I shared several articles related to the future of Christian denominations the other day (see “The future of Christian denominations.”). There has been more discussion since:
I really do hate the whole culture of labels. I realize that some labels are necessary and helpful. But quite often they are used to tag, demonize and or marginalize. They are a convenient way of using word to sum up everything about someone or some group in one word. Of course, when was one word ever enough to describe anyone? Calling someone a liberal Democrat or conservative Republican fails to consider that as individuals such labels really don’t describe what a person believes about policy issues. It’s possible to have a Republican who is pro-abortion and anti-healthcare or a Democrat who wants prayer in school and higher taxes on the rich.
Steve Douglas, Liberal theology decloaking in hostile territory
In my conservative environment, I’ve recently started being convicted that these conservative Christians really need to know that people like me exist. I guarantee that a preposterous number of people in my church have never even considered the possibility that you could trust in Jesus as Lord of all creation and be an evolutionist, despite the fact that I am aware of a couple people beside myself who accept evolutionary theory. No wonder they view us as outsiders: they haven’t ever met us inside!
Rachel Held Evans, Liberal Christianity, Conservative Christianity, and the Caught In-Between
Frankly, I find the whole conversation a bit depressing. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want either group to “meet its demise” because I love elements of both! In fact, I think there are a lot of progressive, mainline churches that could benefit from a shot of evangelicalism, and a lot of evangelical churches who could benefit from a shot of progressivism. We have so much to learn from one another, but instead we’re like a pair of toddlers fighting over space in the sandbox.
Progressiveness, however, implies a trajectory towards something; in this case towards a more “authentic” Christianity. In this sense, progressive Christianity is no different than “primitive” Christianity. Whereas primitive Christianity seeks to return to a mythical, primitive past, progressive Christianity looks to a mythical future where Christianity will be stripped of all its “superstitious” and “antiquated” distinctives, yet someone continue to be Christian. In both cases the goal is neither attainable nor desirable.
The governing bodies of two of the largest mainline Protestant denominations in the country — the Presbyterian Church and the Episcopal Church — recently issued decisions that reflect the swiftly shifting landscape on same-sex marriage, gay rights and the white mainline Protestant community. The debates were driven not only by the need for clarity in internal church matters such as ordination, but also by the need to provide guidance to clergy who serve congregants in the growing number of states where gay and lesbian couples are allowed to marry legally.
David Lose, Do Christian Denominations Have a Future?
Let’s face it: progressive Lutheran, Presbyterian, and Episcopalian congregations have a lot more in common than do progressive and conservative congregations in the same tradition. Differences over how to read the Bible, the nature of the atonement, and the character of God are far more important today than nuanced differences in polity or regarding the sacraments.
Henry Neufeld, Measuring Liberal Christianity
My first problem is with how we measure the success of a church. Most of us are quick to claim that numbers don’t matter when the our own numbers are in decline, yet we are quite ready to accept that the decline in someone else’s numbers is an indication that something is wrong with them. And there are good scriptural examples of both. Jesus began his ministry with crowds following him and ended it pretty much alone. The early church, on the other hand, experienced steady growth.
Rodney Thomas, Can the Concern Trolls Be Saved?
Every few months there’s a news report or survey that is taken place that points to one harrowing fact: Both liberal and conservative churches are shrinking in the pews, or what we in Capitalist America call “dying off.” We associate a church that doesn’t fit the definition of success (i.e., making profit and growing larger, constructing a bigger building) in capitalism as “dying.” Having life, therefore is tied solely to living the American Dream. American Christianity therefore, since it is not living up to the American dream, is “dying.”
Daniel Thompson, Dividing Christ?
In the town where I pastor we have a fair mix of “liberal” and “conservative” Christians. We have met together for years over lunch once a month during the school year. Many years ago we had a great pastor who only wanted to discuss our differences. He was a great friend and I deeply admired him, but we all found we didn’t want to get together to discuss our differences. Attendance dwindled a bit.
What brought us back together was the determination to do something together in the name of Jesus. We put together a project that everyone agreed was something done in the name of Jesus and represented the Body of Christ. We dropped discussions over our differences.