The Hyphenateds

by Phil Snider, Editor

Diana Butler Bass coined the term “re-traditioning” several years ago to describe the ferment afoot in churches; Phyllis Tickle applies the term to the diverse forms of religious life seen in new Christian communities sprouting up on the American landscape.  Tickle calls attention in her work to the five-hundred-year cycle in Western history wherein civilization undergoes major upheaval.  The most recent such upheaval occurred in the 16th century; its religious face was the Protestant Reformation which, while it gave us a fresh new expression of Christianity,  can also be characterized as “a set of sensibilities and values shared by a very multifaceted form of Christian belief and praxis.”   How else can explain the varieties of Protestant faith be explained?

Tickle contends that we are now experiencing a comparable upheaval and sees in the new emerging forms of church a certain parallel to the Reformation.  She suggests, however, that differences exist, none of which “is more absorbing to watch or more portentous than is the presence within Emergence Christianity of the Hyphenateds”.  They are the Christians who are solidly in the emergent camp in terms of values, assets, ways of being, theological questioning – – but at the same time they are also “reverent and proud inheritors of the traditions, praxis, and structure of their own inherited denominations and communions.”  They seek to re-tradition, to keep the best of their particular tradition, merging it seamlessly with the best of the emerging church movement, hence their names as Presby-mergents, Catho-mergents, Metho-mergents – – Hyphenateds!

Phil Snider, an ordained minister in the Disciples of Christ, has edited this helpful collection that includes leading voices from among leaders in the emerging church scene on a broad range of topics.  Doug Pagitt,  in his Afterword titled “All in the Family”,  writes movingly of his own blended family that includes biological and adoptive children.  Names are important, he says, and this is true for those who are making a new life together as a faith community.  So what, he asks, is this hyphenated thing about?  In part it is “all of us trying to figure out the best way to move forward in our world from the particular pasts from which we are emerging” as a blended family.  And that, he concludes, “is a beautiful thing whether we use the punctuation or not.”

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