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As one-time leaders of the emergent movement have recently distanced themselves from the term, the network itself dropped its organizational leader. The decision of Emergent Village's board of directors to eliminate its national coordinator position marked the latest sign that the movement is either decentralizing or disintegrating.

Board members said they eliminated Tony Jones's position October 31 in order to reclaim the Village's founding purpose as an "egalitarian social-networking organization." "We are gifting the power of Emergent back to the people at the grassroots level of the conversation," said Jones.

The decision leaves the future structure of emergent leadership unclear. "We know how to run traditional organizations," said Brian McLaren, a board member and one of the group's most prominent pastors. "We don't know how to run networks. [But we know] there's a place for leadership in networks." McLaren says there have been ongoing questions about the label itself. "For many people, the name emergent has allowed them to remain in the evangelical world," he said. For others outside the conversation, he admitted, the name has become an epithet for theological heresy or cultural trendiness.

Even some within the network are beginning to avoid emergent vocabulary. Prominent blogger Andrew Jones (known online as "Tall Skinny Kiwi") has dropped the emergent label from his conversations. "The word no longer communicates what I want it to," he said, "so even though I will still be in support of emerging church ventures … I will no longer be using the word for myself and the ministries that we support."

Additionally, several thinkers once associated with emergent, including pastor Dan Kimball and professor Scot McKnight, ...

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In the Magazine

January 2009

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