3/8/10

Holy Crap, and what to do about it

This article, "Holy Crap must go" is an excellent discussion of mainline Protestantism in the West, focusing on how our structure (which was an asset 70 years ago) has become for us a liability, and suggests some changes. For anyone in a mainline church, this is an important (and lively) read.

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2 Comments:

Blogger Craig L. Adams said...

Be sure you are able to find another job.

3:56 PM, March 08, 2010  
Blogger Daniel McLain Hixon said...

well, it's a good point Craig. I actually think I could find another job, if that is what the Spirit says to the churches, though it is definitely a scary prospect from where I sit. This is of course why any radical restructuring will find most opposition from the people with a vested interest (like, say, a paycheck and pension plan) in the status quo.

Yet I do find the some of the re-envisionings of the pastor's vocation that are being contemplated online compelling. It certainly feels like our current "professional" model - in which annual conference business sessions are spent talking about Health Insurance premium hikes and new mandatory liability policies and preserving the pension plan are lightyears away from the early church - or even the early Methodist conferences.

I don't think we necessarily need to impliment everything that this fellow suggests, though he helps us to get thinking. I do think however we need to radically re-evaluate how we do things, especially in terms of redundant beauracracies and seminary education. For example, I think the Annual conferences have the resources - in terms of physical meeting spaces at large churches, gifted theology teachers, most of the Christian classics available online for free, and hands-on learning experiences to completely supplant the "seminary as grad school" approach we currently take.

Our boards and agencies could be drastically reduced (though probably not all of them totally eliminated). Our paying membership in superfluous organizations like NCC should be replaced by a volunteer membership in ecumenical groups with minimal staff & expenses (maybe something like a social networking site could help here).

We could think of the local church and congregation not as a building a membership to maintain (and document for the annual audit), but as a home base from which to engage in ministry to our larger community.

We could also do General Conference cheaper if we were simply to locate a number of very large churches (or colleges or conference centers) in each jurisdiction and use their facilities for free/cheap instead of renting out a convention center for 2 weeks. We could also meet only once every 6 years.

Those are all ideas that work with something similar to our current structure. We could always throw it away - delete everything in the discipline besides the doctrinal section and start from scratch saying "what is most important, structurally, for our identity?" So we might start talking about some kind of episcopacy and conference system, though it need not be just what we currently have.

Now I'm obviously thinking "aloud" here and not laying out some sort of step by step plan, but this conversation could definitely use some fresh thinking.

4:43 PM, March 08, 2010  

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