There has been a lot of discussion about the future of Christian denominations recently. I thought I’d draw your attention to some of the more interesting takes:
Jay Akaise, What Ails the Episcopalians
General Convention is also notable for its sheer ostentation and carnival atmosphere. For seven straight nights, lavish cocktail parties spilled into pricey steakhouses, where bishops could use their diocesan funds to order bottles of the finest wines.
Taylor Burton-Edwards, A Tale of Two Church Legislators…Priming for a Future of Hope
I believe we do have a hopeful future before us as The United Methodist Church. I also believe that if this past General Conference was a wake-up call to anything, it was a wake-up call for us to begin placing as our first priority finding every way we can to get to know one other, work together, and respect and love one another across our global church, even and especially where we disagree, all the while trusting that as we pursue being body of Christ with one another, not being afraid, God is opening many new doors for us, too.
Diana Butler Bass, Can Christianity Be Saved? A Response to Ross Douthat
Douthat points out that the Episcopal Church has declined 23% in the last decade, identifying the loss as a sign of its theological infidelity. In the last decade, however, as conservative denominations lost members, their leaders have not equated the loss with unfaithfulness. Instead, they refer to declines as demographic “blips,” waning evangelism, or the impact of secular culture. Membership decline has no inherent theological meaning for either liberals or conservatives. Decline only means, as Gallup pointed out in a just-released survey, that Americans have lost confidence in all forms of institutional religion.
Have we perhaps unintentionally restricted the work of the Holy Spirit by focusing almost exclusively on Spirit baptism as a personal and private experience to the neglect of the Spirit’s global and cosmic work?
Kevin DeYoung, Why No Denomination Will Survive the Homosexuality Crisis
So my plea is for these denominations to make a definitive stand. Make it right, left, or center, but make one and make it clearly. Insist that member churches and pastors hold to this position. And then graciously open a big door for any pastor or church who cannot live in this theological space to exit with their dignity, their time, and their property. Because sometimes the best way to preserve unity is to admit that we don’t have it.
Ross Douthat, Can Liberal Christianity Be Saved?
…today the Episcopal Church looks roughly how Roman Catholicism would look if Pope Benedict XVI suddenly adopted every reform ever urged on the Vatican by liberal pundits and theologians. It still has priests and bishops, altars and stained-glass windows. But it 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.
Steve Holmes, Defining Liberal Christianity
What is liberal Christianity? The question is complex, of course. To give a fully adequate answer would demand reference to renewed confidence in reason, to a high estimate of the possibilities of human endeavour, married to a downplaying of the doctrine of original sin (at least as classically taught), to Biblical criticism, to the turn to history that affected theology as much as every other academic discipline in the early twentieth-century, and to other currents.
Tony Jones, The Denouement of Denominations
My guess is that Christian communities are going to get smaller and more diffuse. More house churches, more small start-ups. Less property, less bureaucracy.
Rob Kerby, Why is the Episcopal Church near Collapse?
This is no longer George Washington’s Episcopal Church – in 1776 the largest denomination in the rebellious British colonies. Membership has dropped so dramatically that today there are 20 times more Baptists than Episcopalians.
U.S. Catholics out-number the Episcopal Church 33-to-1. There are more Jews than Episcopalians. Twice as many Mormons as Episcopalians. Even the little African Methodist Episcopal denomination — founded in in 1787 — has passed the Episcopalians.
Amanda MacInnis, The Future of The Anglican Communion
Other members of the Communion have called for the Episocopal (and Canadian) churches to pause and not continue on this push for the sake of Christian unity. On the other hand, the Episcopal churches have basically said that Christian Unity means that the rest of the Communion should let them do this and to not interfere in this “local option.” Churches and an entire diocese have left to join a new Anglican network under the authority of the Southern Cone, and have been called ‘schismatics’ for failing to uphold Christian unity. But one has to wonder if the Episcopal Church is the true schismatic for wielding Christian unity as a weapon of manipulation and defiance.
James McGrath, Can Non-Liberal Christianity Be Saved?
There is a version of Liberal Christianity that it is easy to get excited about. And Iam excited about it. Perhaps the time has come for all of those of us who see things in this way to unite, and to take back the identity of Christianity from the loud and prominent self-proclaimed spokesmen (yes, most of them are men) who have so managed to persuade the media and popular opinion that they represent “true Christianity,” that Liberal Christianity has come to be viewed as a half-hearted, half-baked mixture of the traditional and the cultural, which does justice to neither.
Sarah Morice-Brubaker, Will the Catholic Church Split?
Sir Diarmaid MacCulloch, a renowned church historian at Oxford, predicts that the Catholic church will split over its ethical and social teaching, but also—and perhaps more profoundly—“the way authority was expressed.” That wouldn’t be unprecedented, of course. But is it inevitable? Well, gosh: on that question, it seems, there is a range of thoughtful opinion.
I find myself in an interesting position as one employed at a healthy and growing Mainline church that is about to begin an emergent expression this Fall with the addition of a second gathering. It has been said by numerous folks that I bring an evangelical zeal to being progressive. But when I read stuff about the bigger picture I feel like I showed up at the prom around 11.