While critics of religion love to interpret such trends as the death rattle of religion, (I would caution such analysts to ponder the irony of pronouncing the death of a religion whose God dies) there is more evidence to support that the rise of the "nones" is not a death, but an evolution in faith and spirituality. "Many of those who have given up on organized religion have not given up on faith," says Sullivan. Although the "nones" are increasing, statistics for agnostics and atheists remain low, at about 4%. What we have are a lot of people who still believe in a god of sorts, but can't find a safe, flexible place to explore and live out their faith.
Nevertheless, people are responding to and evolving with these trends. One of the key Christian movements is the Emerging Church movement: "The U.S. has a long tradition of producing spiritual innovators and entrepreneurs. Today they're the organizers of the emergent-church movement, an effort by younger Christian leaders (there's a similar movement among Jews) to take religion away from musty pews and fierce theological fights by creating small worship communities that often meet in member's homes," writes Sullivan.
The Emerging Church movement is difficult to define and I'll make no attempt to elaborate in this post (I've included some links at the end of this post). It's simply encouraging to see TIME acknowledge a serious trend in American religious life, as well as the important response movements that are taking place. Sullivan concludes her article with a quote from Erin Dunigan, a pastor of "Not Church" in La Mision, Mexico. Dunigan says, "It allows the folks that I spend time with to say, 'If organized religion is willing to try something new, maybe I should give organized religion a chance.' "
The nine core practices of the Emerging Church:
- Identifying with Jesus (and his way of life through incarnational living)
- Transforming secular space (overcoming the secular/sacred split)
- Living as community (not merely as strangers in proximity at a church service)
- Welcoming the stranger (radical and genuine hospitality that is inclusive)
- Serving with generosity (not merely serving the institution called "church," but people)
- Participating as producers (not as widgets in the church program)
- Creating as created beings (releasing God’s creativity inherent in each one)
- Leading as a body (beyond control and the CEO model of leadership)
- Merging ancient and contemporary spiritualities (recognizing and celebrating the contribution of 2000 years of Christianity).