For the second straight day, a group of commissioners to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)'s 221st General Assembly (2014) heard that post-Christendom life in the United States can be pretty exciting.
“Christendom is over," Lillian Daniel, senior minister of First Congregational Church of Glen Ellyn, Illinois, said Monday at the General Assembly Breakfast. "The denominational market-share no longer exists. And in some ways, that is a beautiful thing.”
“It is good that we live in a multi-faith world," she said.
On Sunday, noted theologian Stanley Hauerwas told attendees of the Presbyterian Foundation Breakfast, “We may be living in a time where we are watching Protestantism come to an end … (which) will leave the church in the position where it has nothing to lose. All we’ll have is truth. It’ll be a good opportunity to yet make Christians interesting – even in America.”
Daniel echoed a similar theme Monday.
Noting that 20 percent of Americans, and one third of those below 30, say they are not affiliated with any religious tradition, "I think it’s exciting to be in the church at a moment in time when business deals are not made through your connection to the church, that it does not presume that your ethnicity is something, that it does not presume that you will be a certain denomination, generation after generation, simply because you must. We have the enormous privilege of being the church after Christendom, where we can presume that the people there actually want to be there.”
But, Daniel also pointed out some problems.
“We’ve led with the social justice, with a sprinkle of the Bible verse like a condiment,” Daniel said. “If we can’t talk about our experience of God and the divine, if we can’t provide testimony, what are we doing?”
Daniel relayed stories of her own church experiences, and her attempts at revitalizing those she has seen being trodden down with social justice issues. But, she also said that even in all of that, she herself forgot that at the center of it all is God.
As a voting delegate within the United Church of Christ, Daniel experienced a moment that showed her the Spirit moving. When voting on a resolution, someone stood up and said that those present needed to know that if the vote passed and approved marriage equality, the UCC would lose the conference of Puerto Rico. However, he said, “You still have to vote how you think God is leading you.”
Daniel explained that this statement has followed her ever since, because it spoke a truth that regardless of stance, all belong to God.
“We are not alone, but not because we have each other. The good news is that we all belong to Christ.”