We should maintain that if an interpretation of any word in any religion leads to disharmony and does not positively further the welfare of the many, then such an interpretation is to be regarded as wrong; that is, against the will of God, or as the working of Satan or Mara.

Buddhadasa Bikkhu, a Thai Buddhist Monk

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Reconfiguring the Mainline?

According to a Christian Post news posting entitled, "PCUSA Decline in Churches, Members Continued in 2013," Presbyterian Church (USA) denominational statistics continue to look grim. The generations long decline of mainline Presbyterianism seems to be continuing unabated.  A second look, however, hints that things may not be quite as dire as the numbers suggest and that something very interesting could be happening.  The article notes that the denomination lost some 224 churches of which148 left PC(USA) and the remaining 76 were dissolved.  It also notes, however, that some 200 "new worshipping communities" (NWCs) have been formed in the last two years under the denomination's 1001 Worshipping Communities initiative.  These communities and those participating in them were not counted in the official statistics for 2013.

If we do a little guesstimating of our own, it seems at least possible, maybe likely, that a transformation of sorts is taking place.  Setting aside the churches that left for other pastures, the actual loss of congregations to decline was only 76, which loss seems to be more than offset by the rate of growth of NWCs certainly in numbers of members as well as congregations.  What may be happening is that PC(USA) is trading in small, dying organized (old-fashioned) churches for innovative, experimental (new-fangled) communities that are more about creativity than Book of Order propriety.  Maybe.  Or maybe not.  The 1001 initiative could be a flash in the pan, a trendy fad of the moment.  It may, on the other hand, mark a new direction for at least part of the the Presbyterian Church, transforming it from an institution back into a movement. The bottom line is that whether or not something of a reconfiguration of PC(USA) churches is taking place this is the sort of thing that needs to happen—must happen.  And it looks like there is the potential for it actually happening.