Church may profit from doom

Well, hardly surprising given their plummeting numbers, but news has emerged that the head of the Uniting Church in NSW has called for a massive property sell off, with the proceeds to the poor and disadvantaged.

“Faced with dwindling congregations and conceding the church could all but disappear in 30 years, the Reverend Niall Reid says the church should let go of its “holy, sacred spaces as beautiful as they may be” and work to establish an “underground” community of faithful that connects with the spiritual needy in pubs, on beaches and in shopping malls.”

I would be interested to hear what Glen Powell and Fuzz Kitto make of this. I can see what a liability the existing structures are but I think the problems go beyond structure.

5 thoughts on “Church may profit from doom

  1. I’m intrigued by situations like this, though I realize they’re more complex than just the idea of getting rid of the properties and going into instant decentralization mode.
    For instance, I remember being a young teen, captivated by the level of risk taken by the Pope in the 1968 movie, *The Shoes of the Fisherman,* and a willingness to put church assets where they could change a dire world situation.
    I’ve wondered how long it will take in the U.S. before taxation regulations change for religious non-profit organizations and there are no longer the kinds of tax advantages there had been. Will it send many churches into something similar to foreclosure?
    Or, will plateaued and declining denominations simply implode when they cannot find sufficient numbers of leaders from next generations to perpetuate their systems, and so will be forced or otherwise find ways to transfer the properties they built up?
    We do live in fascinating times …


  2. Yes, the situation is complex here in Sydney. The statistics have long shown that the Uniting Church is nose diving faster than the rest so its no surprise they are making noises like this.
    The question is, will it work? This will be a big experiment. I think there are a couple of things to watch out for.
    Firstly, the statistics suggest to me that the churches that have been hit hardest by the “deregulation” of religion in Australia over recent decades have been those that benefited most from social respectability (and state support) in the past. So, this could be an opportunity for the Uniting Church to shed its establishment image. There are some very innovative Uniting Churches out there, but is innovation enough?
    This brings me to my second observation, and that is that the churches doing best in Sydney seem to be the more evangelical or charismatic, with a clear commitment to evangelism and a clear sense of identity. This is more problematic as the Uniting Church scores lower here from what’s ive observed.


  3. I noticed your absence this last weekend…
    Having just arrived back from snow camp / 3 weeks in the UK (including greenbelt) / UCA State Synod / Blackstump
    I’m pretty buggered…
    I really don’t know if I’d use the word “nose dive” to describe whats happening in the UCA, perhaps its the nature of churches that are radically ecumenical in their relationships that it’s always less about empire building than it is about relationships and just “doing” things.
    I say this as someone who is now in a rural regional role that is regularly participating in amazing camping/event/relational stuff that is working closely with a number of denominations including the CRC, Baptists, Catholics, Anglicans and beyond. Where we’re more doing stuff than we are about building the UCA (although I’d argue that the UCA as a movement rather than a denomination is not about empire building rather than it is spreading a possibility).
    Re Blackstump, yes it was wet… I think the experience at the racecourse was a positive one, and one we learnt a lot from.
    Re Tony Jones, I didn’t have the time to see or hear him at all during the visit, although I did wave and say hey as he headed off with Fuzz and Dean on the Sunday.
    Re the UCA again, apart from Niall’s sermon/report that called for these changes very little from the Synod he spoke at dealt with possible changes to our property and more about other structural stuff, I’m only hoping that more things do come out of Niall
    s call… I’ll blog more later (when I get back into the swing of things and blogging…)


  4. Re: denominational empire building. This is where I speak of Sydney Anglican and Hillsong “success” with my tongue somewhat in cheek. When you take a kingdom of God perspective it doesn’t look nearly as pretty. Their slice of the Australian Christian pie may have increased, but the pie itself is shrinking. Their growth hardly constitutes a Christian revival. Of course, I thinks its quite reasonable to question whether growth should be our top priority anyway, but that’s for another blog post. I’ll look forward to your future postings.


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