"God is doing a new thing. But the vast majority of people can't imagine this new thing until they see it." So stated Dr. Elaine Heath, Dean of Duke Divinity School, in her first teaching session at the West Ohio Annual Conference. An elder in The United Methodist Church, Elaine's recent work has been with emergent expressions of church, including establishing new communities with people who have been marginalized.
Leaders in the church - pastors, bishops, district superintendents - must be able to honor where we've come from while looking forward to where we need to go, Elaine explained. This includes taking care of those left behind - who may never come into a new expression of church - as well as protecting, blessing, and encouraging the pioneers who go before us. "It's not either/or," Elaine said. "The old system doesn't disappear - it goes through a process of pruning."
Elaine sees three main ways in which the church is 'doing a new thing:'
- Biodiversity: Multiple Forms of Church - Jesus' definition of church was 'where two or three are gathered' in his name. Yoga churches, dinner churches, pub churches, and sports churches are just a few examples.
- Liturgy: The Work of the People - A renewed emphasis on lay ministry and the gifts of all people, it's the job of the pastor to equip and deploy lay people.
- Signs & Wonders - Deep reconciliation between people who 'love to hate' each other in the name of God.
"This is our time, Church," Elaine exclaimed. "This is why we're here...This is the sign the world is waiting for - 'By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.'"
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