Who Stole My Church: What to Do When the Church You Love Tries to Enter the 21st Century

Who Stole My Church: What to Do When the Church You Love Tries to Enter the 21st Century

  • ISBN13: 9780785230496
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Has your church been hijacked?

Millions of people in their fifties, sixties, and seventies feel their churches have been hijacked by church-growth movements characterized by loud praise bands, constant PowerPoint presentations, and cavernous megachurches devoid of any personal touch. They are bewildered by the changes, and are dropping out after thirty, forty, or fifty years in a congregation. It’s a crisis!

In this fictional story, pastor and author Gordon MacDonald uses topical examples and all-too-familiar characters to reassure readers that it is possible to embrace change, and to demonstrate how that change can actually be a positive influence in their church. The church, he says, has always been in a state of change; it has been changing for the last two thousand years. It is time to embrace that change and use it further the Kingdom of God

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Background to “21st Century Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures”

Background to “21st Century Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures”

Background to “21st Century Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures”

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Home Page > News and Society > Journalism > Background to “21st Century Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures”

Background to “21st Century Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures”

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Posted: Jan 29, 2011 |Comments: 0
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In the late 20th century, as a student and practitioner of divine Science, I found the teachings in Eddy’s Science and Health to be extraordinarily effective in understanding how to heal mind/body/spirit through prayer. I’ve experienced proof of metaphysical healing and for this proof I basically give credit to the ideals of Truth, God, as outlined in Eddy’s Science and Health.

Before the turn of this century, my practice of metaphysical healing increasingly included the public. I would find myself in conversations with people interested in the scientific healing aspect of Truth, Christ. However in the beginning, these conversations brought about a rude awakening for me. I was too often speaking in 19th century vernacular when I shared Eddy’s ideas. So, I made the decision to admit that Eddy’s statements were deserving of expression in 21st century idiom and language and I developed the means to do so. It wasn’t long before logic took me further. If speaking about Eddy’s ideas in today’s language, I must also accept Science and Health in today’s language in print form. To insist otherwise is ethnocentric, impractical, and false-hearted.

However, something about a printable revision ran contrary to what I’d been humanly imprinted with. Either consciously, or unconsciously, my brain was impressed with the notion that a readable revision of Science and Health was not an option. For feedback, I mentioned the idea of Eddy’s Science and Health in modern day language to my Teacher of Christian Science.  He then gave me a shocked look, fumbling with words agreeable to the value of  revisions. The subject was dropped as I wasn’t prepared to say anymore. I then bounced the idea off other students of Christian Science, but the idea came right back like a hot potato.

I remember going through mental gyrations that eventually calmed to strength. I reasoned with the motivation to be truthful and fall into line with progress. In other words, I took the steps to remove myself from incorrect reasoning that a revision is changing Eddy’s words, and from my own personal attachment to Eddy’s words.

Then a physical problem presented itself. After being in a horrific accident, I was fighting for my life. Timid conservatism was insisting it was better to go along with common assumptions. I felt privileged being familiar with Eddy’s words; they helped me immensely, so why change? Why repent? The answer blared back: because healing truths are not confined to physical states. And, more importantly, good ideas are to be shared, not buried in the letter by the stubbornness of Eddy worshipers. My human mind gave way to self-evident spiritual truths. Healing ideas are timeless, universal, and all-inclusively expressed. My thought had changed and my body responded by healing naturally and quickly to the amazement of the surgeon and nurses.

I quietly and sincerely began revising and updating Science and Health just after the turn of the 21st century. Wow, a printable revision of Science and Health is a daunting task. The revision of Eddy’s Science and Health needed to be done extremely well, carefully, thoughtfully and lovingly, without personal ego or preferences.

In this pursuit, I spent countless hours developing the knowledge and skills necessary to accomplish this formidable task. I studied Bible history, researched other great thinkers who Eddy quoted and referenced, and became familiar with the times in which she lived. I examined the meaning of 19th century terminology and idiom, and learned how scientific and religious thought has progressed in the twentieth century. I was also active in a branch Church of Christ, Scientist, and consistently tended to my spiritual advancement.

The spiritual growth I attained while revising one chapter helped me to revise another chapter. Also, unique coincidences brought me together with people who were powerfully thankful for Eddy’s metaphysical ideas and offered me outstanding counsel on how to update it so the text is correct to the reader today.

One of the many examples of how Eddy’s meaning has been changed, because the words have NOT been revised, is the 21 times that she uses the word “apprehension” in Science and Health. Today, “apprehension” usually means anxiety or doubt.  In her time, it meant comprehension.

Much terminology, such as animal magnetism, phrenology, humors, brainology, and consumption, is outdated and consequently confusing to the reader. In the revision, these terms have been replaced with proper text that aids more fluent practical reading. Also, the book is now gender-inclusive. Although Eddy’s use of the term “man,” meaning person, was acceptable in the 19th century, it is not acceptable today. I also requested, and was granted permission to quote from modern Bibles and 20th century leaders. These quotes have been footnoted, as is appropriate for literature today.

After a few years of getting the revision on paper, I did approach The Christian Science Publishing Society for assistance in publishing 21st Century Science and Health. I was still a member of First Church of Christ, Scientist, and figured our church would appreciate the opportunity to again have some form of legal access to Eddy’s writings. During the 20th century, we members were so busy with rituals and human ideologies that we had neglected to follow Eddy and keep her work in line with the times. Consequently, the church lost any connection to a copyright to Science and Health long ago. It was similar to a person inheriting a piece of property and failing to take care of it or pay the taxes and so the inheritance got taken away.

However, instead of responding to me, the Publishing Society told the Christian Science Board of Directors what I was doing. The Directors then began a dialog with me (which I have documented). This dialog went on for a few weeks and was not only grossly agonizing, but also very enlightening. Members of the church Board asked me questions, I answered. I asked the Board of Directors questions and they gave me assumptions that lacked credibility. For instance, the Board of Directors told me that Eddy requested her words not be changed. Her request was fair and was necessary in the 19th century when copyright laws were lacking. However, to clearly identify if changes have been made to an author’s wording is common practice today. Eddy’s words are still intact to her name on her book, while my revision of Science and Health is clearly juxtaposed with my name.  The Boards misinterpretation of Eddy’s request caused me to question any further interpretation they had of her writings.  I then withdrew my church membership so as not to be affiliated to their beliefs and fears. I continued finishing the revision, quietly.

Please allow me to digress here.

With all due respect, I assert that I am not antagonistic to First Church of Christ, Scientist. I have happy memories of being around wonderful people when I was a member of First Church of Christ, Scientist. I recognize that many church members are outstanding citizens of the community and contribute admirably to society. I also came across a few extremists who promulgated Christian Science as a religion of not going to a doctor. A dogma I did not learn.

All human organizations have their problems and have been known to get superiority complexes. These complexes twist and morph, sometimes looking arrogant or out of touch with reality. But, I am partly to blame if I give someone power they really don’t and can’t possess. It is dishonest and lazy for me to presume a hierarchy can make final decisions or that I can just repeat Eddy’s words and expect progress.

Consequently, when I am upset, it is only with myself, while struggling to break from habituated human mindsets. I do feel Eddy’s counsel when she wrote, “Judge not the future advancement of Christian Science by the steps already taken, lest you yourself be condemned for failing to take the first step.” (Science and Health, Trade Edition,pg. 459)

Needless to say, I pray vigilantly for a regeneration of practicality, honest hard-work, and compassion.

History has proven over and again that people can break out of the habituated human mindsets enough to manifest improved ideals that benefit humanity and our world. Usually these transitions sometimes include confusion, so I now speak to the beliefs and fears

Ministry Futures: Vocation for the 21st Century

Ministry Futures: Vocation for the 21st Century

Ministry Futures: Vocation for the 21st Century

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Home Page > News and Society > Causes & Organizations > Ministry Futures: Vocation for the 21st Century

Ministry Futures: Vocation for the 21st Century

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Posted: May 14, 2010 |Comments: 0
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By Robert A. Ludwig, Ph.D.

The landscape of ministry is changing rapidly.  New opportunities for lay people are emerging—beyond parish and congregational boundaries and the now common roles that laity have come to play in religious education and pastoral ministry over the past several decades.  In recent years, lay persons are increasingly serving in healthcare ministries—as hospital chaplains, spiritual advisers in hospice settings, and pastoral workers in long-term care venues.  Innovative educational ventures that serve economically deprived communities and prepare students for higher education draw idealistic young professional into teaching and learning environments.  And a broad array of non-profit organizations that work for social justice, community development, and environmental protection are now faith-based service opportunities for people after a year or two of post-college volunteer work.

Lay people seek careers as pastoral counselors, spiritual directors, retreat leaders, and change agents who serve as community organizers and advocates for social change.  Professionals who have spent their lives in the marketplace earning six-figure incomes are taking early retirement to use their experience and talent in service projects that provide them with opportunities to give back and to spend their remaining years in work that blends faith with pragmatism—in order to make a difference.

A new entrepreneurial approach to ministry leads believers to form their own 501c3’s to create mission-oriented organizations that recruit medical personnel and supplies to serve poor communities in cities and rural areas of the United States and abroad.  Summer camps that serve children and teens with disabilities, organizations that support low-wage workers and advocate for better wages and decent benefits, environmental groups creating urban gardens and lobbying for clean water, clean air, clean energy—all of these are among a growing array of ministry initiatives that people of faith have developed on their own, expressions of their belief that discipleship means acting on their hope.  They write grants, recruit volunteers, cultivate donors, and build marketing plans for their organizations.

Many of these new ministries are ecumenical, bringing believers from different Christian denominations together for community and service.  Some are interfaith in sponsorship and membership—and include opportunities to mutually grow their understanding and appreciation of religious traditions and practices.  A new spirit of collaboration replaces competition and enmity in their outreach to people in need and their desire to create “the beloved community.”

Loyola University in Chicago will showcase these new directions in ministry in two one-week conferences to be held in June at their downtown campus, just off Michigan Avenue.  Social justice, community development, and environmental ministries will be featured in Week I (June 14-18), and healthcare, education, pastoral care and counseling and spiritual direction will be features in Week II (June 21-25).  Plenary speakers include Franciscan theologian Fr. Richard Rohr, Episcopalian author Phyllis Tickle, Vatican journalist John Allen, leading Community Development organizer Mary Nelson, Hispanic leader Ronald Cruz, and executive director of Spiritual Directors International Liz Budd Ellmann. Ministry Entrepreneurs who will profile their organizations include the Muslim founder of the Interfaith Youth Corps Dr. Eboo Patel, Juan Lorenzo Hinojosa (Solidarity Bridge), Carol Ludwig (Center for Spiritual Care), Fr. Bill Creed, SJ  and Tom Drexler (Ignatian Spirituality Project), and Orrin Williams (Center for Urban Transformation).

Faith-based educational efforts will be addressed by John Horan (charter schools), Fr. John Foley, SJ (Cristo Rey schools), Br. Edmund Siderewicz, FSC (San Miguel schools), and the principal of Providence-St. Mel’s School in Chicago Jeannette Dibelia. Pastoral care and counseling will feature Sr. Patricia Talone of the Catholic Health Association, educator Any Florian, Chaplain Dan Lunney, Fr. Robert Petite, David Lichter of the National Catholic Chaplaincy Association, and Rev. Doug Ronsheim.  Environmental ministry will be addressed by Sr. Janet Weyker, OP, the Rev. Clare Butterfield (Faith in Place).  Ginger Geeding will discuss her creative ministry initiatives in rural Missouri, and Fr. Chuck Dahm, OP will speak on “Turning Your Parish Into a Ministry.”

Participants will attend “How To” workshops on “Launching Non-Profits,” “Recruiting and Training Volunteers,” “Fundraising,” “Growing Your Organization,” and “Grant Development.”  Gregory Pierce, founder of the National Center for the Laity, and Rev. Laura Truax, pastor of the LaSalle Street Church in Chicago, will be honored at conference banquets, receiving awards for their pioneering work in developing lay ministry initiatives.

Each week will conclude with presentations on Women Religious in America as Ministry Pioneers.  Sr. Nancy Schreck, OSF will speak on “The Rich Legacy of Religious Women” (June 18th) and Sr. Carole Shinnick, SSND will speak on “Accidental Entrepreneurs: Women Religious Help Build a Nation (June 25th).

Throughout the conferences participants will be led in a vocational discernment and integration process by Lucien Roy and Maureen Gallagher of the Reid Group.

© 2010 Robert A. Ludwig, Ph.D.

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Robert A. Ludwig, Ph.D.
About the Author:

Robert A. Ludwig, Ph.D. is the director of Loyola University Chicago’s Institute of Pastoral Studies and Professor of Pastoral Theology. Dr. Ludwig is a frequent presenter at conferences, workshops, symposia, and ministry gatherings throughout the country. He is past president of the Catholic Campus Ministry Association (1979-1980) and has served as consultant to the U.S. Catholic bishops in their pastoral letter on campus ministry (Empowered By the Spirit: Campus Ministry Faces the Future, 1984) and for the bishop-delegates to the international synod on the laity (1987).

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