Welcoming doubters

As a followup to our popular post on Communion With Out Baptism, we offer an article from
The Los Angeles Times, on the rise of the "nones" and churches:


"The Rise of the Nones" is one of 10 trends changing American life, according to Time magazine's March 12 cover story. That's because the "nones" — those who mark "none" on surveys that ask them to identify their religious affiliation — are the fastest-growing religious group in the United States.
...
Seminary and church leaders, in particular, are highly motivated to staunch the decline. Unfortunately, many of them believe that what's really needed is a return to the "faith of our fathers," stricter adherence to creeds and (this is America, after all) better marketing methods.

I advocate a radically different solution: the Emerging Church. It's a movement based on understanding the reasons for mainstream religion's dramatic decline: improved scientific understanding, changing social norms, an increasingly pluralistic religious culture and more freedom to doubt and question — a freedom that until the last three centuries was mostly absent or suppressed and that is still resisted, sometimes violently, in much of the world today.

In my experience, the nones are not rejecting God. They are rejecting doctrinal requirements that they no longer find believable, along with the rigid structures of many organized religions. For that reason, the rise of the nones may well be a new kind of spiritual awakening, one in which doubters are welcome.

Comments (5)

We live in a world where making commitments is not exactly "in". People want things on their own terms and the Church has never been that type of institution. God isn't a 'Burger King, have it your way' kinda God.

Hi Nicole. Interesting viewpoint; thanks very much.

From my perspective, I'd say that I am not convinced I have much of a handle on the will or nature of God, so I can't speak to that issue, except to say that my understanding is that God is one of ineffable love. But I would extend a warm welcome to anyone, regardless of where they are in their faith journey. And I trust that the rest will work itself out in due time and in the manner it should.

Eric Bonetti

My experience of twenty-seven years of building a multi-generational, family and LGBT friendly urban congregation from scratch 0 to 300 plus members and two hundred or so dependably on Sundays is that first participation looked like agnostic pentecostalism or atheistic monasticism - experience and practice held people who were unsure of what they believed or certain of what they didn't believe. Lots of regular communicants would say, "Love Jesus" or "Love this community" but "not sure I'm a Christian." Slowly by participation that changed and they shaped a personal faith or personal faith grew into trust they'd invested in community and in their experience. Plenty of baptisms. A good number of vocations to priesthood of people younger, now mission-minded clergy. I don't see a generational unwillingness to make commitments, but as a 65 year old, what is - to me - an unfamiliar process of testing commitment and growing into it.

I think this article is descriptive not just of the young, but many Episcopalians of all ages. As a people, Episcopalians in many (most?) cases are Faithful (full of Faith) but find the words used to express Faith, or even symbols, have been emptied of their meaning. Things once used as pointers to God, are now ends in and of themselves - idols - (i.e., bible, doctrines, superstition, favorite fables and the like, on one side, a loss of spirituality for works on another). The Church has attempted to confine God's working in the world, and humankind's access. Too often I think we feel that all we have to do tweek the liturgy and we can fill this numbness, and bring in lots of young people, losing sight that it isn't the liturgy, so much as seeing the Liturgy as pointing to God, and the experience of God's presence, and in helping ourselves and others to reach beyond ourselves and "connect" to something, someone, bigger than ourselves or the lives we lead. I feel it is not so much an issue about age, as about childlike wonder running up against mature acceptance of the status quo...

One of the the main emerging churches, Cedar Ridge, is right around the corner from my house. And I've tried reading some of Brian McLaren's stuff, and it's so disheartening, because it sounds so much like the like of, well, theological BSing that passed for theology on Usenet in the mid 1980s. Mind you, McLaren is four years older than I; about the time he was starting Cedar Ridge as a house church, I was singing in the choir at St. Philip's, Laurel, Maryland. The thing is, I went to a school that had solid sacred studies; also, at the time I was avoiding Tom Short and the other fundie house church types. McLaren was (and is) solving a problem I don't have, and which I think a lot young people don't have, because while there are a lot of people who feel chased out of bad religion, increasingly there are people who are irreligious by upbringing and who aren't going to see a non-doctrinal "religion" as a solution to that. And there are people who are formed to expect some degree of doctrinal commitment, and who want something between an authoritarian approach (which they reject out of disagreement) and a latitudinarian approach (which they reject as vacuous).

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