Irony: streaming shot of hundreds of laptops at #GA218…all unconnected to the world. Metaphor for the PCUSA?

That’s the quote I came across by Neal Locke on Twitter last night. He was commenting on PC(USA)-218th General Assembly, and I thought it was a brilliant observation. One can’t help watch the 218th General Assembly, or have been involved in some PC(USA) church and politics without having thought the same…the ordination process alone demonstrates how unconnected to the world the PC(USA) can be at times. There are always some exceptions, but those sometimes seem far and few between.

That’s why I was excited last night that Bruce Reyes-Chow was elected Moderator. Bruce is someone who is connected to the Church and the World. This was an important decision for the PC(USA), and since I was on staff of Bel Air Presbyterian Church for 7 years, and I will be on staff of another PC(USA) Church in Dallas, it’s important to me that as a denomination we are headed in the right direction.

One of the most frustrating things about the way the PC(USA) has operated is the way that many within the system choose to exclude via lack of communication with those who aren’t technically part of the system. It’s a classic system of the “have and have nots”, based often around who is ordained and who is not, or who has power and who does not.  Communication is very important, and when we choose to exclude others from the discussions, decision making, etc., then I think we are headed in the wrong direction.

I started thinking about a lot of this last night for several reasons:

  • Bruce Reyes-Chow is a phenomenal blogger and he understands the importance of communication, and not keeping everything behind closed doors to only executive staffs and personnel committees, but he truly knows how to speak to the people and empower them.

  • Last night I followed The General Assembly on a GA218 Twitter Meme. I was getting live updates from within the assembly which was great. I think the PCUSA tries to keep stuff in-house a lot of times and when they do make it public it is very controlled. Last night people were sharing their personnel commentary on the assembly, the PC(USA) and those running for Moderator.  It was a classic example of people using social tools to bypass the institution. It’s one thing to show it live, it’s another thing when people can comment on it both constructively and critically.

  • If that wasn’t enough I was following the General Assembly as well on the GA218 Scribble Live site, as people could contribute an ongoing dialogue to what was happening, etc.

  • Then there were many live bloggers, but I was mainly glued to Adam Walker Cleaveland and Neal Locke.  Because of people like Bruce, Adam and Neal, I have hope for the PC(USA).
  • I know that some in the PC(USA) are thinking about this, as evidenced by the Pres-Outlook devoting an issue to web 2.0 stuff.  I wrote an article on ministry in the online world of social networking.

I just started reading Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff. It’s actually the first book that I downloaded to my Amazon Kindle, which seems appropriate since the book is focused on how new social tools are re-writing the rules of how we communicate and how organizations operate. So I want to leave you with a quote from the book that I think ties into what we are talking about here. The world is changing very rapidly, and with new and improved social tools everyday, people (the masses), not only want to have a voice, but are surely and quickly finding it. In the process they are challenging organizations, businesses, corporations and churches in the way that they have always operated.

No longer can these institutions afford to cloister themselves off and run and maintain the system with only a few voices that don’t discuss and communicate with the rest of the people.

Churches, and especially the PC(USA) needs to embrace these new technologies, and embrace the leaders who are ushering in these changes like Bruce, Neal and Adam.

From where we sit, Rick Clancy is a symbol. He and thousands of corporate executives just like him are now dealing with a trend we call the groundswell, a spontaneous movement of people using online tools to connect, take charge of their own experience, and get what they need–information, support, ideas, products, and bargaining power–from each other. The groundswell is broad, ever shifting, and ever growing. It encompasses blogs and wikis; podcasts and YouTube; and consumers who rate products, buy and sell from each other, write their own news, and find their own deals. It’s global. It’s unstoppable. It affects every industry–those that sell to consumers and those that sell to business–in media, retail, financial services, technology, and health care. And it’s utterly foreign to the powerful companies and institutions–and their leaderships–that run things now.

Simply put, the groundswell is a social trend in which people use technologies to get the things they need from each other instead of from companies. If you’re in a company, this is a challenge.

The groundswell phenomenon is not a flash in the pan. The technologies that make it work are evolving at an ever-increasing pace, but the phenomenon itself is based on people acting on their eternal desire to connect. It has created a permanent, long-lasting shift in the way the world works.