Thursday, November 30, 2006

Movements to Institutions

Statement of Purpose:

One of the lasting lessons that I have from my undergraduate experience is the tension between movements and institutions. Methodists and Baptists successfully moved across the United States because unlike the "mainline" churches of the time, they did not have the huge buildings that tied them to the East Coast while the people moved west. Over time however Methodists became increasingly affluent and settled down and the church settled with them. A similar tension can be seen in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960's. Groups like the NAACP and the SCLC (Southern Christian Leadship Council) were established groups with hierarchy and bureaucracy. By contrast the SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee) was much more of a grass roots group. As I remember these lessons from history I think about the state of The United Methodist Church today. One of the appealling things about the emerging church movement to me is that it gets back to an idea of grass roots. Rather than trying to work through the burdens of existing churches, it attempts to move with the people to were ministry is needed most. But what are the lessons that can be learned from history on this. Certainly the staying power of the the NAACP can be seen while SNCC is no longer around. SNCC was a powerful movement, largely credited with desegrated lunch counters in the Southeast and with adding in vote registration throughout the South. How does the church today maintain the spirit of movement while living in its existing church structure? The answers are not easy to obtain, and maybe only history will tell us, but through this blog I hope to live in the tension and to consider what the church has to offer to us today.