Bearings Review

Growing by Half

How Part-Time Pastoral Leadership Can Revitalize the Church

One year ago, I began studying a rare but important species that many church officials wrongly believe doesn’t exist: the mainline Protestant congregation that finds vitality after doing away with the full-time pastorate. To be sure, it wasn’t always the easiest species to find. Many congregations with shrinking attendance and budgets continue to struggle after… Read More

What Do We Mean When We Say, “All Are Welcome”?

I’ve driven by that church—you know, the one with the giant banner that says, “All Are Welcome.” I often ask myself, “If I walked through the doors, would I be embraced?” I’m an educated, queer, Black, Progressive, Transgender Christian. Would I, with all that I bring, be welcomed in that space?” When we claim that… Read More

Living Religion Beyond Belief

A few weeks ago I gave a talk at a local chapter of Sunday Assembly, a gathering started by British comedians Pippa Evans and Sanderson Jones that was briefly known as “the atheist church” and that, ironically, draws on the “seeker sensitive” church planting methods of conservative megachurch pastor Rick Warren. A few months into… Read More

#NeverthelessSheResisted

Creating Space for Women's Thriving in the Church and the World

Three weeks ago, Senate Republicans silenced Senator Elizabeth Warren for criticizing attorney general nominee Senator Jeff Sessions. Warren had attempted to read civil rights activist Coretta Scott King’s 1986 letter against Sessions’ nomination for a federal judgeship. Scott’s concerns over whether Sessions would support the civil rights of all citizens seemed particularly pressing. But Senate… Read More

Faithful Resistance is Persistence in Love

In a season where the leadership of the United States claims to be constructing “An Entirely New Political Movement,” many have echoed what activist and filmmaker Michael Moore said after November’s election: “We are going to resist … This is going to be a massive resistance.” And in fact it has been. The Women’s March… Read More

Joy is the Secret of Resistance

On January 21, a group of women from my congregation traveled to Augusta, Maine, for our nearest “sister march” to the Women’s March in Washington, DC. Too sick with a cold to join them for the march itself, I gathered with them anyway in our church parking lot to send them off with a prayer… Read More

Facing the Future, Eyes Wide Shut

Editor’s Note: Pamela Shellberg, scholar-in-residence at The BTS Center, will be a key speaker at Convocation 2017: “Course Corrections.” The event also will feature poet Scott Cairns and Michelle Walsh, a spiritual director and licensed clinical social worker. In Pam’s latest post for Bearings, she offers a preview of “Course Corrections” and outlines some of the questions that participants will explore. If… Read More

Giving the Church a New Look with Old Eyes

“Technically, it’s called presbyopia,” said the ophthalmologist. “Starts about age 40, so you’re pretty much on target. Most people just get readers.” “Presbyopia, eh?” “Yeah. It means –” “I know … old eyes.” As a lifelong Presbyterian, this is the only other word I’ve heard with the Greek root presby, which means “old.” Technically, Presbyterian… Read More

Bearing Each Other Up

Reflections Upon the 2016 Election

EDITORS’ NOTE: Adam Copeland was our scheduled contributor for this week, but as we moved late into the night of the presidential election, it was clear that the outcome many of us had hoped for, and perhaps even expected, was not to happen. We began to wonder whether it might be too much to ask… Read More

Beyond Prophetic Rhetoric

Jesus and Justice in Practice

It’s not news to say that this has been a crazy, rancorous election season—perhaps the most ugly in modern history, many pundits claim. Maybe. But when I reflect back on earlier election cycles, there seems to have been plenty of media-infused hostility that we tend to mute in our nostalgic remembrance. The 2008 election of… Read More

A Different Kind of Bible Conversation

Where’s the best place to talk about the Bible in our increasingly Bible-illiterate culture? And with whom? Perhaps you’d be surprised if I told you that some of today’s most fascinating Bible-oriented conversations are taking place in non-church settings in America’s least Bible-oriented cities, among people who hold a mix of perspectives (religious and otherwise)… Read More

Re-Seeing Evangelical Support for Donald J. Trump

Not long ago, Wayne Grudem, a prominent evangelical theologian, voiced support for Donald Trump. His main reason was because the next president would appoint the succeeding Supreme Court Justices. After I read his statement, I tweeted this:           As more and more evangelicals have rallied around Donald Trump, I have found… Read More

Putting a Comma at the End of a Bearings Year of Calling Out the Beautiful, the Bodacious, and the B*llsh*t

Gertrude and Lloyd were members of a church I served for 25 years. They were both in their 80s, and though they made it to Sunday worship once in a while, they were part of that catch-all category of “shut-ins” who received pastoral visits from time to time. During one of those afternoon visits, Gertrude… Read More

Jesus, The Jerk

Making Sense of the Times Jesus Wasn't Very Christlike

Jesus could be a real jerk sometimes. I’m not referring here to the times he got angry (John 2:13-17), cynical (Matthew 21:18-22), or sarcastic (Mark 12:18-27) with people. I’m talking about the times Jesus was just plain mean to them. Case in point: the Canaanite woman in Matthew 15. You remember the story. After months… Read More

Seeing Through Brokenness

Beauty and Love in the Church's Kaleidoscopic Change

As my father might say, it was déjà vu all over again: Driving to Andover Newton Theological Seminary (ANTS) for the last class of the course I taught this semester, closing out my year as a visiting professor there. Rather than some “school’s out for summer” kind of delirium, the drive carried a good bit… Read More