I’ve been spending this week with a group of young adults discerning calls to the ministry. They are Undergraduate Fellows, Congregational Fellows and Ministry Fellows with The Fund for Theological Education. Both Sarah and I were Ministry Fellows back in 2004-2005, and we actually met at the Summer Conference. I’ve been able to stay connected with FTE through a variety of ways, most notably my face has been plastered all over their website and around the FTE office, I’ve been known as “thoughtful guy” because of the photo. So it’s been fun to be back at this conference, surrounded by and working with so many young people so passionate about ministry and the church.
However, one thing I’m always struck by at FTE events is that it really draws primarily from the mainline denominations. There are some non-denominational folks, but it is primarily people who are Methodist, UCC, Episcopal, Presbyterian…and very connected and involved with their denominations (this is a stereotype – but a fairly accurate one I think). I’ve never been one to describe myself as a “hardcore Presbyterian,” but there are plenty of people here who are extremely loyal to their denominations, and love the history, tradition and liturgy of their denominations.
And while I respect that and think that for many of them it’s a really wonderful thing…I can’t say that personally I really understand it too much. For me, the Presbyterian Church (USA) is really a place that I just kind of found myself through a variety of connections and networks. In an age that is increasingly post-denominational, I just can’t say that I have super strong ties to my denomination. Our slogan for Presbymergent is that we “loyal radicals” – I’d have to say that I definitely fall more on the “radical” side of that, as opposed to “loyal.”
At any rate – while there are some really amazing people here, sometimes I struggle with just HOW committed some of these folks are to their denominations. Now – I can hear what you’re saying, “Sure, what right do I have to comment on their choices…?” And I probably don’t. However, I think there is a bit of a naiveté about the “rest of the world out there.” I made a comment in a breakout group about how we live in a post-denominational world, and how the majority of folks who are de-churched or un-churched really don’t care about denominations. Someone disagreed with me and basically said that I was wrong, and that on the whole, people really DO care about denominations.
So I know it takes all kinds…and I don’t want this to be seen as an attack on anyone who is really commited to their denomination. I have many friends who are – and many people who are recent “converts” to new denominations are very passionate about their new found home.
However, no matter where we fall on the “denominational loyalty” spectrum – I think it’s important to at least be aware that many people today who we will be ministering to are NOT as passionate as we may be about our denominations. We DO live in a post-denominational age, and it would be unwise for us to think that people care about these institutions like they used to in the past.
So – what do you think? Am I full of crap? Do I just not get what it means to remain loyal to a denomination? How have you experienced the post-denominational world we live in?