Hello HackingChristianity community,
Sorry to be so quiet these past two weeks, and for getting off-schedule of our Lenten Book Study. Thanks for your messages and wonderings of “where are you?” during this time.
But I have a good reason…As you know, I am currently serving a church in my home state of Oklahoma. It’s the best church in the conference with the friendliest people and the greatest youth group in the state. And I’m not biased at all!
Here’s my second part of my big news: It was announced this past week that I will be taking a new appointment come July 1st.
I will be appointed to First United Methodist Church in Portland, Oregon.
That’s right, Oregon.
For the Methodist nerds out there, I’m leaving my South Central roots in Oklahoma for the Western Jurisdiction. You know…the part of Methodism where churches are shrinking, where their entire jurisdiction has as many delegates (and thus Methodist population) to General Conference as Virginia or North Georgia, and where heathen theology comes from the likes of Claremont seminary?
Why would I leave the world of suburban prosperity and big megachurches and friendly rural churches and Methodist powerhouses for…this?
There’s some personal reasons for sure–My spouse and I are expecting our first child and want to be closer to her side of the family. But for my blog readers who know how my mind works and where my passion is, there’s another reason that I’m excited about this move.
25 percent of Northwesterners claimed to have no religious identity—compared to a national figure of 14 percent.
By checking “none” on a survey, however, Northwesterners are not necessarily signaling a lack of interest in religion or religious activities. They are indicating, says Patricia Killen, a historian and dean of Pacific Lutheran University, that they do not think “religious identity is connected to a historic religious institution or faith.” In other words, Northwesterners are in the process of redefining what it means to be religious.
“From 1648 to 1970, we had essentially one idea of what it means to be religious in the Western world,” said Killen. “To be religious was to be engaged with a religious institution. Now, and especially in the Pacific Northwest, people are seeking different, more individualistic and more fluid ways of being religious.”
In short, if you want a glimpse at what the whole church and culture may look like in 20 years, then this part of the world is where to go. The biggest challenges for this part of the world are (a) relating Jesus to an increasingly secular context and (b) encouraging affiliation with the historic institutions like the United Methodist Church as the denomination addresses issues of peace and justice that are beyond the means of local congregations.
As regular readers of this blog know, both of these challenges are topics I’ve addressed on this blog for years. I feel called to serve this part of the church, as I’m most interested in the edgy initiatives, the upside-down approaches, the theologies that resonate with the next generation of followers of Christ. They are doing some wicked creative stuff out in the Northwest that aren’t showing up on the Church Metrics yet…and I’m excited to go and be a part of it.
To my Oklahoma friends, this is not a criticism of our culture. I love my state and it is heartbreaking to leave it. What it means is that when this “none” culture reaches Oklahoma (probably the last state standing), by the grace of God, my affinity groups and colleagues will have figured out the context a little bit better…and my Okie friends will be better off having journeyed with me through that process on the blog and on the digital world. The Body of Christ is a worldwide body, and when one part gets stronger, the whole Body gets stronger. So I’m still serving the Oklahoma conference but in a different capacity.
As far as the church goes, my new role is to be a Minister of Discipleship, which is an Associate Minister position. From that position, I’ll be focusing on discipleship and outreach activities, and helping to plant a new worship service for the congregation. All exciting stuff. The church already shares a lot of my values of progressive theology and social outreach and is looking to get guided to the next level. It will be excellent to be sharing in that journey
So prayers are appreciated for my endurance to finish the race well in my current church, and prayers are appreciated for our transition in the middle of June as well. Thanks.