Asked at a conference last spring what he thought about gay marriage, Brian McLaren replied, "You know what, the thing that breaks my heart is that there's no way I can answer it without hurting someone on either side." You might call his a kinder and gentler brand of religion. At a mere 48, McLaren, a nondenominational Maryland pastor, qualifies as elder statesman of a movement called the "emerging church." Its disciples, mostly 35 or younger and including mainline Christians and Catholics, have in recent years moved from cyber bulletin boards to pulpits of their own. Their goal: to deconstruct traditional church culture yet remain true to Scripture. A typical emergent church service is likely to include digital imagery and open dialogue.
McLaren's 2001 book, A New Kind of Christian, resonated with ministers worldwide and is enormously popular in seminaries. If his movement can survive in the politicized world of conservative Christianity, McLaren could find a way for young Evangelicals and more liberal Christians to march into the future together despite their theological differences.