Back in December we talked to John Sylvest about his new discussion vehicle Cathlimergent Conversations – Catholics in the Emerging Church Conversation. At the time Cathlimergent was only 9 days old and this is his response to our question, So what’s it all about?

The emerging church conversation is an ecumenical meta-dialogue. While our different denominations all have their propositional elements, which are not unimportant, such a dialogue goes beyond the propositional to those aspects of religious experience that are more robustly relational and participatory. Our focus, then, is less on what to think and see and more on how to think and see. We search, then, less for the right answers and more for the right questions. What we take away from our exchanges are new and different practices, not so much new and different conclusions. In many ways, what we converse about are methods and, from these conversations, what we take away are best practices; we then discern for ourselves what their implications might be for our otherwise disparate systems. Our conversation radically “roots” its orthodoxy in Jesus, orthopathy in contemplation, orthopraxy in social justice & orthocommunio in authentic community.

Cathlimergent is only 9 days old today!

The most astonishing reality that has emerged with the network’s launch is the geographic diversity of the site visitors. See this in real-time:

I quit counting the number of different countries represented, but one can look at the Visitors’ Map in the right column toward the bottom of the page:

I agree that an introductory article would be of interest to the wider emergent community, in part because Catholics remain quite the curiosity to so many. In such an article, one would need to address the historical-theoretical-theological context of the emerging church conversation, in general, and then demonstrate how the Catholic participants are situated in that context, in particular. A separate issue would be from the social-practical angle regarding what’s been happening on the ground with Catholics and their emerging church conversation partners.

Regarding the first matter, the context, if one understands how the Anglicans are situated, then a conversation regarding how the Roman Catholics fit in would be something of a redundancy, especially to those of us who maintain that we are one in essentials or core elements or first order realities and differ only in accidentals or peripheral elements or second order realities. In other words, when it comes to creed, sacrament, incarnational outlook and liturgy, for example, we’re one. When it comes to certain moral doctrines, church disciplines and church polity, we differ. Other than that, as Andrew Jones points out, there are many things the emerging church movement inherited from the Catholics: Tall Skinny Kiwi: 3 Things the Emerging Church Took From the Catholics.

Regarding the second matter, the most visible concrete social reality has been the recent collaboration between Fr. Richard Rohr of the Center for Action & Contemplation in New Mexico and other leaders like Brian McLaren & Phyllis Tickle.

Less visible, but still very real, are the individual Catholics like myself who’ve been cyber-squatting and inter-loping on the virtual real estate of the Protestant leaders of the emerging church conversation, variously lurking or actively contributing to their conversations in discussion forums, networking sites, Twitter, Facebook and so on.

Also, there are a few of us Catholics who have been blogging as individuals, perhaps most notably, Carl McColman and Alan Creech, both whom personify, in my estimation, what it means to be a Catholic in this emerging church conversation. Bryan Froehle is another high profile Catholic participant, whom I met through Brian McLaren.

In my case, which may be typical for most bloggers and tweeters (Twitter), Mike Morrell (a spiritual networking cyberforce extraordinaire) tapped Tim King’s cybershoulders, which led to me “meeting” Kevin Beck, Brian McLaren, Tony Jones, Steve Knight, Doug Pagitt and very notably, both TransFORM (a missional community formation network) and Anglimergent, which are also on the ning network and from whom I got the idea for Cathlimergent.

Cathlimergent had only 8 Google hits a week ago (abstract references) but now has 800 or so (de novo virtual reality!). And why?

Well, because every one of my sisters and brothers aforementioned either implicitly endorsed the Cathlimergent network launch by joining and/or by explicitly mentioning and soliciting members for the network via their blogs, Twitter or Facebook. In other words, they made a proactive and selfless effort to help me gather in my emergent coreligionists from the vast regions of our great cyberdiaspora, with never a concern about poaching or territoriality or cannibalizing their own bases (alas, there’s a lesson there, too, n’est pas?). Here, I need to especially thank the Reverend Bosco Peters of @Liturgy, who is the Oprah Winfrey of Twitter & Facebook, tens of thousands of followers but interacting with each of us like BFFs (best friend forever, for those without access to urban dictionaries)!

A few short months ago, when my annual domain subscription came around, I had resolved to surrender my domain name for . Instead, I even started to blog and decided to keep my cyberhomestead intact, mostly because Tim King, whom I did not know from Adam’s cat, was gracious and kind enough to e-mail me and say that he was so happy to find me, so appreciated my writing and research and encouraged me to persist because he thought it was a valuable contribution to inter-religious dialogue. (Object lesson: encouragement matters. It’s a primary mode of the Spirit.)

And I’m here at Cathlimergent because Brian McLaren, about 10 days ago, encouraged me and said to stay in touch regarding ways to reach out to “Catholic folk.” The next day it dawned on me. No need to reinvent the wheel! Just look at what’s being done by my sisters and brothers at Agmergent (Assemblies of God), Anglimergent (Anglicans), Anglicans Fresh Expressions (Anglicans & Methodists in UK), Baptimergent (Baptist), Convergent Friends (Quakers), Emerging Church (Emerging Church Europe & UK), EmergeUMC (Methodist), Emerging Penetcostal, Emergent Village (ecumenical, USA), Luthermergent (Lutheran), Presbymergent (Presbyterian), Resonate (Canada. ecumenical) and The Common Root (Mennonite).

More than anything else or anyone else, from the standpoint of religious formation, I’m here because of the ministry of my brother in the faith, Richard Rohr, whose books and other media, over recent decades, have continued to inspire me to go on making friends and exchanging stories, which is what Cathlimergent is all about, the greatest story of all being the One, Whose life we’re getting ready to celebrate: Jesus.

If nothing else, this missive is a shout-out of gratitude to all of my sisters and brothers, especially those mentioned above (some whom I’ve omitted only due to neglect on my part), who are mentoring me and companioning with me on life’s journey. In some sense, this journey, itself, has been my destination; this quest for Jesus has, itself, been my grail.

So, I wrote this all as a prelude to protesting that I am not the one to write such an article and that it may be too early to do so. On the other hand, I may have provided a Letter to the Editor of some interest, which tells folks: Stay tuned!