Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Bishop Schnase offers prophetic assessment of UMC

Wesleyan Wisdom: Bishop Schnase offers prophetic assessment of UMC - The United Methodist Reporter:

He seems right on target.
Early in his address, Bishop Schnase lists additional sobering realities. The bold type assertions are his; the extrapolations are mine. 
1. We have a crisis of relevance. This expresses itself in numerous ways: lifelong episcopacy; district superintendents who resort to “cluster charge conferences” and do not hear preachers preach or visit congregations; seminary faculties who do not foster strong connecting links between academic preparation and pastoral service; a disconnect between societal change and “social principles”; theological confusion that leaves us a sitting duck for extremists of all stripes. 
2. We are failing to reach young people. Every local church would do well to have every older family identify where the youth and adults are who were in that church as children. It is true that many are not in church and this in itself is a sad testimonial to our Christian formation ministry. That is not, however, the whole story. Spend one Sunday visiting the independent and Pentecostal congregations in your community and you will find some of our “lost children.” 
3. There’s a disconnect between leadership and people in the pews. The economic philosophy, political persuasion and theological convictions of our preachers make lots of sermons either foreign or “over the top” to many in the pews. Our seminaries, two of which I served as faculty member, have been perilously close to developing an adversarial relationship with our parish culture.
4. Our organizational systems are not conducive to our mission. Peter Drucker says that in his first visit to company leadership he asks, “What’s your business?” Many stammer in answering. What would your church leadership say? Then he asks, “How’s business?” To this we must answer: “Not good.” ...
5. We have an unsustainable financial system. Our support base erodes with every older adult death. Recent studies by the Lewis Center document what we have known. People under age 50 are giving less to the church. 
From the local church to the general church, we are adopting unsustainable budgets. Draconian apportionment cuts may be needed. 
6. Membership and attendance are almost at a hemorrhage level in some areas.The UMC’s Newscope reports that only a handful of annual conferences showed membership/attendance gains in 2011 and that U.S. membership has dropped to below 7.6 million (compared to almost 11 million in 1968). Our membership continues to get older. The Lewis Center warns us that we must attract younger people and escape the earlier “suburban captivity” of United Methodism. 
See also my post, "Death Throes of the Blue-Model Church."

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