If you want proof The Journal isn't just a lapdog publication pushing a traditional COG line, witness the lack of enthusiasm for it among the major (and many minor) COG sects. When was the last time you saw an ad - or even a press release - from the United Church of God appearing in its pages. Or COGWA? LCG? PCG? RCG? These bodies - some more-so than others - like to control information, putting it through the PR spin cycle before releasing it to the membership. For them The Journal is a nuisance factor they'd rather not deal with. Problematically for them, many of their members are of a different opinion.
All of which is preamble to a piece appearing in this issue by Wes White. Provocatively titled "Come ye, my people, out of the Republican Party", the title does it scant justice.
"The Church of God stands at a crossroads. Some see that current demographics are not in our favor and that many of our aging congregations will wither and die within a decade or so. Some realize there needs to be a change in how we approach evangelism and feeding the flock, but they don’t know what to do. Some agree that we must do a better job of bringing in younger people and keeping the young people we have or we will go the way of Shaker extinction... The purpose of this article is to suggest that the Churches of God consider a major paradigm shift. It’s obvious that our methods are not growing our groups. If we are to reverse the gentrification trend in the church, we must make major changes."Seldom a truer word said.
Of course many blog readers will be unimpressed having long ago abandoned any hope that the COGs could or should become kinder, gentler and more humane. Bring on the Shaker dissolution! Fair enough, it's a position I have some sympathy for, but that doesn't wash so well among those who remain on the fringes, locked in by residual belief, family, identity or just plain nostalgia.
The issues Wes White identifies are not all exactly those I'd identify with - but he certainly has a number of important ones in his sights. His list:
- Intolerance and homophobia
- The quality of hymns
- Brazenly pro--Republican politics
- "Talking head" evangelism by men in suits
- Anti-science positions
- Self-righteous contempt for those outside the mainstream
- Uncritical endorsement of the State of Israel
It's an article worth reading. You can be pretty sure the duffers in their suits will screw up their noses at what he has to say, but so what. That's the advantage of having an independent publication that can provide a forum for ideas like these, a place where the leaders have little power to shut down a conversation. White concludes:
"It is my belief that the current leadership of the Church of God will probably not agree with these observations and will continue in their current directions. However, it is my prayer that the ecclesia of the future will recognize the futility of these approaches and make a major paradigm shift after we have all gone on to sleep with our fathers."That hope may be forlorn; too little too late, but I admire him for his stand.
Next time a further excerpt from the White article. Meantime the entire issue can be downloaded.