The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


What's the future?

Identity and mission can lead to renewal

Will each of the 525,600 minutes of 2006 bring mainline denominations in the U.S. closer to extinction? Or will each minute advance them closer to new life? Are the cracks—and there are cracks—in the denominational egg signs of imminent demise or life struggling to be born?

Kenneth Inskeep, director of ELCA Research and Evaluation, and I explored those questions and more in Chasing Down A Rumor: The Death of Mainline Denominations (Augsburg Books, 2005). Among our observations about these churches:

michael d. watson<BR><BR>Mary Ann Moller-Gunderson
Mary Ann Moller-Gunderson takes up timeless questions during her sermon at Immanuel Lutheran Church, Lake Geneva, Wis. , and offers answers rooted in traditional Lutheran theology. The 100-year-old congregation of 800 was facing closure when she was called as pastor 11 years ago.
• The rumor of their decay, decline or death, if believed, has an immobilizing effect by functioning as self-fulfilling prophecy.

• The statistics are neither bad nor good.

• The differences within each denomination are as great as the differences across denominational lines and must be addressed to achieve a workable (not perfect) unity.

• There are significant activities being undertaken, born neither of denial nor despair, in nine areas: better self-understanding; dialogue and relationship-building; forming alliances (rather than mergers); outreach and evangelism; alignment of structure with mission; working with and learning from the poor; connecting across national borders; transfer of learning in and among mainlines; and valuing diversity.

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February issue


Embracing diversity