Goodbye, Evangelicalism

Rachel Held Evans sees the passage of Amendment 1 in North Carolina yesterday as another nail in the coffin of the evangelical church and its relevance to millennials.

When I speak at Christian colleges, I often take time to chat with students in the cafeteria.  When I ask them what issues are most important to them, they consistently report that they are frustrated by how the Church has treated their gay and lesbian friends.  Some of these students would say they most identify with what groups like the Gay Christian Network term “Side A” (they believe homosexual relationships have the same value as heterosexual relations in the sight of God). Others better identify with “Side B” (they believe only male/female relationship in marriage is God’s intent for sexuality). But every single student I have spoken with believes that the Church has mishandled its response to homosexuality.

Most have close gay and lesbian friends.

Most feel that the Church’s response to homosexuality is partly responsible for high rates of depression and suicide among their gay and lesbian friends, particularly those who are gay and Christian.

Most are highly suspicious of “ex-gay” ministries that encourage men and women with same-sex attractions to marry members of the opposite sex in spite of their feelings.

Most feel that the church is complicit, at least at some level, in anti-gay bullying.

And most…I daresay all…have expressed to me passionate opposition to legislative action against gays and lesbians.

READ THE REST: Rachel Held Evans | How to win a culture war and lose a generation.

Kudos to Andy Stanley

Andy Stanley is getting shat upon for showing compassion to the messiness of family life.

Andy Stanley and I don’t have a whole lot in common, theologically speaking. But I met him once, and he was humble and charitable. This week, he became Al Mohler’s most recent whipping boy — and if that isn’t an example of internecine cannibalism, I don’t know what is.

Andy Marin has an insightful post on the kerfuffle at Out of Ur:

Recently North Point Community Church’s senior pastor Andy Stanley preached a sermon about the theological tension that is needed to live in the Way of the Christian faith. (Listen at North Point’s website. The controversial section begins about 24 minutes in.) Well known conservative commentator and president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Al Mohler, took offense to Stanley’s non-mention of the sin of homosexuality in the sermon. Stanley illustrated a story of a wife, husband and daughter in his church—where the husband cheated with another man who eventually became his partner—and the journey for each of the participants. The reality of this family’s new tension-filled dynamic illustrated for Stanley the tension between grace and truth in the Christian faith.

Stanley spent the majority of the sermon fleshing out his understanding of this tension by highlighting Jesus’ changing response to sin through his words and deeds in the Gospel stories. Should sin be forgiven, or should a person be held accountable? Should we act harshly or be kind? Point a finger or ignore? As Stanley stated:

“We’re all tempted to want to resolve that tension. But if you resolve it, you give up something important. It’s what drove people crazy about Jesus. But he was comfortable with it. He was able to minister through it. And we dare not walk away from it.”

It should not be a surprise that Mohler took a hardline stand against Stanley’s nuanced message of tension.

Read the rest of Marin’s analysis: Out of Ur: Andy Stanley, Al Mohler, and Homosexuality.

Brian McLaren, Nadia Bolz-Weber, Lauren Winner, Shane Hipps, Bruce Reyes-Chow, Lillian Daniel, and Mark Scandrette Walk Into a Bar…

I am extremely proud of this product for congregational study and adult faith formation. The video below is the first sneak peek. To find out more info when it becomes available this summer, sign up HERE.

How White Is the Emerging Church?

Pretty white, as it turns out. I asked Todd Ferguson of Baylor University to run crosstabs on the data that I collected in 2005. During my dissertation research, I collected 2,020 surveys from eight ECM congregations. You can read about my research and see some of the data in my book, The Church Is Flat: The Relational Ecclesiology of the Emerging Church Movement.

Since then, I’ve let several researchers have my data for their own work. Todd is among them, and I asked him to correct a glaring oversight in my book — I neglected to offer this snapshot of the racial profile of the eight congregations I surveyed.

93% of emergents are white, according to my research. This is not generalizable across the movement — my research methods were not set up in that way. This is, as I said, a snapshot of eight congregations on a single Sunday in 2005. The most diverse church in the study was Cedar Ridge Community Church, at which Brian McLaren was the pastor at the time. Here’s a graphic:

The racial make-up of the emerging church movement.

Years ago, Soon-Chang Rah asked in Sojourners Magazine whether the emerging church movement is “for whites only.” I responded by asking whether Sojourners is for straight only, because it seems to me that we face the same problem: we’d like to be broader than we are, but that’s as tough as getting white and black students to sit next to each other in a public high school cafeteria.

In other words, it’s easy to criticize our movement or Sojo or North Park University (where Rah teaches) or the Evangelical Covenant Church (the denomination with which North Park is affiliated) for being too white. Yes, we’re all too white. The real question is, How do we diversify a movement that is purposefully non-evangelistic?

That is, the ECM is about a particular people trying to solve particular problem. If our solution isn’t interesting to everyone, is that a weakness that we should correct?