Yesterday, with great reluctance, I joined The Order Of Melchizedek.
The "emergent church," as it has mostly become, is missing two major ingredients. It is not emergent and it is not a church, and I believe these two failings are linked to each other.
One of the major purposes of the Church is to contain an organisational structure that, from the outside, appears hierarchical and which, sadly, it has in practice, become. However, it was not meant to be this way. The "hierarchy" of the Church should be based on the dynamics of the Kingdom where those "higher up" the hierarchy exist to sacrificially and humbly serve those "beneath them." This model of leadership is based on the concept of the ideal king (partially achieved in the reign of David) and the concept of the ideal priest (explained most accurately in the Letter to the Hebrews). Of course, due to the greed and selfishness of human beings, this ideal of leadership has rarely been seen in reality within the Church during its long history. The vast majority of leaders in the Church, even when the above ideas about kingship and priesthood were universally understood, have gone for the "I'm in charge" option, occasionally with benign results, but, more often than not, with more oppressive and dictatorial ones.
The "emergent church" is obsessed with leadership. It has a generated an industry dedicated to publishing books on and arranging conferences about church leadership. As the emergent church is focussed, because of its defining ethos, on the contemporary, it has adopted a model of leadership based, not on ancient Hebraic formulas, but on modern business practices. No matter what the emergent church leadership may claim to the contrary, it is a leadership that aims to control and make "a profit." Emerging churches are carefully managed so that they emerge in the direction the pre-existing leadership considers "orthodox."
This situation has, in my opinion, come about because the cart has been put, well and truly, before the horse. The leadership was in place before the churches emerged. This has resulted in a leadership separate from the community.
What is needed is not just the new thing of emergent church but also the new thing of emergent priesthood. The priesthood for each, individual emergence should evolve with the new community or, if it is a "priest" who comes from outside to initiate and encourage the emergence of a new community, then that priest should be as a clean slate, ready to have his or her new priesthood written on them by the evolving community.
This is the ideal time for such experiments. More and more "priests" are finding themselves outside of the existing church hierarchies and employment. Such priests have two choices - to continue to hammer on the doors of their old homes asking to be let back in, or to take the opportunity to become part of something new, to allow their priesthood to emerge anew, to be of service to something new.
I fear that, although I understand this, I do not have the courage to follow my own convictions and will continue to hammer on the door that has just been slammed shut in my face. However, all is not lost for cowards like me as it should be possible to follow the calling of emergent priesthood within the existing churches. It's possible, although such priests will always have far less job security than their conformist colleagues.