Primitive Christianity Revived, Again
I am in a reading group that recently finished up a book on the “dones” by Josh Packard and Ashleigh Hope - Church Refugees: Sociologists reveal why people are DONE with churc.... The authors surveyed people from across the U.S. that have left the church and found some striking commonalities in their responses. One of those key areas has to do with a phenomenon well-described by Ryan Frame as “sacrificing community for the sake of the institution.” This is a particularly timely consideration for Friends in light of the recent schism in Indiana Yearly Meeting and the ongoing struggles in North Carolina and Northwest Yearly Meetings.
The book and the yearly meeting arguments have led me to re-visit a workshop I presented at the 2012 ESR Spirituality Gathering on the evolution of Quaker organizational structure. The workshop was intended to serve as one effort to work out some of the practical organizational implications of Phil Gulley’s book, The Evolution of Faith.
My sense is that these books and the yearly meeting situations are interconnected. We may be in the midst of a painful confrontation between existing organizational structures and assumptions and new or differing approaches that may better fit the realities of faith in 21st century America.
If we are open to the idea of our faith communities adapting to better meet the needs of today, then we need to be intentional about the process. For those concerned about evolution, it can mean the loss of history and identity. For those drawn to evolution, it can mean positive progress. Neither necessarily represents the whole truth. A better understanding of evolution is on the one hand building on (rather than abandoning) what has come before, and on the other hand an experimental process that sometimes ends in unexpected outcomes or even failure. But if we can’t risk the possibility of failure we also can’t risk the possibility of new growth and insight that might be absolutely what we need to survive and thrive.
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