Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Beyond Modernity: Episcopal Evangelism

There is an excellent presentation by Brian McLaren: the keynote address for the Diocese of Washington (DC). It is well worth watching, but I include his talking points below to wet your appetite.

In his presentation he mentions four advantages that Episcopalians have in the twenty-first century. They are:

1) A "Via Media" Mindset: Many Anglicans never surrendered to the modern mindset.
2) A Celtic Mindset: We have vestiges of non-Roman Christianity in our makeup.
3) A Diverse Mindset: We give people space to differ in their opinions.
4) A Liturgical Mindset: Space to experience God, bonding to meaning, beauty of worship, participatory.

He also notes some disadvantages:

1) An Upper Class Mindset: Elitist, "civilized", older, one-size fits all.
2) An Institutional Mindset: Centralized, controlled, change-resistant, risk averse, bureaucratic -- averse to charismatic leaders.
3) A Christendom Mindset: Parish/geography, people ought to come to us.
4) A Bi-polar Mindset: Cold war liberal-conservative.

He goes on to suggest some things that are needed:

1) A "bring them in" spirit (not merely welcoming within a caste): Diversity, innovation, welcoming all seekers (especially the young!), inviting friends, relatives, associates, neighbors. Question: What would it take for you to be excited about inviting your friends to church? What embarrasses or concerns you?

2) A "let's experiment" spirit (not institutional): Entrepreneurial, self-organizing, evolutionary, experimental--adding experiments (for 4 to 8 weeks), adding new services, planting new congregations (inside existing?), adding new models or examples (Fresh Expressions, Anglimergent?).
Question: Who says "no" to new ideas? Who can say "yes"? Who can bring new ideas?

3) A "we're beginning again" spirit (renewing, not conserving, a history): Demography, adaptive, agile--a huge rummage sale "What needs to be put on the curb?", getting rid of the junk in "cleaning house", changes in physical, social, and/or spiritual architecture.
Question: Would you rather be motivated by desperate necessity or surging creativity? What would your church look like if it could seize the possibility of a total makeover?

4) A "transcend and include" spirit (above liberal and conservative): Where is the via media? Which future do you prefer (conservative, liberal, centrist, or transcendent inclusive)?


5) The Holy Spirit! People aren't seeking religion, they are seeking spirituality. You can't give what you don't have (you have to smoke what you're selling). People need to experience God, worship, transformation, belonging, participation in God's creative and healing mission in our world...
Question: Are you eager to become a "sample" of what God wants to do in the lives of others?

McLaren goes on to cast a vision for the church as a collection of individuals in partnership with God for the transformation of the world. I'll let you listen to the talk for specifics, but this sounds like a mission that the Episcopal Church, as a incarnation-centered, socially active, and spiritually rich church could really get behind!