Taylor: Tensions of an internal tug-of-war

Progress is sometimes made in an amoeba-like fashion.

In Zoology 101, we studied amoebas under the microscope.

Fascinating creatures, single-cell blobs without brains, nerves, or shapes.

They move by oozing some of their blob ahead of the rest. If that extension encounters nothing harmful, it drags the rest of the amoeba along—with the hind end kicking and screaming that it didn’t want to go that direction anyway.

For obvious reasons, I consider the amoeba symbolic of many social organizations. Especially religious ones.

Within the larger body, small groups try reaching out in new ways. Sometimes they get hurt, and have to retreat; other times they find fertile ground to explore and grow. But the hind end doesn’t like risking anything new. It resists change. It drags its heels.

This week, my personal amoeba, the United Church of Canada, meets in Corner Brook, Newfoundland, to determine its future.

Bluntly put, the church is running out of money. Like all mainline denominations, The United Church’s membership has been plunging for 50 years. (Evangelical groups need not feel smug—the same malaise now afflicts even the U.S. mega-churches.) Faithful members kept increasing their donations to maintain an unwieldy organizational structure inherited from glory days. But the trends are inescapable.

Those trends led an irreverent Presbyterian, a few years ago, to hypothesize that eventually his denomination would consist of one elderly widow who gave $50 million a year to keep her church going!

At its peak, the United Church had over one million members, worshipping in nearly 7,000 congregations. Today, it has half a million members, in around 3,000 individual congregations. And of those, about 1,000 will close over the next 10 years, as the same old supporters grow even older and die.

The affluent years are no more.

In the General Council meetings in Corner Book, parts of the United Church amoeba will be reaching out, looking for new ways to organize the larger body, new ways to express their faith, new ways to make a difference in a hurting world.

Almost inevitably, other parts of the amoeba will dig in their heels and refuse to move.

Pope Francis seems to have the same problem in the Roman Catholic church. His recent statements suggest that Catholicism’s long-standing focus on abortion, divorce and contraception are now distracting it from the larger issues of poverty, ignorance, economic exploitation and degradation of the environment.

For voicing these sentiments, even before he was elected Pope, the ultra-conservative Catholic wing in his own Argentina labelled him an apostate, a traitor to his faith.

When the Church of Scotland debated ordaining women, the opposition threatened to leave if the church moved ahead. The pro side threatened to leave if it didn’t. Faced with having only the rump of their church left, the conservatives let themselves be dragged into the 21st century.

The United Church will not split. It will move ahead, in ways I cannot yet envisage.

But I find it ironic that a church founded just 90 years ago on the premise of “doing a new thing”—the Council theme, voiced by the biblical prophet Isaiah 25 centuries ago—should have developed a hind end that wants to stay where it is.

Just Posted

The Kelowna Foundation to mark Bell Let’s Talk day with open discussion

The free and open event will answer questions and connect participants with services

Central Okanagan home builders recognized for great work

CHBA-CO recognizes excellence at annual awards gala

Vernon alleged serial arsonist faces sentencing today

The sentencing hearing for William Munton begins at 10 a.m. in Vernon Supreme Court

Hometown Hockey explored in a great weekend in West Kelowna

Special guests, music, games, and free pizza! Hometown Hockey countinues on Sunday.

Lend your voice: apply to join Kelowna council committees

Kelowna council is seeking members for three advisory committees

2-for-1: Total lunar eclipse comes with supermoon bonus

On Sunday night, the moon, Earth and sun lined up to create the eclipse, which was visible throughout North and South America

Woman offers luxury Alberta home for just $25 and a flair for the written word

Alla Wagner ran into health problems, which forced her to list the 5,000-square-foot estate at market value

46% of Canadians $200 or less away from financial insolvency: poll

45% cent of those surveyed say they will need to go further into debt to pay their living and family expenses

World economy forecast to slow in 2019 amid trade tensions

For Canada, the IMF’s estimate for growth in 2019 was 1.9 per cent, down from expected global growth of 3.5 per cent

‘Gotti’ leads Razzie nominations, Trump up for worst actor

The nominations were announced on Monday, Jan. 21 with some movies earning up to six nominations

Patriots make 3rd straight Super Bowl, beat Chiefs 37-31 in OT

New England will meet L.A. Rams in NFL title game

Pettersson returns to lead Canucks to 3-2 win over Red Wings

Vancouver’s super rookie has 2 points in first game back after knee injury

Crash closes Coquihalla southbound lane south of Merritt

Accident occurred approximately 26 kilometres south of Merritt

Most Read