Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Presbymergents: Loyal Radicals?

"Presbymergent is the online community for those who live in both the Presbyterian (PCUSA) and Emergent/emerging church worlds and want to try and find a balance between the two. We are pastors, lay people, seminarians, theologians, youth directors and people who generally care about both the Presbyterian Church (USA) and Emergent and the emergent conversation."

Let's discern their nature of "Worship" from one of the Presbymergent "community of ALL peoples."

"We resolve to engage a variety of worship forms. Many people commented on the need for our worship gatherings to engage ritual and liturgy. We also talked about centering prayer and the idea of creating original indigenous liturgies."

Notice the source of authority is ideas from members, "We resolve...Many people commented...We also talked...creating original indigenous." Nothing from the Bible, the PC(USA), the creeds, or any spiritual tradition.

The only recognizable spiritual notions here are some of the vocabulary, "Worship...ritual and liturgy...centering prayer...indigenous liturgies." However, the "Centering Prayer" has a link to a Wikipedia article which gives a fuller explanation of this:

"Centering prayer is a popular method of contemplative prayer or Christian meditation, placing a strong emphasis on interior silence. Though most authors trace its roots to the contemplative prayer of the Desert Fathers of early Christian monasticism, to the Lectio Divina tradition of Benedictine monasticism, and to works like The Cloud of Unknowing and the writings of St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross, its origins as part of the "Centering Prayer" movement in modern Catholicism and Christianity can be traced to several books published by three Trappist monks of St. Joseph's Abbey in Spencer, Massachusetts in the 1970s: Fr. William Meninger, Fr. M. Basil Pennington and Abbot Thomas Keating."

This is a very common form of spirituality shared by many Emergents. Notice the heavily traditional Catholic influence so as Solomon said, "There is no new thing under the sun" (Eccl 1:9). Notice also the emphasis on "interior silence" or as the article further clarifies, "The purpose of centering prayer is to clear the mind of rational thought in order to focus on the indwelling presence of God."

So ultimately, focusing on the indwelling presence of God clears the mind of rational thought which can then be used to "create original indigenous liturgies." This is a much shorter circuit to spirituality than the traditional, longer routes of using the Bible, the PC(USA), the creeds, or any spiritual tradition. So the fable here is Existential Experience and not rationality!

This is a far cry from Westminster's first lines:

"Although the light of nature, and the works of creation and providence, do so far manifest the goodness, wisdom, and power of God, as to leave men inexcusable; yet are they not sufficient to give that knowledge of God, and of His will, which is necessary unto salvation; therefore it pleased the Lord, at sundry times, and in divers manners, to reveal himself, and to declare that His will unto his Church; and afterwards for the better preserving and propagating of the truth, and for the more sure establishment and comfort of the Church against the corruption of the flesh, and the malice of Satan and of the world, to commit the same wholly unto writing; which maketh the holy Scripture to be most necessary; those former ways of God's revealing his will unto his people being now ceased."

The Westminster Confession of Faith (1646)


  1. I'm not sure I'd trust Wikipedia as a reliable source for information on Centering Prayer. It is an ancient practice but, like all such practices in the hands of the Emergents, prone to abuse and misapplication. To the ancients, it was a way of cultivating intimacy with God. To the Emergents, it's just another "cool" fad.

    I assume among the ranks of the Presbymergents is Nanette Sawyer, a PCUSA minister in Chicago. You will not find a more hilarious example of theological and exegetical vapidity than her essay, "What Would Huckleberry Do?" (pp. 41-50), in An Emergent Manifesto (BakerBooks, 2007).

  2. I only reproduced what they referenced in their document from Wikipedia. I am aware that even a four-year-old could edit anything in Wikipedia. Wait, maybe it was a four-year-old who suggested "creating original indigenous liturgies" at the Prebymergent meeting...I mean standards are pretty slack!