I still remember the profound surprise and disappointment in Kansas City back in 1986 when my denomination, the Presbyterian Church (USA), elected to locate its headquarters in Louisville, not in KC as had been recommended by a site search selection committee. (The artwork you see here today is the PCUSA symbol.)
But nearly 30 years later, all of that seems so much less important. Not only is the number of Presbyterians in the U.S. down since then, but the headquarters in Louisville has been forced to make cuts and more cuts in both budget and personnel.
More than that, denominationalism, as it's been called -- meaning a fierce loyalty to a brand name -- is dying. And as this writer suggests, maybe that's not such a bad thing.
The future of the church, after all, is not in big corporate-type headquarters but, rather, in energetic local congregations that are helping to transform lives.
I was born into a Presbyterian family and -- save for 12 years starting at the end of high school when I pretty much walked away from the church -- have been a Presbyterian by choice my whole life.
So I have a certain loyalty to the brand, however irrational that may seem. But that loyalty has much less to do with where our denomination's headquarters are -- or even if we have such a thing -- than with theology, polity and community.
Reformed Tradition (read Presbyterian) theology, our representative way of governing ourselves and the supportive and loving community of which I'm a part at Second Presbyterian Church in Kansas City mean tons more than the fact that the PCUSA has a headquarters and that it's in Louisville.
And my guess is that the relative insignificance of our headquarters will only grow in the years ahead -- especially if the folks working at headquarters don't find more ways to help local congregations be more vibrant and transformative.
As the writer in the piece to which I've linked you suggests, maybe this move away from denominationalism will help local congregations be more focused on what they do best. And what would be wrong with that?
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BUT WHO'S COUNTING?
Counting her meeting with Pope Francis this week, Queen Elizabeth of England now has met five different pontiffs. Somehow that seems less impressive when you realize it works out to one every 17.4 years.
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P.S.: Do you have my new book yet? It's Woodstock: A Story of Middle Americans, and I think you'll find it engaging. You can read about it here. If you want an autographed copy, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll tell you how we can make that happen.