means the mainline misses opportunities to communicate its teachings, and
doesn’t create or seek them.
(I am posting a series of thoughts on the disengagement of the mainline denominations from mainstream media over the past thirty years that results in the absence of the mainline voice from the public dialogue. This is the thirteenth installment.)
This loss of capacity also means that individual spokespersons for the mainline were not cultivated with the skill to address audiences in the new 24-7 media when opportunities arise, and for that matter creating and seeking opportunities. This requires being ready at a moment’s notice, being knowledgeable about the subject matter and having the ability to speak in language that is engaging as well as cogent.
It also requires being prepared to get into a debate about ideas, and sometimes, take positions, and this requires both risk and exposure. I believe it also requires an ability to “do theology” through media, that is, to translate mainline theological propositions into digestible statements.
The Methodist movement, in which I am an executive, began when John Wesley chose to move outside the walls of the establishment Church of England and speak to working people and call them to become responsible for sharing with the poor.
As British society was industrializing and stratifying he made it a theological cause to be with and speak to the poor and working class. Social stratification was disorienting and dislocating, not unlike that which is affecting many in the U.S. and globally today. The United Methodist Church, in particular, has a history of working in poor, urban neighborhoods and working class towns and cities much as Wesley during the Industrial Revolution in England.
Similarly, the challenge we face today is how to engage in ministry with and for all people.