On Sunday, March 8 at our Annual Meeting, Elevation’s Steering Committee (SC) recommended that our church enter into a partnership agreement with Jesus Collective. A representative of Jesus Collective joined us to introduce the network and for some Q&A.
For the benefit of those who were not present, a recording of the audio from the entire Annual Meeting is available here. I have also prepared the following to answer some frequently asked questions and to help explain the reasons for our recommendation and what we anticipate life with Jesus Collective will be like:
What is the process that led the Steering Committee to make this recommendation?
Just over a year ago, the SC invited a number of interested individuals to form a task force to explore potential denominations or networks with which our church could form an affiliation. The SC felt that it was important for our church to be connected to an organization that was bigger than us, to have people to share resources with, to provide accountability, and to better enable us to be missional in the broader community.
Part of the unique challenge we faced from the start was finding a new place of belonging where our newly adopted posture regarding same-sex attraction would be at least accepted, and at best, welcomed with open arms. We quickly discovered that the options available to us in the broader denominational sphere were few and far between, and the one denomination that would have accepted us “as-is” just didn’t quite feel like a fit in other important areas.
Last summer, the exploration team concluded its research with a recommendation to the SC that Elevation begin to track with a new network that was developing called Jesus Collective. In addition, it was recommended that we apply to the provincial government to be a Religious Body under the Marriage Act in Ontario and, over the next few years, continue to check in with other denominations to see if changes in their posture on same-sex attraction have occurred and whether we could be a fit.
Fast forward, and after nearly a year of tracking with the team forming Jesus Collective, we find ourselves being very much aligned with the vision and mission of this network. To learn more, please take some time to review these resources.
What (if anything) would we lose by joining a network instead of a denomination, and what are the differences between the two?
The primary piece that is missing with a network is credentialing for pastors (which is required for officiating weddings) and we are trying to arrange for this through an application to the provincial government. This application requires significant administrative time up front, but is not unreasonable.
Another piece that is lacking is name recognition. This can either be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on how you look at it.
Since Jesus Collective is brand new, some of the supports of a denomination are not yet in place. One example raised at the Annual Meeting was that some denominations are Sponsorship Agreement Holders (SAHs), which was the case with the PAOC, which made life easier for refugee sponsorship. (There are still opportunities to work with other SAHs or to become a SAH ourselves, which are options we will need to explore moving forward.)
But the infancy of the network is actually one of the reasons we are recommending this network, as we will not have to ‘shoehorn’ ourselves into structures and systems and a culture where we don’t quite fit, but will be one of many churches contributing to what those structures and systems and culture will look like.
A network differs from a denomination in that belonging is likely to be based more on relationship and shared mission/vision than on shared beliefs/practices and cultural heritage. Of course, a denomination also has the former, but a network is less likely to require adherence to a specific statement of faith in order to belong or to draw from a specific cultural group. In fact, in a network, churches often choose to remain part of a denomination at the same time, much as we did in the past when we had both a denominational connection (Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada) and a network connection (Vision Ministries Canada).
Both models invite financial investment in the broader network/denomination, and we believe the expectation of Jesus Collective (1.5% of revenue) is reasonable and fair. Many denominations would require much higher levels of financial support.
What kinds of things make Jesus Collective a good fit for Elevation?
In the first conversation I had with someone from Jesus Collective, the thing that stood out most was that we were speaking the same language. You have no idea how refreshing that was for me! Phrases like “unity in diversity,” “listen and learn,” and having a “centred-set” approach are all things we’ve been talking about at Elevation for a long time, and these are the same phrases being used by the leadership of Jesus Collective.
The way we understand and talk about faith at Elevation is something that is not always easy to find in other communities. Our historical connections with Pentecostal and Brethren churches often left us on the outskirts, not because we weren’t welcome, but because our priorities and even our vocabulary of faith was just so different. One of the things that I am personally looking forward to with Jesus Collective is finally being able to point to a set of shared beliefs and practices that align with who we are as a community. If you take the time to read through the Shared Centre document at the link provided above, you’ll recognize a way of approaching faith that resonates deeply with who we already are as a community.
One of the expectations Jesus Collective has is that partner churches will “retain existing identity/affiliations.” This means that they want us to be who we are and to bring that to the collective table. Belonging to this network won’t force us to change so we look like some other church, but I believe it will invite us to change as we grow in ways that are congruent with who we already are and the kinds of things we care deeply about.
As an example of the kinds of people we’ve been meeting so far, after one of the events hosted in Oakville last fall, I saw two of the senior leaders lugging tables and chairs around the church to help set up for the group that would be using the space next. That kind of servant-hearted leadership speaks volumes to me. I’ve been connecting regularly with a pastor from Toronto who wants to learn from our church’s recent journey around same-sex attraction, and I’ve participated in interactive online dialogues with people from all over North America who are looking for like-minded and like-hearted people to journey with together as pastors and churches. Not everyone is the same—far from it—but there is an openness and a spirit of collegiality that feels really healthy, especially at such an early stage in the network’s development.
So what’s next?
Our Steering Committee wants this partnership to be something that we enter into together as a community—something that seems “good to the Holy Spirit and to us”—so we are asking everyone who calls Elevation home to familiarize themselves with Jesus Collective in advance of a vote of affirmation that we will hold by email next week. We will invite everyone, members and non-members alike, to respond to our recommendation at that time, and we will pay attention to whether or not we sense this is the will of our community as a whole.
Between now and then, we would encourage you to ask whatever remaining questions you might have, and you can do that by sending an email to myself at email@example.com or Sue Winter, who chaired the exploration team and is a member of the SC, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We will also open up the Parlour during the discussion time this Sunday, March 15, for some Q&A with myself and some members of the Staff and SC.
That’s all for now—thanks for reading!