Carol Platt Liebau: Churches in Decline

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Churches in Decline

Charlotte Allen (of The Independent Women's Forum and Beliefnet) explains why the churches that lurch toward a watered down, liberal Christianity are killing themselves in an excellent piece here.

One particularly insightful observation pertains to the composition of the "new" Episcopal Church. If it weren't for disaffected Catholics and gays and lesbians, church numbers would be even lower than they are, as cradle Episcopalians are leaving in droves.

The problem is that the Episcopal Church's traditional willingness to tolerate some doctrinal tensions within its communion has allowed disaffected former adherents of other religions to flood the church and attempt to impose the theological and doctrinal "changes" on the Episcopal Church that their former churches wouldn't tolerate.

The problem, of course, is that when doctrinal flexibility is abused, theological commandments are downgraded to mere suggestions. And then, there's really no reason to pay attention to any of it, is there?

7 Comments:

Blogger amber said...

I do not know if I completely agree with the statement that it is people who are leaving other denominations who are changing the rules of the Episcopals. The church was created because a King wanted a divorce and the Catholic one would not grant him one. The entire history of the Church of England is badsed on compromise and making people feel better. I was raised in that church and I left once I began reading the Bible and realized that most of their doctrine is wrong, it is based on their comfort level, not on Biblical truth. Therefor, it is because of the church's history that people have been able to change doctrine so easily. This woul not happen in the Catholic Church or in any church I attend.

10:55 AM  
Blogger Carol Platt Liebau said...

Amber:

The doctrinal flexibility of the Episcopal Church has nothing to do with the circumstances under which it was founded -- it has to do with its organization as a "communion" worldwide. Unlike the Pope, the Archbishop of Canterbury has no overriding power to impose a central doctrine on the rest of the Church.

Likewise, with respect, it's a misstatement to say that "most of their doctrine is wrong," because orthodox Episcopal churches still uphold what you term "Biblical truth."

2:21 PM  
Blogger Righty64 said...

I'm not sure that I would agree that a lot of what is happening is from the outside of the Episcopal Church. The heretical Bishop John Shelby Spong is a fifth columnist from withing. Many of those who are leading the church away from Basic Christianity 101 are infact Cradle Episcopalians. But there is some truth to this being players from the outside of the Episcopal Church. Also, tension is one thing but when the liberals constantly change the rules and thus make those of us who stay more-and morally-confused, all I can say is that C.S. Lewis must be rolling his his grave to see whay the Anglican Communuion-and the Episcopal Church-has become.

8:21 PM  
Blogger Pete said...

Amber's history is correct. I spend my teen years in the Episcopal Church, before joining the Navy, then I did not return to ANY church for many years. When I did return and had my time of spiritual renewal, I wandered thru several different Protestant denominations. I had many problems there, among them the apparent lack of understanding and respect for Holy Communion, and the fact that right and wrong seemed to be whatever the church conscience was.

I heard the Bible taught from the pulpit, but not followed when the rubber hit the road.

Now, I have found what I wanted, and believed, in the Catholic Church. Yes, Virginia, there IS right and wrong! Yes, the Bible teaches certain behaviors are an abomination to the Lord. And yes, the Eucharist is a blessing to recieve. One last 'yes', I have voted Catholic for many years before I found the Church.

6:12 AM  
Blogger amber said...

Carol,
Maybe I should explain my experience with the church. I went to the highest funded and attended Episcopal church in my state. The 2 fathers who were there when I was both became Bishops in my state right after their time at my church. Father Ed, the second was there during confirmation for me. He tld our class that the Bible was a bunch of stories written to tell us how to live. He then became a bishop about a year later. I was a torchberrer, a flag berrer, and occasionally carried the cross. I was active in the youth group and I went to Sunday school. At Sunday school, for class we watched Hannah Barbera cartoons until we got older, then they showed a TV series about kids in school in Canada, nothing Christian about it, they were just good kids.
I believe the Episcopal church is fundamentally flawed because they are so concerned with making everyone feel accepted and comfortable that they forgot to worry about teaching us about the Christ.
It was through Confirmation that I became a Christian and I am very grateful for that. I think their confirmation program can be great, if taken seriously.
I do not think there is any "perfect" denomination. I struggle with some in my church circle who look down on Catholics and Episcopals. I strongly disagree with them and have to constantly tell them they are wrong. I gently fought with my church to have Godparents in my children's dedication ceremony, and I hate that none of these churches made room for pew pads. I love the reverance that the Catholics and Episcopals show and that kneeling is very important.
I also remember praying for Terry Waite for years, but never knew who he was. Not until I left the church and went to Pakistan and met an Episcopalian who had his book. He lent it to me and I read most of it while I was there, (not a good time to read it by the way, it scared me a little). I also had the opportunity to work on an Episcopal Church in Pakistan, a lot of history.
I am sorry if you think I am judging you and your choice to be in the church. I am not, I think it is important for Episcopals to have people of conviction and principal in the church so they can help fight these issues the church is dealing with. I just did not want to be that person, I was only 12.

8:14 AM  
Blogger Duke-Stir said...

Amber, it is helpful to remember not to get into too much theology with Carol. She seems more concerned with religion as a concept, or as a way to burnish her conservative credentials, than in its teachings.

Also, she doesn't like it when people call the church's congregants "Episcopals," as you did. They're Episcopalians.

9:40 PM  
Blogger One Salient Oversight said...

As both an evangelical and a political progressive, I can make a comment about this.

While it is true in some cases that the "liberal" denominations have experienced decline, census figures show that the amount of Episcopalians increased by 13.4% between 1990 and 2001.

Members of the Congregationalists and United Church of Christ (the latter a very "liberal" denomination) grew by 130.1% over the same period.

These figures can be checked at the relevant Wikipedia article.

What needs to be pointed out, however, is that the actual amount of Episcopalians and UCC members in relation to the rest of the population is very small. Episcopalians represent around 1.8% of Americans while figures for the UCC are even smaller.

The Southern Baptists, despite their conservative theology and large influence, declined in number between the same period.

In 1990, 19.8% of Americans identified themselves as being Baptist, while 17.2% did so in 2001. Actual numerical growth declined by 0.4%.

12:03 AM  

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