Bad, if candid, news from the Disciples

The last couple of weeks have been less than sunny for Unitarian Universalist bloggers, as a good number have responded to ChaliceChick’s appeal to fix Unitarian Universalism. I think it is a good corrective to the all-sunshine, all-the-time attitiude that makes hurt feelings, miscommunication, and unfulfilled hopes (I’m thinking of the bruhaha involving some of the youth at the last General Assembly) a full-bore occasion for soul searching and sickeningly sweet crepe-hanging reports. My take? Life is sometimes hard and people are sometimes bad, yet God loves us even when we’re not so sure we can stand the sight of one another. Unitarian Universalists make me the semi-Calvinist I am.

All of which is by way of preface to a report by Verity A. Jones, publisher and editor of DisciplesWorld,the Disciples of Christ’s defacto denominational magazine. It is an unhappy but candid, necessary, and sober recount of their situation, particularly in light of the bankruptcy of the Disciples service arm, the National Benevolent Association. We don’t have an analog; but the NBA had to sell almost all of its nursing homes, low-income housing, and residential program facilities. That’s shocking. And there’s other bad news, but some good news (more about that later) and a lack of clarity.

Oh, here’s one of many quotations I could pull to suggest that we’re not alone with our problems

It’s not so much the lack of a cohesive theological outlook that worries me—our churches can be, in fact, quite attractive to seekers and thinkers, because we don’t tell people what to believe.  And I say, Amen to that!.  My concern is that we can’t seem to move beyond tolerance to real dialogue and engagement with our diverse beliefs. We disbanded the one general body that was given the task of helping the church think together theologically years ago. Now we live in this place of just knowing that lots of Disciples disagree about who Jesus is and what Jesus did and how we should follow Jesus today, and so we seethe with frustration and sometimes anger about what others believe, and rant and rave to like-minded folks rather than actually engaging in substantive theological conversation about our different beliefs.  It’s as if we are afraid to talk about our theological differences because if we do we might split, but the reality is that because we don’t talk about our theological differences, those differences just become more entrenched.  Might real theological engagement actually bring us closer together?

I’m bringing this up because I wonder if we could take the same word if and when we need to hear it.

Verity Jones’ address: The state of the church

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