Traditional Church Joins with Emerging Church – the Wave of the Future?

This summer Interbay Covenant Church, a 65-year old traditional church, joined up with Quest Church, an emerging church in the Seattle area. Calling the merger “a miracle,” Quest pastor and founder Eugene Cho admits the churches are very different but states:

[I]n the midst of that difference, what we know without a shadow of a doubt is that we share our faith and love in and for the same Jesus. 1

Quest Church describes itself as:

… an urban and multiethnic church in Seattle striving to be an incarnational presence in a fast changing postmodern and postchurch culture. Our purpose is very simple: the human soul, community, compassion and justice, and global presence. 2

In an article titled “Companions in Seattle,” it stated:

[Interbay Covenant pastor Ray] Bartel said it took a while for Interbay’s leadership to warm up to this idea of “giving themselves away” for the greater kingdom. After some initial resistance, Bartel said the final vote was 92 percent in favor of joining Quest.

On Pastor Cho’s blog, he explains that eventually Interbay Covenant gave all their assets to Quest. He states:

In closing their church and merging with Quest, Interbay gave to Quest ALL of their assets which includes a church building and small warehouse conservatively valued at $6 million dollars. 3

Both Interbay Covenant and Quest Church are part of the Evangelical Covenant denomination. The Evangelical Covenant Church has been in existence since 1885. Recently, their president, Glenn R. Palmberg, was one of the signers in a letter to the President, calling for a Palestinian state. 4

Regarding the emerging church movement, a 2004 Evangelical Covenant Church Resolution stated:

Whereas the emerging generation is largely lacking in the current church population, and the emerging voice must be heard to sustain the future of the Church,

Whereas the Evangelical Covenant Church has already voiced and begun to embody it’s commitment to developing emerging leaders throughout our church by emphasizing this issue at Midwinter, engaging in the conversation at the seminary level, and making it one of the seven distinctives of our church mission.5

The outcome of this resolution can possibly be seen through articles on the denomination’s website, such as this 2006 article by emerging leader Scot McKnight called “A look at the emerging church movement.” 5

Sadly, a search on Evangelical Covenant’s main site reveals a propensity toward contemplative spirituality (an earmark of the emerging church). One article called < a href=””>Silent Retreat Ideas lists “wonderful resources” by mystics Thomas Merton and Henri Nouwen. Another article titled “Labyrinth Serves as ‘Guided Prayer Walk'” encourages church members to “walk the labyrinth.” 6 And yet another article, “Centering Prayer: Rediscovering God’s Presence” talks about the contribution mystic Thomas Keating has made to the centering prayer movement and encourages readers to “learn more.” And we could list article after article of a similar nature.

Clearly, the Evangelical Covenant denomination is embracing contemplative spirituality and the emerging church, which would explain why The Quest has been able to successfully absorb the 65 year old traditional Interbay Covenant. We just wonder though, did Interbay’s members realize what they were getting into? Did they realize they were heading straight into a mystical spirituality which caused Henri Nouwen to eventually say:

Today I personally believe that while Jesus came to open the door to God’s house, all human beings can walk through that door, whether they know about Jesus or not. Today I see it as my call to help every person claim his or her own way to God.—From Sabbatical Journey, Henri Nouwen’s last book, page 51, 1998 Hardcover Edition

To understand why contemplative spirituality and the emerging church are mystical in nature and contrary to the Word of God, read A Time of Departing and Faith Undone. If you are an Evangelical Covenant pastor or elder, we will send you a complimentary copy of one of these books at your request. Please email us.

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