Brian McLaren on The Future of CANA

If I could write a script for an emerging network of collaboration across Christian groups nationwide — a network aimed to promote and publicize a more generous Christianity — I would focus on these seven outcomes:

1. By June of 2014, I would hope we have a sensible movement infrastructure composed of four well-functioning teams, each with clearly defined responsibilities, time and ethical commitments, learning and personal development objectives, and communication plans. Each team must include racial, regional, and denominational diversity:

(a) a leadership circle that brings together team leaders for various initiatives and projects (see 2-6 below). They would share joint responsibility for all the initiatives of the network, with each member of the circle carrying primary responsibility for one initiative. They would gather for online chats on a regular (weekly or biweekly) basis, and report to the community via a monthly update. 

(b) an initiators’ circle that includes all who are publicly affiliated with CANA. This group would have frequent social networking interaction with occasional (quarterly) online chats.

(c) an elders’ team consisting of people over 65 who provide oversight and counsel, answering simple questions on a monthly or quarterly basis, such as: What positive signs do you want to affirm and encourage? What concerns do you want to raise? What new initiatives do you recommend?

(d) an executive team that listens to the previous groups and determines annual priorities so that we concentrate on doing a few things very well, year by year, building momentum and earning a deserved reputation. This group would also be responsible for fundraising, staffing, problem-solving, and structural considerations.

2. By September of 2014, I would hope we could initiate a media partnership to articulate our message through social and mass media. The media partnership would include racial, regional, and denominational diversity. It would seek to support existing organizations and prominent individuals, to supplement them where necessary, to add new voices, and to maximize synergy. It would concentrate on mass and social media, training and resourcing spokespeople, combining the work of traditional press offices with social media savvy. Its goal would be to support and synergize gifted and exemplary spokespersons who can articulate and amplify the CANA message, so that everyone in America knows there is something new, hopeful, generous, sustainable, and exciting emerging in the Christian community.

3. By January of 2015, I would hope we could launch a church-locator or ministry-locator site to help people migrate towards vibrant emergence/progressive churches, to form new faith communities, and to find outlets for activism in national and regional ministries. The site could be supplemented with a job-locator service for ministry workers. It could also lead to the development of trans-denominational networks that build a shared “brand” or identity, while maintaining existing denominational affiliations.

4. By September of 2014, I hope we can identify six national projects or campaigns that would catalyze involvement around the country for the following 15 months. These projects would involve collaborations between existing organizations and would be planned to synergize rather than compete. Project teams would identify a limited number of strategic prophetic actions, outbreaks of holy mischief, beautiful surprises, boycotts or buy-cotts, demonstrations, public sacramental actions, protests and encampments, art installations, random acts of kindness, festivals, teach-ins, etc. — that communicate hope, beauty, interest, justice, and more. They would be designed around highly articulated messages, proposals, or demands, and would address issues like the following:

·         Palm Sunday Parade – globally-linked local parades that combine lament, demonstration, and prayer for peace in our communities and regions, in this nation and in the world.

·         Ecology teach-in

·         Tax Sunday teach-in

·         Immigration Action

·         Racism Teach-in

·         The Four Dinner Project: four or more churches collaborate to arrange for individuals and families who are members of their churches to have dinner together in one anothers’ homes. The goal would be to build relational bridges across old barriers of race, denomination, gender, politics, and economic status, providing guidelines for good sharing and connection.

At least two of the projects would involve building or joining multi-faith collaboratives. Based on our experience with our first set of six projects, we would identify a next round of projects for 2016 and beyond.

5. By September 2015, I would hope that we could launch an alternative campus ministry that recruits, trains, and deploys college students and faculty as advocates for emergence/progressive Christian faith. Such an alternative campus ministry would emphasize student leadership, diversity, the power of self-organizing groups, partnerships with existing campus ministry groups, training and experiential learning, use of social media, special access to internships, seminaries, and mentoring opportunities, and special certifications. 

6. Key to all of these initiatives is the challenge of naming, describing, and “branding” what is emerging. I would hope that by June of 2014 we would identify a special task force to grapple with this issue. A hub website that supports rather than competes with participant websites will be key to implementing the recommendations of this special task force. 

7. Something I haven’t thought of! In other words, I’d keep an open door to add to or modify whatever list of priorities we have … I’m sure I’m missing something important.

These are my dreams for the CANA initiative in 2014-2015.

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