It’s the beginning of the next 500 years for the Protestant Church. The first 500 really flew by didn’t they? A lot changed over those first 500 years, beginning with Martin Luther nailing his 95 theses to the door. I don’t have 95 things, but I do have a few I would like to see change in the next 500 (or 5) years in the life of the church.
1. We will no longer need churches to carry an Open and Affirming Designation
I say this because my hope is that when someone hears “church” they know the church is open, affirming, and welcoming to all people. It’s shameful that communities rooted in a faith and ethic of universal love find grounds to tell people they aren’t loved because of who they love. Open and Affirming should be the norm, not the exception.
2. Scripture claims a central place in our witness
Too often we know the how, but we don’t know the why. The progressive church’s ministry is rooted in the stories of the scripture, but we don’t claim it as such. We lament the way Scripture is used by others, but don’t use it ourselves. We need to find new ways to teach our adults and bring the Bible alive for our children. The Bible is good stuff, lets use it more.
3. The Church better reflects the diversity of God’s creation
Most people still go to church with people who look, act, vote, and think like they do. The challenge is not only integration along racial lines, but socio-economic ones as well. Churches become bubbles where closely held notions are affirmed rather than challenged. The Church of the (near) future will better reflect the diversity of God’s creation.
4. The Church is a source of transformation, not information
All of us need to be liberated from something in order to experience the wholeness God intends for each of us. A renewed passion for the Good News of Jesus Christ is in order. Often, we settle for consuming the Good News like we do the Sunday paper. My hope is for the church to find a renewed interest in the transformation of lives and communities.
5. The Church takes the lead on combating climate change
Climate change is not a political issue, but rather a spiritual and theological one. If we believe that God is creator, then the church must take caring for creation seriously. If we believe that climate change is a threat to that creation, then the church must be an active leader in combating climate change.
Bonus: Children are full participants in the life of the Church
Jesus is one of the few figures in antiquity who spent time with children. The church should mirror this ethic. Children have much to teach all of us about what it means to live a faith-filled life. The Church is better when children are full participants.
Those are my five (well, six.) Here’s to the next 500 years.
Rev. Danny Gulden has served Disciples of Christ congregations in Georgia and Indiana and currently serves the wider Disciples Church through the office of the Pension Fund. He and his wife Mary Michael have two daughters and live in the Indianapolis area. Follow his blog at TheRevDanny.