Doug Gay, Remixing The Church: Towards an Emerging Ecclesiology, London (SCM Press) 2011, 133 pp.

, ISBN 9780334043966, £17.99 Doug Gay’s book is a welcome addition to discussions on contemporary ecclesiology, for many reasons. Firstly so in terms of Gay’s ecclesial method, and then for the ecclesial context of the Emerging Church upon which that method is brought to bear. Within that method, Gay is a practical theology academic, and an embedded practitioner with a rich Emerging Church experience. Gay not only provides us with a reflexive method for understanding ecclesiology and the Emerging Church, he also embodies that reflexivity and ‘reflective-practice method’. Gay does not offer himself as an exemplar; rather he is carefully alert, nuanced and sensitive to his own experiences, within his method. With his stated hopes of offering a robust rebuttal to naysayers of the Emerging Church, and at the same time being a critical friend, his methods lends itself to a hearing from both those constituencies. His work is further welcome in that it brings a UK perspective to what is often a US led discussion at a popular and academic level. Gay’s method for ecclesial reflection draws upon Miroslav Volf, Stanley Hauerwas and Karl Barth, to propose that the Church is an open inter-ecclesial dialogue within its practices of reflection. We are invited to understand ecclesiology as ‘the Church’s practice of critical theological reflection upon it’s own practice’.1 For Gay claims that reflections on the nature of Church be they previous manifestations, such as reformed, or ecumenical, or the new Emerging Church discussion, are secondary insights into how primary ecclesial concerns (such as confessions of the Church). Gay describes this method as a hermeneutical spiral that he then uses to delineate heuristically, five motifs of the emerging church. These motifs are auditing, retrieval, unbundling, supplementing, and remixing. It is here that Gay’s method is most promising, and at the same time potentially most problematic for the Emerging Church itself. The five identified motifs have already garnered a positive reception from many within the Emerging Church2, but the ecclesial method surfacing those five motifs is in danger of being largely overlooked, and potentially ignored.3 For Gay wants to place some ‘weight’ upon the ‘Church’ of the ‘Emerging Church’, and suggests that we would be better served to talk of the ‘Church Emerging’. Gay does so as ‘a conscious attempt to re-weight the term towards ecclesiology’.

1

Doug Gay, Remixing The Church: Towards an Emerging Ecclesiology, London (SCM Press) 2011, xiv. 2 For example see http://tallskinnykiwi.typepad.com/tallskinnykiwi/2011/09/remixing-the-church-bydoug-gay-when-we-protested-against-ourselves.html accessed 10th October 2011. 3 But some are alert to it, http://jonnybaker.blogs.com/jonnybaker/2011/08/remixing-the-church.html, accessed 10th October 2011.

This is due to his fear a la Hauerwas, of how a qualifier may eclipse a main term. 4 There is an admission here by Gay that the Emerging Church has largely ignored or deliberately decided to place issues of secondary importance as primary. Beyond his methodological introduction, each chapter applies his method vigorously and rigorously, establishing how each of these secondary motifs is located within primary ecclesial concerns. Yet despite this the motifs that he surfaces are likely to be seen by many in the Emerging Church as primary ecclesiological concerns and not secondary manifestations, as he asserts. For one way to read Gay is as a minority report of Emerging Church ecclesiology; that despite its post-ecclesial attentions around secondary manifestations, there is an unconscious grounding in ecclesiology. In other words the Emerging Church has an ecclesiology that is itself largely unaware of. This is something many Emerging Church detractors have also missed. Alternatively we can read Gay as a call for the Emerging Church to consider that there is an attention to Ecclesiology that has been missing, but is most promising for it. That promise lays within an understanding of its current practices as secondary to primary ecclesial considerations, and need to ‘re-weight’ much of the attention of the Emerging Church, within the idea of the ‘Church Emerging’. Gay gives voice to the weariness of those within and without the Emerging Church, as if the whole movement is coming to a close. His desire is to provide a ‘decent epilogue’ to any concluding discussions.5 By that measure Gay provides a compelling and hopeful invitation of how the Emerging Church might be sustained, and how some it’s detractors might benefit from its previous explorations. In any event Gay provides a helpful method and work that others might wish to apply to other ecclesiological assessments. Only time will tell if the Emerging Church will do more than resonate and be excited about Gay’s five motifs as descriptors, and will explore how those and they themselves, might be ‘reweighted’ ecclesially, into the larger Church.

4 5

Doug Gay, Remixing The Church, xiii. Ibid., xi

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