Marcus Borg on the emergent church

“I’m very upbeat about what’s happening in the mainline church. I know that there are some congregations that will die because of demographics or whatever, and of course, we’ll never be as strong as we were a half-century ago. Granted, I probably see the best of the mainline churches. But I am very encouraged by what I see. I see a recovery of taking God seriously. I see a recovery of spiritual practice. I see a very large appetite for reclaiming the Bible and reclaiming Jesus. And I’ve been doing education within the church, not just within the academy, but within the church for about 40 years, and I see a much larger appetite and interest now than I have at any other time in my life, compared to 15, 20 and 25 years ago.

I also see the possibility for alliances between what’s called “emergent” Christianity in evangelical circles and much of what is going on in mainstream and mainline churches.

The other thing I wanted to comment about in terms of the mainline churches is that until about 40 years ago (and one sociologist of religion I know actually says the year was 1963) there was a cultural expectation that everyone would belong to a church. So long as there was this cultural expectation in place, mainline denominations did very well because they offered a culturally respectable way of being Christian. If you were a mainline Christian no one would ask you to do anything too weird, and there was a kind of community respect in the mainline denominations.

Roughly 40 years ago that changed, so that people born after the year 1963 have grown up in a culture where that expectation has vanished. Mainline churches, as a result, have declined. Now mainline denominations today are a mixture of people who became Christian for conventional reasons a half-century or more ago and people who have come in later because they’re intentional about the Christian life.

Some of the people who became mainline Christians for conventional reasons have experienced a deepening of the spirit and a growth in the Christian life, and so forth, so that they’re in church for more reasons than convention. But we’re only about 20 years away from the time when the only people left in mainline churches will be those who are there with intentionality. And that’s very exciting. We’ll be smaller in numbers, but the possibility of our being a genuinely alternative community, an alternative voice in society, is much greater than in the mid-20th century when to be a respectable [citizen] and a respectable Christian went hand in hand.

So I’m already seeing signs of a greater vibrancy in mainline churches because of the fact that conventional reasons for being Christian have largely evaporated.”

From an interview with Marcus Borg at http://www.homileticsonline.com/subscriber/interviews/borg.asp

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Device to Root Out Evil

“Change”…in case you haven’t heard enough of this word yet

Global rally to stop global warming

Join people across the country and take to the streets to support the global day of action to stop global warming. Sunday December 7, 2008, 1:00 pm at Yonge-Dundas Square in Toronto.

All earth is waiting

Well, here we are, the first Sunday of Advent. Advent is about so much more than waiting for a child to be born.  It is about a time that is pregnant with possibility. It’s about imagining a world where all God’s people are safe, secure, fed, housed, educated, loved. It’s easy to see apocalyptic signs in the events of this past week, let alone the past few weeks.  Reading the newspaper is not for the faint of heart. But as we wait for the birth of the one we know as the Prince of Peace, the one who will bring God near again, we are called to look not for the signs of cataclysm, but for the signs of hope in a broken world. 

And so in my message at church this morning, I shared a tiny ray of hope that I found in the Globe & Mail on Thursday in amongst the news of death and destruction. It consisted of 3 tiny paragraphs with the title “Aboriginal Students Protest Shoddy School”.  The article was about a rally at Queen’s Park on November 26th attended by hundreds of our own local schoolchildren supporting the children of Attawapiskat, Ontario. Attawapiskat is a fly-in community on the west coast of James Bay, and part of the Nishnawbe-Aski Cree Nation. Since 2000, the elementary schoolchildren there have been learning in portables. Their original school was finally closed when they realized that children were becoming sick from a massive diesel spill underneath the school in 1979. 

Students are now waiting for the $30 million that’s needed to build a new school and, meanwhile, learn in classrooms that are cold, have cracked walls and doors that don’t shut properly due to the extreme cold temperatures and snow, and are prone to infestations of vermin. And the hope?  Because of former Lieutenant-Governor James Bartleman’s literacy efforts in remote Ontario aboriginal communities, the students of Attawap have been partnering with southern Ontario schoolchildren over the Internet. These local schoolchildren have taken up the cause of their fellow students who normally would never have hoped to have a voice at Queen’s Park or in the Globe & Mail. Just maybe these children will lead the ones in power, lead all of us, to work for justice for the Attawap schoolchildren. – L. Mackenzie