Excerpts from a recent AJC article -
"Author: Faithful abandoning church" by Christopher Dunn
Empty pews a sign of restlessness
The revolution has begun.
Quietly, maybe, but symptoms are bubbling up.
One is empty pews on Sunday morning, says author Phyllis Tickle.
Every mainline Christian denomination is declining in membership.
...(the faithful) are questioning and experimenting, looking for a way to make church meaningful again. This new movement, which she refers to as emerging or emergent Christianity, will have as big an impact as the Reformation, Tickle predicts.
That was the 16th century upheaval when religious thinkers split open the feather pillow that had been the monolithic belief system of the Catholic Church. No one was able to put all the feathers back into the bag, and it changed the world —- generating new churches, igniting wars and helping push Protestants toward American shores.
The movement is loosely organized, and often quiet. It is made up of people who have gotten to know each other through word-of-mouth, on Internet sites or at conferences where writer-pastors such as Brian McLaren and Tony Jones speak.
The movement’s members are passionate and experimental, socially conscious and ecumenical, deeply devoted to early church disciplines, such a prayer, but they feel free to question and reinterpret long-held beliefs, he said.
Troy Bronsink, a former Presbyterian pastor who leads a strand of the Atlanta movement, describes some involved as “refugees from ecclesiological abuse.”
Discussion groups and the participants’ relationships create a safe space for those willing to question the religion they grew up with and think and talk about new ways to live out their faith, he said.
Like all change movements, it faces backlash from some Christians. Evangelical leaders such as Charles Colson say the trend-followers are relativists who surrender their theology to cultural norms.
Tickle said, “When somebody says they are relativists, I want to smack them upside their heads.”
One has to take belief seriously to question and reposition a faith so that it is meaningful in current culture, she said. And the critics should get used to these faithful who look back to the roots of the faith as well as lean into the future with it.
“Before it’s over, it’s going to be 60 percent of Christianity,” she predicted.
If you would like to read the entire article, you can find it here http://www.ajc.com/living/content/printedition/2008/08/30/tickle.html
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