Have Americans lost faith in the old "mainline" churches?
Millions are attending unaffiliated churches that lack liberal, irrelevant and even litigious national hierarchies. Will Methodists, Presbyterians, Lutherans and Episcopalians gradually fade away?
While indignantly denying their impending demise, the Episcopalians quietly voted to sell their Manhattan headquarters because they can’t even pay for its upkeep. Yet, the big media headline was their approval of transgender clergy and homosexual marriage. At their own convention, the Presbyterians seemed headed in the same direction, then hesitated, falling short of the votes needed to embrace same-sex weddings and shunning anybody who does business with Israel.
“At its biannual conference,” reported the Huntington Post’s Robert P. Jones, “the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) debated for more than three hours before narrowly rejecting a bid to modify the definition of marriage in the church constitution as ‘a covenant between two people.’”
“Today the Episcopal Church,” mused Douthat, “is flexible to the point of indifference on dogma, friendly to sexual liberation in almost every form, willing to blend Christianity with other faiths, and eager to downplay theology entirely in favor of secular political causes.” Members have responded by voting with their feet – demonstrating
that these are not the issues that draw them to church. Neither is “ecumenism” – trying to unite the old, shrinking Protestant churches.
“During 1960s-era social transformations, conservative laity withdrew money and support from organized ecumenism,” notes Jill Gill on the Religion Dispatches website. “Meanwhile young liberal Christians often left it behind to do social justice work within a secular environment that offered quicker, bolder action. Others comprised a growing exodus of people embracing a post-Protestant ‘spiritual but not religious’ identity, while adults still within the fold bore fewer children than evangelicals. Many secular intellectuals pooh-poohed religion altogether, as the Democratic party excised religious values from its lingo.
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