I aplogize for not posting for the last week. A number of events have ocurred, including being out of town this weekend. I was in Champaign Urbana IL, with Chris Tessone, founder of the Progressive Protestant blog. We participated in a religious service with the Antiochian Independent Catholics and a Unitarian campus ministry.
Both services, while different reached out to people who have not been spoken to, ministered to by the mainline protestant church. They represent in some way a great undercurrent, a group of people who are interested in the big questions and a deepened spirituality but for whom much of the church has been alien, even antagonistic, if not irrelevant to their quest.
Some of them have found a religious community, though there are many more who have not. Can the mainline be in a position to be responsive to such folks? I think the first step is to recognize that we are not mainline, but are rather sidelined, alien to the current society and culture. We are, as much as many of these people, exiles, not the center. God tends to work in such places though.
And there needs to be a committment to be evangelism. Chris Tessone's discussion at the UU campus group was focused on this question. He raised a number of issues that are worth focusing on. How can we spread the word, not to conquer others, but to share, to speak faithfully of our own journey and values in a manner that could provide resources for our world today?
How can we re-think the mainline it's structures, it's self identity in a manner that seeks to be faithful in exile? I put the Disciples logo in the start of this article, because I'm exploring the possibility of ordained ministry through the denomination, believing that they and the mainline have unique resources that can contribute to the issues that effect our world.
Some of this is due to the way that such churches have sought over the last century to integrate the sciences, religious pluralism, and number of issues in modernity with Christian faith. While some have dumped religious faith and others embrace fundamentalism so that this world seems to be increasingly polarized, the mainline has sought to negotiate the messy center.
But such a move finds little sympathy, in a world which is marked by either or. But the mainline route is not a lukewarm response, it's a faithful response, one rooted in Christian faith, recognizing our finitude and limits, even of our best religious ideas, etc. The move to embrace stark divisions is one which seems to forget our standing before the infinite.
I think part of the issue of evangelism is to recognize the faithful place from which the mainline is drawing from. When most people speak a different language, one is apt to distrust our own language, maybe even in a move to ape the dominant culture. In some ways, the IRD plays off of this, in a move to push the mainline from it's history.
But I think if we are willing to embrace our history, as a place to draw from in dealing with our new situation, something might be added to the world today. I wanted to highlight Chris Tessone's new blog. He's moved from Progressive Protestant to Even the Devils Believe as he speaks of his own new religious path as an independent catholic seminarian.