Why I Believe in The OPEN Network

I get asked all the time, “what kind of church ARE you?”

Cue stuttering, hemming, hawing, and rambling answers.

“Well, we’re not exactly evangelical, but that’s our roots, and we try to love our roots, and we’re not Catholic, although we like the Catholics a lot and we try to follow some of the liturgical practices of Catholics and Anglicans and Episcopalians, and technically we’re nondenominational in that we don’t belong to a denomination, but we’re not against denominations per se, so we prefer to use the term intradenominational to say that we’re a group of people who come from all kinds of different denominations…”

Sigh.

Almost 8 years into the life of our church and I still have a hard time explaining our quirky little community in Peoria, IL.

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I was invited by my friend Michael to Minneapolis to join a conversation last week with what Doug Pagitt described as “junk-drawer churches” churches; churches that don’t belong to a denomination or network, who describe their theology and practice as progressive, and their history as evangelical. We came from different parts of the country, with differing styles of worship, differing creeds, practices, politics and contexts. But what united us is our progressive theology has left most of us feeling disenfranchised and alone in our contexts. Almost everyone I met said something like, “we’re the only church of our kind in our city.”

It was so good for my soul to hear other pastors – some of whom I’ve known by reputation for years – say the same things as me: “We’re the only church of our type in our town,” “I don’t regularly get to hang out with pastors like me,” and “I feel alone as a pastor.”

Last week, in Minneapolis, I found my people.

Tuesday evening, after dinner with new friends, I looked around the room at Solomon’s Porch, where we were gathering, and tears filled my eyes. Finding one’s people is one of the best things in life.

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I’m super-hopeful for what this may become. I’m proud to be in at the ground floor. I’m excited to have made new friends in Denver, New York, Chicago, Minneapolis, and various other places. I’m hopeful to make more.

I believe that a sea-change is coming; has actually already begun in the American church. Yes, I can quibble about terminology. Many of us talked about how both labels – progressive and evangelical don’t quite fit. But something is happening. The old narratives don’t carry the same weight as they once did, and more people are waking up, looking around the world and asking themselves “who is God?” and “what is the Good News?” It’s a good time to be a pastor.

I’m proud to be an early supporter of OPEN.

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  • I can’t wait to hear more about the conference!

    • Actually, I thought about you several times and how you would have fit in so well!