Friday, October 13, 2006

Liberal Christianity Is Paying For Its Sins


Liberal Christian churches see a continuing decline in attendance. From the Los Angeles Times:


The accelerating fragmentation of the strife-torn Episcopal Church USA, in which several parishes and even a few dioceses are opting out of the church, isn't simply about gay bishops, the blessing of same-sex unions or the election of a woman as presiding bishop. It also is about the meltdown of liberal Christianity.

Embraced by the leadership of all the mainline Protestant denominations, as well as large segments of American Catholicism, liberal Christianity has been hailed by its boosters for 40 years as the future of the Christian church.

Instead, as all but a few die-hards now admit, all the mainline churches and movements within churches that have blurred doctrine and softened moral precepts are demographically declining and, in the case of the Episcopal Church, disintegrating.

It is not entirely coincidental that at about the same time that Episcopalians, at their general convention in Columbus, Ohio, were thumbing their noses at a directive from the worldwide Anglican Communion that they "repent" of confirming the openly gay Bishop V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire three years ago, the Presbyterian Church USA, at its general assembly in Birmingham, Ala., was turning itself into the laughingstock of the blogosphere by tacitly approving alternative designations for the supposedly sexist Christian Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Among the suggested names were "Mother, Child and Womb" and "Rock, Redeemer and Friend." Moved by the spirit of the Presbyterian revisionists, Beliefnet blogger Rod Dreher held a "Name That Trinity" contest. Entries included "Rock, Scissors and Paper" and "Larry, Curly and Moe."

Following the Episcopalian lead, the Presbyterians also voted to give local congregations the freedom to ordain openly cohabiting gay and lesbian ministers and endorsed the legalization of medical marijuana. (The latter may be a good idea, but it is hard to see how it falls under the theological purview of a Christian denomination.) The Presbyterian Church USA is famous for its 1993 conference, cosponsored with the United Methodist Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and other mainline churches, in which participants "reimagined" God as "Our Maker Sophia" and held a feminist-inspired "milk and honey" ritual designed to replace traditional bread-and-wine Communion.

As if to one-up the Presbyterians in jettisoning age-old elements of Christian belief, the Episcopalians at Columbus overwhelmingly refused even to consider a resolution affirming that Jesus Christ is Lord. When a Christian church cannot bring itself to endorse a bedrock Christian theological statement repeatedly found in the New Testament, it is not a serious Christian church. It's a Church of What's Happening Now, conferring a feel-good imprimatur on whatever the liberal elements of secular society deem permissible or politically correct.


Go read the whole thing.

Mark, at the great blog A New Dark Age Is Dawning, points out that the Episcopal Diocese is considering quitting the idea of marriage altogether (from the Boston Globe):


In a novel approach to the tensions that have accompanied the same-sex marriage debate in many religious denominations, the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts this month will consider getting out of the marriage business.

A group of local Episcopal priests, saying that the gay marriage debate has intensified their longtime concern about acting as agents of the state by officiating at marriages, is proposing that the Episcopal Church adopt a new approach. Any couples qualified to get married under state law could be married by a justice of the peace, and then, if they want a religious imprimatur for their marriage, they could come to the Episcopal Church seeking a blessing from a priest.

The approach, radical for the United States, is commonly practiced in Europe. The Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts, which covers the eastern part of the state, has scheduled a vote in three weeks , at its 221st annual convention. A similar proposal was tabled at the Episcopal Church's general convention this summer; in Massachusetts, it is thought to have a better chance of passage because the clergy is more liberal.

Episcopal priests in Massachusetts have been particularly engaged in the issue of gay marriage, because the diocese here has been strongly supportive of gay rights, but the national church's regulations define marriage as a heterosexual institution. The local bishop, M. Thomas Shaw , a supporter of same-sex marriage, has decreed that local Episcopal priests cannot sign the marriage licenses of same-sex couples, but can bless those couples after they are legally married by clergy of another denomination or by a civil official.

``I feel this is a way to equalize an inequity in what Episcopal clergy can do for gay folks and straight folks," said the Rev. Margaret (Mally) E. Lloyd , rector of Christ Church in Plymouth. Lloyd is one of five Episcopal priests sponsoring the resolution.