Dr Gladys Ganiel, who lectures on the M.Phil in Conflict Resolution and Reconciliation, spoke recently at a seminar for the Department for the Study of Religions at University College Cork, on ‘The Emerging Church Movement: What is it, and Why Does it Matter?’
This seminar was based on a forthcoming book by Gerardo Marti and Gladys Ganiel: The Deconstructed Church: Understanding Emerging Christianity (Oxford, April 2014). Her talk defined and described the Emerging Church Movement (ECM), exploring examples of Emerging Christian congregations, collectives, pub churches and neo-monastic communities from the USA, UK and Northern Ireland.
The ECM is a reform movement within Western Christianity that seeks to overturn what Emerging Christians see as conventional and destructive interpretations of the Gospel, to transform religious institutions so they are less hierarchical, and to reorient Christianity from inside the walls of church buildings to serving others outside in the “real world.” The ECM is significant from a sociological perspective because of the ways it resonates with the wider trends and values of our age, resulting in a distinct religious orientation that encourages individual autonomy and deep commitments to relationships with others. This religious orientation also includes common beliefs (around the nature of truth, doubt, and the nature of God), and practices (innovations in preaching, worship, Eucharist, leadership, etc). These characteristics make it stand out among modern Christian traditions and identifications as appealing to a ‘spiritual, but not institutionally religious’ self. This matters because it means that the ECM will persist and even thrive not only as a viable religious identification, but also as a challenge to and influence on traditional Western Christian denominations well into the future.
For more on the forthcoming book, you also can read an interview with Ganiel and Marti in Bearings magazine, titled ‘The Last Stop: Understanding the Emerging Church Movement.’
(Image: Dr James Kapalo of UCC with Dr Gladys Ganiel)