Emergent Church Difficulties and Differences

The phrase "emergent church difficulties and differences", although it sounds like a new book title, is actually found in a document from 1662 known as the Propositions of the Synod of the churches of New England, which convened in Boston that year. This document was part of the affirmation of the Halfway Covenant of 1662.

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Here is the quote as it appears:

"There has constantly been in these churches a profession of communion, in giving the right hand of fellowship at the gathering of churches and ordination of elders, which importeth a consociation, and obligeth to the practice thereof; without which we should want also an expedient and sufficient cure for emergent church difficulties and differences, with the want thereof our way is charged, but unjustly, if this part of the doctrine were duly practiced."

Propositions of the Synod of 1662, page 31-21, found in The Panoplist, and Missionary Magazine United, for the year ending  June 1, 1812. Volume IX New Series. (italics mine)

The Halfway Covenant ended up to be quite controversial, I agree with William Hernard ["Sinners in the Hands of an Emergent Church"] that the primary reason for the termination of Edward’s Northampton  pastorate was his "theological position regarding a regenerate membership and the half-way covenant". I also agree with Hernard that Edwards would probably affirm some elements of the present day emergent church and dismiss others. Things have pretty much been the same since the 1600’s and the age of modern missions. Once the church has experienced its own emergence (as USA did in the 1600’s) and then has settled down to a more institutional existence, the only living examples of church emergence in a new culture happen overseas, out of sight, on the "foreign mission field". What we once gave permission for and blessed in an overseas context is now happening at our doorstep and in full view – the emergence of new forms of Christ’s body native and contextually appropriate to a new culture, in all its ‘difficulties and differences’, but still true to the original intention and mandate of the One who sends us.

Hey, don’t you think its hilarious that what might be the first ever reference to "emergent church" appears in a document called PROPOSITIONS of the Synod? In my research into the origins of the term ’emergent church’ and its use in missiology regarding pioneer church planting situations, this is the earliest reference I have found. I would be more than happy to have someone send me information of an earlier reference.

Related: The Emergent Church, 1980

Andrew

Andrew Jones has been blogging since 1997. He is based in San Francisco with his two daughters but also travels the globe to find compelling stories of early stage entrepreneurs changing their world. Sometimes he talks in the third person. Sometimes he even talks to himself and has been heard uttering the name “Precious” :-)

17 Comments

  • I really enjoy when you pull this stuff out and share it with us.
    Especially in the states there is so much misunderstanding and confusion regarding “emerging”, and its a drag to see people in traditionally mission minded churches not understand what it looks like when this is done in their own towns.
    There are some people who do have an odd-theological bent who also claim to be “emerging”, but to me it has always seemed to be more about church practice, worship, and missiology-especially when you look at the British and Continental roots of the movement.
    Thanks for doing this kind of work Andrew, maybe one day more people can find out all this great information you have been giving us.

  • Maybe I’m misunderstanding some of the old English, but is the phrase actually “emergent church”, or does the adjective “emergent” modify the entire phrase “church difficulties and differences”?
    In other words, was it referring to difficulties and differences in the church that were beginning to manifest themselves (i.e., emerging)? Or was it referring to difficulties and differences of the “emergent church”?
    Not trying to burst your bubble here or anything, but just wondering about the actual grammar there.

  • good point steve. you might be right.
    but the usage over the past 100 years, mainly from Roman Catholic missions, has almost always been in reference to the kind of church emerging from church planting efforts in a mission environment or the early church in the first two centuries.

  • Andrew,
    The Halfway Covenant dates to 1662, not 1622, which would have been only two years after the Mayflower landed, and eight years before the city of Boston (where the New England synod convened) was founded.

  • Those so-called churches were no churches. They were proven false, all of them, by true Christians who were perfectly prophesied in Rev 3:7-13, who went on to found Philadelphia, USA. Some of those true Christians were even martyred in New England over 300 years ago for simply declaring God’s exact original Gospel Truth.
    Not one person can call himself or herself a Christian until he or she has what we were told to find first according to Scriptures such as Mt 6:33a; Ro 1:16-25. True Christians have found but false Christians have not.
    What, exactly, did you find first that is revealed in the Gospel? How, exactly, do we go from the Law of Sin and Death to belong to the Law of the Spirit of Life? Everyone, who is truly saved, who has “the Mind of Christ” will know the correct, easy and short answer, 1Co 1-3. Do you?

  • exactly? God’s exact original Gospel Truth? the correct, easy and short answer?
    well . .. i will sleep better tonight knowning that at least someone in the world finally knows the answers. and thanks, anne, for the insight that John was thinking about America when he wrote Revelation.

  • In Jn 8, what the real Jesus Christ said to the Jews, He said to all: “If ye abide in my Word, then are ye truly my disciples and ye shall know the Truth and the Truth shall make you free. Verily, verily, I say unto you: Everyone, that committeth sin, is the bondservant of sin. And the bondservant abideth not in the house forever, the son abideth forever. If, therefore, the Son shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed!” In 1Jn 5, John warned us about not believing: “He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in him. He that believeth not God hath made Him a liar because he hath not believed in the witness that God hath borne concerning His Son. And the witness is this: that God gave unto us eternal Life and this Life is in His Son.”
    God would not make salvation difficult, His Gospel Truth is so simple a child can easily understand it. It only becomes difficult when heretics try to change it, that is the only time it becomes complicated. First means first. Seek ye first God’s Kingdom and God’s Righteousness or you will never understand the rest, Mt 6:33a; Ro 1:16-25. What, exactly, did you find first in the Scriptures? What we must find first is also how we go from the Law of Sin and Death to belong to the Law of the Spirit of Life. No one will be saved until they make that change and everyone who is truly saved will know how it is done since they will have experienced it. anne robare / canawedding at aol dot com

  • Anne. your reputation precedes you. i see that you have been warned for years that your copy and paste messages are too long and not welcome. They are considered blog spam and i wont allow it.
    You have also been accused of being border-line heretical and possibly delusional
    link
    You are welcome to interact with us on this blog but please do so with short concise conversational posts that actually deal with the subject. thanks.

  • Matthew 10:24. “A disciple is not above his Teacher, nor a servant above his Lord. 25. It is enough for the disciple that he be as his Teacher and the servant as his Lord. If they have called the Master of the House “Beelzebub”, how much more them of His household! 26. Fear them not, therefore, for there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed and hid, that shall not be known. 27. What I tell you in the darkness, speak ye in the Light and what ye hear in the ear, proclaim upon the house-tops.”
    I obey the real Jesus Christ. False Christians, who have followed in the footsteps of the unbelieving Jews, are going to treat Jesus Christ’s true disciples just as they treated Him as He said it would be and it is. All true Christians have “the Mind of Christ” and they will know the easy answers to the simple but extremely critical questions i have asked, 1Co 1-3. What i asked is totally relevant since not one person can be saved until they find first according to Mt 6:33a; Ro 1:16-25.
    And, you ought to be very careful as to what you call “spam”., Lk 10:16. anne robare / canawedding at aol dot com

  • cana wedding? isnt that the wedding where Jesus took the old ceremonial jars and filled them with wine so the party could continue?
    Thats the Jesus I follow.
    Anne, this blog post conversation stopped months ago and you seem to be copying and pasting sentences from the Bible without reason.
    Why dont you start a blog and publish as much as you want?
    Then you could also stand up to those that accuse you of [ like here ] of having no connection with the church, Christ’s body.
    In fact, I am curious myself. Please share with us your church experience when you come back – including the church you now attend and perhaps what difficulties and differences you see.
    this is the point of the blog post and it would be great to see you respond to the topic.

  • You wrote: cana wedding? isnt that the wedding where Jesus took the old ceremonial jars and filled them with wine so the party could continue?
    anne: That was no ordinary party; it was an extremely critical spiritual lesson that those without spiritual discernment do not understand. The reason why you do not understand is because you never began where the real Jesus Christ said we must begin. First means first.
    You wrote: Thats the Jesus I follow.
    anne: And that is the other Jesus that Paul warned you not to follow. Do you know where he warned about that?
    You wrote: Anne, this blog post conversation stopped months ago and you seem to be copying and pasting sentences from the Bible without reason.
    anne: You have no clue what the last Scriptures were about?! The real Jesus Christ said that would happen to some people. And, it so happens that your blog showed up on a search i did regarding the right hand of fellowship. That topic is not out-dated.
    You wrote: Why dont you start a blog and publish as much as you want? Then you could also stand up to those that accuse you of [ like here ] of having no connection with the church, Christ’s body.
    anne: Paul said we only need to warn false Christians twice, if it is even possible to do that. Sometimes i am more generous than that, especially if the person i’m corresponding with seems to be interested. The real Jesus Christ’s Church, His one body, is spiritual and only He adds to it, not any human. Did you spiritually drink your one and only spiritual baptism as Paul said we must in Scriptures such as 1Co 12:12-13; Eph 4:4-7? No? Then you do not belong to the spiritual body of the real Jesus Christ and, therefore, you are not saved no matter what you have been told or may claim.
    You wrote: In fact, I am curious myself. Please share with us your church experience when you come back – including the church you now attend and perhaps what difficulties and differences you see.
    anne: The carnal so-called churches, the Protestants, Catholics, Orthodox, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, all variations and relations of them are all false, prophesied to be false and proven false 350 years ago by the last large group of true Christians. How many times did the real Jesus Christ feed the multitudes? Twice. How many of the seven churches in Rev 2-3 were totally acceptable? Two. Very few will be saved, very few. The great falling away has been going on for a very long time, most of these 2000 years. What is the lie of 2Th 2? Paul revealed what the lie is right there in 2Th 2 but why don’t the so-called churches and their so-called experts know what it is? Why haven’t you answered my extremely simple but critical questions that have everything to do with really being saved?
    You wrote: this is the point of the blog post and it would be great to see you respond to the topic.
    anne: You ought to re-read my first comments and the rest. If you people do not want to listen, that is your choice to make but the sad thing is, you will have eternity to regret it. anne robare / canawedding at aol dot com

  • there – that wasnt so hard was it? its so much better when you comment like a real person.
    THANK YOU
    now i have go and prepare a sermon for one of those carnal protestant churches that you so despise. A baptist church – which no doubt you will condemn me to hell for.
    have a nice Sunday.

  • You wrote: now i have go and prepare a sermon for one of those carnal protestant churches that you so despise. A baptist church – which no doubt you will condemn me to hell for.
    anne: In God’s spiritual true Church, no human being can prepare a sermon or determine who will be baptized and who will not. The real Jesus Christ gives true Christians Words and Wisdom that no one can successfully resist or contradict as He said in Lk 21. You have just proved my statement 100% correct since you rely on human power when God demands that we use His Power from on High! Do i despise those carnal churches? I despise what they are doing to people — destroying them forever, that is what i despise and that is what all true Christians will despise. And, people send themselves to the Lake of Fire. If i point out the fact that you are sending yourself to the Lake of Fire, that is not condemning you. You were already self-condemned long before i came along! Baptist? You remain in your sins under the Law of Sin and Death. That is one reason you cannot answer my very simple questions. All true Christians will have “the Mind of Christ” and someone with “the Mind of Christ” will know the easy critical correct answers but false Christians do not know. When do you want to find out that you are in terrible trouble as described in Scriptures such as Gal 1:6-12? Now would be best, before it is too late!

  • Anne, I appreciate your early-Quaker pro-Robert Barclay thoughts but in addition to the Spirit’s prompting and the Bible itself, I still think staying connected to the body of Christ is an essential step in having the mind of Christ who is our Head.
    please start your own blog. you are way off topic here. and condemning us all to hell is probably not the best way to start a relationship with us.