Book Review: An Emergent Manifesto of Hope


Stephen Kriss, Director of Communication and Leadership Cultivation

I’ll begin this review with a proud confession. I’ve used Brian McLaren for pastoral guidance before he was either controversial or cool and I’ve worked within the movements of what is becoming known as the Emergent Church for awhile now. I’ve experimented with the ideas as a pastor and know that it’s a perspective that readily commingles with Anabaptism and offers meaningful possibilities as well as challenging risks. What is the Emergent movement? Well, it’s hard to explain but it’s cutting across denominational and theological lines. It’s becoming a perspective of cultural engagement and missional identity in our day. Check out for more information.

In this issue of Growing Leaders, we’ve set out to explore pastoral leadership in times of rapid change. These are certainly those times and I’d set out to find a book that would give a cue to the possibilities of pastoral leadership in the fast-lane. At first, I was drawn to more contemplative writers and perspectives, but we’ve committed to reviewing more recent releases. I’d assert that to pastor in these rapidly changing times it’s pertinent to look into the past as well as into the writing of the moment. It’s relevant to search the words of 20th Century heroes like Simone Weil and Bonhoeffer, to revisit early Anabaptist leaders who were in days of their own rapid change, to examine medieval writers like HildegaardMeister Eckhart and , or to go further back into the early church writers like those who came before Augustine and wondered how to situate themselves in an age of Empire.

In searching for a more recent publication, I’m ready to recommend engaging with Emergent perspectives as an incarnation of faith in our historical moment. An Emergent Manifesto of Hope provides a mix of perspectives from an array of writers who are addressing and portraying their own questions and strivings. This book includes over 20 Emergent writers in a good introductory format, surrounding the possibility of hope. It’s a mixed anthology of memoir, teaching, essay, and homily.

The writers explore questions and issues like justice, racism, sexuality, and postmodernity. They are naming and framing a movement. It’s a glimpse into a transformation that will likely impact the American church for the next decade. It’s a book that’s representative of the rapid changes within the church itself, not only in the culture. Dwight J. Friesen’s chapter is particularly strong and has some good questions. There’s a quote from Vaclav Havel at the end of his chapter on embracing differences that suggests something significant about the whole book’s perspective and the pace of the church in our own time….

Something is on the way out and something else is painfully being born. It is as if something were crumbling, decaying, and exhausting itself, while something else, still indistinct, were arising from the rubble… we are in a phase when one age is succeeding another, when everything is possible.

Havel’s assertion permeates as an assumption in the book’s writing and there’s a sense of expectancy that nearly anything might be possible in these times of rapid and difficult change (sounds like Jesus’ conceptualization, too). I’d suspect that we can expect the pace of change to not only be sustained, but to quicken. I’d suspect the authors here who are finding hope in the midst of the quick pace, in creative communities of believers, would predict the same and invite us into the possibilities with our histories, perspectives, and questions and to work toward that same hope.

Other writers featured include: Brian McLaren, Tony Jones, Ryan Bolger, Sally Morgenthaler, and Pacific Southwest Mennonite Conference-connected Rudy Carrasco from Pasadena, CA.

To see the book (click)