ChurchChange

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

This is the Way We’ve Always Done Things …

This is the way we’ve always done things. Now, there’s a phrase that brings about a sense of impending doom in my heart, especially when it comes to the practices of communities of faith. In part, our love of familiar practices comes from finding comfort in the apparent stability of structures. Yet as a Jesus-follower,… 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

Re-Mediating Religion by Turning Up the Social Media Volume on Social Justice

Earlier this year, one of our award-winning Bearings contributors, Kelly Baker, wrote a piece about the challenges, for white people in particular, of thinking through and talking about racism. Especially with other white people, including goodhearted, well-intentioned, ideologically liberal white people. Often, we just don’t want to hear about it. We get it. Racism is… 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

Women in Ministry

Is Social Media the Great Equalizer?

I write this on the last day of Women’s History Month. Over on my Twitter account, I spent the month highlighting—via the hashtag #BlackChurchHERStory—African American women religious leaders alive today who have been trailblazers in ministry and in the academy. These pioneers range from the likes of Rev. Dr. Yvonne Delk, who in 1974 became… Read More

Rethinking Church, Communally and Creatively

I spend a curious amount of time discussing, studying, and writing about polity—the structures and procedures of congregational/denominational governance. As other theologians and sociologists of religion speculate about the decline, revival, or re-emergence of Christianity and the church, I focus on how emerging congregations organize themselves and structure their decision-making processes. As a “body”—ecclesial, social,… Read More

“Toy Story” Redux: Sparking Joy is the Church’s Sequel

There’s been a resurgence of analysis of religious life in the United States appearing in waves of commentary on recent Pew study findings. In the midst of all this, an observation from United Methodist bishop Kenneth Carter, Jr. captured my attention: We should also note that the growth of unaffiliated has been shaped by the relentless… Read More

Self-Giving God, Self-Giving Church: Letting Go of the Church into the Love of God

Each year as Holy Week comes upon us again, we have another opportunity to be formed by the stories and practices of death and resurrection. Our formation this year depends on what’s happening right now in our minds and hearts, church and world. Several current conversations in my church are shaping the way I take… Read More

Tourism and Toys: Playing with a Reformation Legacy

It’s a difficult thing to bear the burden of a legacy. Even more so when it comes to traditions of faith. “What would our Patron Theological Figure do?” we may ask. Or perhaps we mentally transport ourselves back to some imagined Golden Era when our tradition seemed to have found itself in God’s holy favor.… Read More

The Paradox of Congregations Becoming: Discerning 21st Century Ministries

Engaging the challenges and opportunities of 21st century ministry means navigating the paradox of continuity and change. You can see this paradox in phrases like “ancient-future church,” the Kingdom “now and not yet,” and so on. While this paradox is part of Christian faith for anyone, for 21st century church leaders it is essential to… Read More