Shuck and Jive

Opinions expressed here are my own and do not represent the views of the congregation I joyfully serve. But my congregation loves me!

Monday, December 17, 2007

The Vitality of Progressive Christianity

Thanks to Dwight for this article and analysis. Mark Tooley of the IRD attempted to trash St. John's United Methodist Church in Baltimore with this article, Red Emma's Anarcho-Methodist Church.

Tooley writes: “Why are churches that boast most loudly about their “inclusivity” almost always dying?”

St. John's has a vital ministry in its neighborhood including a partnership with Red Emma's Bookstore and Coffeehouse. Here is a description of the bookstore:

Welcome to Red Emma's Bookstore Coffeehouse, a worker-owned and collectively-managed bookstore and coffeehouse located in Baltimore's Mount Vernon neighborhood.

In the coffeehouse, you'll find delicious fair trade, organic coffee and espresso as well as a selection of vegan and vegetarian food. In the bookstore, you'll find books and periodicals on a wide range of topics, with a focus on radical politics and culture. We also offer free internet access, both through our wireless network and our public internet terminals.

Tooley doesn't approve apparently. He also wants to score points with his right-wing consistory by pointing out that the minister of St. John's is transgender. You can read the insightful story of the minister in his own words on St. John's webpage.

I never really thought of Fair-Trade Coffee as anarchist. I suppose we at First Presbyterian of Elizabethton are anarchists as well as we participate in the Heifer Project and Ten Thousand Villages.

Tooley is simply wrong in his assessment that inclusive churches are almost always dying. There are many reasons why some congregations are vital and others are not. Oddly, he picks on the wrong congregation to prove his point. St. John's is a vital growing congregation.

When many congregations abandoned their downtown locations to move into the affluent suburbs, St. John's stuck it out and is finding creative ways to do ministry.

Tooley as is typical of the right wing, likes to scare church members by suggesting that if congregations or mainline denominations become fully inclusive to sexual and gender minorities or embrace progressive thought or justice ministries that they will die.

The experience of actual congregations is proving that point stale. Progressive congregations are growing all over this country including our own little church in the woods.

My hunch is that you know of a vital progressive congregation in your neighborhood.