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?