The Future of Progressive Christianity: What If…?

The Future of Progressive Christianity: What If…? July 29, 2015


What if the people leaving the Church are the collective voice of God to us, the Church, today?

This question offered by Mark Sandlin in his post for our new series on The Future of Progressive Christianity sets the tone for a frank, deeply thoughtful, and ultimately inspiring symposium at Patheos this week. Mark’s lead question, firmly grounded in the reality of the last Pew Research Center survey conceding a continuing and steady decline of the mainline protestant church, yet still begs a hopeful response — if one can imagine it. Yes, the Church is losing people. This much is crystal clear. But the “What If?” question asks us to squint our eyes a bit to see a distant (or is it right in front of us?) horizon. Indeed, what if?

I’m a big fan of the United Church of Christ’s slogan, “God is Still Speaking.” I firmly believe this to be true; my faith holds that God is in relationship with us now, in every moment, continually wooing us into a life of love and compassion and reconciliation. But a relationship with such a love requires response and participation. Am I listening, I mean, really listening, to what God might be trying to say to me, to the Church, at this particular moment … when people are leaving in droves? Or am I stuck in a rut, grooved deep by decades of mainline Protestant prominence — a rut that God is trying to punt me up and out of (in love, of course) to hear a new story? And then, if by chance I — we — pick ourselves up and dust ourselves off after the punt to actually listen to the new story, what then? That rut was kind of comfortable. Protected from the street, the noise.  I mean, c’mon God, you’re talking about some major shifts in this thing called Church … shifts in how we gather, worship, live, express ourselves, tend to the world.

What if…?

The Future of Progressive Christianity is our attempt to explore the “What If?” question and move with faith and some newfound confidence into an unknown future. And frankly, I’m over-the-moon excited to share with you our terrific collection of responses from some of my favorite Patheos writers and other thought-leaders across the web. Here’s just a taste of what these wise folk are exploring and imagining as they consider the future of Progressive Christianity in America. I dare say they’re on God’s side, helping to kick me — and you? — out of the rut!

We hope the series enlivens, challenges, and inspires you, and most of all, invites you to join the conversation in your corner of the world, wherever you are in your faith-forward journey. As the tireless connector and innovator Cameron Trimble of the Center for Progressive Renewal likes to say, “I believe that the best days for Christianity are ahead of us, not behind us.”

May it be so.

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