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Saturday, July 31, 2004

Breaking out of denominational assumptions.

Rich Barlow interviews the new head of the Andover-Newton Theological School, the Rev. Nick Carter, who combines theological training with business acumen. Their conversation focuses on helping mainline Protestants — and their seminaries — break out of their 19th-century denominational boxes:

[I]t is a fact of life that over half the membership of churches is people who didn't grow up in that faith tradition. It's increasingly become the norm in America to find families who claim some other tradition in their background. Churches can no longer assume that because someone was raised a Baptist or Methodist or Congregationalist that they will continue to be one.

Is that a sign of spiritual health, in that adults are making conscious decisions to join a faith, rather than indifferent participation based on childhood nostalgia?

There's reason to be optimistic in this change. But it presents a challenge to denominations about their identity and what distinctions they offer. . . .

Are there lessons to be learned from the astounding growth in conservative evangelical church membership?

I think they have been good in their communications and branding. St. Paul in the 14th chapter, First Corinthians says if the trumpet gives an uncertain sound, who will get ready? One of the challenges mainline seminaries face is that our trumpet has been giving an uncertain sound. The essential element of branding is looking at the relationship you have with your target audiences. How are you distinctive from any other seminary? Why is your brand distinctive?

("An Entrepreneur of Ministerial Training," Rich Barlow, Boston Globe 7.31.04)

Copyright © 2004 by Philocrites | Posted 31 July 2004 at 12:13 PM

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