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Nov 02, 2006


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This story makes me want to bang my head off the table repeatedly.

First of all, it has an intensely lame hook: "Look! A growing mainline church!" And on that pebble Ms. Grossman tries to build a house.

I do what I can to defend my former profession. (I used to be a newspaperman.) In general, I'm a firm believer that what political and theological conservatives attribute to willful animus is really just cultural blindness and plain old stupidity. But stories like this make it hard. What's the deal with the "ultra-conservative Southern Baptists?" What does that even mean, except to mark them as beyond the pale? And, for that matter, how about the "proselytizing" Mormons? Remember - this is a story about a GROWING CHURCH. Does it not proselytize?

On top of everything else, the ELCA church profiled here doesn't seem particularly "liberal". The pastor brags about "orthodox preaching" as a major draw. When was the last time you heard that from a genuine progressive. And we're supposed to be impressed that his church "interprets" the Bible as opposed to reading it "literally"?

Sorry. I didn't mean to highjack your post. This is just too much for a newsman-turned-evangelical-mainline-pastor to swallow. I think I need a nap.

Michael Kruse


I thought the meaning of ultra-conserative was quite clear. It is more conservative than "conservative" but less so than "ultra-ultra-conservative." *grin*

I hear ya. The news media is horrendous when covering religion. Feel free to hijack and rant any time.

Dana Ames

Whatever weaknesses the article or the congregation or the denomination has, it's a fair reflection of my small-town Presby congregation. We have a "conservative" evangelical female pastor, the only female pastor in arguably the most "liberal" presbytery in the country. We often get snubbed by the more conservative Christians in town and the more liberal elements in our denomination. We don't talk politics very much; we just want to get on with being the church as best we know how. We're trying to learn better how to bless and love people, inside and outside our doors.


Michael Kruse

"We often get snubbed by the more conservative Christians in town and the more liberal elements in our denomination.'

I know that feeling.

"We're trying to learn better how to bless and love people, inside and outside our doors."

Congregations that are healthy are doing the above but unfortunately they are often figuring it out in spite of denominational structures. Yet in articles like this, the hierarchy uses such instances as affirmation, not a chastening, of their own agendas. A'int denominations fun? :)

Quotidian Grace

I'm reading this book and am about halfway through it. I'm planning to post a review when I'm finished.

Here's my reaction so far: One thing I like about it is that it is anecdotal. One thing I don't like is her defensive tone. She is still rejecting her "born-again/evangelical" past and that attitude spills over into her writing about the conservative side of the mainline churches.

Michael Kruse

"She is still rejecting her "born-again/evangelical" past.."

And this is what I find so off putting about so much of the Emerging Church dialog. I think they are asking a lot the right questions but too many are fixated on being "contra-evangelcial." Thus, they are still defined by evangelicalism. It is not everywhere and with everybody but it is pervassive enough to be crippling. Until they can get past having their identity in being contra-evangelical, I see this stuff going nowhere. Just another niche enclave in the Church.

Andrew C

Thanks for sharing this news article. Being a part of a mainline denomination myself (United Methodist) I feel that it is important to transcend "traditional" definitions of members of mainline denominations. Also, I feel that there is a coming renewal within mainline denominations.

Michael Kruse

You are welcome Andrew. I see tremendous decay and disintegration within the mainlines and yet, like you, I do see some very special and powerful things happening. I am firmly convinced that transformation of the mainline denominations will come from emerging health congregations infusing new life into collapsed strutures. I serve on the board for the PCUSA and I see our mission as largely to help presbyteries nuture innovation, health and growth in their congregations. When congreations are healthy, everything else good will grow out of that.


I tell you one thing, I am one of many evangelical (post-evangelical) ministers starting to see the beauty and possibility of the mainline churches.


AH, the mainline/evangelical debate.

I'm officially a PCUSA member and part of a national racial ethinic group steering committee (ntpyac.org). I'm also attending Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.

What's up with that?

Well, the trend I'm seeing is that overall, you can have conservative sections of a mainline church, as well as more liberal ones. I feel that my church needs an injection of evangelism. We're just terrible at it. We're too conservative in the sense of being a political (overseas politics) ethinic group, which isn't appealing ot the new immigrants or younger, second generation (2nd gen=grew up in the US, majority are born & raised in the US).

Besides that, I'm politically and theologically A LOT more conservative than McCormick Theological Seminary (closest PCUSA seminary).

I definitely feel God led me to TEDS. My college alma mater's seminary turned me down, which hurt and sucked, but it's for the best (I think they are FAR more guilty of denigrating women than TEDS has a reputation for--TEDS does NOT have only 3 women inthe MDiv program, by the way--LOL, I think that's like a 10-15 year old rumor). My pastor (who is planning to step down at the end of this year) went to McCormick. I've discovered in the past couple of weeks that his education is lacking in a number of areas. He's a PhD candidate at another mainline school, too! :( Sad.

It's not just the negatives I've seen elsewhere. TEDS has repeatedly proved itself as the place for me. They're affirming of women (official policy that's not just on paper! :)), they're a well-established school with excellant resources; it's challenging (academically), and stretching (profs don't all have the same take on subjects, and you can debate!).

I thank God for my college education, too (that's where I met Scot--he was my advisor).

What better place to be than where you can search things out on your own?

I don't know, maybe I've got skewed vision because I'm comparing one of the world's leading evangelical seminaries to a mainline one that's criticized by its own members (I was told "Whatever you do, don't go to McCormick." as an undergrad!).

Michael Kruse

Well, LandonSandy, just beware you may be trading one set of craziness for another. You just have to pick which craziness you best function in. *grin*

Michael Kruse

Thanks for the background Jinny. Very cool about NTPYAC.

We have a Korean Church in our Presbytery that is struggling with the 1st and 2nd generation issues. I know a little bit about what you are talking about.

"I'm politically and theologically A LOT more conservative than McCormick Theological Seminary"

You and about 95% of America. *grin*

I haven't really known much about TEDS until very recent years. It sounds like a very exciting place to be. I am glad you have found a home there.

I am on the GAC for another 3.5 years. Maybe our PCUSA paths will cross at some point. Anyway, I am glad we have at least stumbled on each other in cyberspace.


Maybe! If you're ever in Chicago, shoot me an e-mail. :) (and it occurs to me that Ihave no clue where you are...)

Oh, been meaning to ask, does the GA publish annual/biannual notes some place? Have heard rumors of a non-decision (every church decides for itself?!) regarding ordaining those who claim homosexuality & curious why the PCUSA churches wouldn't be informed of that kind of thing if that's the case?

Michael Kruse

That would be the Peace Unity and Purity taskforce report. What it mostly does is create chaos. *grin* Prohibitions are still in the demonination's Constitution. A candidate can declare a "scruple" with some provision of their ordination vows or standards in the constutition. The presbytery (for pastors) or session (elders and deacons) must then determine if the scruple violates an "essential tenet of the Reformed faith." Unfortunately, the essential tenets are not identified anywhere so not only do you have to weigh the scruple but also determine what is essential. Nevertheless, we are told, the constitutional standards apply.

I'll see if I can nail down some summary for you somewhere. As maybe you can tell, I don't think it was stellar move. *grin*

Michael Kruse

Oh Yeah, I am in Kansas City, MO. I used to go to Chicago a lot but no so much in recent years.


I didn't think it was a stellar move either. More like a non-move, non-stance, but I guess to prevent another denomination split....

Michael Kruse

I know a split is what some have worried about but I have never considered that to be a likely scenario. Most people in pews have little or no loyalty to denominations. They aren't going to devote themselves to forming a new one. The more likely scenario IMO is evaporation. People for whatever reason just disappering from congreations with a congregation here and there leaving as a body. I think the taskforce genuinely sought to find a way to keep everybody together but they did so by creating confusion at the core of what holds us together, at the precise moment we need clarity. It is too early to tell what the impact of it all is or what the next GA may have in store. That is my take.

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