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NCC's 2006 Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches
cites two 21st century trends: blogging and the Emergent Church
New York, March 30, 2006 -- First it was the mimeograph machine and the Ediphone. Then radio preachers. Then, in rapid succession, the television, desktop computers, e-mail, CDs and mobile phones.
Almost from the beginning, American theology and church communication have been intricately linked with emerging technologies. Preachers have often sensed God's call to spread the word as loudly and as widely as possible, and many think electronic media are divinely inspired.
Now the National Council of Churches' 2006 Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches examines the latest electronic miracle -- the blog -- and considers its influence on the Emergent Church (EC).
No one knows how many bloggers occupy cyberspace, but chances are your teen or tween are updating their thoughts even now. Blogs are journals or personal diaries that, instead of being hidden in desk drawers, are posted on the Internet for the prying eyes of thousands or even millions of readers. Many blogs are updated daily to record the evolving insights of the blogger. Not every blog is compelling reading, but some blogs have a growing and devoted following, such as Ariana Huffington's www.huffingtonpost.com/ , for left-leaning viewpoints, or Hugh Hewitt's http://hughhewitt.com/ on the right.
When the Democratic and Republican Conventions provided bloggers with press credentials, it was a sign that the blog has become a prominent medium of 21st century communication. It was probably inevitable, then, that the blog would become an important tool of the Emergent Church.
The Emergent Church is defined by Yearbook Editor, the Rev. Dr. Eileen W. Lindner, as a "conversation" (some would say movement) birthed in 20th century Protestantism and "characterized by a robust, energetic and growing online and hardcopy literature" that attempts to shape responses to contemporary culture.
Common attributes of the EC, Lindner believes, are an emulation of the person and ministry of Jesus, a fondness for anecdotes and stories as means of discovering truth, a focus on mission, and a stress on the centrality of worship, even in experimental forms.
Scores of EC proponents are using blogs to advance these ideas and stimulate dialogue. Lindner says it is not possible to generalize them into a predictable demographic class, but she offers examples of prominent EC bloggers: John O'Keefe, founder of www.ginkworld.net, "an emerging/postmodern site exploring what it means to be a follower of Jesus in today's world;" Spencer Burke, former pastor, founder of http://theooze.com Web site, "dedicated to the emerging Church culture;" Mark Driscoll, founder of Mars Hill Church (www.marshillchurch.org) in Seattle; Mark Pearson, founder of www.cityside.org.nz in Aukland, New Zealand; and Karen Ward, founder and pastor of the Church of the Apostles, http://www.apostleschurch.org, in Seattle.
Emergent Church has become so popular among evangelicals that an EC track appears on the agenda of the National Pastors Conference sponsored by Zondervan and InterVarsity.
"Perhaps what has made blogging particularly interesting to religious people," Lindner writes, "is that journaling is already a discipline that religious people maintain in significant numbers." What is new, Lindner says, is that personal meditations can now be "easily and economically shared with a limitless number of others."
The blog is also becoming an important tactic for institutional communication. The Rev. Dr. Shanta Premawardhana, associate general secretary of the NCC for Interfaith Relations, maintains a blog at http://nccinterfaith.blogspot.com/.
No one knows what future technologies will offer, but Lindner expects blogging "to remain a persistent feature of the religious landscape" for the foreseeable future. EC blogging, she says, will remain on the Internet "so long as questions remain about faith, and people ponder the ultimate questions of life."
The 2006 Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches cites the following blogs that are used by Emergent Church practitioners for communication:
Bible Software Review Weblog—www.bsreview.org/weblog/blogger.html
Christian Alliance for Progress—blog01.kintera.com/christianalliance
Christianity Today Online—www.christianitytoday.com/ctmag/features/weblog
The Evangelical Outpost—www.evangelicaloutpost.com
Idle musings of a bookseller—http://anebooks.blogspot.com The Magdalene Review—www.magdalenereview.org NCC Interfaith Relations—http://nccinterfaith.blogspot.com
Religion News Blog—www.religionnewsblog.com Religions of the Ancient Mediterranean—www.philipharland.com/Blog
Sollicitudo Rei Socialis—http://socialconcern.blogspot.com
Stumbling Toward Divinity—http://leppercolony.blogspot.com
The 2006 Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches costs $45 and may be ordered at www.electronicchurch.org.
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