The Rev. Andrew C. Thompson of the NC Conference has just released a book he edited and contributed to called Generation Rising: A Future with Hope for The United Methodist Church. This book is available to be borrowed from the Media Center. It features twelve Generation X authors and their vision for the future of the United Methodist Church. The contributing authors include Sarah Arthur, Presian Burroughs, Jeff Conklin-Miller, Timothy R. Eberhart, Joy J. Moore, Julie O’Neal, Arnold S. Oh, Douglas Powe, Shane Raynor, Andrew C. Thompson, Eric Van Meter, and Kevin M. Watson. Circuit Rider has posted a review of the book ending with, “If you’re going to read one book on church renewal this year, read this one.” The full review is reposted below with permission.
Reviewed by Rev. Patricia Farris, Senior Minister, Santa Monica First United Methodist Church. Originally published by Circuit Rider magazine (www.circuitrider.com). Reposted here with permission.
The twelve Generation X theologians, pastors, academics, and writers who collaborated on this marvelous and very helpful new book have set out to shape a theological vision that is for the church and by the church. Deeply Wesleyan, they have embarked on what they call a kind of ‘holy conferencing’ to sketch out a future for the UMC, a future full of hope if the church will understand both its purpose as well as how to live for and into that purpose. Reclaiming and re-imagining the work of John and Charles Wesley and the early Methodists, the writers examine patterns of discipleship from a Gen X perspective. Rather than excluding those of other generations in the church, their approach invites the whole church to understand their particular life experience in a way that will assist greatly in the work of church renewal as well as reacquaint the church with the wisdom and practical theology of Wesleyan ways.
Gen X grew up in a world losing its stability, a world where sense of place was eroding, where coming home to an empty house in which telephones, personal computers, and a variety of electronics took the place of people and relationships. How fascinating that the church they hunger for is a church of ancient disciplines, spiritual practices, and commitments. Not interested in preserving an institution for its own sake, they reclaim Wesley’s passion for saving souls, reforming the larger church, and spreading scriptural holiness across the land.
This is a book that may well confound and delight both conservatives and progressives, high church and low church alike. It offers a window into the heart, soul, and lived experience of a whole generation who has been discussed as an object of church renewal efforts, but here are seen in the complexity of their lived experience and the hunger of their souls. How about the assertion that “the future of the UMC will be a vibrant one if we embrace God’s gift of Holy Communion at the very center of our common life together?” Order of St. Luke and praise bands take note. A generation longing for true community longs to participate in the divine life in the “whole” of what they do. (Ch. 2) Is the church ready for the depth and transformative power of what they propose?
Everyone—clergy, laity, and seminarians alike—who truly cares about church renewal and the future of The UMC should read and discuss this book. Discussion questions at the end of each chapter make that process easily accessible. This is not a book about gimmicks, techniques, or quick-growth schemes. It is a book about ecclesiology, about theology, about Scripture studies, about proclamation, about spiritual formation, about sacraments, about prayer, about evangelism, about small groups, about mission. It is a book about heart and soul that reclaims the Wesleyan means of grace in ways that renew the church by going to the root of belief and practice, in the context of lived experience. It has the potential to reform worship, to empower ministry with youth and young adults, to shed light on virtual and incarnational forms of ministry. Most importantly, it is a word of hope, real and compelling, with the power to open eyes and ears, hearts and minds. If you’re going to read one book on church renewal this year, read this one.