Wednesday, August 29, 2007

leaving the CRC

About a month ago, I officially joined Athens First United Methodist Church - the church I've been attending and leading worship in for about 2 years now. While being a sign of my commitment to my local church community, it was also the bureaucratic and official point at which I left the Christian Reformed Church - the denomination of my membership since my baptism 24 years ago. My perspective on Christianity is rather ecumenical, so this is not really a change in theology so much as a change in location. There's a lot of methodists here, and the church where I made a home is methodist. Also, I like the methodist's social justice focus.
I was recently directed to this article in The Banner (for those outside CRC heritage, the denominational magazine of the Christian Reformed church). It asks some interesting questions, but in my opinion, answers them weakly. I want to take a few small issues with the article:

1. The article talks about how often when young adults get married and have kids they come back to the "family-oriented" church. Let me make something clear. Family-oriented alienates single twenty-somethings. I'm fairly happy with my life. I have a fulfilling career and social life. I don't think I will get married for at least four more years. And I don't need "family-oriented" making me feel like my current life moment is unacceptable. If a church focuses a lot on parenting, marriage, and kids, is it really a surprise that single people in their twenties don't think it's for them?

2. The article mentions divisions and infighting. Sure, that's part of it, but from my perspective it's foot-dragging. I believe the church should be ahead of society on justice issues like women in leadership and gay rights. Instead I find that even this year, when great strides were taken, synod allows classes to still hold women back from participating in denominational governance. On gay rights issues, the CRC is frustratingly ambiguous.

3. I find the very idea that young people joining churches in other denominations is a "problem" a bit offensive. The CRC has been a part of an insular dutch community for generations, and young people find that ethnic identity less important, and a spirit of eccumenicism appealing. So what?


Anonymous said...

I found your blog and think your comments are on target. Thanks for your insights. We have to leave behind our religious and cultural prejudices.

Bob K said...

Hi Bethany - You make good points in #1 and 2 (although even as I am frustrated at the pace of change I sometimes take comfort in the idea that the church doesn't change in a willy-nilly fashion - I don't think either one of us want that.) For #3 though I think it is a problem - certainly for the CRC! If all of our young people leave then we will no longer have a church. If we think that what we have is worth saving then losing our twenty-somethings is a big problem and one that we need to address. Recognizing the problem is a big (and necessary) step in the right direction. I don't think the young people are the problem and I don't think the article said they were but I think we can both agree that if any denomination was losing a high percentage of its young people that it should sound the alarm.

bethany said...

ok dad, I can see that one from your perspective. Perhaps they should ask instead why are we losing our young people and not getting new ones. In my mindframe of ecumenicism, people choose individual churches, not denominations. Especially when CRC is so close to RCA, PCUSA, etc.

o1mnikent said...

Great post, Bethany. Although I don't plan on leaving anytime soon, I sympathize with your frustrations.

the chickens' auntie said...

Breaking membership with the denomination of one's youth is HUGE! Those who aren't cradle Christians can't fully appreciate how deeply denominational teachings, theology and "the way we always did it" become ingrained in our idea of church -- no matter how logically we fight it as adults. When I first placed membership in a new denomination (also Methodist), I wished more than anything that it could have been what I grew up with. Now, though, I know I could never go back.

I really appreciate that you've now officially vested yourself in your new church home. As a "church lady" (unnecessary quotation marks) in a faith community of people who mostly all came from somewhere else, I value your commitment. An awful lot of people just never bother.

KBush said...

Bethany - I definitely agree with you on point #1 (how many times have we had that discussion?), and when I was looking for a church a couple years ago when I moved, finding a church with more than 2 or 3 people who were single and in my age range was difficult.

However, I think the article finally figures out something in the end, although it doesn't fully develop it. I go to a church that has very few people in my age bracket (and even fewer that are single), but the thing I love about my church is the intergenerational-ness of it (I think I just made up a word.) The adults don't really hang out in age groups. (The kids do, but that's just 'cause it's not cool to talk to an adult when you're in high school.) I was drawn into my church because of the hospitality of the people, and have come to find them to be friends with valuable advice. Maybe I am the exception to the rule, but I think general hospitality and a willingness of generations to mix is better than any program. Most singles groups feel like meat markets anyway.

I think another thing that contributes to this lack of membership is the mobility that most 20-somethings have and take advantage of - thereby leaving church homes more often. However, that intergenerational hospitality comes into play again because church becomes a surrogate family for when your real family isn't around.

I'm all for ecumenism, but I do agree with your dad that losing the future of the church (its young adults) is a problem.

Anonymous said...

Hi Bethany, found your blog while randomly clicking through friends of friends blogs and such.

I would have to agree with you on this one. I read the same banner article and as someone who is 30 and (gasp) single living in West Michigan I felt it missed a few marks. The big one being that young adults are often single, and church often seems to be a club for married people with kids. Hats off to you for sticking with it and not throwing in the towel, as I and many others have done..