Being part of a non-denomination church has both advantages and disadvantages. For mcc, one of the advantages has been not being tied to a specific tradition or framework. this autonomy has allowed us to, I hope, beg and borrow the best from the wide spectrum that is the Christian tradition, all the while shaping and reshaping it to be part of our ethos and uniqueness. One of the reasons this works so well is that mcc is comprised of a wide range of people. our backgrounds include baptist, methodist, presbyterian, episcopalian, catholic, and a growing group of people who would answer, “none.”
And while I love being free to experience the benefits of all these traditions, there are disadvantages to being a “free agent,” so to speak. The biggest for us has been a sense of isolation from similar church communities, especially during times of difficulty and adversity. As we’ve grown and changed over the years there have been times that it felt like we were all alone on an island. This might shock you, but there aren’t a ton of churches (that I know of) in small, rural towns that identify as “progressive.” The challenges that our journey presented us with were, at times, overwhelming. one of the benefits of a denomination is having the support of both the organization, and the members of said group. we had none of that. The feeling of isolation was very real, palpable.
This is why I’m so excited to be part of the OPEN network. OPEN is a new web of relationships that seeks to connect those of us who identify as “progressive evangelicals” (even though we can be uncomfortable with such labels) into a community of sharing and support:
OPEN seeks to make visible what is often invisible – the progressive Christian expression of faith in the United States; to resource the groundswell of churches, leaders, organizations and people who are expressing a just and generous expression of Christian faith; to create pathways of connection and belonging among existing and emerging churches, individuals, organizations and networks of those who represent Progressive Evangelicals, Post-Evangelicals, Non-denominational and Free-church traditions and all who wish to live in progressive Christian ways.
For me, as the pastor of a progressive evangelical church in a rural community, OPEN is like a deep breath of fresh air. The relationships we’ve been able to build are already giving us life and hope. The partnerships and sharing that will emerge from these relationships will be mutually beneficial and good for the world.
I’m thrilled to be part of OPEN, and if you are part of a progressive evangelical community, I hope you will consider connecting with us as well.
Josh began vocational ministry in 1997, and has been on staff at MCC since March 2005. Shortly after moving to Morgantown he married Carla, and they have an amazing son, Cohen. Josh has an MA in Religious Studies from Western Kentucky University, and he also has a B.A. from Eastern Kentucky University. In addition, he teaches religion courses at both Western Kentucky University and SKY KCTCS. Some of his favorite things are: spending time with his family, watching The Office, drinking good coffee, and cheering for the West Virginia University football team. You can follow his thoughts on his blog.