I think part of the problem lies in what my friend Bruce Reyes-Chow identified yesterday as “cultural competency.” Cultural competence, according to our good friends at Wikipedia, is “is a term used for the ability of people of one culture to understand and feel comfortable with the cultures of other people.” Part of the problem that we continue to run into in these conversations between the cultures of the emerging church and the “traditional” or “existing” church world is a lack of competence in understanding, appreciating, and valuing the culture of the other.For many “emergent” types, having grown up in an evangelical world that rejected your sense of beauty and uniqueness, the mainline world seems old, stale, and dead. Given the demographic makeup of American religion, with the mainline in “decline,” it is easy to come across as folks bent as “saving the church” with all the solutions for mainline folks. And there is no doubt that our cultural analysis suggests that those of us in the mainline traditions have to grow and adapt and change in the days ahead if we want to be faithful in Christ’s call to bring forth God’s kingdom here on earth.

Jay Voorhees is addressing the heart of my frustrations in his blog, Only Wonders.  In a multi layered urban context this is even more frustrating for people who are fighting social and class injustices as they allow God to speak to them about their place in this world. Add dreadlocks, hip hop music and unique expressions of life in America and I begin to ask myself is there a place at the “emergent table” for the urban evangelicals.  Is there a different conversation that we need to have as we express how we see God moving in our world which is framed from cultural norm often not shared with the mainstream or emergent cultures. Is this conversation taking place within the historical African American Congregations?

The mega churches and churches with human resource capital, financial capital, relationship captital, influence capital and intellectual capital are leaving the inner city and urban areas leaving those who have the most need with fewer resources to deal with a aggressively hostile world.

Latinos, African Americans and Asians seem to be left out of the mainstream conversation unless your worldview is suburban and non threatening. You can join and participate as long as “your cultural competancy” allows you to sit at our table.  This message is sometimes subtle and often ignored because these are the same compenencies that are required to participate in a corporate environment.  At the “emergent table” there are already several cultural challenges that are on the table being wrestled with before we ever discuss the urban component.

I used to think that the emergent community was attempting to model the beloved community. Maybe a better question is , “Has the emergent movement moved into the community phase?”

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