Series: What’s the future of denominations?

Crystal ball

As the Christian landscape changes, leaders must ask and answer a new question: What’s the future of denominations? In this series of videos, interviews and essays, people across American Christianity offer their thoughts on this vital issue.

What's the future of denominations?
L. Gregory Jones begins the conversation by exploring denominations’ purpose and function, economic models and role in educating lay and ordained ministers.

Jim Antal: The challenge for our generation
Denominations are needed to harness the power of individuals and congregations to take action against global warming, says the UCC’s Massachusetts conference minister.

Sarah Davis: We must face honestly our state of affairs
Church leaders must be willing to hold themselves accountable for what’s going on in congregations because wishful thinking won’t help the church thrive in the future, the late AME bishop said in a 2010 interview.

Wesley Granberg-Michaelson: Denominations will always be needed
But if denominations are to have a vibrant future, they must become a means to network people in meaningful, covenantal relationships, says the former head of the Reformed Church in America.

Cynthia Hale: The power is not at the top
The senior pastor of Ray of Hope Christian Church says the future and power of the Disciples of Christ lies in the local congregation, in the people who move out in ministry and witness as the whole church.

Chris Heuertz: Working together for what's right
Affirmation of inclusion in the body of Christ is the purest expression of denominations, but too often they encourage exclusion, says the international executive director of Word Made Flesh.

Michael Kinnamon: Denominations are wonderful adjectives, but idolatrous nouns
Denominations are distinctive traditions within one Body of Christ, and terms like “Methodist” and “Presbyterian” are adjectives that qualify the word “Christian,” says the general secretary of the National Council of Churches.

Michael T. Kontogiorgis: We gather as a family
Christian leaders -- Orthodox and others -- are challenged to translate love into a day-to-day life in which people are isolated, says the assistant chancellor of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.

Jeffrey Leath: The craving for truth
All people crave the truth, says Bishop Jeffrey Leath. And one of the key roles for denominations is to be a reliable source of that truth, an arbiter of its trustworthy presentation.

Bill Leonard: Hospitable traditionalism
Local congregations are finding ways to thrive by developing liturgical and ministry-based niches in their communities while anchoring their identities in denominations, says the former dean of the Wake Forest School of Divinity.

Michael Lindsay: The mainline is not on the sidelines
The church in the future will blend both modality and sodality, says a sociologist specializing in leadership, religion and culture.

John L. McCullough: Our faith draws us to witness
Maintaining and strengthening denominations’ prophetic voice is critically important, says the leader of Church World Service.

Brian D. McLaren: Denominations do invaluable things
A major figure in the emerging church talks about what’s good about denominations, the challenges the organizations face and some “wild ideas” for the future.

Geoff Moore: A fuller unity
Asking, “What can we learn from other denominations?” Geoff Moore applies receptive ecumenism to the practice of building healthy churches.

Rafael Malpica Padilla: A particular way of embracing Christianity
The executive director of Global Mission for the ELCA says denominations are a source of identity, the lenses through which everything is viewed: Scripture, church and society.

Gregory Palmer: Cohesiveness and capacity
Denominations will always exist, says Bishop Gregory Palmer, because they provide cohesiveness and capacity -- the ability to bring resources together and leverage them to do enormous good.

Gradye Parsons: A more vital faith
There will be a “leveling out” in the future as the emphasis shifts from clergy, buildings and the white middle class to a more empowered lay leadership, a variety of venues and a more expansive view of “who God has called to be God’s people,” says the stated clerk of the PC(USA).

Gil Rendle: What if we have too much?
Church consultant Gil Rendle wonders: What would it be like if the church lived out of a culture of sufficiency rather than one of scarcity?

Cally Rogers-Witte: Critical presence at the point of deepest need
In the future, denominational missions will be understood as work shared with partners around the world, says the executive minister of the United Church of Christ’s Wider Church Ministries.

Phyllis Tickle: Like an anthill
Get rid of real estate, focus on education and trim, trim, trim. That’s the advice to denominational leaders from the author of “The Great Emergence.”

Susan Towner-Larsen: The elephants in the room
United Church of Christ’s national leadership seeks to enact change while staying true to the denomination’s core values of radical hospitality, inclusiveness and social justice.