The Emergent Church Isn’t Dead — Here’s Proof

I was in Dallas over the weekend (at the National Youth Workers Convention), and I had the good fortune to visit Union Coffee Shop. Union is the vision of Mike Baughman, whom I first met at Princeton. Mike is entrepreneurial and ambitious, the very characteristics that are so often mitigated against and even squashed in mainline denominations.

But Mike didn’t let that stultifying environment deter him. Instead, he’s rallied 12 Methodist church and numerous individual donors to chip in. His vision, which he’s in the process of realizing, is a coffeeshop adjacent to the SMU campus, that combines caffeine, a warm communal space, a commitment to causes of justice, and, eventually, a worshipping community.

The soft launch of the space was Friday. Brad Cecil and I stopped by on Saturday evening. I loved the feel of the space (photos here). At the center stands a sturdy wooden table, and it’s already become the gravitational center of the space. When we were there, most of the patrons at the shop were seated around that table.

When the (Tuesday evening) worship launches, that table will become the altar, from which the Eucharist is served. This, I think, is a perfect metaphor for what communion ought to be — this table will take on loads of meaning and memory before the communion elements are even placed on it.

I encourage you to visit Union when you’re in DFW. I encourage you to support it financially if you are looking to make a year-end donation somewhere. And I encourage you to take courage in Mike’s example that new life is possible in old denominations — I know I am.

Presbyterians Try a Gay Man

Years ago, I was sitting on an airplane, reading the USA Today that had been dropped at my hotel room door that morning.  In a little snippet, I read that a lesbian pastor had been called before a grand jury of the United Methodist Church.  What shocked me was not that there was a lesbian pastor in the UMC.  What shocked me was that the UMC had a grand jury.

Yesterday, just a few miles from my house, the Presbyterians (USA) did something similar.  It’s convoluted, so try to bear with me.  It seems that a Presbyterian clergyman, Erwin Barron, was put on trial at a church in Bloomington, Minnesota.

Erwin Barron (photo by Jeff Wheeler, StarTribune)

Barron does not live in Minnesota.  He was a pastor at a church in Minneapolis in the 1990s.  At the time, it seems from the article in the StarTribune, “he was coming to terms with both his sexuality and his future.”  That line, I think, implies that he was not actively gay at the time.

But he left Minnesota, attended graduate school, and married a man in the days before Proposition 8 passed.  Now he’s a college professor.

But, because of the byzantine Presbyterian rules, he’s still accountable to the Presbytery of the Twin Cities, and it was they who put him on trial.  From the Strib:

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