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Monday, October 14, 2013

What Happened to the Main Line Protestant Religions?

Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Matt. 7:15.
Mark Tooley gives some thoughts on why the Main Line religions are circling the drain:

A recent Religion News Service article on infamous Episcopal Bishop John Shelby Spong celebrates him as an aging maverick whose provocative sexual and theological stances supposedly are no longer controversial. At age 82, the former Bishop of Newark, New Jersey, is writing his 24th book. In the 1980s and 1990s his works infamously speculated that the Virgin Mary was impregnated by a Roman soldier, that St. Paul was a self-hating homosexual, and that Jesus’ unresurrected body was torn asunder by wild dogs.  
A former Southern segregationist, Spong celebrated his spiritual maturity away from racism into more enlightened religion, which also rejected Christian orthodoxy. He later joined the then publicity savvy Jesus Seminar, whose liberal scholars once made headlines by voting with marbles over which Gospel stories were not true. 
Spong always claimed to speak for a new generation who could not believe in traditional beliefs and who craved a new interpretation of Christianity. His new interpretation never flew. Unmentioned in the RNS report, Spong’s diocese lost 43 percent of its membership during his 21 years as bishop. Since he retired in 2000, the Episcopal Diocese of Newark has lost another 25 percent. In 1978, the diocese had over 64,000. Last year it was down to just over 27,000, about a 60 percent loss.
The article notes Spong's ongoing influence: "By the time he retired in 2000, his own diocese had 35 openly gay and lesbian clergy, and he also helped promote a new generation of church leaders who can carry his progressive torch: 11 clerics from his tenure are now bishops, more than from any other diocese, he says."

But looking beyond the Episcopals, there is this:
... Next year a new book from Catholic thinker Jody Bottum comes called An Anxious Age, which laments the disappearance of Mainline Protestant institutions and ethos. Its promotional brochure notes: 
From its Puritan beginning, the nation has always been shaped by its essential Protestantism, Bottum notes. But the most significant fact about modern American Protestantism — the most significant and underappreciated fact about all of contemporary America — is the collapse of the Mainline Protestant churches over the last fifty years. Where those churches once defined the liberal consensus of the nation, they have nearly disappeared from public life, and in their place have risen strange new beings: social and political feelings elevated to supernatural entities that repopulate the depleted metaphysical realm.
There are two primary intertwining themes in this story: (i) the movement of these churches from supporting classical liberalism to supporing modern liberalism; and (ii) the simultanious rejection of fundamental Christian doctrine. 

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