As I travel around the country visiting and consulting with congregations and clergy, I find that many are caught in vicious cycles. The vicious cycles seem more common than the virtuous ones. They are easily recognized by a chilly climate of anxiety, which these days seems to be more common than the common cold. Such anxiety, what Reinhold Niebuhr described as “the precondition of sin,” is heightened by the mainline’s awareness of its institutional decline and vulnerability.
Anthony B. Robinson is president of Seattle-based Congregational Leadership Northwest and coauthor, with Robert W. Wall, of Called to Lead: Paul’s Letters to Timothy for a New Day (forthcoming from Eerdmans).