Like many Americans, Doug Pagitt grew up outside the world of organized religion. Neither his parents nor his grandparents were churchgoers, and there was no expectation that he would be any different. Today, with his goatee, ear stud and funky clothes, he could easily pass for the sort of Gen X hipster who lives an entirely secular life.
But at 17, Pagitt saw a Passion play that hit him like a thunderbolt, and he wound up becoming a Christian pastor. His church in Minneapolis, Solomon’s Porch, is blazing a trail in a new movement that could be called Church 2.0.
That was, in fact, one of the terms used last week during a three-day conference about the future of American Christianity at the Claremont School of Theology. Pagitt was among about 150 ministers, laypeople and academics who gathered to discuss “Theology After Google.”
The consensus: It’s a whole new world out there. Churches will ignore it at their peril.
“I think things like denomination and ordination are part of the old system of control and domination that has to go,” Pagitt, 42, said as he relaxed after the conference’s first day at the Theo Pub set-up for participants. Around him, beer flowed and conversation leaped from Twitter to evangelism to church formation to corn toss, a beanbag game popular in the Midwest and Appalachia that is gaining a toehold among the theologians in Claremont.
The premise of the conference had been laid out earlier in the evening by Philip Clayton, a professor at Claremont who talked about the role of Gutenberg’s printing press in the 15th century. By making the Bible more widely available, he said, it democratized religion and led directly to the Protestant Reformation.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” Clayton said, “we are talking today about a transition equally as great.”