The Deconstructed Church–Understanding Emerging Christianity: What’s it all About?

caziThose of you who follow me on Twitter may have noticed my very relieved tweet on Saturday, sharing that Gerardo Marti and I have submitted the manuscript of our forthcoming book, The Deconstructed Church – Understanding Emerging Christianity, to Oxford University Press. Publication is expected some time next year.

In the meantime, you may be wondering: what’s it all about?

Back in April, Gerardo wrote on his blog:

A lot of writing exists (and much more since we received the contract with Oxford University Press) about the Emerging Church Movement—mostly a mixture of suppositions, speculations, and various spokespeople representing their visions for the movement. But sociologists of religion have been reluctant to pay much attention to this group of network-dependent, loosely-affiliated, and largely marginalized “Christians.” There are insiders and critics who are sick to death of hearing about emerging/emergent Christians, while there are plenty of outsiders who are still discovering it, intrigued by the orientation, and struggling to figure it out.

For my readers on the island of Ireland, yes, the book features plenty on the Belfast-born philosopher Peter Rollins and Belfast-based collective Ikon, whose approach we think resonates with the wider world of Emerging Christianity (though we are careful to point out that most people in Ikon don’t consider themselves part of the ‘Emerging Church Movement’).

We don’t claim to have all the answers, but to whet your appetites, here’s a short description of the book:

“Christianity is the only mad religion; which is perhaps, the explanation for its survival—it deconstructs itself and survives by deconstructing itself.”  — Jacques Derrida

The Emerging Church Movement (ECM) is a reform movement within Western Christianity that reacts against its roots in conservative evangelicalism by “de-constructing” contemporary expressions of Christianity. Emerging Christians see themselves as overturning out-dated interpretations of the bible, transforming hierarchical religious institutions, and re-orientating Christianity to step outside the walls of church buildings toward working among and serving others in the “real world.”

Drawing on ethnographic observations from emerging congregations, pub churches, neo-monastic communities, conferences, online networks, in-depth interviews, and congregational surveys in the US, UK, and Ireland, this book provides a comprehensive social scientific analysis of the development and significance of the ECM. Emerging Christians are shaping a distinct religious orientation that encourages individualism, deep relationships with others, new ideas around the nature of truth, doubt, and God, and innovations in preaching, worship, Eucharist, and leadership.

More than other expressions of Christianity, the ECM simultaneously reacts against modernity while drawing on distinctly modern conceptions of self and community to produce a form of religiosity well-suited to our era. The significance of the ECM extends far beyond the individuals and congregations that identify with the movement, as the imperatives that drive it accentuate what is driving the future of Western Christianity.

(Image from Ikon’s Culture Night performance 2011, sourced at

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