Soon after I was called as senior minister of First Congregational Church in Burlington, Vermont, a church member gave me a tour of the building. When we got to the formal church parlor, I paused to take in the portraits of my predecessors hanging on the walls. I was awestruck. “There they are,” I said.
The Church of England will proceed with legislation to allow the ordination of women bishops, despite fierce opposition from Anglican traditionalists. After a marathon 12-hour debate in York, the church’s General Synod on July 12 rejected calls for further delays in developing a draft law to allow female bishops. The earliest women bishops could be ordained is 2014.
The net losses in membership in 2009 amounted to the lowest yearly drop in the last decade for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), though the 3 percent decrease to 2,077,138 members was part of a good news/bad news assessment from the denomination’s top executive.
Geoffrey Black has completed his first year as president of the United Church of Christ at a time when the UCC has been emphasizing youth and technology as well as theology and social justice. Like many mainline denominations, the UCC’s membership has continued to decline in numbers. Black is the second African American to lead the UCC.
In a familiar routine, mainline Presbyterians at their biennial General Assembly voted 373-323 to lift a ban on partnered gay clergy, sending the proposed change for the fourth time in nearly a dozen years to the denomination’s 173 regional presbyteries for ratification.
By one estimate 7,000 churches close down each year in the United States. A 2012 study predicted that 20 percent of the churches in Philadelphia would close within ten years. Many of these churches are architectural gems. Razing these buildings can be very expensive. A more satisfactory solution is to repurpose them, turning them into art and culture centers or housing units. The Mount Airy Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia is having 20 condominiums built on its property. The sanctuary will be leased back to the congregation for its continued use (Philadelphia Inquirer, August 4).