Prof. Philip Clayton Helps Launch CANA
Kairos is an ancient Greek word meaning “the time or opportune moment,” a word that perfectly describes the inspiration behind the Collective Action Network of America Initiative or CANA. CANA is a “network of networks” that helps Christians, churches, and non-profit organizations come together to pursue common projects. Philip Clayton, Ingraham Professor of Theology at Claremont School of Theology, is on the steering committee of this nationwide effort.
“Mainline churches are dying,” says Clayton, “because fighting over church doctrines is no longer a central concern of the new generation of Christians.” Even though traditional churches are declining, Clayton says there is no less a hunger for “a more generous Christianity,” that is, a Christianity that is less concerned with dogma, but more focused on the radical, practical teaching of Jesus Christ. “All around the country,” says Clayton, “there are young people who are attracted to the story of Jesus, but are not attending a local congregation.” According to Clayton, these young people are more interested in Jesus’ teachings about the kingdom of God, because “there is a sense that civilization as we know it is in crisis.”
In a lot of ways, these young people are right, says Clayton, who points out that the economic, political, and ecological systems they inherited from the previous generation are in shambles. It is this context of brokenness that gives rise to the hunger for a Christianity that is more socially conscious, respectful of differences, and action oriented. “Young Christians want to walk the talk,” says Clayton.
This is where CANA’s work makes a difference. It’s unique in that it is not another rigid Christian institution. CANA’s network has more than 135 initiators and is connected to numerous churches and organizations that are committed to working with people across religious boundaries for the common good. The network also provides a venue for young leaders to guide the process, with support from experienced mentors. “CANA’s primary purpose is not to bring attention to itself, but to provide venues for grassroots movements to feature the work they are doing,” says Clayton.
Prof. Clayton is actively blogging for CANA and participating in its fundraising efforts. He believes that CANA’s decentralized, grassroots approach to the Christian faith will also positively impact the future of theological education. “CANA is leading me to teach and mentor future Christian leaders for a church that is now becoming more open-ended, complex, and pluralistic than ever before,” says Clayton. “It is a church in which Jesus would be very comfortable.” And, as CANA’s mission states, now is the time.
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