I’m not a Methodist, but I do play one during the week.
My name is Dennis Sanders. I’m an ordained pastor in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). I’m a bivocational pastor, spending Sunday and a few hours during the week as the pastor of First Christian Church of St.Paul in the nearby suburb of Mahtomedi. During the week, I’m the Information Technology person at Hennepin Avenue United Methodist Church in Minneapolis, MN. Drew McIntyre suggested a I write a little introduction about myself and the state of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).
I’ve been a Disciple for nearly 20 years and I’ve been a mainline Protestant for since the early 90s, a time when I started to move away from the evangelicalism of my youth. For the most part, it has been a good fit, a place where I can be the best Christian God wants me to be.
But as much as I love my denomination, I’ve become concerned over time that we Disciples don’t do much reflecting on what it means to do ministry in this day and age. We aren’t equipping churches to meet the demands of this new time and we are not creating new faith communities in a sustainable manner.
None of this is to say that nothing is taking place. Faith communities are being planted through Disciples Church Extension for example. Communications Ministry and Board of Christian Unity have produced a wonderful resource on Disciples identity. All of this is good; what isn’t good is that there has been little if any thoughtful discussion on the state of our movement, where it’s headed, what should be change, and who will do this. What’s missing is a real discussion on mission and ministry.
As is the case in most progressive Christian denominations what we tend to talk about are related to political and cultural issues of the day. I think some of that discussion is needed- as an openly gay man, I do want churches to be a place where fellow gays and lesbians know that they are fully welcomed. I want to talk about how to help the poor or how to seek other solutions than war. Progressive Christians are right in saying these issues need to be talked about over and over and solutions must be provided. Where Progressives fall short is that too often than not conversations on politics and culture tend to crowd out other substantial discussions such as mission, ministry and discipleship. It’s important to talk about the inclusion of LGBT people in the life of the church, but if we aren’t also talking about how to keep churches healthy, how to make disciples, there may likely be no churches that have opened God’s tables to LGBT folk.
This is one the reason I am a bit jealous of you Methodists in having a resource like Via Media Methodists. VMM (and groups like Confessing Christ in the UCC) are helping your faith traditions keep the main thing the Main Thing.
My hope is to find like-minded Disciples who would like to follow in VMM’s footsteps and create a group of our own ready to walk together and learn how to be God’s church in this day and age.
Dennis Sanders is an ordained minister in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) is currently pastor of First Christian Church of St. Paul in Mahtomedi, Minnesota. He lives with his husband Daniel in Minneapolis and blogs at The Clockwork Pastor.