Category : United Church of Christ

(RNS) Mainline Protestants seek reforms, stir anger

A list of the Episcopal Church’s 75 commissions, committees, agencies and boards spilled over eight PowerPoint slides during a recent presentation by its new chief operating officer, Bishop Stacy Sauls.

By his count, there are also nearly 50 departments and offices in the church’s New York headquarters, and 46 committees in its legislative body, the General Convention.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Episcopal Church (TEC), Lutheran, Methodist, Other Churches, Pastoral Theology, Presbyterian, TEC Bishops, Theology, United Church of Christ

NCC Leader to Step Down

The National Council of Churches announced on Wednesday (Nov. 9) that General Secretary Michael Kinnamon is resigning due to health reasons.

Kinnamon, 63, told the ecumenical group’s governing board that he must “immediately and significantly” reduce his activity, especially the frequent travel required by the job, under the advice of his cardiologist.

A minister in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Kinnamon was elected to lead the New York-based NCC in 2007, amid staff layoffs and budget cuts.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Ecumenical Relations, Health & Medicine, Ministry of the Ordained, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, United Church of Christ

Ken Carter–Why congregations need Denominations

I share these two experiences alongside a comment I came across years ago: every church and every member of the clergy, over a span of time, needs to belong to a denomination. I serve as a district superintendent, and I am aware of the church’s imperfections, and my own. I watch over 69 local churches and a few assorted institutions within our geographical boundaries, and we are at work on the development of a new church plant and the development of a missional church network. At any given time about 3-5 of these churches are in real crisis: they are in need of outside intervention, mediation, conflict resolution and spiritual guidance. A denomination, at its best, provides a framework for the protection of the clergy in a workplace and supervision of even the most powerful clergy leaders. In addition, a denomination works out the implications of a missional strategy in an area that is more nuanced than simply whatever the market can bear.

I share these experiences at a time when there is much rhetoric around moving energy, resources and attention to the local church. I love the local church. It is the basic context for the mission of making disciples for the transformation of the world. At the same time, the local church will, on occasion, be stronger as it accomplishes mission that is beyond its own capacity, and as it is accountable to a wisdom that is outside its own day to day movements.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Baptists, Consumer/consumer spending, Disciples of Christ, Ecclesiology, Economy, Episcopal Church (TEC), Lutheran, Methodist, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Pentecostal, Presbyterian, Psychology, Reformed, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Theology, United Church of Christ

(UCC News) New Media Project examines church’s use of emerging technologies

Just three months into its launch, the New Media Project at Union Theological Seminary has already gained footing in exploring improved ways in which pastors and lay leaders might use new technologies to strengthen their communities.

“This increasingly rich theological discussion seems to be striking a chord of interest among religious leaders who are thinking about the impact of technology on religious life,” said the Rev. Verity A. Jones, project director and former publisher and editor of DisciplesWorld magazine. “I am encouraged that the discussion is getting some traction.”

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Media, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Science & Technology, United Church of Christ

Rachel Hackenberg–The myth about pastors

The myth about pastors, simply stated, is that we are helpers; that ours is a helping profession, counted alongside doctors and nurses and emergency responders and teachers and social workers.

Over and over again in my ministry, however, I am reminded that pastors are not helpers. We are not fixers or healers or solvers. We do not, cannot, provide help. Which may sound shocking, because people often turn to pastors for help … and pastors, in turn, like to think that they provide concrete help to others. But no, it is all a myth.

A story might add some explanation to my myth-busting….

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Religion News & Commentary, Ministry of the Ordained, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Theology, United Church of Christ

(RNS) Even After Win, same Sex Partnered Clergy likely to Remain Limited

“Presbyterians join a growing Protestant movement of Lutherans, Episcopalians and United Church of Christ members who have eliminated official barriers to leadership by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons,” a coalition of pro-gay Presbyterians said in a statement.

The momentum of the gay clergy movement, however, may soon grind to a halt.

“There is not another denomination I see on the horizon right now that is on the cusp of this,” said Robert P. Jones, CEO of Public Religion Research Institute, a nonpartisan research and consulting firm.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Religion News & Commentary, Episcopal Church (TEC), Ministry of the Ordained, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Presbyterian, Same-sex blessings, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths), United Church of Christ

More churchgoers ditch their denominations

At the same time mainstream denominations lose thousands of members per year, churches such as Crosspoint are growing rapidly ”” 15 percent of all U.S. churches identified themselves as nondenominational this year, up from 5 percent a decade ago. A third dropped out of major denominations at some point.

Their members are attracted by worship style, particular church missions or friends in the congregation.

“They no longer see the denomination as anything that has relevance to them,” said Scott Thumma, a religion sociology professor at Hartford Seminary in Hartford, Conn. He’s compiling a list of nondenominational churches for the 2010 Religious Congregations and Membership Study. “The whole complexion of organized religion is in flux.”

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Baptists, Disciples of Christ, Evangelicals, Lutheran, Methodist, Orthodox Church, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Pentecostal, Presbyterian, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, United Church of Christ

Donald G. Bloesch RIP (1928-2010)

Chad Owen Brand writes of him:

His historical analyses were often brilliant, his exegesis was often sparse, and his knowledge of the literature was generally impressive. It is a rare theologian who really likes Irenaeus, Augustine, Anselm, Calvin, Luther, Wesley, Bavinck, Herrmann, Barth, Ellul, and Rahner all at the same time. If you want to position him at all, it is somewhere between Kierkegaard and Kuyper, somewhere between Henry and Herrmann.

Bloesch made no large bold moves, hence there are no Bloeschites (or only a small group of them), but he made many small bold moves. He opposed what he called Carl Henry’s evangelical rationalism, but he anathematized feminism’s tendency to rename God into a feminine deity””he thought Henry compromised, but he considered Sallie McFague’s theology to be idolatry.

Thank God for Donald Bloesch. He will be missed, but his legacy is still here for us to learn from.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Religion News & Commentary, Death / Burial / Funerals, Evangelicals, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Theology, United Church of Christ

United Church of Christ ex-president, the Rev. John Thomas, admits affair, is divorcing

The former president of the United Church of Christ is divorcing his wife and is now in a committed relationship with a former co-worker at church headquarters, the UCC announced.

The Rev. John H. Thomas was general minister and president for a decade of the mainline Protestant denomination before he resigned at the end of his term in 2009.

Thomas and his wife, Lynda, are divorcing, and “he has formed a relationship with another woman with whom he worked” while he led the Cleveland-based denomination, the UCC said in a statement.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Other Churches, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Theology, United Church of Christ

Patrick Burrows on Mainline and Evangelical Ministry to Youth

Yes, evangelicals do have more retention of youth than mainline churches. But it is unfair to say that this is because evangelicals care more about keeping them. As someone who grew up as an evangelical and who is now in a mainline denomination, I see a different way of analyzing this trend. Rather than evangelicals caring more, they engage in the business of scaring more (sorry for the pun, it just worked well.)

Mainline denominations are uninterested in telling youth that they are going to burn in Hell if they don’t commit to Christianity and regularly come to church. Evangelicals, on the other hand, do. Mainline denominations are uninterested in guilting their members into attending; evangelicals see no problem with this. It’s a matter of philosophy. Evangelicals are consequentialists when it comes to youth formation”“the end justifies the means. Mainline denominations are typically deontologists”“if the means are not right, the action is wrong, even if good comes from it….

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Religion News & Commentary, Episcopal Church (TEC), Evangelicals, Lutheran, Methodist, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Presbyterian, United Church of Christ, Youth Ministry

Mark Chaves: Evangelical churches do a better job of retaining youth than others

Evangelicals care more than mainline Protestants about keeping their young people in the faith. This is the striking conclusion James Wellman reaches in his fascinating book, “Evangelical vs. Liberal: The Clash of Christian Cultures in the Pacific Northwest” (Oxford). Based on observations, interviews, and focus group discussions with people from 24 evangelical and 10 mainline churches, all vital churches with stable or growing memberships, this lively book compares these two religious cultures in many ways. How people think about youth and youth ministry emerges as a key difference: “For evangelicals, if children and youth are not enjoying church, it is the church’s fault and evangelical parents either find a new church or try to improve their youth ministry. For liberals, the tendency is the reverse; if youth do not find church interesting it is their problem. Evangelicals are simply more interested and invested in reproducing the faith in their children and youth and their churches reflect this priority.”

Even though evangelical and mainline churches both lose many young people to the ranks of the religiously unaffiliated, and even though both groups lose more young people than they did before, evangelical churches still lose fewer young people than liberal churches lose. Evangelical families emphasize religion more than mainline families do, and evangelical churches involve young people in a denser social web of youth groups, church camps, and church-based socializing, all of which increase the chances that a young person will remain in the fold as an adult. This is one reason that evangelical denominations have not suffered the same membership declines in recent decades that more liberal, mainline denominations have suffered.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Religion News & Commentary, Episcopal Church (TEC), Evangelicals, Lutheran, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Presbyterian, United Church of Christ, Youth Ministry

RNS–From clergy shortage to clergy glut

After a decade-long clergy shortage in America’s pulpits, Christian denominations are now experiencing a clergy glut — with some denominations reporting two ministers for every vacant pulpit.

“We have a serious surplus of ministers and candidates seeking calls,” said Marcia Myers, director of the vocation office for the Presbyterian Church (USA), which has four ministers for every opening.

The cause of the sudden turnaround: blame the bad economy.

According to PC(USA) data, there are 532 vacancies for 2,271 ministers seeking positions. The Assemblies of God, United Methodist Church, Church of the Nazarene and other Protestant denominations also report significant surpluses.

Cash-strapped parishioners — who were already aging and shrinking in number — have given less to their churches, resulting in staff cuts. Meanwhile, older clergy who saw their retirement funds evaporate are delaying retirement, leaving fewer positions available to younger ministers.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, Economy, Lutheran, Methodist, Ministry of the Ordained, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Presbyterian, Seminary / Theological Education, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, Theology, United Church of Christ

Katherine Tyler Scott–Leadership crisis in the Episcopal Church

The Episcopal Church, like other mainline Protestant denominations, is not immune from the seismic political, sociological and economic shifts happening today. Most of us are experiencing “a time of no longer and a time of not yet”–an era of rapid, complex change; chronic anxiety; and heightened ambiguity. The comfort of the familiar is fading, and the movement toward an unknown future can feel terrifying.

In times like these, Christians expect religious leadership to help bridge the gap between the ideal and the real, and to equip followers to live out the Gospel in an environment of extreme polarities, i.e., poverty and wealth, insularity and inclusiveness, hostility and hospitality, homogeneity and diversity. The call “to love our neighbors as ourselves” is being drowned out by a barrage of shrill and hate-filled rhetoric. The distance between what Christians profess to believe and what they do seems wider than ever, creating a gap of dysfunction. There are few trusted religious leaders in the public square, whose rational voices, theological gravitas and moral authority can quell the incivility, incendiary rhetoric, and growing intolerance of differences. At a time when the leadership of the church is most needed, there is silence.

The mainline churches are finding themselves on the margins, declining in membership and donations. Some are in the grip of unresolved conflicts and divisions; others are locked in scandal. The main mission is hostage to a host of distracting issues. In short, the church is experiencing a crisis of leadership.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Religion News & Commentary, Episcopal Church (TEC), Lutheran, Methodist, Other Churches, Presbyterian, United Church of Christ

Walter Russell Mead–The Mainline Church's Organizational Model Needs a Systematic Overhaul

(The above is my title, you can see his by going to the link below–KSH)

The Christian churches in the United States are in trouble for all the usual reasons ”” human sinfulness and selfishness, the temptations of life in an affluent society, doctrinal and moral controversies and uncertainties and on and on and on ”” but also and to a surprisingly large degree they are in trouble because they are trying to address the problems of the twenty first century with a business model and a set of tools that date from the middle of the twentieth. The mainline churches in particular are organized like General Motors was organized in the 1950s: they have cost structures and operating procedures that simply don’t work today. They are organized around what I’ve been calling the blue social model, built by rules that don’t work anymore, and oriented to a set of ideas that are well past their sell-by date.

Without even questioning it, most churchgoers assume that a successful church has its own building and a full-time staff including one or more professionally trained leaders (ordained or not depending on the denomination). Perhaps no more than half of all congregations across the country can afford this at all; most manage only by neglecting maintenance on their buildings or otherwise by cutting corners. And even when they manage to make the payroll and keep the roof in repair, congregations spend most of their energy just keeping the show going from year to year. The life of the community centers around the attempt to maintain a model of congregational life that doesn’t work, can’t work, won’t work no matter how hard they try. People who don’t like futile tasks have a tendency to wander off and do other things and little by little the life and vitality (and the rising generations) drift away.
At the next level up, there is another level of ecclesiastical bureaucrats and officials staffing regional offices. When my dad was a young priest in the Episcopal diocese of North Carolina back in the late 1950s the bishop had a secretary and that was pretty much it for diocesan staff. These days the Episcopal church is in decline, with perhaps a third to a half or more of its parishes unable to meet their basic expenses and with members dying off or drifting away much faster than new people come through the door ”” but no respectable bishop would be caught dead with the pathetic staff with which Bishop Baker ran a healthy and growing diocese in North Carolina back in the 1950s. (Bishop Baker was impressive in another way; he could tie his handkerchief into the shape of a bunny rabbit, put it flat on the palm of his hand, and have it hop off. I was only six when he showed me this trick, but it was clear to me that this man had something special to offer. Since that time I’ve traveled all over the world and met bishops, archbishops, cardinals and even a pope ”” but none of them made quite the impression on me that Bishop Baker and his jumping handkerchief did.)

Bishops today in their sinking, decaying dioceses surround themselves with large staffs who hold frequent meetings and no doubt accomplish many wonderful things, although nobody outside the office ever quite knows what these are. And it isn’t just Anglicans. Lutherans, Presbyterians, Congregationalists, UCC, the whole crowd has pretty much the same story to tell. Staffs grow; procedures flourish and become ever more complex; more and more years of school are required from an increasingly ”˜professional’ church staff: everything gets better and better every year ”” except somehow the churches keep shrinking. Inside, the professionals are pretty busy jumping through hoops and writing memos to each other and grand sweeping statements of support for raising the minimum wage and other noble causes ”” but outside the regional headquarters and away from the hum of the computers and printers, local congregations lose members, watch their buildings fall year by year into greater disrepair, and in the end they close their doors.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Religion News & Commentary, Episcopal Church (TEC), General Convention, House of Deputies President, Lutheran, Methodist, Other Churches, Presbyterian, Presiding Bishop, Seminary / Theological Education, TEC Bishops, TEC Diocesan Conventions/Diocesan Councils, TEC House of Deputies, TEC Parishes, TEC Polity & Canons, Theology, United Church of Christ

Jonathan Petre: Rowan Williams confronts the Pope over 'poaching' of clergy

The Archbishop of Canterbury has expressed his concerns to the Pope about the way the Vatican announced a scheme to welcome disaffected Anglicans into the Roman Catholic Church.

In the private meeting at the Vatican with Benedict XVI, Dr Rowan Williams made clear he had been put in an ‘awkward position’ because he had been given so little warning about the proposals to entice Anglicans to Rome by letting them keep many of their traditions.

But he insisted that the tone of the meeting had been ‘very friendly’, and relations between the two Churches were still strong. The Vatican also described the meeting as ‘cordial’.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Religion News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of England (CoE), Other Churches, Pope Benedict XVI, Roman Catholic, United Church of Christ

Stephen Joseph Fichter: How Common is the Move from Roman Catholic to Protestant Ordained Ministry?

When asked why they chose their current denomination, the majority of respondents spoke of the strong similarity between their present church and the Catholic Church in terms of liturgy, ministry and theology. This was especially true for the Episcopalians and seems to explain why so many of the survey respondents gravitated to the Anglican Communion. Most of those who joined the Episcopal Church said that with only minor adjustments they “felt at home” from the beginning and that they found comfort in the fact that they could hold onto their core beliefs in the Resurrection and the Eucharist. Over time they modified their views on other subjects, such as papal infallibility and women’s ordination, but many of them had already begun to question the validity of those doctrines.

Before I began the interviews, I hypothesized that diocesan priests would be overrepresented in my sample because they seem to be at greater risk for loneliness than religious order priests. (Most religious live in community, while diocesan priests often live alone in rectories because of the shortage of priests.) The survey results support this hypothesis. Based on the historical ratio of American diocesan clergy to religious, one would expect to find 61.5 percent diocesan priests in this sample; in fact, 72.3 percent of the respondents had served in diocesan ministry. (Recall that Cutié was a diocesan priest.)

Where [Alberto] Cutié differs from most of the men I surveyed is in the historical timing of his decision. The majority of respondents began their journey to a new church in the period from the late 1960s to the early 1980s. It seems unlikely that Cutié’s example will spark another wave of priestly resignations. According to research conducted by Dean R. Hoge and Jacqueline E. Wenger in Evolving Visions of Priesthood: Changes from Vatican II to the Turn of the New Century (2003), young priests today are more theologically conservative than their immediate predecessors and are more likely therefore to embrace the church’s traditional teaching on celibacy. Questions remain, however, about how many young Catholic men have chosen lay or Protestant ministry over the Catholic priesthood because of the demands of celibacy””a fitting area of inquiry, perhaps, for another curious sociologist.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Religion News & Commentary, Episcopal Church (TEC), Lutheran, Methodist, Ministry of the Ordained, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Presbyterian, Roman Catholic, United Church of Christ

Wendy Cadge and Laura Olson on the Mainline Same Sex Union debate

It is too early to call the ELCA’s decision a tipping point for mainline Protestants. The Presbyterian Church (USA) and the much larger United Methodist Church continue to prohibit gay people from being ordained. Demographics likely explain some of these differences – there are many more Methodists and Presbyterians in the most conservative regions of the country than members of the ELCA, Episcopal Church, or United Church of Christ.

The history of debate in individual denominations matters too – the Presbyterians and Methodists have been locked in divisive internal battles about homosexuality for longer than the ELCA – as do the formal ways denominations make decisions. The Presbyterians seem the most likely to follow the ELCA; their denominational vote on gay ordination this year was narrower than in the past.

These shifts within mainline Protestantism reflect liberalizing public opinion about homosexuality. They show that mainline Protestant denominations, like most religious traditions, are continually adapting and revising theological interpretations as their social environments change. We salute the ELCA for taking a bold step in the direction of justice and equality and hope the Presbyterians and United Methodists soon follow suit – fully tipping the mainline Protestant denominations toward complete equality for gay men and lesbians.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Religion News & Commentary, Episcopal Church (TEC), Lutheran, Methodist, Other Churches, Presbyterian, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths), United Church of Christ

A Columbus Dispatch on the Same Sex Union Struggle in American Churches

Of mainline Protestants surveyed by the Pew Forum for its U.S. Religious Landscape Survey, 56 percent said homosexuality should be accepted by society. Thirty-four percent of those Protestants said it should be discouraged. In all, the Pew Forum surveyed more than 35,000 adults of all faiths.

Others say the growing acceptance of homosexuality in churches is unique to North American liberal Protestantism.

Christianity is growing fastest in Africa, Asia, and Central and South America, and those believers are much more conservative on sexuality, said Bishop Callon W. Holloway Jr. of the Southern Ohio Synod of the ELCA. He opposed the changes at last week’s Churchwide Assembly in Minneapolis.

Now, Holloway is trying to hold his synod together. He’s heard from between 200 and 300 people who say they intend to leave the denomination, he said.

Such departures could have devastating consequences for congregations that rely on members financially, he said.

The Rev. Paul Ulring, pastor of the 5,000-member Upper Arlington Lutheran Church, said his congregation is likely to leave the ELCA.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Religion News & Commentary, Episcopal Church (TEC), Lutheran, Methodist, Other Churches, Presbyterian, Same-sex blessings, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths), United Church of Christ

A voice for orthodoxy in the mainlines

AFA Journal: Considering that the mainlines have been on a path away from orthodoxy for more than 40 years, do you ever feel that IRD is a voice crying in the wilderness, that no one is listening?

Mark Tooley: No! God clearly has preserved a strong voice of orthodoxy and renewal within all the mainline denominations. We should be careful not to conflate the views of church elites with the views of all church members. They are part of the Body of Christ. None of us has the liberty to write off any part of the Body of Christ, no matter how troubled.

In a more temporal sense, the mainliners still bring a powerful history and legacy to American Christianity from which modern evangelicals can and should learn. As we see from distressing current evangelical trends, doctrine, church structure and appreciation for church history are vital for strong churches.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Religion News & Commentary, Disciples of Christ, Episcopal Church (TEC), Evangelicals, Lutheran, Methodist, Other Churches, Presbyterian, United Church of Christ

Trace Haythorn, Ian Markham: Theology suffers a funding crisis

A few statistics tell the story.

A majority of seminary students now carry educational debt, and they’re borrowing larger amounts than in the past. Graduates confirm that their debt affects their career choices, holds them back from purchasing homes, prevents them from saving for their children’s education, limits their retirement savings, delays health care and creates distress.

Christian Century magazine recently reported that “churches are paying their clergy proportionately lower salaries today then they did a generation ago, making it more difficult for ministerial candidates to justify the high cost of a graduate degree.”

Fewer than 7 percent of clergy in most Protestant and Catholic denominations today are under age 35.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Religion News & Commentary, Episcopal Church (TEC), Lutheran, Methodist, Ministry of the Ordained, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Presbyterian, Seminary / Theological Education, Stewardship, Theology, United Church of Christ

United Church News to cease print publication, move news online

The decision to cease the newsprint edition of United Church News was made on March 20 by the board of directors of the Office of General Ministries (OGM), which has been struggling with skyrocketing costs for the newspaper’s production. Postage and printing costs have more than doubled during the past five years, with costs now surpassing $125,000 per issue.

The National edition will publish one more issue in September. The Conference editions ”” or “wrap arounds” ”” ended with the April edition, although Conferences were offered the opportunity to print one additional issue if willing to share the costs equally with the UCC’s National setting.

“This was a difficult decision for board members, because it was rooted in significant financial angst,” said the Rev. J. Bennett Guess, the UCC’s communications director and a former editor of United Church News. “But it also paves the way for the development of an expanded online news portal and, most likely, a new and different print publication for the United Church of Christ.”

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Blogging & the Internet, Media, Other Churches, United Church of Christ

US News and World Report: Churches Fight Back Against Shrinking Membership

“What if church wasn’t just a building, but thousands of doors?” asks a new website launched by the United Methodist Church. “Each of them opening up to a different concept or experience of church. . . . Would you come?” After watching its membership drop nearly 25 percent in recent decades, the United Methodist Church, which is still the nation’s largest mainline Protestant denomination, thinks it knows the answer. So it’s pouring $20 million into a new marketing campaign, including the website, television advertisements, even street teams in some cities, to rebrand the church from stale destination to “24-7 experience.”

“The under-35 generation thinks church is a judgmental, hypocritical, insular place,” says Jamie Dunham, chief planning officer for Bohan Advertising & Marketing, the firm that designed the United Methodist campaign. “So our question is: What if church can change the world with a journey?”

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Episcopal Church (TEC), Evangelism and Church Growth, Lutheran, Media, Methodist, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Presbyterian, Religion & Culture, United Church of Christ

Jim Auchmutey on the United Church of Christ: The Bully Pulpit

Ever since the Pilgrims crossed an ocean in search of freedom from the religious doctrines of the Old World, their descendants in the Congregational Church have prided themselves on independence. Now that sense of independence is on trial. A regional body of the United Church of Christ has sued to oust a tiny congregation here from its property. The plaintiff: the Southeast Conference of the UCC, whose 1.2 million members make it the nation’s largest Congregational fellowship. The defendant: Center Congregational Church, 36 members on a good Sunday.

“As far as I can see, the UCC just wants to bully us,” says Rick Langdon, chairman of the trustees at Center Congregational. But there’s more here than a David-and-Goliath story. The dispute involves doctrinal issues, legal complexities and conflicting personalities. A church breaking away from its denomination is something like a divorce, with all the attendant messiness of property division. Each case is unique — yet similar — and dissident churches everywhere will be watching this one for clues about how far a denomination will be allowed to go legally when things get ugly.

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Posted in * Religion News & Commentary, Other Churches, United Church of Christ

UCC leaders hail Iowa court decision legalizing Same Sex marriage

United Church of Christ leaders are hailing a unanimous decision by the Iowa Supreme Court to reject the state’s ban on same-gender marriage as unconstitutional. Iowa now joins Massachusetts and Connecticut in becoming the third state to allow same-sex couples to marry.

“Massachusetts, Connecticut and Iowa are three states whose cultures were shaped profoundly by the Congregational experience,” said the Rev. John H. Thomas, UCC general minister and president. “I can’t help but believe and affirm that there is a connection at work here.”

The United Church of Christ has 179 local churches in Iowa, and Grinnell College – one of state’s most prominent liberal arts schools – is historically related to the denomination.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Other Churches, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, United Church of Christ