Alban Institute, a resource for mainline institutions, to shutter

albanBy Sarah Pulliam Bailey

(RNS) As mainline Protestant denominations continue decades of decline, one of the main institutions helping educate its leaders announced Wednesday (March 19) that it will shut its doors.

Since it was founded four decades ago, the Virginia-based Alban Institute has guided mostly mainline congregations through consulting and publishing. Its founder and former president, the Rev. Loren Mead, became well-known for his speaking and writing about the future of U.S. denominations and was one of the first to predict denominational decline.

“When I started as a parish pastor, I found there wasn’t much help or continuing education,” said Mead, a retired Episcopal priest. “I am glad I have been able to contribute to the church, but I have not been able to solve its turnaround.”

Many mainline churches looked to Alban to provide literature and consultants for maintaining their institutional life, on everything from finding a new pastor to strategies for growth and financial health.

But as more publishers and consultants got into the business that Alban paved the way for, the institution found it difficult to continue its niche. Like other nonprofits during the recent recession, it also lost revenue.

“The Alban Institute went through the great recession just like everyone else,” said Jim Wind, who retired as president of Alban earlier this year. “The market got tougher to thrive in.”



Comments 2

  • Alban Institute contributed more than I can measure to my ability to keep sanity and faith through 40 years of pastoral ministry. As my denomination became increasingly apostate and suicidal, Loren Mead, Pete Steinke and others of Alban, helped keep me aware, rational, and even somewhat productive in the calling from God. I’m intensely grateful to Alban and all who took part in this valuable ministry. It is truly sad that Church leaders have discarded such a valuable resource.

  • Regardless of theological persuasion, Alban’s closing is a loss. In particular, Loren Mead’s books on the Once and Future Church, and Peter Steinke’s Healthy Congregations materials have been highly beneficial to many pastor’s and congregations across the spectrum. The materials were often provocative, prophetic, and yet pastoral, lacking heavy judgment yet possessing on-target critique. As an example, written in the 1990s when many churches and denominations were at least doing OK financially, Mead’s book “Financial Meltdown in the Mainline” has become true for more than just mainline churches and denominations. As we now see, the financial meltdown is even closing Alban.
    In their new book, “Why Nobody Wants to Go to Church Anymore” Thom and Joani Schultz (Group Publishing), write, “There’s no easy way to say this, but it needs to be said, The American Church is Broken.” The four acts of love they describe may well be the main way out of the quagmire churches are currently stuck in: 1. Radical Hospitality, 2. Fearless Conversation,2. Genuine Humility, and 4. Divine Anticipation. If nothing else, they are a good start.

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