Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Disciples Identity: New Chapter? or New Book! Part One of Four

Part One: “Right or Wrong, Demographics Decide”

Every year, the Office of the General Minister and President requests that a report be filed by all Congregations for publication in an annual Yearbook of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). Generally, the congregational Minister is responsible for seeing that the report is completed and filed. In addition to information such as attendance, membership, local mission giving and group participation, we are asked to complete a demographic form of our membership. It includes items such as the number of ethnicities, levels of education, types of occupation, etc., that help the General Church identify certain trends nationwide.

During a recent visit, our Regional and District Ministers shared some interesting trends with my wife and me. Our denomination continues to grow in congregations that are identified as minority congregations. The numbers of Latino/a, African-American and Asian congregations are growing and those particular congregations are experiencing the largest growth locally. Although I haven’t studied this phenomena, I would suspect that there are different reasons for this growth and that the Disciples of Christ offers particularly unique abilities that meet their needs. For example, our focus on Communion may attract a large number of the Latin population, many having grown up in a Eucharistic-centered Roman Catholic Church.

In addition to this trend, these various groups tend to be much more socially conservative than the mainline membership of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) over the past thirty years. On issues of abortion, marriage and family, these congregations tend to reflect values that stand in stark contrast with many of the resolutions that were passed in the last three decades at our General Assemblies.

I received emails last week from two different groups asking our congregation to reassert herself on positions that have been typically identified as in agreement with General Assembly resolutions for fear that these resolutions may be reversed in the near future. I don’t think these resolutions are in danger of being reversed anytime soon, but what an exciting world we are entering.

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