Monday, March 22, 2010

Big Thoughts March 22.

How lucky we were today to have time with two of the best future church thinkers in the country!

This morning Phylis Tickle gave her view of where the church is in this moment of history. Her thesis is that the emergent church reflects an emergent culture in which our informational, economic, political, and sociological structures have changed forever. This is reflected in the way we are already doing church, and will effect us even more in the future. There is no going back.

After lunch Diana Butler Bass lead us through the numbers. It was somewhat comforting to learn that ALL Christian denominations have lost members, meaning that we are part of a changing culture and that no one in the church can be blamed for not doing something. The culture is changing and is the mood is reflected in the saying, "Spiritual but not Religious". She outlined ways in which the church can be more responsive to the energy of the spiritual side of this equation and less anxious about the organizational piece. Even emergent congregations are going to need structure and tradition. It is not a choice between one or the other, but finding a way to synthesis both approaches.

In keeping with a more modern approach, I "tweeted" through both talks and was gratified that so many in the internet world were following what I had to say. Several other bishops were doing the same thing.

The finish off this mind-expanding day, my class of 2004 had dinner together in a cabin on the far side of the lake here in Camp Allen. The food and comradarie were great.

Here we are together in a class picture. From left to right:
O'Neil, Colorado
Wolf, Kansas
Howard, Florida
Councel, New Jersey
Burnett, Nebraska
Hollingsworth, Ohio
Robinson, New Hampshire
High, Suf. Texas
Miller, Milwaukee
Lillibridge, W. Texas
Smith, Arizona
Brookhart, Montana


Jeffrey Shy said...

If you think of it, say Hi! to +Frank Brookhart for me. I used to work for him as an organist when he was still a Lutheran Pastor in Ohio. You can tell him I'm still causing trouble.

Jeffrey Shy, M.D.
Trinity Cathedral

John Himes said...

Is it really a comfort to know all the major denominations are loosing nubmers? It leads me to ask, "Why are non-denominational churchs growing? Is it programs or message?"

Bruce said...

It was somewhat comforting to learn that ALL Christian denominations have lost members, meaning that we are part of a changing culture and that no one in the church can be blamed for not doing something.

Yes, no one is to blame but EVERYONE IS TO BLAME. The Church laughed at the decade of evangelism. Bonnie Anderson wants the church to market the two great things the Episcopal Church has to offer to the lost and broken-democratic form of government and social action. The Rotary Club offers this to the world. I thought all this time it was the life, death, and recurrection of Jesus Christ is what we have to offer the world. This belief is in the pews but the leadership of the Episcopal Church is doing everything it can to avoid this kind of teaching. There are now generations of clergy and laity that never have heard the gospel message in the Church/seminaries unless they pay attention to the words in the Book of Common Prayer and the Bible readings for the day.

There is now a generation of young people who have never been to church and are looking for answers. EVERYONE NEEDS TO KNOW, HAVE RECEIVED THE GOSPEL AND PROCLAIM IT BY WORDS AND DEEDS. IT WILL BE EVERYONE'S FAULT IF THE CHURCH DOESN'T DO THIS.

God bless, I am praying for all of us.

Anonymous said...

Bishop Smith

I remember when you said only 15% of Christ Church left.

Then we look at the statistics and see can see attendance dropped from 500 in 2005 to 200 last year.

Again here you say it is not really a problem that the Episcopal church has lost 20% of its attendance in the last 5 years - after all all churches are declining.

Unless you are willing to face up to the problem instead of spinning it, you will never fix it.

The church of lawsuits and depositions is not attracting new members or retaining members. Children attending an Episcopal parish are likely to end up atheists. The only growth is due to movement from other denominations.

The church has elected a lesbian bishop to much fanfare, but there is barely a mention in the mainstream press? Why? The Episcopal church is increasingly irrelevant. It doesn't take Christianity seriously and most members have left or are leaving.

It is only when you face up to reality that you can fix it. Or you can spin it, and watch the church completely die out of most communities over the next decade as each parish can no longer sustain itself with ever decreasing attendance and the resulting increase in workload and finance requirements from those remaining and turns in their keys.

Jamie Berry said...

I think "the saying, 'Spiritual but not Religious'" has the ring of truth. When a friend of mine was church shopping I went with her to several megachurces. I think I read somewhere the percentage of Christians who attend megachurches is 24%.

The service is centered on emotional, doctrine-free, copyrighted songs with the words and the live band in the chancel shown on giant screens. The sermon relies very little on doctrine; instead the service largely consists of songs packed with emotion. It was more like a rock concert than anything else, complete with arms waving in the air. Their growth rates from both inside and outside the church are phenomenal.

I was horrified to hear the pastor at one of the churches encourage young people to go to the poor, serving and evangelizing. I immediately had a picture flash in my head of a 16-year-old girl going to the roughest neighborhoods alone or with a girlfriend.

The first time we went to one of these churches I asked the pastor what denomination they belonged to. He said they belonged to no denomination, that they were just a Christian church. Determined to find out what the doctrine of this church was, I signed up for a course on the book of Revelation. The instructor used all the visual aids and doctrine of Tim LaHaye, who provided the ideas and the plot of the Left Behind books.

I have read all 12 books in the Left Behind series and recognize their lines of thought when I hear them, what passages they take literally and what passages they spiritualize in order to convince people that their view is the only correct one within the church. I think it is useful to have a working knowledge of something so many people follow.

It is so easy; you don't have to think or make any decisions because the answers the church gives make so much sense. The service is almost mesmerizing, with the people waving their arms in the air and swaying to the music. There are plenty of fun activities for the kids and a family feeling to the church. One of the churches also had a school and was planning to build on the adjacent lot.

The Tim LaHaye Premillennial Church scares me. These are the people who send money to people in Israel who want to destroy the Dome of the Rock mosque and rebuild the temple, the single most incendiary thing that could be done in the Middle East. The ensuing war would not bother these Christians because it would simply mean the end of days is near.

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Gae said...

A few days behind reading your posts, Bishop. Not to be disrespectful but it's the lamest thing I've ever heard. Just another excuse for our leadership (you bishops & us rectors). When we own the decline, it will change. The more excuses we continue to make, it won't. Sorry, but I don't want my legacy to be that I contributed to tanking the church.