Church must Be ‘Faithful and Flexible’ During Time of Crisis

By LORETTA FULTON

Each of the three sessions of ACU’s Summer Seminar will be posted individually on YouTube within a couple of weeks. People who registered for the online event will be notified when the videos are uploaded and ready to watch. Or check ACU’s YouTube channel periodically. Summer Seminar traditionally is held on campus over two days, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was moved to a three-hour online event July 30. 

By LORETTA FULTON

The fact that people were sitting at home watching ACU’s annual Summer Seminar on their computer proved that the theme had been carefully thought out and well chosen.

“Faithful and Flexible: Flourishing Congregations in Times of Transition,” was the theme for the seminar, held 9 a.m. to noon July 30. Normally, the seminar, sponsored by ACU’s Siburt Institute for Church Ministry,  is spread over two days on the ACU campus. 

Faithful and flexible is what the church must be if it is to serve effectively in the current situation. And, results of a survey conducted by ACU associate professor of sociology Suzie Macaluso involving 1,500 people across various denominations, show that approach is working. When it comes to pastoral care, the survey showed, respondents believe their church leaders are doing a good job of reaching out.

“There’s some good news and hopefulness in that survey question,” Macaluso said. 

Macaluso and Renee Paul, events coordinator for the Siburt Institute, kicked off the seminar with a report on the survey, “Impact of COVID-19 on Churches: A Data-Driven Conversation.” Macaluso noted that this is a historic time with three crises coming together at the same time, making life difficult for pastors trying to minister to their congregations: health care, the economy, and civil unrest.

Each of the three sessions was subdivided into various topics and speakers, plus a studio panel and Q&A. Parts of the seminar had been pre-recorded and other parts were live. People watching from home could type in questions and comments via a live chat. 

Three hours may sound like a long time to sit and watch a conference online, but the lead-off topic of the final session ensured that viewers would stay tuned: “When Politics Come to Church: Theological Perspectives On Faith in Public Life.”

ACU Chancellor and former president Royce Money introduced the topic and speaker, Vic McCracken, associate professor in ACU’s Graduate School of Theology. Money’s introduction was short after reading the topic

“I don’t think I have to say much more than that to pique your interest,” Money quipped. 

All Christians can agree on two things, McCracken said.

“We’re making a claim about power,” he said, and Christians believe that in Christ, God’s kingdom has come nearer to this world.

“We’re saying something about who is in charge,” McCracken said.

It is risky, McCracken said during a Q&A after the session, to surround ourselves with people who agree with us. It is better to learn how to disagree well. The goal should not be to win the debate, he said, but to understand where the other person is coming from. 

Summer Seminar isn’t the only event to fall victim to the COVID-19 shutdown. ACU’s historic Summit, which originated as Bible Lectureship, was scheduled to be held on campus beginning Sept. 20. “Blessed Are the Peacemakers: Bridging the Divides” will still be held beginning Sept. 20, but everything will be online.

The following announcement was posted on the Siburt Institute website:

“For the first time in our history, Summit will transition to a fully virtual format this fall, with all Summit events taking place online rather than face-to-face.

Beginning the third week of September and extending through much of the fall semester, we invite you to engage in a series of virtual pathways about peacemaking in numerous contexts. You will get to interact with church leaders, teachers, authors, and other experts who will explore theology, strategies, and best practices in bridging the numerous divides in our culture. Although the delivery of Summit will be different, you can still expect thoughtful and informative offerings just like you have in years past.”

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