Thursday, June 15, 2006

In SBC News...

While a pastor in the UCC, I feel an obligation to at least be mildly aware of what is happening in other denominations. This is in order to have some sense of what brothers and sisters who choose a denomination (in an increasingly post-denominational America) are facing in their churches. The blogosphere is helpful for that, because I've come across a handful of Southern Baptist blogs that I like to visit and, outside of a mention in Christian Century (or a shameless dig during our own General Synod...which doesn't even count), I might not hear about the goings-on in their church.

Well, it didn't take long for the SBC bloggers to start reacting to the election of a new president during their big Synod equivalent convention this week. Internet Monk offers one such reaction. Monday Morning Insight reports on it as well. While he hasn't yet, I'm betting Steve McCoy will offer a reaction eventually since he was there.

There really seems to be a lot of buzz over this election for a few different reasons: Frank Page was a relatively unknown 'ordinary' pastor from South Carolina, and wasn't touted as The Next President by the inner circle at the national level. In fact, he won by just over 50%, and was a victory credited to blog support (!) and a grassroots advocacy of a changing of the guard, so to speak. I'm even surprised that the SBC had a contested election, as my experience in the UCC is that one just votes up or down the candidate that a search committee chooses....

Well, anyway, let's pull out the key elements here:

1) Wasn't touted by the inner circle at the top,
2) Blogger support gets major props,
3) Grassroots advocacy,
4) Contested

If you haven't caught on by now, I'm wondering what the implications of this event have on the United Church of Christ. Yes, yes, it's all about ME and US after all. There are similarities between the UCC and SBC in terms of polity, i.e., a congregational system with national conventions that make pronouncements that however unwittingly contribute to a national branding. Those more disgruntled in the UCC have been talking about the national inner circle AND have encouraged grassroots advocacy for YEARS. So it's not out of the question that something like what the SBC has just experienced could eventually happen in the UCC.

As far as blogger support goes, I really do wonder what portion of the UCC's membership, pastor and layperson, has discovered blogging. Our two most high-profile blogs would be Chuck and UCCTruths (blogs hosted by the UCC's 3,419 national websites don't count), and they serve as rallying points for those on both 'sides.' The UCC Blog Network (cheap plug) showcases a few, but how many of us are out there, really? And could UCC bloggers have as much of an impact on our denomination as we see in other churches?

At any rate, I'll end this where it began by congratulating the SBC on their newly elected president, and let you know that I'm praying for you as you enter this new chapter of your life together.