The Influence Of

The Emerging Church On British Christianity

This is an online version of a research paper written in 2010. It has been revised in 2016.

Out of deference to those individuals whose views have changed since 2009, much of the material relating to the British church has been omitted. Rather than spend time (which I don’t have) on a wholesale revision of this research paper, I have even left the title intact though it would be more accurate now to entitle it ‘The Influence of the Emerging Church Movement’.

The best quick introduction to the Emerging Church is to go to the Video Page (on the menu on the right) and click on those links.

Part I is an overview of the teaching of the Emerging Church.
Part II is a more detailed examination of what and how they write, their influence, and their take on church history.
Part III shows how the Emerging Church has become a major influence within British Christianity. (Mostly deleted in the 2016 revision)
Appendix One contains a detailed compilation of quotations from the people who are generally accepted as the leading figures in the movement, such as  Brian McLaren, Tony Jones, Doug Pagitt, and Phyllis Tickle.


I make no criticism of the personality or integrity of the individuals mentioned in this paper. Many of them are spoken of highly by those who know them, even when they disagree with their teaching.  I recognise that many of their motives, particularly in the area of social justice, are admirable. Every act of compassion towards those in need brings joy to God’s heart. My commentary concerns only what they, as recognised Christian leaders, are teaching as Christian doctrine and the implications of that teaching for the worldwide church.


The purpose of this paper is to

  • outline the main features of the Emerging Church
  • identify aspects of its doctrine which are clearly at variance with orthodox Christianity
  • provide detailed quotations from its leaders which confirm this, and
  • show the widespread penetration of emergent teaching within the British church and parachurch organisations.


‘Emerging’ and ‘Emergent’ can sometimes be used to distinguish different aspects of the movement. In this paper, the terms are used interchangeably.

The Emerging Church has been defined, most notably by Mark Driscoll in 2007[1], as consisting of a number of streams of different churchmanship. As non-liberals have increasingly chosen to distance themselves from it, the theologically liberal stream of the Emerging Church is all that remains that can be identified as a movement. In this paper, ‘Emerging Church’ or ‘Emerging Church movement’ (‘ECM’) are therefore used to describe what has otherwise been described as the liberal stream of the movement.


As author of this paper, I give permission only for portions of my commentary to be to be distributed electronically as long as that extract does not exceed ‘fair use’ as accepted in copyright law. This means, except for purposes of criticism, a maximum of 300 words. Please cite this website address as the source.

The authors I cite are the copyright holders of their own text. My use of their material is for the purposes of criticism and I deem it to be within the terms of fair use for criticism. I am making no financial gain from this paper.

[1] See Epilogue:  ‘Mark Driscoll – Admirable Emergent’.

26 Responses to “Introduction & Contents”

  1. Graeme Says:

    Whilst I acknowledge that not everything in the emergent conversation is palatable I think we must remember two other occasions (one biblical, one historical) where the established religious leaders had a real problem with the theology of a new emerging group.

    The first can be found throughout the Gospels and especially in Acts. The Religious Leaders of the Jewish nation, chosen by God, rejected the teaching of a small sect called ‘The Way’. The leaders of the sect were vilified by the religious authorities and imprisoned. Only a few voices stood up and suggested that maybe time should be allowed to be the judge!

    The second happened some 1,500 years after the first and once again the religious leaders of the time sort to stamp out the obscene heresies of a small group of emerging theologians. This time that small band of radicals spoke out against the excesses of a church that, they claimed, had lost sight of the true Gospel. However, that church knew that it was right and there excommunicated the heretics.

    Is it possible that we need to take a step back and learn a lesson from these events of the past? Is it possible that we are so prepared to shout heresy that we fail to see that there may well be something vitally important for us to learn? Is it possible that just for once the church could stop, listen and allow God to reveal in the fullness of time whether the emerging church is a valid expression of the Kingdom? There was one brave voice in the Jewish religious authorities that suggested that if this was not of God then he would not allow it to gain a stronghold, yet if it was nothing at all could stop it!

    Is it possible that in the light of some 30,000+ Protestant denominations that on the whole split apart because of disagreements over theological issues that just for once we could to the Christian thing and allow God to judge, rather than judging ourselves?

  2. Nigel Edwards Says:

    I am very disappointed that in quoting p26 of Rob Bell’s Velvet Elvis re the virgin birth you imply he does not believe in the virgin birth. In fact the main thrust is an exploration of someone else’s quote “no six day creation equals no cross. remove one, and the whole wall wobbles”. Yet you COMPLETELY ignore p27 “I affirm the historic faith, which includes the virgin birth and the Trinity and the inspiration of the Bible and much more”.

    How on earth does that gel with “I cannot and would
    not make any judgment on an individual or organisation. I have said already that I have very little time for ‘heresy hunters’ who smear by innuendo on the basis of tenuous associations between individuals and movements which they draw by
    intellectually dubious and dishonest reasoning.” on page 32 of your missive against virtually all aspects of the Emergent Church and the leaders within it??

    If this isn’t a smear on ‘individuals and movements’ what the heck is it? Please be honest!!!

    I would say that whilst Scripture is infallible, our human interpretation of it is not always so – take the inquisitions as an example…. Biblical orthodoxy has not been fixed since AD 33… we grow in our understanding, and interpretation of scripture will still be subject to revelation today.

    Is Jesus the ‘way the truth and the life’? YES! But did He also have something to say about how we live here and now? YES!!! These two different aspects of Jesus’ teaching are not in total contradiction as you imply….

  3. Jason Clark Says:

    Whilst I appreciate your statements to not vilify people you cite, and there is much in your paper I would have enjoyed talking through with you, I would like to comment on your use of my work in your paper.

    I feel your use of my work is rather one sided and would draw your attention to post on my site:



    I write that not to distance my self from Brian McLaren in anyway, but to show that many in emerging church are critical of it too. I like many others you have cited been willing to dialogue with you, and draw your attention to our larger corpus of work. That would have added to your desire to not be perceived as a heresy hunt.

    Warmly, Jason Clark

    • Thank you for your graciously worded comment. I have checked out the links and most certainly see the points you are making. I will try to see what I can do to the text, because it is not fair to misrepresent your views. If I have done, my apologies. I will certainly turn to this as soon as I can.

      In the meatime I do recommend visitors to this site to check those links.

  4. Anonymous Says:

    The entire article really should have been proof read. e.g.

  5. Jack Heppell Says:

    The entire article should have been proof read. e.g.
    1. again the religious leaders of the time sort to stamp out????
    2. yet if it was nothing at all could stop it????
    3. last para. that just for once we could to the Christian thing???

    • Thanks Jack. It was proof read. Many, many times. Not only by me, either. It is extraordinary how many typos you can miss over and over again, even when you are looking for them. I think most people who end up writing 90 pages on something (the length of the original pdf) still keep missing mistakes. To err is human …

  6. Tony Little Says:

    What seems to have escaped many, is that the Pharisees were not in trouble because they “stuck” to the “Old Law”, and would not “move with the times”. They were in trouble because they reinterpreted and added to the Law according to their own invention. They failed to recognise Messiah, because they interpreted the Prophets motivated by their personal self-interest, i.e, to advance or maintain their own importance in society. If they had simply believed the Prophets (the inerrant Word of God), they would have believed Messiah. It appears to me that some of the Emergents may be among the latter-day “pharisees”.

  7. Kate Hampton Says:

    I have one simple question to ask you. Why have you written this without having a conversation with Brian McLaren (and others you quote)? It seems to me that you can read all the books in the world but unless you experience the writer (and this applies to the Bible too) you cannot really know. Peace and Good Kate

    • Interesting point but to comply with it means that very few books reviews could ever be written in the Christian or secular press. No one in the West could review a book by, say, a Chinese author who never left the Far East. Likewise, English Literature, primarily dealing with dead writers, would cease to be taught in schools or universities. If an author seeks to publish, he or she must be prepared for their works to be read and discussed in their physical absence. If they are unable to express themselves clearly enough to be understood in print alone, then, at the very least, they need to edit their work so that it can be better comprehended.

  8. luis rodrigues coelho Says:

    My humble opinion on this entire emerging church, both in the Uk and in the US, is a huge rebellion heresy. It’s clearly part of the New Age Movement, already condenmed by the Catholic Church. Jesus warned us about the false teachers of the end times. Since we are living in fact the end times, it comes as no surprise heretics teachings coming from people like brian mclaren or “fr richard rohr”. I might be very eloquent explaining my points of view, but at the same time i like to keep things simple. Jesus is God, Jesus is the Son of God, as budah is a false god. To compare the teachings of our od with those of budah is a the clear break of the first three coma.Althoug by promoting budah ideologies inside the catholic chruch, you are also breaking the 4th, 5th and 9th comandments. It is as simple as this.
    Catholics shouldn’t mix teachings from other faiths or religions, this is false ecumenism. Our task is to pray for people of other faiths to come to our church, the One True Church. I highly condmen all teachings coming from fr richard rohr and I will expose this evil ideologogy to people in my parish in colwyn bay, St. Joseph’s. God is the same yesterday, today and forever, He will never change His ways, therefore the catholic church doesn’t have to accomodate Herself into these modern days. This is communist ideologiy being used through New Age. Progress is demonic, liberalism is demonic, globalization is demonic as well as other trendy ideologies are demonically influenced.
    As the faresees rejected Jesus as the messiah and the truth and paid people money to lie and influence others, the same is hapening today. Also today people do not want to accept the truth, prefering a some sort of catholic cafeteria, where they can pick and chose what to follow or not in terms of doctrines and teachings. Doctrines and teachings are not to be chosen, but followed with obedience. Lack of obedience is called rebellion, satan was the first to rebel with the motto “i will not serve”.
    What the emerging church is doing fits in this modern profile “i will not serve”, I will not obey.
    God have mercy on those who follow New Age, specially “catholics”.
    God bless

  9. Thank You for getting the message out there that the emergent church is dangerous and most certainly a very large door into the new age. I hope and pray that many Christians who have become involved in emergent teachings will find this site and turn away from the emergent doctrines and false teachings. God Bless You Brother for putting this site here.

  10. Dave Bennett Says:

    You say

    ‘This is an online version of a research paper written in 2010.’

    Please could you tell me if it is possble to get a copy og your research paper?

    Please could you give me the details of the writter of these notes.

    I’m a doctrinal research student at Bangor University and Mattersey Hall

  11. Anonymous Says:

    Thanks for your very entertaining page, but I feel there is a bit too much reading. It hurts my eyes, and I didn’t read anything.

  12. Anonymous Says:

    Please kindly open this page for me

  13. Anonymous Says:

    Herzlichen Dank für die wertvolle und dringend notwendige Aufklärungsarbeit über die emergente Bewegung. Der grösste Teil der Christen in den Freikirchen der Schweiz hat keine Ahnung, was heute abgeht. Man engagiert sich ahnungslos im Global Focus oder stopArmut- Projekten und merkt nicht, auf welchem Boden diese Dinge wachsen.
    Die Pilgermission St. Chrischona hatte Gastredner wie McManus, Claiborne und Brudereck zu wichtigen Konferenzen geladen. “Unplugged Jesus” von Rob Bell wurde als Pflichtlektüre an alle Prediger im Dienst abgegeben. Der Sauerteig des falschen Evangeliums ist am Wirken.
    Liebe Grüsse Anonymus CH

  14. I’ll right away grab your rss feed as I can not to find your email subscription link or e-newsletter service. Do you’ve any?
    Kindly allow me recognise in order that I may just subscribe.

  15. Hi friend and brother
    Simply, I seen this in one of Spurgeons sermons and think the ‘Bold men who brought the truth out again’ so wonderfully describes your work.

    Delivered on Sabbath Morning, March 28th, 1858, by the
    REV. C. H. Spurgeon

    The bold, bald doctrines that Luther brought out, began to be a little modified, until layer after layer was deposited upon them, and at last the old rocky truth was covered up, and there grew upon the superficial subsoil an abundance of green and flowery errors, that looked fair and beautiful, but were in no way whatever related to the truth, except as they were the products of its decay. Then there came bold men who brought the truth out again, and said, “Clear away this rubbish; let the blast light upon these deceitful beauties; we want them not; bring out the old truth once more!” And it came out. But the tendency of the church perpetually is, to be covering up its own naked simplicity, forgetting that the truth is never so beautiful as when it stands in its own unadorned, God-given glory.

    Richard Whiteside

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  20. Havefaith007 Says:

    Wow! This blog looks really awesome! The emergent church business is really bad news for the Kingdom of Heaven. I have a post on my blog, “Lightbearers for Jesus” that has a video and a link that talks about this spiritual fad. the address is:


    May the Good King, Jesus Christ continue to be with you and bless you!

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