Knocking down the church walls

Street Prophets: Too Inclusive?

I just discovered another Daily Kos spinoff (I think Kos now has more spinoffs than Happy Days and All in the Family combined): Street Prophets. It seems to have the mission of giving voice to a progressive Christ-based faith, which, despite my atheism (or perhaps because of it), I am always ready to promote.

One recent post has a really interesting take on an article in Christianity Today by a Tulsa writer, about a Tulsa church.

It would be equally appropriate to [tell] this story a different way. I once heard of a Baptist church in Tennessee that decided to integrate in the 1950’s, long before that was a widely acceptable choice. Their pastor led them from a congregation of 500 to one of 60, and from there they rebuilt, around a vision of racial equality and – wait for it – inclusion. By any kind of worldly measure, the congregation’s drive to integration had been a disaster. But the pastor stuck to it, proclaiming that the church was called to be faithful, not successful.

But of course to tell the story that way would trip up the narrative of conservative religious ascendancy. We are told, ad nauseum, that mainline denominations are losing membership because they are too politically or theologically liberal while conservative churches are packed to the rafters. Never mind that virtually no denominations have shown significant growth recently. Never mind that birth rates may have more to do with church growth than liberal vs. conservative dichotomies. No, Pearson has been too inclusive, and therefore his ministry has been a failure. [Empasis mine.]