Image via WikipediaThere is a lot of confusion over what has been labeled the emerging church. Because it is decentralized, it can be difficult to characterize, and criticism about one version may be inappropriate for others. So I focus instead on those groups affiliated with The Simple Way, New Monasticism, and Community of Communities. These groups don't explicitly reject or unreservedly endorse any denomination, but they are frequently associated with groups representing a social gospel such as the Catholic Worker Movement, Pax Christi USA, etc.
A major theme is the idea that the Gospel is a lived message, and that it must be lived out among the poor and the marginalized as well as among the wealthy and the mainstream. There is a major emphasis on looking at how Jesus spent his ministry, how he instructed his disciples, and how the early Christian community behaved. While some critics think the members are simply reacting to the formal institutionalized conservatism of their families without a clear message or agenda, the groups I have mentioned above are involved in community renewal, peace efforts, etc as an outgrowth of their primary goal of walking the walk specified by Jesus. A good introduction is Irresistible Grace, and net profits from that book do go to helping others.