Denominations are a quirky thing. At their best, these structures are a faithful way to make order out of chaos for the sake of the gospel. At their worst, they are clunky, oppressive, and debilitating.
It was with this in mind that I agreed 16 months ago to serve on an ELCA task force called Living Into the Future Together (LIFT): Renewing the Ecology of the ELCA. I was fascinated to see the many ways in which this particular denomination tries to navigate the turbulent waters of the post-institutional 21st century. As the junior member of the task force, this experience was an eye-opening discovery of the inner-workings of the largest Lutheran denomination in the world; it was a process that was equal parts frustrating and inspiring.
Last week, the LIFT task force signed off on a 100-page report & recommendations that represent our attempt to address our two guiding questions:
- What is God calling us to be and do in the future?
- What changes are needed to accomplish these tasks most faithfully?
One of the key findings in our research is the gap between clergy and lay leaders on what the priorities of the church should be. This tension will likely play out in how the final report and recommendations are received. I'm sure many key leaders in the denomination (bishops, educators, churchwide staff, pastors, etc.) will give careful scrutiny to the document. I will be interested to see how many "average pew-sitters" will take time to read it.