Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Why They Walked

I have many Episcopalian (aka Anglican) friends who are very upset with recent developments in their church. Liberal trends have alienated many regular church goers for it flies in the face of millennia old doctrine. The Guardian has a commentary on some ramifications of these actions.
This past Sunday several churches in Northern Virginia announced that their congregations had voted overwhelmingly to leave the Episcopal Church and affiliate themselves with Anglican dioceses in Nigeria and Uganda.
The gas fire under this pot was turned up ever since a practising gay was elected as a bishop several years ago.
Their reasons were the same ones that have prompted Episcopal congregations and even entire dioceses across the country to sever their national ties in recent months: decades of liberalising trends in the Episcopal Church that have led to, among other things, the confirmation in 2003 of the openly gay V Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire and the election in July 2006 of a presiding bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori of the Diocese of Nevada, who is not only a woman (a contentious issue among conservative Episcopalians) but supports both Robinson's confirmation and church blessings for gay unions.
Bishop Schori is the person who was quoted as saying "Episcopalians aren't interested in replenishing their ranks by having children." Mark Steyn had a few things to day about that. As typical liberals, the church hierarchy dismisses the complaints of conservatives.
Jefferts Schori pooh-poohed the mass departure of the Virginians, declaring that they were a splinter collection of malcontents looking for a "quick fix" and that they had failed to embrace "diversity" and "tension," which she defined as the essence of Anglicanism.
I always thought the essense of Christianity was forgiveness of sin through the grace of God manifested by the sacrifice of His Son. No where in scripture is "diversity" or "tension" mentioned as the essense of anything.
[...] The Episcopal Church is in serious trouble only compounded by the current schism. It is a church in demographic free-fall, its numbers now standing at 2.2 million (by Jefferts Schori's own estimate), down from 3.4 million at its heyday in 1965. At the 2,700 Episcopalian parishes nationwide, the median Sunday worship attendance is 80 people, and the churches they attend would be crumbling ruins were it not for their substantial endowments left over from the 19th century, when most of them were founded.
This is what happens when diversity and tension are taught in church instead of the tenets of the faith. The faithful vote with their feet.
Like other mainline Protestant groups in America - Methodists, Presbyterians, Lutherans, and the like - the Episcopal Church decided some 40 years ago that the future of Christianity lay in accommodating its theology and moral teachings to whatever was fashionable or politically correct in the secular culture. Militant feminism and blessings for gay sex were only part of the doctrinal upheaval. Avant-garde clerics and theologians throughout North America and Western Europe scoffed at the traditional Christian teachings that Jesus Christ had been born of a virgin, worked miracles, died for human sin, rose from the dead, and founded a church that was supposed to be the means of salvation.
I differ in opinion on this last comment. The church is not the mean of salvation. The church is the body of believers who provide testimony, who proclaim the gospel - the good news - that Christ died for our sins.
All those liberal strands of Christianity are paying the price for their devil's bargain with secularism in vastly diminished numbers, as members figure out that when a religion lets them do whatever they want, one of the things they don't want to do is go to church on Sunday. The mainline denominations, which once represented 40% of US Protestants, now represent only 12%: 17 million out of 135 million.
God has taken His Spirit from these churches as He warned He would in the Book of Revelations. Those who truly seek God have left.
To put it bluntly, liberal Christianity is in meltdown. The election of Jefferts Schori, a theological liberal who prayed to a female Jesus at last summer's bishops' convention, together with the bishops' vote not to endorse the bedrock Christian proposition that Jesus is Lord, proved to be the last straw for many Episcopalians who believe that the essence of their Anglican faith isn't "tension" but fidelity to the Bible and the Christian creeds.

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