Bye-Bye Millennials

Here, in living color, we see the church’s failure to engage an entire generation:

The graphic comes from the Public Religion Research Institute. You’ll notice that it also undermines the evangelical claim that they’re doing better with younger generations than progressive Christians. You’ll see that’s not true. In fact, the evangelical drop is more precipitous than the mainline drop — they’ve also got further to fall.

And, the survey shows, as Whites lose majority in the US, they (we?) tend to long for the good ol’ days:

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One of the Most Sacred Encounters I’ve Ever Had

The Reverend Joy Bennett serving me communion on August 30, 2012.

It happened on August 30, 2012, and it has been recorded beautifully by Joy Bennett at A Deeper Story:

She felt the weight of this settle on her shoulders, responding quietly to each. Then he read, “Will you accept the discipline of this Church and give due respect to those in authority?

She paused. All her previous experiences with authority figures in churches rushed to her mind. The church is fallible because it’s made up of fallible people, including herself. “I’m not sure about that one.”

He smiled, said “Me either,” and moved on to the next one.

At the conclusion of the vows, Tony asked everyone to reach out to Meg as they prayed over her. Then, he handed her the bread, Carla opened the wine, and he asked “Would you share a passage of Scripture with us tonight, before you serve communion?”

She paused a few moments, thinking. She was unprepared for this moment. But then, she thought of one. “We shared this with our children each night at bedtime, and engraved it on my eldest daughter’s headstone. It’s simple and it’s all I can think of right now…”

Read the rest a A Deeper Story.

God Has Died…And He Has a Wonderful Plan for Your Life

Engaging great content at Christianity21. (Courtney Perry)

I’m at Christianity21 this week, a gathering produced by Doug Pagitt, Sarah Cunningham, and Your Favorite Blogger. We’re one day in, and it’s been awesome. One of the great things about this event is that there’s no theme, and there are 21 gifted speakers, so we never really know what magic will happen in the chemistry between the talks.

They don’t all agree, but they do tend to dovetail with one another. Yesterday, Jonathan Merritt led off the opening session with a challenge to follow God’s call and listen to the unlikely ways that God speaks. Paul Raushenbush went next with a call for conservatives and liberals to rediscover the social gospel. Noel Castellanos told us five things we can do to engage with people and the gospel. And Nadia Bolz-Weber told us ten things she’s learned about being a pastor and church planter.

In the next session, Kent Dobson gave an amazing reflection on the absence of God, Sarah Lefton challenged us to engage Christians in biblical literacy in the way that she has challenged Jews, Mike Foster reminded us how everyone needs to be loved, and Romal Tune told us that the church needs to compete with gangs for the youth of LA.

In between, we had a couple dozen 7-minute talks by attendees from around the country. Today more talks. And tomorrow, even more, including my call to recover apocalyptic language for the church. Check back here for updates.

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Field Notes from the Schism

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving. If you’re here in the States, I hope you did, too. As usual, I baked pies — pumpkin, pecan, and sour cream raisin — as well as roasting the auxiliary turkey on the grill, with great success. It was also a day away from the Internet, which is always good for the soul. Today, I’m taking my sons on their first-ever pheasant hunt — just two hours at a game farm, but they’ll get the chance to see what it’s all about.

In between, however, I thought I’d get down some random thoughts about what’s happened here on the blog in the last week.

1) One never knows when a post will go viral. I suppose there are some bloggers who have a formula for it that more-or-less works, but I don’t. I can’t seem to make it happen. But, on occasion, it does happen.

2) As of today, it’s been one year and one day since another viral post, “Where Are the Women? That post was a totally different deal altogether. It was written quickly, almost absentmindedly, on a day that I was trying to get out the door. A year later, some people still seethe with anger over that post and the ensuing commentary. In spite of their ongoing anger at and demonization of me, the number of women commenters on this blog has continued to climb. I’m thrilled with this development, and it’s made this blog a better place.

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Maybe “Schism” Was the Wrong Word

Sarah Cunningham

My post from last Friday continues to generate passionate responses from all sides. I’ve gotten positive and negative feedback, both publicly and privately. The most challenging and yet generous response has come from one of my closest friends, Sarah Cunningham. Sarah is a fellow author, blogger, and event producer — we’ve worked on stuff together in the past, and we’re currently planning two events together.

Over the past few days, Sarah and I have talked at length on the phone, exchanged lengthy emails, and traded dozens of text messages. I asked her to write a guest post for this blog, and she suggested that we do it in dialogical format instead. So we started a Google Doc, but after about 2,200 words and another passionate phone call, we deleted the entire thing and started over. Where we ended up was the Sarah would state her presupposition, and then pose a series of questions/statements, to which I would respond.

Before I get to that, however, I want to say that everyone should have a friend like Sarah. She has been very tough on me in these conversations — she fundamentally disagrees with my position — but she has relentlessly stated and restated her love for me, respect for me, and friendship for me. I feel the same about her.

That being said, here is our dialogue.

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Steps for the Schism

Shirley Taylor

I’ve gotten many emails about my call for schism over the role of women in the church, in addition to all of the public posts and tweets that you can see yourselves. Among the emails is this one, posted with permission, from Shirley Taylor. Shirley is the head of Baptist Women for Equality and the author of Dethroning Male Headship. She partners with the Center for Biblical Equality and blogs about these issues at bWe. Because there isn’t a Baptist church anywhere near her in Texas that allows women to lead, she and her husband attend their local Methodist church, where she reports that they have been “welcomed with love and acceptance.”

Here’s what she wrote to me:

Equality will not happen by osmosis.

The only way equality for Christian women can happen is through a deliberate, concentrated, dedicated plan. A plan devised by women and men who have a fire in their belly for equality.

Some suggestions:

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It’s Time for a Schism Regarding Women in the Church

I don’t take this lightly. I very much take Jesus’ prayer for unity in the Fourth Gospel seriously. Our eschatological hope is that the church will be one, and that we will all be united in belief, practice, and love.

But sometimes we need to separate. We need to say hard words to those who are not living the way that Jesus laid out for us. We need to divorce.

The time has come for a schism regarding the issue of women in the church. Those of us who know that women should be accorded full participation in every aspect of church life need to visibly and forcefully separate ourselves from those who do not. Their subjugation of women is anti-Christian, and it should be tolerated no longer.

That means: [Read more...]

Do You Have To Be a Good Person To Be a Good Theologian?

Theologian John Howard Yoder, author of The Politics of Jesus

That’s what Mark Oppenheimer asks as he reports on the troubled legacy of John Howard Yoder:

“Physically he died, but his work and his theological writings live on,” said Linda Gehman Peachey, a freelance writer in Lancaster, Pa., who is also part of the six-member group. “For those who have known this other side — his behavior, particularly toward women — that is really painful.”

Mr. Yoder’s memory also presents a theological quandary. Mennonites tend to consider behavior more important than belief. For them, to study a man’s writings while ignoring his life is especially un-Mennonite.

Professor Koontz regularly tells his students reading Mr. Yoder that “his behavior is one thing we ought to take into account when we read his work.” Ms. Peachey noted that Mr. Yoder wrote a good deal about suffering as a Christian virtue, but “if you know this part of the story” — how he made women suffer — “you tend to read it with a different eye.”

Who’s Lightin’ It Up? The Burner Blog

A couple weeks ago, I started a Hump Day Series called “Got It Goin’ On.” What a great idea, I thought. But, like Led Zeppelin, I didn’t steal that idea. It just quietly seeped into my head from another source. And that source is The Burner Blog. You see, The Burner Blog has had a “Got It Goin’ On” feature for a long time, even giving out a pretty sweet badge for it:

When someone pointed this out to me, I had a V8 moment. So I’m giving it back to them, and renaming my series, Lightin’ It Up. Every Wednesday, I’ll point to someone, or organization, or blog that I think is kicking some ass and doing some good in the world.

This week, that honor goes to…

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