years or so the church goes through a major transition, a time of upheaval and turbulence that results in the emergence of new forms of Christianity.  As she very aptly expresses it:

every five hundred years, the church cleans out  its attic and has a giant rummage sale

The last such upheaval was the Protestant Reformation and Phyllis believes we are currently going through another such transition.  I particularly enjoyed her analysis of The Gathering Center and the Many Faces of a Church Emerging in which she helpfully looks at the different forms of church today – liturgical social justice, renewalists and conservatives – and talks about how these expressions are converging in the new an emerging forms of church

The gathering force of the new Christianity… ran upward and poured itself out, like some bursting geyser, in expanding waves of influence and nourishment.  Where once the corners had met, now there was a swirling center, its centripetal force racing from quadrant to quadrant in ever-widening circles, picking up ideas and people from each, sweeping them into the center, mixing them there, and then spewing them forth into a new way of being Christian, into a new way of being Church.

I think that this is book is a must read for anyone seeking to understand the cataclysmic changes going on in the church today.

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