Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Open the Door but Where are the People?

Churches are closing all across American and I am beginning to understand why.

I witnessed this weekend perhaps the most manipulative political maneuvering I have ever experienced and it was at a meeting of church people. When asked why they are leaving the church, young adults say that one of the key reasons is a blatant difference between spoken values and lived values. This weekend whole sets of people were de-valued and silenced so that they could not raise questions about an issue that would shape their future.

I am not sure what is more disturbing. The fact that the political process was so shamelessly manipulated or that nobody who could speak seemed to care. In one sweeping motion ethnic ministries across the jurisdiction were marginalized and ministry was diminished to profit generating programming all in the name of expediency.

What about those of us most affected by the change. We were forced to sit in the back of the room in silence. It reminded me of Thanksgivings years ago when the kids sat at the children’s table and were told that they were to be seen but not heard. So we sat and watched people who did not fully understand what was happening wipe away two decades of progress in ethnic ministries and discipleship.

When questions were raised, they were glossed over with phrases like, “that will never really happen,” or “there is no need to duplicate ministry that is happening in other places.” One defender even spoke of a very capable and effective leader as a “token employee.”

Even a cursory look at several of the annual conferences and their free fall in membership and, more importantly, worship attendance, proves that even if ministry should be happening there, it isn’t. That national “comprehensive plans” are merely paper until a person acts as advocate and catalyst for ideas of implementation.

One friend, sitting silently in the back while watching her ministry dissolve without question from the floor said it best, “I thought this was the Church?” It wasn’t the Church; it was politics, plain and simple. Politics that manipulate the system to get a desired end without fully explaining the long-term implications of actions or providing adequate time for reflection and input. It was top-down policy making. If it was the Church, then it is no wonder that the Church is in danger.

What now? I do not know. The implications of this action have kept me awake for four nights. How many more of our churches will fall to ruin upon the altar of political manipulation? Let us save money but continue to loose souls.

Gracious God, who brings dry bones to life. Let us live again, give us hearts filled with courage to speak for those who are silenced and hands to work for those whose hands are tied. In the name of the author of resurrection, Jesus, I pray. Amen


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