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How Our Post-Denominational Culture Informs Faith Community Life

One of the key shifts in the relationship between local congregations and denominational offices, reflects Ken Carter, Methodist bishop for the Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference, is that whereas "congregations were once called to support the denomination," now "the denomination is called to support the vitality and flourishing of congregations," in light of the post-denominational culture of the modern era and the "loss of membership, aging congregations, decreasing influence and marginalization of spiritual practices" that characterize most U.S. church communities. In a reflection posted on Faith & Leadership, an online offering of Duke Divinity School, Carter notes that the high level of individualism in the American people, and the clarity of issues and organization at the extremes of thought among church constituents (rather than at the middle), "if denominations still exist in the future, it will only be because of innovation and experimentation in the creation of new forms of Christianity today." Therefore, support for creativity is a crucial element in judicatory leaders called to "hold in tension continuity and change." So, too, is it crucial to support the disciplined life where "the language of rights is often in conflict with the virtues of obedience and a rule of life." Carter's reflection on the difficulty of church leadership at the judicatory level echoes in the struggles of local church leaders whose members are increasingly pluralistic, often from diverse religious backgrounds, and likely to be participating for a reason other than fidelity to a denomination's traditional, historic values. Also see the F&L article exploring new shapes for Christianity in a post-Christian era, and consider the value of playing with different ideas and frameworks as a way to expand your congregation's imagination of new forms of worship and discipleship, through our feature article, "The Spiritual Fruits of Play."

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