Thursday, April 28, 2005

centres and edges

I had lunch yesterday with a group of leaders from New Song Church. It was a good time. Over tacos and huevos rancheros and “soda,” we batted around some ideas. One of the things that struck me was the following irony: that so much of the postmodern debate emerges from the edges and welcomes the voices of the Other, the marginalised, the non-Western.

So it is quite ironic to be talking about post-modern mission in a country that is very much a centre, a centre of Christianity, a centre of global control and marketing. Just an interesting twist for me as I digested my Mexican beans.

(Of course, one of the ethical questions is whether this conversation with the edge is in fact yet another colonisation by the centre – and for more on this try Ziauddhin Sardar’s book, Postmodernism and the Other.) sardar.jpg I’m not convinced by Sardar, based on the cultural work of Michel de Certeau, but Sardar’s is a voice that won’t go away.)

And of course, all the more sad that emerging churches are struggling with the role of women in leadership.

Posted by steve at 05:56 AM


  1. Your one “ethical question” is a good one – the whole notion of colonisation – religious colonisation riding piggyback with other exports..

    Comment by Paul Fromont — April 28, 2005 @ 7:18 am

  2. is there no irony then in the fact that your “post-cards from the edge” were published and distributed from the “centre” or at least a center of power, zondervan ? …

    i very much enjoyed your book (delivered to me in paris via, especially its creative presentation and alternative pedagogy. it would seem to me however that the questions you address are those emanating from the centers of power and not the edges. this is not for me a negative quality. mission should address the center. what (or the one who) is brought to life among friends in galilee (edge) subverts the whole empire (center).

    given your comments here about centers and edges, would you also find it “ironic” that de certeau finished his teaching career in los angeles and not in paris, where, some would argue, his ideas remained marginal? isn’t the question of where the center is in relation to the edges a matter of perspective? maybe a few years of eating spicy chicken burritos prepared by undocumented workers in pasadena would also change your perspective of the “centre”?

    thanks for stimulating my thinking. peace.

    “The resistance of others is the condition of our own development (progrès).”

    Michel de Certeau, L’Etranger, ou l’union dans la différence

    Comment by un californien à paris — May 7, 2005 @ 7:30 am

  3. Well, can I say that I struggled with who my publisher was, but in the end refused to slip into those wonderful purist binaries of centre:edge that only live in idealists heads.

    If, as you claim, the book answers the questions of the centre (which begs the question of how you know what the centre wants anyhow), then it’s a fluke. I have only been to the “US” emerging church centre once, in 1999. I wrote the book out of my context of mission here in New Zealand. I’m not particularly bothered whether you think that’s a centre or an edge. It’s where I am.

    For the record, I was genuinely delighted with how much “margin” and “edge” my publisher let me retain … there is some distinctly Maori material in my book that I was sure a US publisher would want changed. I think the so-called “centre” publisher deserves credit for that.

    Comment by steve — May 8, 2005 @ 9:10 pm

  4. No, I don’t know what the center wants (I don’t know if the center does either or it wouldn’t spend so much time shopping) nor do I know what exactly you had in mind by “centres of power”. But I do have an idea who reads books published by zondervan. For the record, my intention was not to disrespect your publisher, but I don’t think anyone would describe Zondervan’s particular market niche or its authors as “the Other, marginalised, non-western.”

    I do still question your statement that “the postmodern [emerging church] debate emerges from the edges,” which begs the question that either of us know where the edges really are.

    These are the thoughts that came to mind while reading this post (not your book) :

    > Centers and Edges, it would seem, are drawn in far more complicated ways than simple geography. Marginalized voices are unheard everywhere.

    > I wonder if de Certeau, given the choice, would have been more interested in talking to Newsong’s staff or what I imagine to be the undocumented, Hispanic workers who prepared your food. (Please don’t assume that I think I know the answer.)

    > Is the “emerging church” able to or even interested in hearing the voice of the Other? Where are the examples?

    I should know better than to dis a guy’s publishing house, even if unintentionally. Please excuse me. Know that my questions and my doubts are sincere, and not intended to be demeaning of your person or your work (or to put you on the defensive)… I was just thinking out-loud. Thanks for taking the time to dialog.


    ps Another error in my hasty comment above: de Certeau taught at UC San Diego and not UCLA

    Comment by un californien à paris — May 9, 2005 @ 8:08 am

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