Category : Disciples of Christ

(JE) Jeff Walton–Membership Crash at Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)

NBC News has a notable story [last]…week about Teresa Hord Owens, the first black woman to lead the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) denomination. Significant news about the group’s membership is also in the report.

Owens may or may not be the first black woman to lead a Mainline Protestant denomination (depending on how executive leadership is defined within churches of differing polities) but reporter Mashaun D. Simon seems to have “buried the lede” quite far down in the NBC coverage. Quoting Disciples Associate Vice President of Marketing and Communications Cherilyn Williams, the story reports:

“We have 450,425 participating members reported, but not all congregations report numbers so this is an educated guess,” she said. “There are 2,066 persons who are coded as pastor or student pastor of a congregation. Of that number, 522 are women; 275 are African-American and 82 are African-American women.”

Presumably Williams is citing information from the denomination’s 2017 yearbook (that must be purchased to view).

In 2007, the denomination had reported membership of 689,507. The most recent publicly available data on the denomination is from the 2014 yearbook, posted that year by blogger Derek Penwell, the yearbook reported 497,423 members.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Disciples of Christ, Religion & Culture, Sociology

(Bap. Stan.) Vicki Brown–Denominations””dying or transforming into something new?

“Denominationalism is not dead but, increasingly, it’s only one of several options for organizing the church in America,” explained Baptist historian Bill Leonard, the James and Marilyn Dunn Professor of Baptist Studies and professor of church history at Wake Forest School of Divinity.

Increasing pluralism in the United States and the decreasing influence of Protestantism are forcing denominational leaders to ask hard questions about identity, viability and relevance.

Pluralism, “which Baptists helped put into place,” is becoming more normative, Leonard said. The rise of the “nones”””people with no connection to organized religion”” also plays into the challenges denominations face.

Gone are the days when communities formulated policy and activities around the church. “We are living through the death rattle of the Protestant privilege,” Leonard said.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Baptists, Disciples of Christ, Evangelicals, History, Lutheran, Methodist, Other Churches, Pentecostal, Presbyterian, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, United Church of Christ

(Christian Century) Fusing justice and holiness–An Interview with Minneapolis pastor Dennis Sanders

What excites you most about ministry these days? What’s been the hardest thing?

It’s hard to face the reality that what used to work doesn’t work anymore. First Church shares the classic mainline story: it was a large congregation in the 1950s and ’60s, and it lost members from the ’70s onward. Now it is a far smaller congregation trying to figure out how to do ministry in this day and age.

Over the last year, several members of our congregation worked to get our archives digitized. Looking at all the old church bulletins from the 1950s, you realize that there were hundreds of people taking part in Sunday school””hundreds. When you have only a handful of folks in Sunday school these days, it can be really easy to think you’re a failure.

I have to keep reminding myself that the past is the past, and we have to learn how to be church now.

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

Will Willimon on Lamin Sanneh's experience after his Conversion

[Lamin] Sanneh acknowledges a debt to the missionary schools that unintentionally introduced him to a desiccated version of Christian faith, and he tells how as an earnest young man he wandered from pastor to pastor, desperately seeking baptism, only to be deflected by missionaries who had compromised mission in their uneasy accommodation to Islamic culture. The story would almost be humorous if it were not so sad. Yet even the account of the missionaries’ rebuff is less painful to read than the account of what he received at the hands of liberal, mainline North American pastors who had long before enmeshed themselves in their culture by reducing their ministry to caregiving rather than conversion. As for many frustrated would-be converts in our age, it was easier for Sanneh to find Christ than for him to find Christian community. Eventually he became a Catholic while at Yale.

–Will Willimon in a review of Lamin Sanneh’s new Summoned From the Margin (Eerdmans, 2012), Christian Century, the October 17th, 2012 issue, page 53 (emphasis mine)

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Africa, Books, Disciples of Christ, Inter-Faith Relations, Islam, Methodist, Muslim-Christian relations, Other Churches, Other Faiths, Presbyterian, Religion & Culture, Seminary / Theological Education, Theology, United Church of Christ

(RNS) Mainline Protestants Up for Grabs Heading into November

They may not be as large as Catholics or as active as evangelicals, but white mainline Protestants have a big thing going for them this election cycle: they are divided, and possibly persuadable.

That’s according to a new poll released Thursday (Feb. 2) that found white mainline Protestants are more evenly split between President Obama and his Republican challengers than other religious groups.

“They’re the most important ignored religious group in the country,” said Dan Cox, research director at the Public Religion Research Institute, which conducted the poll in partnership with Religion News Service.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Disciples of Christ, Episcopal Church (TEC), Lutheran, Methodist, Office of the President, Other Churches, Politics in General, Presbyterian, Religion & Culture

(Christian Post) Pastors Debate 'Should Denominations Go Away?'

Seven influential megachurch pastors took part in live unscripted discussions on different approaches to ministry in the second round of The Elephant Room ”“ an event billed as “conversations you never thought you’d hear” from pastors.

Held in Aurora, Ill., and broadcast to over 70 locations around the U.S., the discussions were mediated by James MacDonald of Chicago’s Harvest Bible Chapel and Mark Driscoll of Seattle’s Mars Hill Church.

With nondenominational churches growing across the county, the role of denominations and church networks was the first topic discussed.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Baptists, Disciples of Christ, Ecclesiology, Evangelicals, Lutheran, Methodist, Ministry of the Ordained, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Pentecostal, Presbyterian, Reformed, Religion & Culture, Theology

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

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

From the Duke Divinity school Rural Ministry Colloquia: Ministry in the Lonesome Valley

Parish ministry can be a lonely vocation. The “set-apartness” of the pastoral role, the effects of geographical isolation, and the time demands of congregational life can all conspire to make the parish feel like what the old spiritual calls “the lonesome valley.” And yet Jesus walked that same lonesome valley, and, through him, even the loneliness of ministry can become a source of beauty and communion. Hear Jeremy Troxler, director of the Thriving Rural Communities initiative, discuss the loneliness of rural, and all, ministry.

If you have the capacity and interest you can download this presentation via Itunes following the link here.

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

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

Survey: Protestant clergy on Same Sex Relationship Related Questions

Most mainline Protestant clergy do not support legalizing gay marriage, even if they’re not required to officiate at same-sex ceremonies.

It was the only point on which the majority did not support gay rights, according to a survey of clergy from the seven historic mainline Protestant denominations to which 18% of Americans belong.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Disciples of Christ, Episcopal Church (TEC), Law & Legal Issues, Lutheran, Marriage & Family, Methodist, Other Churches, Presbyterian, Religion & Culture, Sexuality

Sharon Watkin's Sermon at Yesterday's National Cathedral Service for the New President

Mr. President and Mrs. Obama, Mr. Vice President and Dr. Biden, and your families, what an inaugural celebration you have hosted! Train ride, opening concert, service to neighbor, dancing till dawn . . .

And yesterday . . . With your inauguration, Mr. President, the flame of America’s promise burns just a little brighter for every child of this land!

There is still a lot of work to do, and today the nation turns its full attention to that work. As we do, it is good that we pause to take a deep spiritual breath. It is good that we center for a moment. What you are entering now, Mr. President and Mr. Vice President, will tend to draw you away from your ethical center. But we, the nation that you serve, need you to hold the ground of your deepest values, of our deepest values.

Beyond this moment of high hopes, we need you to stay focused on our shared hopes, so that we can continue to hope, too.

We will follow your lead.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, Disciples of Christ, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Office of the President, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Politics in General, Preaching / Homiletics, President Barack Obama, Religion & Culture, Spirituality/Prayer

Barack Obama asks Sharon Watkins to lead National Prayer Service

(Disciples News Service) President-Elect Obama has invited the Rev. Dr. Sharon Watkins to preach at the National Prayer Service in the National Cathedral on January 21.

Watkins is General Minister and President of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and an active member of the National Council of Churches Governing Board.

“The President-Elect has chosen a preacher with exceptional skill and theological insight,” said the Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon, General Secretary of the NCC, also a Disciples minister. “She speaks out of a deep personal faith commitment and with profound respect for the views of others, which is the historic stance of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). I’m sure she’ll sound just the right note to bring people of faith together at this crucial moment in history.”

The National Prayer Service will be attended by President Obama and Vice President Biden, high ranking members of the legislative and judicial branches of government, as well as clergy and laypersons from a wide range of communions and traditions.

Watkins is the first woman selected to preach at the service.

As General Minister, Watkins is general pastor of the 700,000-member Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), responsible for representing the wholeness of the church, for reconciling differences, and for helping the church retain its clarity of mission and identity.

As General President, she is the chief executive officer for the denomination, responsible for overseeing the work of the church’s various structures. She strives to help the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) remain faithful to God’s calling and to do its work effectively and efficiently. She is serving a six-year term that extends through the 2011 General Assembly.

Dr. Watkins is regarded in the ecumenical world as “head of communion” and as the chief representative of the church in national and world ecumenical councils. Disciples often speak of the GMP as the Disciples’ primary leader.

Dr. Watkins has an extensive background of service both in this country and abroad. She is a member of the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches based in Geneva, and serves on the WCC’s Permanent Committee for Consensus and Collaboration. In 2006, she was a representative at the World Council’s General Assembly in Porto Alegre, Brazil.

She served for two years as a missionary in the Congo, working on adult literacy programs early in her professional career. In 2008, she returned to the Congo, renewing her ties with the Community of Disciples of Christ in Congo there. In 2007, she visited several Middle East countries, focusing specifically on the plight of Iraqi refugees.

She serves on the National Council of Church’s governing board, based in New York City. Dr. Watkins also is a board member of Sojourners/Call to Renewal, a Washington, D.C. based group which seeks to build a movement that puts faith to work for justice.

She is former pastor of Disciples Christian Church in Bartlesville, Okla. where she served for eight years. In the academic world, she held positions as Director of Student Services at Phillips Theological Seminary in Oklahoma and Associate Vice-President for University Relations at Phillips University. She has been a member of the Church’s General Board Task Force on Reconciliation Mission, Moderator of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Oklahoma, and part of the Stone-Campbell Dialogue Group, which looks, in part, at the traditions and history of the Disciples. She also served as pastor of Boone Grove Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Boone Grove, Ind., and Assistant Minister at Spring Glen Church (United Church of Christ) in Hamden, Conn.

Dr. Watkins has been engaged in a number of ecumenical discussions, conversations on stewardship, and has made presentations on worship, Bible study and women in the ministry. She also has served as an adjunct professor at Phillips Theological Seminary, teaching about pastoral vocation, history, theology and practices of worship as well as spiritual dimensions.

She holds a Doctor of Ministry degree from Phillips Theological Seminary, a Master of Divinity from the Yale Divinity School, and a Bachelor’s Degree in French and Economics from Butler University. In 2007, she was awarded an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from Phillips Theological Seminary.

She is married to the Rev. Dr. Richard (Rick) H. Lowery, Interim Dean and Vice President for Academic Affairs at Lexington Theological Seminary in Lexington, Ky. They have two children, Bethany and Christopher.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, Disciples of Christ, Office of the President, Other Churches, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Religion & Culture