The multi-authored Stories of Emergence showcases personal stories of church disillusionment and suspicion with the institutionalised, doctrine-oriented church, out of which emerges (you knew I was going to use this word, right?) new thinking and (perceived) authenticity in spirituality and the understanding of what this whole 'God' thing is about.
For the book's sake, it probably isn't a good idea to read all the stories at one go. Treat it like Dilbert and make it a friend for a time-out. Two stories max per reading should suffice.
And there are some good ones. The story I started with, Frederica Mathewes-Green's chastisement her earlier feminist attitudes, was one of the best, for me:
"It's not what feminists say, but how they it...An attitude of self-righteousness. A tendency to pull rank as a victim. A lack of humility. A blindness to the fact that women, just as talented as men, are just as sinful too. Smugness, touchiness, judgmentalism, and even darkner notes of condescension, ridicule, and anger toward men.
"Pretty much the opposite of every line in 1 Corinthians 13. My brothers and sisters, 'you have not so learned Christ' (Ephesians 4:20)" (p.134)
I also enjoyed Tony Jones sharing of his character-shaping encounters with people like James McClendon, Nancey Pearcey and Miroslav Volf. It's strikingly coincidental how barely a few hours after I first heard the word 'liminal' during a meeting, I saw it again in Jones' essay, talking about liminal times - the "thin times, the border times when we're in the midst of cultural change". (p.66)
Todd Hunter's piece brought back some cute memories of friends telling me about the un-Christian it was to have drums in church(!). And how can I not resonate with Spencer Burke's paragraph on spiritual McCarthyism:
"In today's evangelical world, one of the worst things you can be called is liberal. Challenge an accepted belief or confess doubt and you're the equivalent of a card-carrying communist. Brows furrow. Eyes narrow. Lips purse." (p.30)
Brian McLaren echoes this tension when he writes in his afterword:
"(Can) the gatekeepers of modern evangelicalism see these brothers and sisters as resources, pioneers, a research-and-development wing of the movement...or will they see them as a threat?" (p.224)
I also suspect God planned it such that I had to be at an unfamiliar section of town at 5.30 in the morning (after dropping my dad off at the bus station), drinking coffee and reading these words by Chris Seay, "Jesus understood that it's not only the truth that changes us, but also the journey of seeking truth."
This book isn't for those who want some idea on how to "move forward" in one's walk and ministry with Christ. It'd be a mistake to take any one story and say, "That's how I/we should progress". Unless I'm completely mistaken, the very idea of progress isn't even a category in emergent thought.
There are no "doctrines" in the book, no new theology, no new "synthesis of ideas" and what-nots. This will undoubtedly leave the reader with the impression that the authors care more about praxis than about doctrine (eliciting, as much of Emergent output has, the occasional remonstrance). They probably do.
In an experimental mode, getting things right is less important than doing as many helpful things as you can. And there's really no other to explain this - except maybe via stories?
Thus, I read these essays - some were dull (because predictable), some sad, most were fun - and emerged (there we go again) a more hopeful person. Hopeful because God does not does not does NOT require super-holy, all-doctrine-knowing perfection from us prior to giving us His joy and using us as conduits of his love.
The stories of emergence are stories of grace.
Note: Don't treat the two-star rating as implying that I'm not *recommending* it. I am. Sorta. It's just that I don't think it need be all that high up on one's "to-read" list. It's a good book to have but there are lots of better stuff out there.