Change occurs in every age, but contemporary change is happening at a dizzying pace. In almost every aspect of life–cultural, political, environmental, technological–from global movements to local dynamics, we’re living into a new way of sustaining human communities, families, and cultures.
These dynamics have impacted the church as they have all other aspects of civil society. Institutional suspicion along with a yearning for deeper and truer connection with God and with neighbor, disappointment at the church’s failure to stand up for its best ideals and radical love of Jesus, the inability to stay connected to people undergoing rapid changes in the way 21st century people communicate and congregate–all have been a part of church “decline.”
God doesn’t need the church. But God isn’t through with calling people together into church, though the way God is doing that is shifting and changing, and we can’t quite see where God is leading us.
We’ve grown accustomed to anxiety over that invisible horizon, but I think it is exciting. There is so much opportunity for us in this coming age: a chance to speak a word of grace and hope and love and justice when silence prevails or other voices threaten to intimidate or harm; the promise of standing in the breach during the holy moments of human living and to embody the presence of God for others; seeking and articulating a vision of the new world of shalom that God still is creating, and working with others to help bring it to be.
I think that’s compelling, and exciting work to be a part of.
Part of this work will happen at the local congregation, each community seeking what God is doing in their midst and shifting along with God’s movement among them. And part of this work will happen among people who are motivated to dream God’s future together.
To that end, I’ve been entering the conversation about the future of the Church and God’s work in the world with others who also call my particular part of God’s Church (The Presbyterian Church (USA)) home:
Covenant Network of Presbyterians
The Covenant Network of Presbyterians advocates for an inclusive church, particularly for LBGTQ members and leaders, while seeking opportunities for conversation and reconciliation in a diverse denomination. CovNet is exploring ways in which its experience in successfully engaging the church on behalf of LGBTQ Presbyterians may provide opportunities for joining with others who are seeking to expand welcome and diversity in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
NEXTChurch is charged with fostering relationships, connecting congregations in mission and service, nurturing big and bold and novel ideas for ministry in the 21st century, and offering a Presbyterian witness to Jesus Christ. NEXTChurch got started around coffee tables in the late 2000s, held national gatherings starting in 2011, brought people together locally and regionally, and is moving forward with working within the Presbyterian Church (USA) to help us more faithfully respond to God’s movement among us. I joined their AdvisoryTeam in 2013 and co-directed their 2014 National Gathering in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
In 2008 I joined some 30-40 other “loyal radicals” in Louisville, Kentucky, to envision a way that the “hyphenateds” (those deeply emeshed in a particular religious tradition while seeing the world through an emergence lens) in the Presbyterian Church (USA) might work together. Presbymergent was born, and while early dreams didn’t quite make it to a larger movement, there continues to be life and energy and hope among those who seek conversation here. Through their UNCO “unconferences,” the conversation continues.