“The overwhelming and quite obvious issue is the decreasing relevance of our church to upcoming generations, as expressed in seriously falling church attendances and the notable aging of our church attenders.
We believe that the evidence suggests very strongly that the following are the basic issues to be addressed:
a) That the church needs to come to grips with the increasing intellectual maturity, expectations and discernment of recent generations of church people and the community generally. We must recognise and take advantage of this maturity when planning new directions for the church. We should recognise the reality of today, that the ‘heart cannot accept what the mind rejects”. Since the future visibility of the church will be determined primarily by the decisions of the members (through their decisions to accept or reject the offerings and programs of the churches), active consultation at the widest level with the people in the pews is critical to planning effective measures for the future church.
b) The evidence showing that the church has not kept pace with the massive societal changes which have occurred over recent decades, notably those which could loosely be called ‘post-modern’.
c) That the church has not dealt adequately with the divisiveness of the ideological split between the ‘conservative’ and the ‘progressive’ movements by emphasising sufficiently the commonality of the Gospel and the centrality of the teachings of Jesus. The UC FORUM seeks to address this split by offering a ‘safe place’ for all people to express, and act on, their views on these major challenges facing the church in the 21st Century.
d) That the pre-occupation with ‘clericalism’ has failed. The church must address its myopic and debilitating pre-occupation with impractical clerical ‘coaching’ models of leadership and encourage greater participation in growth, development, and direction by the general membership. A great deal of talent and commitment is being lost by this oversight and neglect of collaborative approaches. We believe that major cultural changes in the church will be necessary to address these issues adequately. We believe also that these changes will be welcomed in a very positive way by the overwhelming majority of people in the church.”
As always, we welcome comment about this statement.