The Real Work of Bishops

In his report from The Episcopal Church’s House of Bishops, Bishop Daniel Martins described a telling exchange: We began with another table discussion of generous length (about 30 minutes, as I recall). Each table was given a sheet amalgamating all the feedback that had been turned in on sticky notes yesterday concerning how we think we’re meeting the personal and institutional challenges of dealing with the way we tend to systematically marginalize individuals and groups based on criteria over … [Read more...]

The Barking Dog of Congregational Vitality

Congregational vitality is still on the front burner in conversations about the church. Noting that on average, 9 churches close their doors everyday, the Episcopal Church Building Fund has launched a recasting process, designed to help parishes evaluate their communities, reevaluate the deployment of their resources, achieve a sustainable budget, and rediscover a measure of relevance to the communities around them. The goal is to create a “thriving parish.”The chaplain for the process obs … [Read more...]

4 Ways to “Future” the Church

In a recent article on “Futuring” in The Wall Street Journal, Christopher Mims observes: The art and science of futuring is fast becoming a necessary skill, where we read signals, see trends and ruthlessly test our own assumptions.” “’ It’s clear,’ he notes, relying on the work of Scott Smith, that “we’re not going to make it through [our complex environment] as passengers.'"Futuring, Mims, notes is not about predicting the future. That task is one that amateurs undertake. Experienced “future … [Read more...]

One Suggestion for Something New This Christmas

 One of my students recounted a story that (I am told) is widely known in Roman Catholic circles.So the story goes: A little girl was sitting with her mother in church and asked,“Mommy, where is Jesus?”Deeply formed by her faith and her experience of the church, the little girl’s mother pointed to the tabernacle where the reserve sacrament is kept.The little girl was silent for a moment and then declared,“When I grow up I’m going to buy him a bigger box.”This Chri … [Read more...]

5 things the “Chopped” Kitchen Can Teach Us about Theological Education

My wife and I love cooking meals together.We also enjoy watching cooking shows. One of our favorites is the “Chopped” Kitchen in which four contestants are eliminated – or “chopped” -- as they attempt to use “mystery baskets,” preparing an appetizer, main course, and dessert. The drama in the show arises from the outsized personality of the contestants, the unpredictable nature of the items in the baskets that they work with, the time constraints that pressure even the best of chefs, and the … [Read more...]

3 Reasons Why Clergy Shouldn’t “Friend” the Members of Their Churches

In class a subject surfaced that I don't recall ever hearing discussed in seminary: “Should pastors be their parishioners' ‘friend?’”The conversation began when one of my students noted that a member of his church had decided that, after some deliberation, "they could be friends." My student noted that he understood that his parishioner meant this as a form of affirmation, but he also noted that it made him uncomfortable. Why, exactly, he wasn’t sure.The class offered a number of perspect … [Read more...]

4 Reasons It’s a Bad Idea for Clergy to Advocate for Candidates

In a recent interview with Treer Hardy and Jason Michelli who steer the “Crackers and Grape Juice” podcast, I found myself clarifying some of my views on pastoral responsibility and the up-coming election.It will be tempting for clergy of all kinds to express their opinion on specific candidates and advocate for one of them this year.  (I also have dear friends who will strongly disagree with me on this.)  But, IRS regulations aside, I think it’s a mistake to do that and here’s why:One: A … [Read more...]

4 Choices Boomers Made that are Killing Mainline Protestantism

Earlier this month the Public Religion Research Institute released new statistics that chronicle the demographic shifts in religious affiliation. The one group that has grown exponentially is the so-called “Nones,” or religiously unaffiliated. The unaffiliated now represent 25% of the country, up over 10% of their numbers in the 1990s.More troubling for churches are two other findings: One is that the percentage of young American “Nones” (39% of those ages 18 to 29) is far larger than that of … [Read more...]