Coming up…


As I finish up the book, I’m really looking forward to blogging on a regular basis. But, it won’t be for a little while now….

Until then, you can check out the God Complex Radio Show that I’m co-hosting with the Moderator, Bruce Reyes-Chow and with the wonderful work of a very hard working staff: Landon Whitsitt (Producer), Mark Smith (Web Master), Brian Merritt (Marketing Coordinator), and Heather Scott (Technician). We air it every Monday at Noon EDT. If you can be there live, the chat room is very entertaining. Plus, we usually take callers and questions from the chat.

If it’s not a good time for you, no worries. You can listen later. In fact, I put a Blog Talk Radio widget right there on my sidebar, so it would be easy for you to hear. So far, the most popular shows (other than our first one) have been with Diana Butler Bass and Nadia Bolz-Weber. If you haven’t heard what they have to say, I invite you to allow them to impart their wisdom upon you via the Interwebs.

Today, we will be celebrating Juneteenth, and asking, “Have we moved into a Post-Racial society?” Our guest will be Pastor Sean McMillan of Giant Steps Church in Chicago.

Our upcoming guests are really wonderful as well. A fuller schedule will be available soon–we have some poets and politicians also to be scheduled–but just so you can mark your calendars:

June 29 – Nanette Sawyer, talking with us about Hospitality.
July 13 – Stephen Ray, talking with us about John Calvin turning 500.
July 20 – Paul Raushenbush, will be telling us about the Social Gospel in the 21st Century.
August 3 – Phyllis Tickle, will be discussing The Great Emergence.
August 10 – Frank Schaeffer, will be talking to us about helping to found the Religious Right, and then taking (almost) all of it back.
August 17 – Barbara Brown Taylor, will be talking about her new book An Altar in the World.
August 24 – Eric Elnes will discuss with us his adventures in finding a New Christian Faith.
August 31 – Michael Livingston will be speaking about Post-Denominationalism.

And, I have to say that we have many wonderful people who we are in the midst of scheduling right now. So, as we keep putting this calendar together, what great books have you read? Who is doing interesting work? Who would you like for us to talk to? Are there any up-and-coming musical guests that you would like to hear? Just let us know in the comments, and we’ll see what we can do.

photo by dotsync


Quick question

I have about a hundred things that I want to blog about… but… I am at the end of my book, and I don’t have to travel for another two weeks, so I want to spend this time to hunker down and edit, edit, footnote, and edit.

I did want to get your feedback on this question from the “About” page. Can any of you help with this?

Hi Carol:
Back in October, 2008, you posted an article on Slaying the Dragon. Our UCC Church has a good size endowment and we have been exploring the possibility of transferring our endowment assets into a trust or a foundation to support our entire operation including programs, administration and missions. The trustees, the majority of whom would be church members would be charged with protecting our assets agaginst liability, using a % of the assets to grow the church and providing funds for new church growth and redevelopment. Do you know of other churches who have done the same and could you give me their websites? We need to learn about how others have done since forming their trusts or foundations? Irene Hope

Diana Butler Bass on The God Complex


That’s right. Diana Butler Bass will be joining Bruce Reyes-Chow and me on the God Complex Radio Show this Monday. Diana is a public thinker whose work is prolific, accessible, and vitally important to our faith. The music will be by The Church of the Beloved.


(1) Buy the book. (Amazon’s got it on a great sale right now.) Her latest release is A People’s History of Christianity. You know how people say, “I want to join your church, but I just can’t get over all of the terrible things that religion has done”? And you try to explain all of the really wonderful things that the church has done–how Christianity has often been on the forefront of so many movements of justice. Well… now you can add a book to your conversation. I’ll review it later, but Diana clearly points out the strong rivers of of vitality, life and justice that have been flowing through our faith since its inception.

(2) Listen to the program. If you can make it on Monday, at noon, that may be the best time to listen. It’s more interactive that way. Some churches/campuses set up listening parties. You can ask questions in the chat room, and we usually take a caller or two at the end of the show (646-595-4385). Here are the direction for listening (it’s not hard…).

(3) Download the program. If you can’t listen to it on Monday, you can download it later. Again, the directions are here.

(4) Get a magnet. If you have an active imagination, request a God Complex magnet at Brian (at) godcomplexradio (dot) com. The only thing that we ask is that you take a picture of the magnet somewhere and send it back to us. It’s always fun to see where that magnet has been.

Mind the gap


My apologies…

First, for going into denominationally specific topics. Those who are from other denominations, I would love to hear from you. And please let me know if there are studies in other denominations related to equal pay.

Second, for not making much sense. I have a cold, and I took some medicine that usually makes me feel better. At night. But, it’s daytime. I’ve slept a lot, and now I’m just kind of groggy and dizzy and awake and not making much sense….

But I did want to add a bit of an addendum to my last post, lifting up some of the pay equity facts in this report.

Full-time pastors, with 10 or less years of service, interesting facts:

•The wage gap is less with smaller churches (which makes sense, they are closer to the minimum), the gap gets larger with larger churches.

•There are more men at churches with 50 members or less (80% are men, 20% are women)

•Most women Solos and Heads of Staff serve congregations with 51 to 200 members.

•The worst gap is with women, who pastor churches with 501 to 1,000 members. Women make $50,038 and men make $71,128 (a whopping 21K difference).

Full-time pastors with 11 or more years of service, highlights:

•The most interesting thing is that there are not many women in this category. They make up 22% of the people serving churches of 50 or less, but that’s their strongest showing.

•Women make up less than 1% of pastors of churches of 1,500 members or more.

•Again, the pay gap is less with smaller churches, and it gets higher with larger ones. Men make about $7,000 more than women in churches from 201-1,000. Men make almost $14,000 more at churches from 1,001 to 1,500.

Full-time Associates:

•There are more male Associates than female Associates.

•Again, the worst gap is with the 1,500+ congregations. There is a $6,000 gap between the men and the women.

What can we learn? Well, I guess if you’re a woman who’s going to a larger church, then negotiate, negotiate, negotiate.

Why I’m a sell-out


I live in a beautiful house. I’m surrounded by beautiful art and furniture (most of it came from flea markets, charity shops, and thrift stores, but, seriously, I’m really blessed). I live comfortably and do not lack for anything. Except maybe a refrigerator. The freezer door opens every time we close the fridge door, and sometimes we find all of our ice cream full of crystals in the morning…. And an oven. All of the knobs are missing and it’s hard to tell what temperature we’re cooking at… but I digress. The point is that I’m satisfied.

And yet, I write about money.

I love my on-line buddies, many are deep in the wonderful world of free culture. The idea is that all information should be free and readily available for public use and modification. It runs parallel with a very Protestant idea that receiving the good news should not come at a cost, and should be creatively spread.

And yet, I write about money.

There’s a reaction against people who have spent years gouging the flock on a regular basis for prayer cloths and televised agape. And in the Emerging church discussion right now, there is a frustration that the leaders have “sold out.”

And yet, I write about money.

I know there must be a line somewhere, and I’m not sure how to point it out. Maybe… it’s right here… no. I can’t figure out exactly where it is….

But there is a line between getting paid for work–which is a very biblical concept–and fleecing the flock. And most of us, pastors and even the conference-leading writers, who publish with a company, are barely getting paid for our hours.

Do I write about money because I’m a greedy, materialistic jerk who could never be content? No. As I said in first paragraph above, I am very satisfied with what I have. But I just hate the judgment that can be dished out against people who are getting very meager payment for the hours and hours of work that we are doing.

I would claim, “I have a family that I need to provide for.” But, that would be hollow. I would fight for any single woman to be paid for her work as well. She deserves it too.

And that brings me to my point… I recently met Joseph Stewart-Sicking who is doing research on women clergy. He’s comparing his data to studies that were done ten years ago. I asked if women were doing any better with pay equity, and he said that we’re not. He explained that the only real difference is that women seem to be more resigned to their fate these days than in the studies of the first group of ordained women.

And that’s why I write about money.

Sisters, we’ve got to do it for ourselves, because no one is going to go out of their way to give us a raise, which means we could spend our entire careers at the minimum salary.

We, the generation who grew up with girl-power, we were told over and over again that we could become the President of the United States if we put our minds to it. Yet, we’re ending up on the bottom of the heap time and time again in our professions. We, women who graduated at the top of our seminary class, are finding it hard to compete against the men who only got through Greek because we spent so much time tutoring them.

Seminaries are still recommending less qualified men over experienced women for better paying jobs. Our denominational governing bodies are still giving shinier endorsements to men than to women.

Even though women far outnumber men in our pews, laywomen have not been fighting for equity; in fact, many women on church search committees would rather have a man in the pulpit. Many women on our personnel committees overlook the injustice between pay in our staffing models.

And so, I write about money, not just for me, but because I don’t want to read in ten years that men are still far out-pacing women with salaries and positions. I’m thinking about those girls in past youth groups who looked up to me and decided that they might go to seminary. I don’t want them to expect discrimination, because I didn’t fight for the wages of clergywomen.

There is serious injustice. And so we need to learn to balance our “I would do this even if they didn’t pay me” attitudes with a bit of fight.

(And now, if a certain woman on our personnel committee reads this, she will surely roll her eyes, since I turned down a raise last year…).

photo by owlsplace

The revolution will not be televised


At a conference I was helping to lead recently, a really nice and interesting person asked me, “Why are you a part of presbymergent? I read your blog, and I just don’t get the connection.” He was confused, because I am a pastor at a traditional, progressive, mainline congregation, and he sees the emerging movement as neo-Evangelical.

There are a lot of ways that I answer this question (it’s a questions I get a lot). The main one is that Karen Sloan asked me to be a part of it, and it would be pretty ridiculous of me to write about encouraging young leaders in the church, and then say that I would not be a part of a group of (mostly) young leaders in the church. Plus, other people started calling me “emerging.” It wasn’t really a namebadge that I picked out for myself.

Since the initial ask, though, I have grown very fond of this creative, eclectic, quirky community. We argue and pray together. We dream of what the church could be. We have a lot of warts–gigantic egos (mine included), evangelical baggage, and too many collars. We’re extremely weak on social justice, ethnic diversity, and the number of men far exceeds the number of women.

Some people have joined the conversation through the Emergent Village, and others are like me, we don’t resonate a whole lot with EV, we disagree with many things that the EV leadership has to say, but we’re still excited about what the church might become. We have three main goals for this year: (1) set up cohorts where conversations can take place and connections can be made, (2) set up spaces for events to take place and creative energy to be stimulated, and (3) encourage and raise funds for new churches (or communities).

After explaining all of this, my new friend responded, “So… if you change the name, I’d love to be a part of it.”

I am following these emerging conversations, which are pretty interesting. In the comments of the initial blog post, one of the responders says …

it’s like a group of kids who just got finished playing kickball for 7-8 years straight. and now a new group of kids from another school just showed up and want to play again and act like kickball is their idea and their game. and a bunch of media conglomerates show up and slap logos on the kickballs. and they bring in announcers. set up all of their bleachers and stuff on our home turf. and try and start a game of kickball with us.

it just seems laughable.

I did laugh pretty hard at the comment, but after I stopped giggling, I had to admit that this is the most annoying part of the emerging church movement. Or…can you call something a movement when they look with disdain on people who join? What’s that called? A stopment?

There is the hope for revolution, but then there’s a pernicious elitism that questions people who join the conversation later, or who might be a part of a denomination, or those who fall under that most amorphous and damning category–the people who “just don’t get it.”

How long can the hyphen-mergent hang in there, while we’re being constantly criticized for our loyalty to our denominations and our ordinations? How can a movement be a part of a 500-year reformation, when they look with disdain at those who join the conversation after ten?

So, will presbymergents change their name? Maybe. But it probably won’t occur because of the “-mergent” part. It would be to change the “presby-” part, since a couple of our important leaders have had to defect to other denominations because of the pernicious ordination hazing that can occur in certain areas of our country. (But, then if we changed the name, then we would have to change the logo, and that would be a serious headache.)

Either way would be okay, since I’m not sure that it’s about the name. It’s more about the interesting people and conversations that have arisen, and the relationships that have formed. We might not cause a revolution, we may not overturn the whole course of Christianity, but we’ll keep working in our own small corners, and we’ll keep dreaming about what could be.

Postponing retirements


Here’s one for the disturbing news file.

A friend, who’s on the verge of retirement, just came back from a denominationally-sponsored retirement planning meeting, with two interesting pieces of information.

(1) There are incentives for putting off retirement. Big incentives. For every year that a minister puts off retirement, he or she gets a 5% increase in pension.

(2) It was communicated by those leading this meeting that it’s good for the denomination to do this, because older ministers are so much better than the young ones who are coming up.

The latter was conveyed, not over coffee, but in a seminar.

Now… far be it for me to cause intergenerational tension. I mean it. I try to build bridges. I appreciate the wisdom that can come from experience. I know that retiring pastors have seen a huge decrease in their portfolios, and many of them who would like to retire, simply cannot do it. I understand this. I know people who have been counting down for retirement for years, and now they’re stuck resetting the clock.

Yet, in light of the economic crisis, in light of the many people who have to keep working and do not have the luxury to retire and who are already filling the pulpits that our seminary grads would normally be moving into, do we really need to be giving incentives for people to hang on longer?

And, really. Are ministers who are past retirement age better than young pastors? We need to think long and hard about this one, because we are driving off our young pastors because we don’t have jobs for them. Conversely, we are hoping that our older ministers, who only have a few post-retirement years left, to hang on. How is that good for our denomination?

Let’s be clear. Post-retirement-age ministers are not better for our churches than young pastors. They are just much better for our pension funds. It’s much better for the board to have that big, fat, premium from the pastor who’s at the end of his or her career, and to cut down the pay-out by a couple of years, than to be collecting the measly percentage that young pastors can provide.

While the whole business world is dealing with job shortages by trying to give incentives for retirement-age employees to leave, we are giving incentives for them to stay.

Could we please stop with the ageism? Could we please begin to appreciate the innovation, energy, and vision that young clergy can bring to a congregation?

Research shows that the age of a congregation usually reflects the age of the pastor. It is the case in our denomination. So… is it the smartest thing to keep giving incentives to post-retirement ministers?

The photo is by burlap jacket