March 30, 2017
Greetings friends and colleagues,
I am pleased to share some sobering and some exciting news with you during this holy season of Lent.
In this time of intentional personal reflection, prayer, and discernment, it is good for us to also reflect on our circumstances as a church.
The simple truth is that across America the church as we know it is rapidly declining. ‘Religiously unaffiliated’ or ‘None of the Above’ is now the second largest religious demographic in the country. All Christian denominations, as well as many other faith traditions, are declining in membership and attendance. Here in the ELCA, total membership has declined by 25% since 2005.
For many of us in the church this presents an extraordinary challenge. People now have a multitude of options for how to spend their Sunday mornings, and where to give their charitable dollars. For more and more people, especially younger generations, the church of today simply does not connect with their lives in meaningful, relevant ways. This is hard for us to hear, but it is happening across the country.
So where is the good news? Well, even in times of great change, God does not abandon or forsake us. God opens up new ways to connect people with Jesus Christ in every age.
We are a Reformation people, and again and again, in the history of the church the cycle of decline, death, and resurrection has been an ongoing part of God’s story. We are experiencing a kairos moment for the church.
We believe that the Church is a Christ-centered community that empowers our relationship with God, meets our deep need for grace, and frees us to love and serve our neighbor. We believe people are hungry for this kind of community more than ever. It’s time for a brave new kind of church, for today’s brave new world.
Here in Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod, we are doing something to meet this challenge. We plan to be at the forefront of the brave new church that God is already creating among us. And that is why I am excited to announce the launch of Brave New Church, a ministry ready to equip you and your congregation to be pioneers of a bold, new kind of church – for a rapidly changing world.
At www.bravenewchurch.org you will find a hub of resources and conversation partners for you and your leaders as you engage the challenges and opportunities of ministry in a brave new world. Through forums, a weekly podcast, blog posts by a diversity of lay and clergy voices, and a growing library of resources for congregational visioning and innovation, you won’t be on this journey alone. On this journey – we go forward together.
A Brave New Church starts now. And it starts with you and me.
The Rev. Claire S. Burkat, bishop