Remixing the Church: Towards an Emerging Ecclesiology, by Doug Gay. Reviewed by Elizabeth Welch
Remixing the Church: Towards an Emerging Ecclesiology, by Doug Gay.
SCM Press, 2011, 133pp, ISBN 978-0-334-04396-6, £19.99.
Reviewed by Elizabeth Welch
Doug Gay writes, from a perspective that is both critical and affirmative, of the ‘emerging church’ movement, offering what he sees as an epilogue (or is it an epitaph?) to a movement which might possibly be nearing its end as a movement and yet has valuable insights to offer to the future church. He draws together his own personal experience of emerging church and his academic background as a practical theologian within the Reformed tradition to offer an analysis of this movement in a five-fold framework of ‘auditing, retrieval, unbundling, supplementing and remixing.’
The emerging church movement has embraced a range of approaches to worship which have become known as Alternative Worship in order to develop an approach to the Christian life which connects more readily with a generation disenchanted with traditional church. Gay’s analysis points to the mix of critical reflection on traditional worship practice (auditing) , with a search for worship elements and approaches from across the Christian spectrum (retrieval and unbundling) in order to come up with a new approach to being church (supplementing and remixing). Gay notes the sometimes unwitting ecumenical perspective involved, at least in terms of institutional ecumenism, as insights from different traditions are shared and developed in a practical approach to worship. He quotes Barth’s insistence that ‘as believers attend to the real presence of Christ among them, this present Christ will “dash out of their hands” their “claim to be identical with the one church in contrast to others”.’
This book is helpful in bringing together the range of practices and experiences from across the diverse phenomenon of emerging church. Coming out of a Reformed tradition, it has interesting resonances of the Reformation church in its sense of ‘retrieval’ and ‘remixing’. However the Reformation had a sharper focus on particular theological issues, such as the prioritising of scripture, faith and of grace in the Christian life. In the analysis of the diversity of emerging church I would have welcomed a greater sense of discernment of what is and what is not the Holy Spirit’s leading in this present generation. Gay interestingly notes that some people from out of the emerging church mix have returned to ‘traditional church’ in order to find a home that sustains. One of the issues with regard to emerging Church is whether its very diversity and creativity in each present moment, cuts against a long term sustainability.
This book is a quick and interesting read, full of good insights. Its five-fold framework provides a tool that can be used to look at the life of a local congregation or a wider tradition, although I would be interested to see the five terms more closely related to a scriptural interpretation of the challenges of change and continuity. The book both challenges those in the emerging church stream to look at their sustainability, and those in traditional church (used to describe the spectrum from Roman Catholic and Orthodox, via Reformed, to evangelical and charismatic) to look at the demands that faithfulness to the Gospel places in a rapidly changing and often secularising age.
Revd Elizabeth Welch is Chair of MODEM.
This review first appeared in MODEM Matters Issue 23 in April 2013.