Tuesday, May 17, 2011

What is a Movement?

This was the challenging question put to me by the Reverend Clay Lein when he asked me to be the first guest preacher in a series of sermons asking his members to consider the challenge of being a “Movement not a Mega-church.”  Clay is the Rector of St. Philip’s, Frisco, one our largest and fastest growing Episcopal Churches.  In my sermon, I asked the congregation to consider the early church as The Jesus Movement and what that meant for them and means for each of us.

In addition, all this got me to thinking about various movements that have affected my life, and thinking about how these movements have both challenged the Church and brought new life at the same time.  My American Church History professor at Yale used to point out that we could not tell the history of the church in North America by denominational history, as you can in Germany, France and England, but rather you had to tell it by movements and people.  Historically, he could point to the several Great Awakenings, the Sunday School Movement, and The Social Gospel Movement for clear examples. 

Many of these Movements have had an impact on the way we do church, so I think this a fit topic for Kevin on Congregations, and I am asking you to consider this too, and to stimulate your thinking, I am listing the movements that came to my mind. 

The Oxford Movement: as an un-churched person who became a Christian in a new planted congregation of the Diocese of Dallas, I can start with this movement which has consequently changed the whole nature of The Episcopal Church.  I jokingly like to say that I had to go to seminary to discover that I was a high church person.

The Civil Rights Movement:  I was raised in Texas in a segregated school system.  As I came to adulthood in the 60s, I was profoundly touched by the struggle for equal rights. 

The Women’s Movement:  I can say the same regarding this too.  My seminary class at Berkeley/Yale was the first to have a women D.Min student.   

The Liturgical Movement:  By being in seminary during the era of the Prayer Book Studies, and the transition to a new Book of Common Prayer, my ministry has been framed by much of this movement.

The Holy Spirit or Charismatic Movement:  My “post-seminary” renewal through the Holy Spirit still marks my understanding of personal faith and ministry.  Of course, there were sub-Movements in this too such as Cursillo and Marriage Encounter, both of which were movements too.

The 12 Step and Recovery Movement:  I have been significantly touched by those in AA and my participation in Al-Anon and in Adult Children’s groups.  So have many others.

The Men’s Movement:  I’ve greatly appreciated the contribution of authors in this tradition.  The most outstanding aspect of this was Promise Keepers, but it was not the only expression.

The Small Group Movement:  No doubt, this one has deeply affected North American Christianity. 

The 2020 Movement:  Anyone who knows me won’t be surprised to see me list this one especially if you have read my distinction between the 2020 Movement and the 2020 legislation of TEC.

In my next blog, I will list what I consider to be the singular most important movement in the North American Church for the past 20 years and discuss why I think this is so. 


  1. Speaking of movements, how do you explain St Philip's jumping up 200 ASA in one year's time reflected in their congregational graph 2005-2006?

  2. They had moved into their new facility. Schools help a church get started, but they also restrict growth. In addition, they made some good decisions on staffing. Fr. Clay is on sabbatical or we could ask him.

  3. I can hear the groan already, but consider this. At age 63 and growing up in the church, I've been through myriad movements: healing, charismatic, shepherding, deliverance, ecumenical, and on and on. The most common and consistent movement is the bowel movement. (I know, groan). Regular bowel movements are very helpful for physical health. The body takes the good stuff out of ingested food (nutrients, etc.) and eliminates the rest (normally the bulk of what was eaten). I liken all the church movements I've been through to a bowel movement. The bulk was just stuff, but I took all the good out of each one, and utilized it to improve my spiritual health.