Monday, July 30, 2012

CANADA: The collapse of the liberal church

From David Virtue's "VirtueOnline" web site: Substitute The Episcopal Church for the United Church of Canada and you will see the same result.  Excellent article; some highlights:

     But today, the church is literally dying. The average age of its members is 65. They believe in many things, but they do not necessarily believe in God. Some congregations proudly describe themselves as "post-theistic," which is a good thing because, as one church elder said, it shows the church is not "stuck in the past."
     Back in the 1960s, the liberal churches bet their future on becoming more open, more inclusive, more egalitarian and more progressive. They figured that was the way to reach out to a new generation of worshipers. It was a colossal flop.

     "I've spent all my ministry in declining congregations," says David Ewart, a recently retired United Church minister who lives in British Columbia. He is deeply discouraged about the future of his faith. "In my experience, when you put your primary focus on the world, there is a lessening of the importance of worship and turning to God."
      Clearly, changes in society have had an enormous impact on church attendance. Volunteerism and other civic institutions are also in decline. Busy two-career families have less discretionary time for everything, including church. Sundays are for chores and shopping now. As for Sunday school, parents would rather take the kids to sports.
     According to opinion polls, people's overall belief in God hasn't declined. What's declined is people's participation in religion. With so little spiritual nourishment to offer, it's no wonder the liberal churches have collapsed.
     In the past few years, Mr. Ewart has spent time hanging out with evangelicals - people who actually talk about loving Jesus. He admires their personal, emotional connection to God. Lately, he has even started praying. Perhaps he could pray for the church in which he spent his life to stop its self-immolation. But it's probably too late.

To read the entire article, click on  Canada: The Collapse of the liberal church

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Can Liberal Christianity Be Saved?

That The Episcopal Church this week authorized rites for same-sex blessings is hardly news to anyone who has been paying attention to religion in the U.S. over the last 20 years.  The only thing mildly surprising about this development is that liberal Christianity has become so irrelevant that it seems no one, not even same-sex couples, is much interested in it.  I can't even muster the energy to post an article about The Episcopal Church's anti-climatic announcement.  Ross Douthat's New York Times article of July 16, 2012, with the same title as above, is of interest though because he clearly contrasts the Christianity of the civil rights era with today's collapsing liberal church:

What should be wished for, instead, is that liberal Christianity recovers a religious reason for its own existence. As the liberal Protestant scholar Gary Dorrien has pointed out, the Christianity that animated causes such as the Social Gospel and the civil rights movement was much more dogmatic than present-day liberal faith. Its leaders had a “deep grounding in Bible study, family devotions, personal prayer and worship.” They argued for progressive reform in the context of “a personal transcendent God ... the divinity of Christ, the need of personal redemption and the importance of Christian missions.”
Today, by contrast, the leaders of the Episcopal Church and similar bodies often don’t seem to be offering anything you can’t already get from a purely secular liberalism. Which suggests that perhaps they should pause, amid their frantic renovations, and consider not just what they would change about historic Christianity, but what they would defend and offer uncompromisingly to the world.
Absent such a reconsideration, their fate is nearly certain: they will change, and change, and die.