Archive for December 21st, 2007

The Missoula Project

by Jay Stevens

This week’s feature story in the Missoula Independent profiles the “Missoula Project,” an effort to plant a church here to create a church community for believers and unbelievers alike. It’s an attractive idea, isn’t it?

Call me dubious. I wrote about them just over a year ago, when I stumbled on their “mission statement” for their church in our community:

Nestled in the heart of the mountains, Missoula, Montana, sits like a crown jewel in the Last Best Place. It is a beautiful city to live in, but it’s a barren wasteland spiritually. Nearly 70% of those who live here are completely unchurched. Many have rejected modern religiosity and are looking elsewhere for answers.Burned-out ex-hippies, liberal intellectuals, rugged individualists, and bulletproof college students – all are on a quest for meaning and fulfillment. These people hunger for something more, but they are not finding it. Very few have any real understanding how Christ and the Gospel can quench their thirst.

To be fair to the Missoula project, Christian Cryder admitted in the comments that the statement was written in part to convince church elders of the necessity for starting a church in Missoula, and apologized for the “barren wasteland” comment. He wasn’t interested in changing what Missoula is, just offering us a little more community.

And, indeed, throughout the article and on their blog, pastors Cryder and Sutherland emphasize that their church’s members’ relation to Christ is irrelevant, and that they’re not setting up this project solely as a means to prosthelityze.

Still, if Cryder and Sutherland were interested in creating a nondemoninational community of believers and non-believers alike here in Missoula, a good start would be to renounce their ties to the Presbyterian Church in American (PCA), with its hostile historical stance towards the Civil Rights and Vietnam peace movements, and its slightly disturbing current stance towards gays and prohibition against women pastors.

And if the Missoula Project really isn’t interested in prosthelityzing as its missionary goal, they’d rearrange their leadership to include non-believers and members from other denominations and religions. (There’s a very healthy Buddhist presence in Missoula!)

Otherwise, to me, the group is what it seems: a mission from the PCA with clever packaging. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with that, either.

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