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Is there a future for the church?  

May 2011 

Reeds in the wind- Ubeda


If you are in a church community, and like so many other churches, your numbers are dwindling, maybe it is time to take a stand and help your church evolve into a thriving community. In our research, here are some of the things we have found helps a dying church evolve into a thriving church: a pastor who is unafraid to push the boundaries of comfort zones and state her beliefs clearly; a truly progressive children's curriculum; diverse and fun music- get out the drums, invite the local folk band, try chanting!;  pluralism- invite a synagogue or mosque to share your space!;  inclusion (duh), a shared cause for justice, concern and action for the environment- have regular tree planting parties!; fresh liturgy- set aside the Bible for awhile and dig into something new, tuck those old hymnals that make you cringe under the seats and sing a new song!;  study groups- ones that deal with the issues people are afraid to talk about; facebook- yep it's true!;  media presence- hate to say it- but bring out the powerpoint here and there; open hearts and open minds- welcome all visitors with smiles and love!; and finally, you have to be easy to find do people know you are progressive if you don't state it clearly? We have been told by many churches that being listed in our directory increased their visitorship by 20-40%... 

Read on for more on the future of the church!
Dandelions in the Cracks of Sidewalks; Is There a Future For the Church?

By: Fred Plumer


steeple sunset

Does the Christian church have a future in the Western World? Does a contemporary form of Christianity have a future in the United States?  Certainly it would seem so. The vast majority of the population still refers to themselves as Christian.  However, things seem to be changing. In 1950, 91% of the US population called themselves Christian.  But according to recent polls by both Gallup and Harris, less than 75% of the nation still claims to be Christian. In the 1950's roughly 70% of the population said that they attended church on a weekly basis.  Today, that claim is something closer to 48% of the population across the country, although considerably higher in the Southern states and much lower on both the West and East Coasts. And it appears that even these numbers are suspect, according to several trailing surveys. Follow up interviews have indicated that these figures are probably something less than 30% nationally, with similar differences depending on the region.



Reverent Irreverence

Integral Church for the 21st Century from Cradle to Christ Consciousness

By: Rev. Tom Thresher

Review by Dean Watt


Reverent Irreverence book cover

While there have been numerous ventures toward a more authentic and valid view of the Christian faith, these have most often been through efforts to get "back"   to a truer picture of what Jesus "really" was and what he said.  This has involved the attempt to penetrate through the subjectivity of early writers to a clearer and bias free Jesus.  Great progress has resulted from the work of the many scholars engaged in the efforts.

Rev. Tom Thresher offers a new and creative view using the recent and progressive approach of the Integral Institute think tank


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Rising Up in Decline

By: Robert Glaze, Scott Lovaas


bamboo rising upThe church has been resilient over the last two thousand years, weathering empires, monarchies, revolutions, and governments. Like previous generations, churches, denominations, and seminaries throughout America will have to rethink how they define themselves as faith communities under a new landscape. Given the downward economic trends, the church will likely see an increase in the number of people looking for answers, now that the economic ladder of opportunity is contracting. People might feel betrayed and angry at the government, as witnessed in Tea Party rhetoric. Others might blame God for what happened to them. Fear and insecurity has begun to permeate the culture. Accordingly, churches may experience an increase of membership while church revenue becomes harder to obtain. Furthermore, there will be an increase in the number of people seeking immediate aid of food, shelter, and other resources. Unless there is a rapid turnaround among denominational leaders in their thinking and leadership, denominations will quickly lose their relevance as local churches will be swamped with competing needs and decreased funding.



The Once and Future Bible

By: Greg Jenks


Once and Future Bible cover

This book offers a way to engage with the Bible as a set of sacred texts that can serve as a song sheet for believers in exile-those people Bishop John Shelby Spong calls the "church alumni association." This includes those internally displaced persons of faith who have not yet become spiritual refugees but who feel the pressure to conform to traditional expressions of faith that no longer serve as springs of living water for the journey of life.


We're Here, We're Queer, We've Got Work to Do!

By:Craig Wiesner

from: Tikkun Magazine Blog 


rainbow ocean

Two decades ago someone like me wasn't allowed to serve in the U.S. military openly, so after eight years of service, I left. Back then someone like Derrick wasn't allowed to openly serve as a deacon, elder, or minister in the Presbyterian Church USA, so he joined a congregation that fought against that ban. That congregation, the First Presbyterian Church of Palo Alto, had a long history of working for peace and social justice. Along with fully accepting Derrick and me for who we were, the people there also introduced us to the power of nonviolent resistance against injustice in all its forms, and opened our eyes to the many ways we were called to make the world a better place. By truly embracing us as individuals AND as a couple, they also set us on a path to where we are today.



Congregations Across the Country Participate in "Faith Shared" Event

Faith Shared asks houses of worship across the country to organize events involving clergy reading from each other's sacred texts. An example would be a Christian Minister, Jewish Rabbi and Muslim Imam participating in a worship service or other event. Suggested readings will be provided from the Torah, the Gospels, and the Qur'an, but communities are encouraged to choose readings that will resonate with their congregations. Involvement of members from the Muslim community is key. We will also provide suggestions on how to incorporate this program into your regular worship services. And we will assist local congregations in their media and communications efforts.


Editor's Note


We know there are no magical answers for saving the church...and maybe the answer really is letting go of the church and creating something new, something of this era, something for the future. Maybe the future church will be held in the future sustainable villages or in small local groups.  Maybe the future church doesn't have a building at all!  Regardless, whenever you are gathered together to share intentional community and a commitment better yourself and the world we live in, we are sharing a form of church.  So, forget about the numbers and give thanks for your community!




Deshna Ubeda

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In This Issue
Dandelions in the Cracks of Sidewalks; Is There a Future for the Church?
Reverent Irreverence, Integral Church for the 21st Century
Rising Up in Decline
The Once and Future Bible
We're Here, We're Queer, We've Got Work to Do!
Faith Shared Event
Editor's Note
Webinar with Fred Plumer on the Church
Preservation or Evolution?
Vision for the Future Church
Human Condition
Congregations Gone Wild
Faith and Foolishness
Join TCPC President, Fred Plumer in a Webinar on The Future of the Church
Tuesday, May 24, 7-8pm


Fred Plumer of Progressive has the unique perspective of looking at progressive Christianity across denominations, he brings his ecumenical and inter-faith experiences to share places where unique "good news" is happening.  Fred will also share some of the new exciting projects that his organization is involved in today and in the near future.  Don't miss this opportunity to hear from this national leader. Fred Plumer, has served as the President of Progressive (formerly "The Center for Progressive Christianity") since 2006.  He is a long-time UCC Clergyperson and Progressive Faith Advocate.

register now
Preservation of Evolution?
By Harry T. Cook

The quixotic nature of my cause became clear to me in the instant a very intelligent man of the Jewish persuasion married to a member of my parish told me that he did not see religious communities as centers for intellectual pursuits. "That's not what people think they're for," he said. "They come here to be comforted and reassured, not to learn." 


Vision for the Future Church

By: J. Zachary Bailes

from Progressive Christian Alliance 


As the Church dwindles within the American psyche and society becomes deeply aware of global responsibility, it is high time the Church change. Yet, this change must reach beyond educational literature or worship style, but into a new transformational way of existing, engaging, and being in the world.


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Human Condition

By: James Townsend


I reject the virgin birth, sinless life, divinity, and physical resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth.  And that's just a short list of the traditional Christian doctrines that I don't buy into.

There are a lot of open-minded, gracious people out there who consider themselves Christians who are not bothered by folks rejecting those things.  But they seemed to be bothered by someone who rejects those things and still claims to follow Jesus.  So the number one question that I've gotten while exploring my "Creed of Negatives" has been, "Why do you still follow Jesus?"  

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Congregations Gone Wild

By: G. Jeffrey MacDonald


The American clergy is suffering from burnout , several new studies show. And part of the problem, as researchers have observed, is that pastors work too much. Many of them need vacations, it's true. But there's a more fundamental problem that no amount of rest and relaxation can help solve: congregational pressure to forsake one's highest calling.


The pastoral vocation is to help people grow spiritually, resist their lowest impulses and adopt higher, more compassionate ways. But churchgoers increasingly want pastors to soothe and entertain them. It's apparent in the theater-style seating and giant projection screens in churches and in mission trips that involve more sightseeing than listening to the local people.

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Faith and Foolishness: When Religious Beliefs Become Dangerous

Religious Leaders Should Be Held Accountable When Their Irrational Ideas Turn Harmful

By Lawrence M. Krauss

Every two years the National Science Foundation produces a report, Science and Engineering Indicators, designed to probe the public's understanding of science concepts. And every two years we relearn the sad fact that U.S. adults are less willing to accept evolution and the big bang as factual than adults in other industrial countries.


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