Search PNC News for stories of people and churches in our UCC Conference:

Mike Denton calls for seeing the Spirit moving among the churches

For his report to Annual Meeting 2012, Conference Minister Mike Denton called for more openness to process and to the possibility that “the Spirit is moving among us.”

Mike Denton
Mike Denton reflects on new opportunities for churches.

Responding to delegates’ questions on the life and future of the church, he shared opportunities to be open to the Spirit.

Mission and visioning are important for any institution to do in times of transition and paradigm shifts in the larger life of the church and communities,” he said.  “The church is one of the few places that has five generations.”

He encourages more cultural experimentation within and among churches to see “what we will move into.”

Denton encountered implications of the cultural changes in a visit to Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley.

“There is more conversation about what the seminary will look like, perhaps moving to more of an online educational experience,” he said.  “That can challenge conference members about face-to-face contact, and it could mean more people in churches can take classes.  We need to figure out how to adjust to the changes.”’

Denton responded to several questions:

How does the church encourage cultural experimentation?

In church life, he explained, people tend to wait until everything is in place and people have proof something will work.  He said openness to the “Spirit moving among us” means being open to discern the opportunities “for this time and this place.”

What previously looked like church may not work now.

“The church may change to something that does not look like church now,” Denton said, calling for people to discern “how to be more faithful.”

While some new approaches may fail, he said, “the Spirit will move us to the next thing.”

What is the PNC’s relationship with the new Faith Action Network (FAN)—a merger of the Washington Association of Churches and state Lutheran Public Policy Office? 

Denton said that the previous organizations were geared for the ecumenical reality, which FAN perceives to be interreligious, turning competition into cooperation on advocacy to give a larger voice.

While he was participating in Advocacy Day in Washington, DC, he joined 300 others to pray as the Supreme Court was preparing to uphold the Affordable Health Care Act.

“We need conversation so we can have a unified voice for speaking and acting together,” Denton said.

Given the predominance of older people in pews and  fewer youth being attracted to mainline or UCC churches, will we be able to turn the corner?

“Yes and no,” Denton responded.  “The question for me is not that the UCC remains as the UCC, but that those of us in the UCC figure out how to be faithful together.  Today’s institutions may not look like the institutions of early this century or hundreds of years ago.

“I hope that the UCC of more than 50 years ago will be different as it and other denominations respond to God’s call,” he said.   “If we are still the UCC, it may mean we were not able to adapt and be faithful.  Some things end.  We need to recycle what we need, but if we are the same, we may not be listening to the Spirit moving among us.”

What does the Occupy movement mean to churches?

“We are in a paradigm shift and perhaps in the death throes of patriarchy and hierarchical systems which are not functioning.  Both the Tea Party and Occupy movements have no leaders,” Denton said.

“The primary role of a leader is to disseminate, manage and package information,” he explained.  “We are in a different time.  We are in a time when we have more information than we can digest.  We are moving to a time when ‘movement-ship’ development is healthy. 

“Institutions look to a goal.  Movements rely on faith to call us to look an reshaping everything,” he said.

“Occupy is a new way to be together.  Some say it has failed, but it is not over yet,” he said.  “Occupy, the Tea Party and the environmental movements try something new and see if it works.

“In this time and place, we are living in ways we have never lived before,” he observed, noting that the National Youth Event intentionally included conference ministers and 27 of 38 were there to lead workshops.

Given that the PNC budget does not allow for an associate conference minister, what are you doing for self care?

“Because budgets in these times go up and down, the volunteer time being put in is astounding,” Denton said, assuring people of sustainability.  “We will turn over more tasks to consultants.  I can’t do more, but as we need to do more, we will use more consultants. 

Other UCC conferences and judicatories across the nation are engaged in similar conversations, considering more regional cooperation and sharing staff and consultants.  National staff is helping with different pieces as judicatories look for alternative staffing.

Follow Denton’s blog at


Copyright Pacific Northwest Conference News © September 2012




Share this article on your favorite social media Bookmark and Share