Exploring the Future of Faith Communities

Denominational Leaders Gathering

Austin, Texas
January 16-17, 2017

A National Conversation with Representatives from 11 Different Faith Traditions Hosted by TMF

Casper and Angie, interviewed by TMF's Lisa Greenwood, discuss how their work with TMF evolved and their expectations for the Denominational Leaders gathering.

TMF's Denominational Leaders event followed another gathering of 80 innovative community leaders that Angie Thurston and Casper ter Kuile convened at Harvard Divinity School in December 2016. That event was similar in purpose and audience to the Denominational Leaders event hosted by TMF in Austin on January 16-17, 2017. 

Read about the December 2016 conversation at Harvard below and download Angie and Casper's new report in which they share their learning from that gathering.  And stay tuned for a new report from Angie, Casper, Lisa Greenwood and Gil Rendle about learnings from the Denominational Leaders conversation.

A letter from Casper ter Kuile, Angie Thurston, and Sue Phillips:
In December 2016, we convened a group of 80 innovative community leaders at Harvard Divinity School. They came in response to this invitation:

There is a crisis of isolation in America. We are working to build support systems for those, like you, who are bringing people into meaningful, life-giving, transformative communities. As fewer and fewer young people feel comfortable affiliating religiously, we are invested in exploring how to support the spiritual dimensions of community life and leadership.

The leaders represented 43 religious and 37 secular communities, including Buddhist, Muslim, evangelical and mainline Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Catholic, Mormon, other religious, and nonreligious backgrounds. Their communities range from fitness and wellbeing groups, makerspaces and cooperative houses, social justice organizations and microbreweries, to worshipping communities of many stripes, and more.

We also welcomed a group of visionary institutional partners who are invested in supporting spiritual community innovation. They too were strikingly multidisciplinary, including design thinkers, public theologians, foundation representatives, business founders and strategists, denominational leaders, educators, and storytellers.

From the December Gathering we learned:

  1. The leaders we gathered are doing shared work. Across the secular/sacred divide, they are united by a commitment to bringing people into soulful relationships that, together, could become the foundations for a more loving world. 
  2. They want to be less alone and spiritually supported. Community innovators want to share their leadership journey with peers and receive witness and wisdom from elders. They are looking for spiritual leadership development.
  3.  Existing institutions have gifts to give. The context is new, but the work is ancient. There are enormous opportunities for transformative partnerships, but established organizations will need to adopt a learning stance to come alongside innovators. 
  4. The future of spiritual community is religiously diverse. The leaders invited each other into experiences of ‘Something More’ without a need to find shared orthodoxy. Anchored in tradition, they moved nimbly between religious and secular practices, perspectives, and languages, signaling the future of religious life in America.

We are passionate about the work these leaders are doing and committed to serving them. We share these notes in the hope that you will join us.

Angie, Casper and Sue

Prior to the Deominational Leaders gathering, Randall Partin, interviewed by TMF's Lisa Greenwood, shared his motivation for participating in this conversation and the relevance it could have for his ministry.