Precipitating the Death of the Mainline

David Henson says, Bring It On!

I do not fear the death of the mainline church.In fact, as a postulant for the priesthood in the Episcopal church, it excites me, and it is the precipitous decline of the mainline that, in part, draws me to ministry.Death can be a fertile ground for the Gospel. Indeed, it has always been so. The specter of death can make people willing to do things they might otherwise be too comfortable to consider, like that a food pantry does not a social justice ministry make. And death can make people less afraid to fail and, as a result, more apt to try something new, something frivolous, something that won’t bring in moneyed people. It can make us more willing to experiment with creative ways to seek justice and the presence of God in houses outside those in which we worship. Death might just shake us up enough so that we can get out of the pews and on with the work of God!


Bad News for Denominational Schismatics

Truro Church in Northern Virginia is among the seven congregations that would have to vacate their churches if they decide not to appeal. (Carol Guzy/The Washington Post)

People who are honest about the conservative uprisings in various denominations will admit that many conservative congregations are staying put — at least for now — because the congregations don’t own the building in which they meet, and/or the land on which that building stands. The courts have been split on who actually owns the buildings and the land, but a conclusive ruling in the D.C. area has put conservative Episcopal parishes on notice: If they leave the denomination, they will have to vacate their buildings:

A Virginia judge has ruled against seven conservative congregations that broke away from the Episcopal Church in 2006, rejecting their argument that they should be able to keep some $40 million in church real estate that the national denomination also claims.

The case has drawn worldwide attention because it involves a cluster of large, prominent churches with well-known conservative pastors and because the issues at hand — particularly the Episcopal Church’s acceptance of same-sex relationships as equal to heterosexual ones — are roiling much of organized religion. Various Protestant congregations in particular have wound up in litigation across the country.

via Va. judge rules against conservative churches in property case – The Washington Post.

The Penn State Scandal and Denominations

Gerald "Jerry" Sandusky, center, is placed in a police car in Bellefonte, Pa. Sandusky, a former member of the Penn State football coaching staff, is charged with sexually abusing eight boys. (AP Photo/Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General, Commonwealth Media Services)

After yesterday’s bouquet-throwing, I’ve got a brickbat in hand today for Christian denominations.  Thanks to a tip from Doug Pagitt yesterday, I tuned into an hour on Minnesota Public Radio News.  The Penn State child sexual abuse scandal was being discussed, more specifically, the ethics thereof.

Prof. Daryl Koehn

One of the guests was Daryl Koehn, Professor in the ethics and business law department at St. Thomas University, and author of The Nature of Evil.

One after the other, callers to the show proclaimed that they would have called 911 immediately if they had seen what Mike McQueary saw.  The online chat during the show, archived on the show’s page, shows the same thing.  Here’s an example: [Read more…]

Why Mainline Christians Don’t Care about Rob Bell

In case you’ve been living under a rock, Rob Bell is leaving Mars Hill Bible Church, which he founded, in Grandville, Michigan. He’s moving his family to California and developing a television show for ABC.  Knowing Rob as I do (I don’t), I’m guessing he’s also working on a movie script, a tour, and probably a time machine.  He’s a person of unique aptitudes.  Thinking that he would stay indefinitely in a parish church situation is akin to thinking that Steve Jobs should have been the manager of an Apple Store.

Zach, a mutual friend of Rob and me (see, I’m only one degree of separation from Rob Bell!), has written a provocative post in the face of criticism that Bell’s departure has received from conservative Christian leaders like Mark Driscoll and Rick Warren.  Zach writes,

In a nutshell, more conservative folks seem to be more skeptical when a successful, well-known pastor decided to leave their churches behind.

Then he continues,

Nowhere have I seen any prominent liberal voice object to Bell moving on. (If so please point me to it)

Well, I’ve got an answer for Zach:

[Read more…]