Tom Brackett, the Program Officer for Church Planting and Redevelopment for the Episcopal Church, keeps writing terrific posts on his blog Church Planting Central. And they keep resonating with what we're trying to do at Confirm not Conform.
Here's a quote from something he posted yesterday:
For a long time we've known that conformity is the obsession of religious institutions. It is the impulse behind creedal confessions and our present rites of initiation, as well as our “Holy Orders process.” Institutions lose their power (or so they believe) when they give it away. They have less authority if they make it too easy to join the ranks of the elite – the clerics and insiders that manage ritual practice.
He goes on to talk about how the formation of theology is "indigenous, that is, locally formed and tested in relationship." That sounds like Confirm not Conform to me!
It's making me think that one of the things that we are doing with CnC is church planting from the inside. Here are these people who have come to our church--maybe not willingly, but here they are. What's the smart thing to do? Tell them, "If you don't believe the things we do and do it the way we've always done it, we don't want you here"? That's often the message we send, whether or not we intend to do so. "You're not old enough," "You need more training," or "You're not ready," are often actually code for "We won't let you do it until you can do it the right way, the way that we do it."
Instead, how can we show that we are not afraid that they won't do it right? That we trust that God works in people who can't vote or drive, who don't even have a high school diploma. Here are these people in our midst to whom we can say, "You are a part of this community; we value your opinions and your gifts. We trust that God speaks through you and we will do our best to honor that." If we could convey that in word and deed, imagine the church that will be planted. Come to think of it, imagine the church we could have right now.