Tuesday, August 3, 2010

"Old Money helped define, and unravel, the Episcopal Church."

h/t Kendall Harmon's TitusOneNine for this link:

The American Spectator : Killing a Church

This a review of Mortal Follies: Episcopalians and the Crisis of Mainline Christianity, by William Murchison. If Mark Tooley's summary of his argument is any indication, he's gone beyond some of the usual ideological slogans and toward some honest analysis of his own denomination:

...Episcopalians and all Mainline Protestant denominations, all of which have been losing members since the 1960s, between 25 and 40 percent. Former Presbyterians and Methodists and Lutherans either gave up on organized religion, or they joined evangelical or Catholic churches, or they, more permanently, died (!), leaving few if any descendants, as Mainline Protestants, especially Episcopalians, have notoriously low birth rates. The current Episcopal Presiding Bishop even celebrated this demographic collapse, claiming that Episcopalians were protecting the planet by abstaining from children.

Sixty years ago, Murchison recounts, the first president of the National Council of Churches was an Episcopal bishop whose robust goal was: "a Christian America in a Christian world." Somewhat presciently though, Jewish theologian Will Herberg noted of 1950s spirituality, despite the crowded churches, that it all seemed a "secularized Puritanism, a Puritanism without transcendence, without sense of sin or judgment." Middle class religious complacency gave rise to impatient 1960s radicalism...

The embodiment of this decline was Bishop John Shelby Spong of Newark, whose best selling books deriding the Virgin Mary as a possible prostitute and speculating about St. Paul's sexual preference got him on Phil Donahue. But the years of his progressive leadership, which included the ordination of actively homosexual clergy in defiance of church policy, saw a 40 percent decline of his diocese's membership. "Why Christianity Must Change or Die," was the title of one Spong book. But the form of doctrine-less Episcopalianism attracted only white, upper middle class, highly educated suburban liberals, and not very many of them. In recent years, respective Episcopal clergy have professed to be a Druid, a Muslim and a Buddhist. The first two ultimately left the ministry, and the third was denied election as bishop. But who's to say their bi-faith choices were necessarily wrong?

And my favorite,
Murchison argues that Old Money helped define, and unravel, the Episcopal Church. Growth and dynamism require entrepreneurship and risk. But who wants that when you have endowments and beautiful buildings?


sig94 said...

I say the salient operative is "Ichabod" meaning the Glory of God has departed. These churches are declining because they no longer worship God but instead follow a sanitized, politically correct concept that offends no one... but God.

TLF+ said...

sig94 - I think the article gets at that idea. What I find refreshing is that Murchison doesn't dump it all on a sudden invasion by liberal space aliens - Ichabod was operative when the old country club Republican party at prayer ran The Episcopal Church.

Keith said...

I can't argue with the article. I think that is spot on in it's assessment of the problems of TEC. Yet TEC will never change because they don't see the decline in membership and relevancy as problems. When is the last time we saw an Episcopal clergy person listed in Time Magazines most influential persons in the world? It's sad to watch an organization that changes it's mission each time it faces reality. "We need to be relevant in the world" When TEC finds out it's not, then its this one: "ok so we are not relevant, but we will change so we can welcome every one, no matter what!" When TEC found out that not only they're not attracting every one, but they are losing people, then it's : "We only want the people who are smart enough to understand what we are doing" Some one has to tell the leadership of TEC that in the Parable of the Good Shepherd, that Jesus didn't lose the other 99 sheep while he was looking for the one lost one. He found the lost one and brought it back to the other 99.