lately i have had a number of people ask me what "emergent" is. actually, they usually ask me what the "emergent church" is and question what the "movement" is all about.
i'm not a philosopher and i'm not all that qualified to hold court on such issues, but for what (little) it is worth, emergent is a conversation.
in our cohort anyway, the conversation usually centers upon theology, ecclesiology and missiology. when our crew meets at danny's diner we bitch occasionally about dissonance we feel with our church traditions or the anemic expressions of christian "culture" (see: fireproof), but generally everyone around the table is there because they are in awe of Jesus Christ and, individually and collectively, are committed to finding a way to persevere upon this journey in order that they might be, as Jesus promised, saved/reconciled/redeemed/resurrected/made new.
i'd encourage you to question sweeping generalizations about the "emerging church" or the "emerging movement." last time i checked, emergent isn't looking to plant any churches, pen any creeds or establish the clear leadership structure* and steady income stream that movements generally require. since emergent is a conversation, i think most of its detractors are simply protective of their authority structures and/or they need a new whipping girl to take the place of open theism, the mega-church, carman, contemporary worship, third-wave charismaticism and whatever other developments have threatened (that also hard to define thing we call) american eeevangelicalism over the past bundle of years.
if you would rather hear it from the horses' mouth, here you go:
"Emergent Village is a growing, generative friendship among missional Christians seeking to love our world in the Spirit of Jesus Christ." - emergentvillage.com
"As a follower of God in the way of Jesus, I've been involved in a profoundly interesting and enjoyable conversation over the last ten years or so. It's a conversation about what it means to be 'a new kind of Christian' - not an angry and reactionary fundamentalist, not a stuffy traditionalist, not a blase minimalist, not a wishy-washy liberal, not a New Agey religious hipster, not a crusading religious imperialist, and not an overly enthused Bible-waving fanatic--but something fresh and authentic and challenging and adventurous. Around the world, millions of people have gotten involved in this conversation, and more are getting involved each day. (One reason we keep calling it a conversation is that we can't find a short way of describing it yet," Brian McLaren, Everything Must Change, pg. 3.
* what little leadership structure we had was deconstructed when tony jones stepped down as emergent's national coordinator in the fall of 2009.