What wisdom can be found in the intersection of emergent and mainline?
A core value that Presbyterians hold is that of “connectionalism”. The discovery or rediscovery the nature of this connectionalism is, I think, at the heart of the matter.
Previously held models of connection were based mostly on local initiatives, small story contexts, and homogeneous conversation partners. The glue that held the PC(USA) together has been mostly institutionally based polity and judicatory structures. This seemed to work pretty well until the middle of the last century when the world began to shift. The scaffolding of this structure remains intact but the building that it once supported is going through a major renovation. Like the anonymous poet said, “I thought the fire was out. I stirred the ashes and burnt my finger.” This core value of connectionalism can be a wonderful gift to the emerging world, IF we can find a way to change the scaffolding to fit the emerging structure.
This new structure, or emerging structure, is the gift that can be offered to the PC(USA) institution. Here are a few aspects of a new connectionalism that I think can once again become a core value and gift to the wider church.
1. Connectionalism fueled by networking technologies creating new opportunities to engage with “others” beyond small geographic, cultural, and theological contexts.
2. Connectionalism opened up by an emerging epistemological humility. Emerging folks are more comfortable with questions than answers, conversation than conversion, dialogue than dogma. Emerging followers of Jesus have an increasing capacity to suspend judgement when faced with what appear to be conflicting world views.
3. Connectionalism in the emerging context is forged in the crucible of life and grounded real life situations. With some of the scaffolding of a previous way of being together removed by virtue of an emerging entrepreneurial spirit new ways of seeking justice and peace in the world will help nurture a new connectionalism.
4. Connectionalism informed by new discoveries in the world of social technologies that posit a connectionism inherent in God’s created order. For instance, Spiritual Direction, Theory U, Art of Convening, Collective Wisdom etc.
“We believe there exists a field of collective consciousness — often seen and expressed through metaphor — that is real and influential, yet invisible. When we come into alignment with this field, there is a deeper understanding of our connection with others, with life, and with a source of collective wisdom. We are calling into awareness this field of collective consciousness and invite you to join us in building this discipline of collective wisdom, its study and practice.” (From: The Power of Collective Wisdom and the trap of collective folly, by Briskin, Erickson, Ott and Callanan.)
I hope these few thoughts can help us explore the intersection of what was and what will be in in our life together in the PC(USA).