Thursday, June 3, 2010

General Seminary announces action plan - but is it on target?

An open letter came in the mail. A summary of the plan is at the seminary website:

Seminary Adopts Plan of Action

The third page (of four) in the letter from retiring Dean Ward Ewing says,

"This is a crucial time for The General Theological Seminary as the Episcopal Church continues to struggle with decline in membership and dwindling support for its theological seminaries.

Population growth in this country since the early 20th century has been in the urban areas. Rural population has been in decline for at least a century and small town population has been, at best, stationary. The mainline Protestant churches in this country are well-established in rural communities and small towns, as well as suburban areas. However, we are less well-established in our major urban centers. We can only surmise that part of the decline of the mainline churches is their failure to respond to the changing urban populations and urban environment..."

Not sure where to start with this. The bit about "respond to the changing urban populations" usually means a wave at ethnic ministry, but then always comes 'round to how to make an LGBT event or two for the media.

The idea that mainline churches in flyover country are doin' fine and can be left to benign neglect is absurd. I could spend all day pulling together statistical and anecdotal examples of not just decline, but evaporation of churches on the Plains. Here's just one current example.

For a New York seminary to find an example of a thriving mainline church, it needs just an on-foot field trip over to Redeemer Presbyterian, where Tim Keller has reached thousands of young, ostensibly secular New Yorkers with an honest presentation of the Biblical Gospel and a willingness to engage questions with serious Christian perspective and answers - not the empty liberal protestant platitudes that are the real "decline of the mainline churches."


The Archer of the Forest said...

Yes, I tend to agree that bit about rural ministry is about absurd. Why are there serious clergy shortages in rural dioceses, if that is the case?

The Episcopal Church is completely urban centric. When I was in seminary, and would get asked the "Where do you see your ministry in 10 years?" question, and I would say rural or small town ministry, they would look at me always look at me like I was insane.

TLF+ said...

It's staggering to think that clergy training is conducted in environments harboring such massive disconnects from reality.

Keith said...

I believe that the The Episcopal Church is neither urban centric or Rural centric. That would assume that mission and ministry are being done at either place. The numbers show just the opposite. TEC is 'cause centric'. What ever the hot button cause that is being talked about,that is where our leaders energy goes. When you read such letters as the one from the Dean of GTS, I have to shake my head in wonder. The leadership of our church are 'rebels without a clue'.

The Archer of the Forest said...

Point well taken, Keith, but the "Causes" are always coming from people in urban based areas.