I apologize if I cover familiar ground, however . . . .

Emergence has been defined as the way complex systems and patterns arise out of a multiplicity of relatively simple interactions, and a lot of net ink, and print space has been devoted to the concept of the Emergent Church; a claim, and movement which has yet to be totally defined.

In many cases, when I read of the Emergent Church, talk invariably moves towards liturgy, which is the most obvious resting place for many churchgoers. Try as we might, there is a connection between what we experience, and how we inwardly process public expressions of faith.

People may teach that worship is not performance, but in secret, there are elements of performance art connected with liturgy.  Public expression experienced through the lens of emergent worship, however, is not the Emergent Church.

Over the weekend, as I pondered news from the Church of England, it’s synod, and their struggle surrounding female bishops, I began to reflect on  the ontological nature of emergence.  We, who are active in the life and work of the church, are witness to the systems and patterns arising out of a multiplicity of relatively simple interactions which took first shape in the United States rooted in the Social Gospel movement.

If we follow the social gospel’s arch, it leads us to Martin Luther King, Jr, and beyond which, in the Episcopal Church, opens the door to the first canonical ordinations of women in 1976, and Barbara Harris’ Episcopal ordination in 1989; approximately 100 years after the social gospel’s inception. Here is what the social gospel Presbyterians had to say in 1910:

“The great ends of the church are the proclamation of the gospel for the salvation of humankind; the shelter, nurture, and spiritual fellowship of the children of God; the maintenance of divine worship; the preservation of truth; the promotion of social righteousness; and the exhibition of the Kingdom of Heaven to the world.”

If we follow the trends of simple interactions, which most equally align with a basic pulse of Christianity, it is no surprise Gene Robinson was elected Bishop, and equally appropriate the Episcopal Church would elect Katharine Jefferts Schori as Presiding Bishop in 2006. For about 100 years, the greater church has embraced emergence, and it is now taking root all over the world.

Like the pains of birth, we are witness to the Holy Spirit’s re-birth of the church. We are witness to the casting away of medievalism with the wider church being reborn into the ideal of equality wished for in the first century.

Emergent worship, which stems from the outgrowth of a particular community, only reflects the larger call of the wider Christian body to regain a circle of faith, not seen through the mighty fortress of the basilica, but the gentle outgrowth of countless communities seated in a grand circle: one with each other, and one with God. We are witness to God calling us  to remove the Rood Screen.