How many more wake up calls do denominational leaders need before they realized that what they are doing is not working and dying a slow (and painful for the rest of us) death?
I was attending this afternoon the “Senior Pastors Only” breakout session at the DC Baptist Convention annual meeting which Washington Plaza is a member and I found myself insulted, discouraged and wanting to throw up my hands and saying, “What’s the point?” once again.
Our church is a member of this ABC-USA regional body for several reasons– we want to be connected to our larger family of Baptists, we want to be known as an American Baptist church, and we want to partner in missions. Personally, I am indebted to the DC Baptist Convention for its recognition of my ordination, vocational placement service when I was a new seminary graduate, and for the friendship with other local pastors that I have made through attending activities supported by the convention. As a church, we are personally grateful for the way in which the DC Baptist Foundation came alongside us and helped us with our loan to repair our building last year and for its celebration of diversity, especially racially in its composition of churches. I pray for a really bright future for DCBC as I think there are some good things going for us that could be even better.
But, if this current Annual meeting held this week at the Mt. Jezreel Baptist Church in Silver Spring, MD is any indication of the new direction its leadership is taking, I fear convention life in DC is a sinking ship for progressive churches like Washington Plaza. We need sessions where we stop playing around with pleasantries and simply say more often what is actually going on. There is division among us. We don’t know each other. We aren’t really doing anything new or exciting just going through the motions of the same old things. The church is speaking a langauge that no one “unchurched” understands or cares for anymore and denominations seem to pushing its pastors toward more of the same.
During the session I attended, the presenter addressed the room as if it was 1950 in Alabama. We were told about how to take care of our “wives and children” on repeated occasions. And the word “he” was always used as the pronoun to address who a pastor was. Even though there were at least 6 or more women in the room who were senior pastors of churches like myself, all of the examples the presenter gave related to men. For example, he goes to a men’s breakfast every month with other men just like him. He started small groups for other men. It was as if the presenter assumed that the women in the room were pastors’ wives. Gross. Really, really gross. And, this is not mention the fact there was no senstivity to those who are single.
I’m all for theological diversity. But, a celebration of diversity always begins with attention to context and respect for those who are different from you. Diversity always encourages out of the box thinking because no assumptions are made that individual thinking is better than that of a group.
For those who think the church and denominational life is out of touch, out of touch and dying, then I say today that I sadly agree with you. Thank goodness, I’m a Baptist after all and tomorrow I can get back to the work of my local congregation, an autonomous body of believers who isn’t afraid to try new things.