Review of The Deconstructed Church in Church History by Randall Reed – ‘a masterful explanation of a potentially important movement’

The Deconstructed Church: Understanding Emerging Christianity (Oxford University Press), my 2014 book co-authored with Gerardo Marti, has been reviewed in Church History (March 2017) by Dr Randall Reed, Associate Professor of Philosophy and Religion at Appalachian State University.

Gerardo and I have been gratified that the book has been reviewed in so many scholarly and popular outlets (click here and scroll down to see the range of reviews) – and that it was awarded the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion’s 2015 Distinguished Book Award.

Reed concludes:

Marti and Ganiel’s The Deconstructed Church is a welcome addition to the work on the Emerging Church, but likewise stands apart as a masterful explanation of a potentially important movement. This text represents a tremendous contribution to those working on the Emerging Church Movement, but also it has a rich theoretical apparatus that will allow insights into contemporary American religion as well. It is a pleasure to read and will offer scholars much to ponder regarding the future of American religion.

Reed’s review situates the book in the wider American religious landscape, including discussion of how the Emerging Church potentially relates to the growing numbers of people who identify themselves as ‘no religion.’ Indeed, were we writing the book again today, it would probably include greater reflection on how Emerging Christianity relates with the ‘religiously unaffiliated.’

The Emerging Church Movement may well be one of the more important religious movements in the first half of the twenty-first century. Mainline and evangelical Christianity in the United States are on the decline. Religiously unaffiliated people are increasing faster than any other religious group in the United States and this group is being driven by the millennial generation, which has a religiously unaffiliated population that is reaching plurality status (Robert P. Jones, Daniel Cox, Betsy Cooper, and Rachel Lienesch, “Exodus: Why Americans Are Leaving Religion—and Why They’re Unlikely to Come Back,” Public Religion Research Institute, 2016, http://www.prri.org/research/prri-rns-2016-religiously-unaffiliated-americans/). On top of that, it is clear that a significant reason for this is the abandonment of the traditional religious ideologies by millennials and others. The church is seen as too judgmental, hypocritical, and political. In the face of all that comes the Emerging Church Movement, a movement whose leaders have called into question some of the most important traditional doctrines of the Protestant Church.

Three years on from publication, it is also good to see that not only is The Deconstructed Church still being reviewed, but Emerging Christianity is generating more scholarly attention. Gerardo recently edited a special issue of the Scientific Study of Religion on Emerging Christianity.

With its publication in paperback due for early 2018 in the UK and Ireland, I hope that The Deconstructed Church continues to be useful for scholars and others who are interested in the movement.

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