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Bill McKinneyWe’ve asked Bill McKinney, PSR’s President Emeritus, to write a regular blog for this website, and we’re delighted that he’s agreed. Bill’s academic training in Sociology of Religion, his long tenure as an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ, and his many years in theological education make him one of the keenest observers we know of American churches and the public voice of American religion. In his new position as Senior Consultant for the Center for Progressive Renewal, Bill continues his work toward greater vitality for both “historic and emerging faith communities.”

Bill will post regularly in this space. He speaks for himself, of course—not on behalf of PSR or the PSR faculty—but we think you’ll find his words insightful and provocative as always. You’re welcome to post comments, but Bill also welcomes your e-mail to him directly, at wmckinney@psr.edu.

The Latest from Bill's Blog

Bill McKinney’s Remarks for Hartford Seminary Symposium Honoring David Roozen

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Others have come and gone. Think Carroll, McKinney, Dudley, Ammerman, Chang, Marler, Olson, Stokes, Ross, Nieman, but David Roozen has remained for over 40 years.

And what better time to be a religious researcher than the past 40 years in this country?
The morphing of Old-line Protestantism from religious establishment to one tradition among        many.

The rediscovery of congregations: from tiny churches on the prairie to inner city storefronts, mosques and cathedrals to suburban temples and megachurches.
The transformation of theological education as it opened its doors to new populations and its eyes to the world around it.
The emergence of a world of genuine ecumenical and interfaith encounter.
In 1972 the leaders of this seminary had a sense that the world they had known was about to change. They weren’t sure what all of those changes would be and, frankly, they weren’t sure they would like those changes. But they knew that the new world that was being born around them would need a new kind of seminary.
Dave has been part of that new kind of seminary for virtually its whole life, for virtually his whole career. He has been our sociologist in residence, our colleague, our shop steward and our friend.
Forty years later much of the world of theological education is where Hartford Seminary was in the seventies asking “what sort of theological school does the world need now?” It is the right question. But believe me, they are not asking this question from a position of strength. I have thought a lot over the years about this institute (that will forever in my mind be the research center).
What Jack Carroll and Dave Roozen created here is almost unique on the American religious scene.

1. It has tackled big questions that don’t have easy answer:

How do churches grow and decline?
What is the future of the small congregations?
What are the emerging forms of congregating?
Will faith communities have the leaders they need for the future?
Does denominational religion have a future and what will be its shape?
How do we track the health of congregations over time?
Can theological education step up to the reality of demographic change and globalization?
How does religion make a difference in the social ecology of urban communities?

These questions are important and the fact is until HIRR came along very few others were asking them.
2. HIRR has had a bias toward actionable research. I use actionable research rather than action research or policy research because HIRR at its best has engaged in partnerships with decision-makers in religious systems. It has tried to shape its research in ways to inform questions that religious leaders are asking (or, sometimes, that they ought to be asking).
3. I don’t think one can overstate the importance of HIRR as a hub for religious researchers around the country. The research center was forming at a time when the National Council of Churches had ceased to be the convener of denominationally-based research staff. Happily, Jack and Dave stepped up to fill the void and created a community of scholars whose work was enhanced by conversations and collaborations based here. Think names like Hoge, Hargrove, Roof, Mamiya, Hadaway, Wheeler, Mead, Bagby and others, whose work and impact was enhanced by their Hartford Seminary/Dave Roozen connections.
4. The center became a go-to place for commentary on American religion. I once joked that Hartford Seminary was right behind Martin Marty on journalists’ Rolodexes (remember them?). If I’m remembering correctly we were featured on the front page of the Easter Sunday edition of the Boston Globe five years in a row! This center viewed the media as an alternative delivery system for teaching outside the traditional classroom.
5. Finally, this center/institute has produced high quality stuff. Loren Mead is here and would be the first to admit that he sold a lot of books and made a lot of money by rewriting Hartford Seminary’s faculty members’ publications for a popular audience!
So now David gets to enjoy retirement. We all know he will miss some things more than others. He’ll definitely miss faculty meetings. He will also miss Tuesday chapel services. He will miss his heavy teaching and advising load. He will miss mentoring younger faculty and opportunities to let them know that teaching and advising loads are by definition heavy. And he will miss the opportunities to keep seminary administrators – current and past – on their toes.
November 14, 201