Yesterday, I found a new blog. Written by Travis Mammone, it’s called “The Boy with the Thorn in His Side“. If you haven’t read it, go over and check it out. He’s a very good writer with some excellent ideas. The post that caught my attention was “When the Emerging Church Needs Reforming“. That one led me to “Still Sitting At the Misfit’s Table“. I can identify with a lot of what Travis is saying because I’m in the same boat when it comes to education. In a lot of situations (not just the EC community), I feel “othered” because I don’t have a college degree. Now, I’m not stupid and financial concerns didn’t keep me from higher education. I didn’t go to college for two reasons: 1) when I entered my chosen profession (firefighting), a degree wasn’t necessary and, 2) I’d had enough of school which, due to undiagnosed ADD, was just the slightest bit challenging. The first is changing, but 20 years ago, firefighters would look at you funny if you’d been to college and, now that I know what’s going on, the second may change, too. But, until it does, I’m still that guy without any letters after his name. Which makes it hard to be heard in this especially noisy corner of a noisy world.
Let me say right now that no one in the Emerging Church community has ever discounted anything I’ve said. In fact, in every conversation I’ve ever had within that group, most people have been very solicitous of my opinion. And, I’ll be the first to admit that a lot of what I feel comes from me, that I feel somewhat inadequate and intimidated in a conversation with people who have MA’s and PhD’s. After reading what Travis had to say on the issue, I realized something: not every leading voice in the movement went to seminary. Brian McLaren has a Master’s in English, but he didn’t go to a seminary. He does hold doctorates from both Carey Theological Seminary in Vancouver and Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria, VA, but they’re both honorary, which means the usual stuff required to get the degree in question (study, passing exams, graduation) have been waived. I don’t think anyone would doubt Brian’s contribution to the movement, no matter what his level of education. But, he’s been around since the beginning and I wonder what kind of reception he’d get if he was starting out today.
Don’t get me wrong, I like education and I think we need seminary-trained pastors. But, here’s the thing: a bunch of seminary-trained people sitting around shooting the theological shit isn’t going to push this movement forward. To do that, we’re going to have to distill what we believe into a coherent message that regular folks can get their head around. Who better to help reach the regular people (common meaning non-seminary grads) than regular people themselves? If you want to do that, you need to make sure that everyone has a place at the cool kid’s table and everyone’s voice is heard, regardless of their gender, sexual preference, physical ability or education level. While there is plenty of discussion regarding the first three, the last one? Not so much. And, the thing is, those of us without a doctorate, a master’s or a bachelor’s degree (gasp! those poor, benighted souls) have a lot to offer to this thing called Emergence Christianity. All we’re asking for is to be heard. Hell, I’ll even settle for being blown off. Because, to blow me off, you have to acknowledge me.