Mainline Shifts towards the next reformation, this time bringing unity…. This is big….Pt. 1

Ok. So, first off I realize the thoughts that I will be sharing in this blog post and the next one are very important and huge statements that I will be making. I will first give my thoughts around the whole idea and why I feel like I need to get these theories and ideas out of my head and into your hearts so that we can discern together what this all means and see if we can talk about the future with an emphasis on grace and hope. First off, Our Current Reality: I am a clergy in the United Methodist Church serving in the New Mexico Annual Conference. In the past I have been a church planter, an associate pastor, youth pastor, college pastor, and currently a Sr. Pastor. I have a deep love of the UMC and it is not my desire to see it die, but my deeper desire to allow it to be transformed into a deeper expression of ecclesia (church) that is not dependent on the current institution. Let me explain… Right now in most (or all, I’d love some comments from other denominational leaders on this) mainline denominations if you have a calling by God to be clergy, then one of the many requirements is for you to attend seminary. Mine and my wife’s education was a 96hr master’s degree of divinity. Along with that wonderful and amazing education came lots and lots of debt. YEA!!! And so the thinking goes, ‘But, if God is involved in this process that God will help us through this, because, “with God all things are possible”…. yeah, even bankruptcy’! ha ha ha ha Anyway, with the decline of the mainline denominations over the past few years, the case that is becoming more and more common, is that when a seminarian graduates they are told that they do not have any churches that can afford a full-time clergy(The UMC has minimum salaries, housing, health, etc…), and in the Methodist church they appoint them to a multi-church “charge” that can share the cost of a clergy, or they just will not appoint them until a church opens up. This habit is slowly becoming the norm. Anyone who does not see this reality, is choosing to not be in reality.  It is just one of the huge issues facing the institutional mainline churches today. I know of several churches that are lowering and lowering their budgets because lots of them are realizing that even if they go to a bare bones budget, cut all staff, and don’t give any money back to the larger institution, they would still not have enough money to continue the way they’ve always known church. There are, of course, many other things involved here, and even though I will be proposing the death of the current realized institutional church in this blog post, I still see God’s church and even the mainline churches continuing to “love to live and live to love” by bringing transformation into this world through Trinity Conspiring. But, much like Phyllis Tickle has proposed in her books (and others), I see a new reformation beginning. Yep, thats right the big scary R-word. But, in my happy positive thinking little mind I believe this one might bring back more unity that division with the Church (denominationally, generationally, etc…) I’ll get to more of this in Part 2. But, I believe that the current dying denominations must make room for future expressions of the church to occur. They must accept their evolution into God doing a new thing, but not commit their own self-death right now it will happen naturally, and it has the potential to be one of the most beautiful deaths ever to be experienced. The institution still has so much to give it’s future, and it has the potential to be a loving parent seeing it’s offspring live into their full potiental for the future of the kingdom. But, sadly most denominational leaders I’m running into are too worried about self-preservation, than providing an education, and R&D department for the future expressions of church to play, grow, and learn; to make enough mistakes so that they can thrive and grow into what God desires for all of our futures. I mean come on current expression of institutionalized church, its time to stop thinking about how you need to eat better or how should be getting on that treadmill…. you have lost your legs in the race, laying on a hospital bed with an O2 mask and a feeding tube in your nose. It’s not the time to think about how you can “come back”, or how much cryogenics costs, it’s time to allow your offspring to hear your wisdom, to find out how to handle their finances, to hear how proud you are of what they’ve become and encourage them to dream big, to conspire with the Trinity like you did, and to expect God to work! To be OK with the mistakes because we fail often to succeed sooner. Its a time to huddle up and listen to your children’s dreams and teach them discernment to follow their dreams as long as those dreams are from the Godhead and not themselves. How we can learn from your life mistakes and mature into deeper discipleship. No one wants to accept their own death at first, but when they do it is so freeing, and life affirming, that in the process of death you can pour what life you have left into your sons and daughters. So, with that said in the next blog post I’d like to give a few practical thoughts around how this new current mentoring and wisdom sharing from the institutional church can give its offspring empowerment and hope. The current church can pour itself into a living legacy that will be born from within it’s remnant, and the universal church’s new birth can be beautiful and transformational.

Image info:

Church ruins at Clonmore, Co. Louth
Ruins of the medieval parish church on the site of an Early Christian period monastic foundation of St. Columba.
Creative Commons Licence [Some Rights Reserved]   © Copyright Kieran Campbell and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.
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4 thoughts on “Mainline Shifts towards the next reformation, this time bringing unity…. This is big….Pt. 1

  1. I don’t even know where to begin! I support you one hundred percent. I’ve been through the church staff struggle, and am drowning in debt too wondering if a little more guidance and vision from more experienced elders may have prevented the mess I’m in. I’m not just weary of that stuff, but now as a non- staff church goer, I struggle to find meaning, vision, encouragement, guidance and inspiration from the Church in its current state. Since leaving my position, I can tell you that my involvement in the local parish has been next to nihl and I feel guilty, ashamed and prodigal. I want to get behind something but all I see is archaic, half-enthusiastic, been-done-this-way-for-a-thousand-yearsism, that is lacking much involvement from anyone below the age of 50. I too want to see revolution, revision, and revival. Something has got to change. Grace needs to reign, hope needs to be reminded of, and love needs to abound. I wish I had an answer. I long for hope, I long for this grace, I long to be a part of a community again that was inspired by a vision of Love and grace that was exciting and real. Bring on a revolution.

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  2. I agree with your statements and I think most clergy in the UMC would. The problem becomes on how to implement the change from one generation to the next. Baby Boomers, Xers, and Millennials all want to approach the foreseen change differently. How do you give hospice care to a dying organism that won’t admit, publicly, that it is dying. From what I have observed people are worried about taking a step backwards. But as we have noted the UMC can not sustain the basic package of ordained clergy much longer. One solution would be large multi point charges and circuit riders, again, but the individual churches have bought in to the consumerist idea that they deserve their own full time seminary educated pastor who will hold the hand. Modern UMC churches, in general, want a chaplain to take care of them. The only way to really get rid of consumerism in the church is to get rid of professional SINGLE vocation pastors. Unfortunately, I am now fully invested in the UMC system with debt, a need to be appointed, a wife and four kids, and a fear of having to start a second vocation career. I still feel the call to bring the Gospel to people, but I see a dying system surrounding me like a sarcophagus, too top heavy to survive.

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    1. Dare, thanks for the input. I see your answer to consumerism as a death of single vocation pastors, and I do think that might occur, but I see that shift talking 50-100 years or more, so that’s why I think the mainlines should be pouring much more time and energy into creating the R&D to come alongside what we are currently. Also, I think healthy discipleship is another possible answer to the consumerism that the church created through the church growth movement. Thanks again so much for your input!

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