Others are going to assume any proposal to start something new implies something negative about the current denomination, though this is not my point.
Nevertheless, here we go.
A vision for 2020 for the ELCA
By 2020 the ELCA intentionally gives birth to a new denomination. Instead of exhausting ourselves trying to "redevelop" the ELCA, let's pour resources into starting a new denomination, one that has as its DNA theological depth and multiplication of ministries, and a heart for reaching people groups at considerable cultural distance from the cultures we currently reach. Instead of putting the bandage of "missional" on the ELCA, start a denomination that has missional built in as the engine that drives it.
Let's start a new denomination not out of strife or conflict but as an asset, intentionally, for the sake of the gospel and the growth of the kingdom.
Some talking points
1. This is a tried and true model in the business world. Larger corporations often launch subsidiary companies. These subsidiaries are given more latitude than the parent company. They can experiment, fail, develop, adapt, in ways the larger company cannot. But they represent space the larger company believes necessary to reach new markets, create new products, etc. One model of this already on-going in the ELCA is Augsburg Fortress and its subsidiary publishing house, Sparkhouse. Sometimes disruptive change can be handled through the creation of a new institution or structure rather than the dismantling and reassembling of an old one.
2. It doesn't have to be a denomination. I'm just using that as a catch-phrase for any kind of missional structure or network that can be highly adaptive, and structured in a fashion more conducive to reaching new populations and people with the gospel.
3. This does not mean the ELCA itself can't continue adapting, reforming, redeveloping. The best part about having a baby is you get to nurture the baby and watch it grow, while continuing your own journey as an adult, growing and changing alongside it.
4. This models at the institutional level what we are calling ourselves to do at the congregational level. It builds into our very DNA the point that we are not just a church that gives birth to new churches, but a multiplying network that multiplies not just churches but even networks themselves.
5. Yes, the world is flat. Yes, hierarchies and structures have changed considerably. Nevertheless, even highly effective missional movements that grow and develop churches around the country eventually have to develop structures that, surprise surprise, look a lot like variations on a theme--denominations.
See the Saddleback network, or the Exponential network, or Verge, or Neil Cole's Church Multiplication Associates.
6. You say you don't want more denominations, you just want to get out there and be in mission. I get it. However, you want a network of support. You want to have peers to consult, resources to draw on, a crowd to source. How are you going to do this? How will that work? A structure birthed out of the ELCA encompassing the missional tribe in the ELCA (specifics to be designed by that tribe) can do this in a way currently not available in our present model.
7. Some of you still think I'm faulting the institution somehow, don't you? But I'm not. Instead, I'm proposing that multiplication and mission needs to be modeled at all levels. Each of us individually is called to be in mission and live out our baptismal calling. Individual congregations are called to multiple at their level, as are small groups and many other kinds of ministries. All this proposal does is add another multiplying level. Networks themselves can multiply. The ELCA is a network--and it can give birth to new networks/denominations.
8. Some of you still think I'm failing to be truly post-denominational in this proposal, but honestly, think about the modern world. Post-denominational does not mean the end of denominations. It means the advent of increasingly fluid networks, and the proliferation of networks. Proliferating networks that rely on and mutually reinforce each other are a good thing.
9. I remember Bishop Mark Hanson sharing at our synod assembly two years ago that bishops are "pontiffs"--bridge builders. At least I think he said this. Please correct me if I'm wrong. In any event, I happen to think this is something the ELCA is particularly good at, building bridges between communities and to new ones. I have been convicted by Alan Hirsch's discussions of cultural distance to realize that the ELCA is continually and mostly trying to reach the 40% of the U.S. population most other churches are also trying to reach--and we will in all likelihood continue to be like this. If we really want to reach groups at three or four on the cultural distance scale away from ourselves, I think the only way to do it is for us to give birth to a new (or even more than one new) network, ones that are free to get out into those cultural contexts in ways we can't.
That is all. Fire away. Shoot the idea down if you'd like. But please consider the possibilities. Imagine with me. I'd appreciate it.