Article: Icons: A Case Study in Spiritual Borrowing between Eastern Orthodoxy and the Emergent Church, by Dann Wigner

Dann Wigner used a qualitative empirical approach to gather the data for this article about the spiritual borrowing of Eastern Orthodox icons by several emergent churches. He selected three communities identifying themselves as emergent churches where he “observed multiple services and meetings, interviewed thirty-eight members or regular attendees, and conducted documentary research on their podcasts and blogposts which composed their archives of sermons and public conversations.” Wigner also familiarized himself with the literature on spiritual borrowing within the larger Emergent Church (EC) movement. Here is some text from his concluding paragraphs:

In conclusion, icons were appropriated on the basis of experimentation through a perspective that EC practitioners are appropriating a practice as a container which can then be “emptied” of old theology and “filled” with new content which reflects their own distinctions. Consequently, the central observation of the study is the confirmation that the EC is appropriating the Orthodox icon by investing this practice with their own theological content.

Thus, this article contributes to the investigation of spiritual borrowing by illustrating an in-depth case study of the process of a mystic practice moving from one tradition to another. In the purview of theology, this detailed analysis of the process of appropriation and reinterpretation of icons has displayed the relationship of the practice to both the source of Eastern Orthodoxy and the new context of the EC. Close scrutiny of the spiritual borrowing process and these theological connections displays effectively how a spiritual practice can be changed when divested of theological content, and then filled with new theological content in a specific instance.

Here is the article’s citation:

Wigner, Dann. “Icons: A Case Study in Spiritual Borrowing between Eastern Orthodoxy and the Emergent Church.” Spiritus: A Journal of Christian Spirituality, vol. 18 no. 1, 2018, pp. 78-101.

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