A Prophetic Convergence of the People of God
Reading the signs of the times becomes even more crucial in a period of transition--exactly where we find ourselves now. On so many fronts, the old assumptions and structures that have long governed are dying, while the new are still begging to be born. The moment calls for fresh visions and dreams that hold the promise of change.
This is especially apparent in the churches. Out of their institutional and spiritual crisis, a new theological convergence is occurring, with new ecumenical relationships being forged. The result is an emerging ground upon which diverse people from previously divided communities are finding a place to stand. Their standing and walking together opens up the possibility of significant and hopeful new configurations for the church's future and its contribution to the wider society.
The Crisis of Religious Institutions
IRONICALLY, the institutions of established religion are in internal crisis just as the real issues of society are being revealed as essentially religious. I speak here of what I most know--the Christian churches--but those from other faith traditions tell a similar story. Virtually all the vertical structures of American Christianity are in great distress.
Mainline American Protestantism is in serious decline. Decreasing membership and budget cutbacks have caused denominational bureaucracies and seminary administrations to pull back into survival mode. Risk taking and faith ventures are out; cautious management is in.
There are pastors, teachers, denominational officials, and countless local church members who struggle valiantly for an authentic Christian faith. But they constantly face fearful bureaucracies, sterile curriculums, culturally captive congregations, confused theology, and empty spirituality.