COMMENTARY: Despite doubters, mainline Protestant churches are poised for success

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Religion News Service photo courtesy Donovan Marks/Washington National Cathedral

Religion News Service photo courtesy Donovan Marks/Washington National Cathedral

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(RNS) Conservative commentators like Rupert Murdoch's stable and Ross Douthat of The New York Times are feasting on what they perceive as the "death" of "liberal Christianity." Their next round of emotional and financial blackmail won't find much of an audience. By Tom Ehrich.

  • Rev. Paul T. McCain

    Let’s change the headline a bit to better capture reality.

    “Despite doubters, HMS Titanic poised to stay afloat.”

    This article is laughable, to say the least. One would have to be both intentionally blind and deaf to the reality of the crumbling state of the liberal mainline. It’s these kinds of rearranging the deck chair articles that only further illustrates the state of denial some are in.

    And the band played on…..Nearer My God to Thee.

    Rescue ships are on the way, thankfully, and survivors are being pulled from the water.

  • baber

    The Episcopal Church’s decision on same-sex blessings wasn’t a leap beyond; it was the last gasp of old ways of thinking, namely, that Sunday worship and in-house protocols are what matter.

    That’s exactly what matters. Who cares about what the silly vicars say about same-sex unions or anything else. We haven’t paid any attention to them for years. Their job is to put on the Magic Act, give us the liturgy we enjoy and stage the ceremonies that induce religious experience. They aren’t doing that because they’re a bunch of arrogant fools who imagine that they have something to teach us.

    They don’t. We’re adults in a world come of age, and their job is just to act as trained monkeys doing a magic act for our religious enjoyment. They’ve refused to give us what we want so of course we’ve voted with out feet. What do they expect?

  • John McGrath

    Christian doctrines are best taught as the story of Christ in the Gospels, then the spread of the church before the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, then the reorganization of Christian and Jewish thinking after the Temple’s destruction, then decisions by the early church after becoming government related and sponsored.

    In all cases Christian doctrines are best taught as matters for prayerful contemplation and individual decisions making as to belief. The life of Christ is best illustrated in visual ways and not in verbal explanations.

    Christian morality needs to be based on the Ten Commandments, the Two Great Commandments of Judaism and Jesus, the absolute equality of men and women and all human beings, and concern for the health of individuals, couples, families, communities and society in general. The teaching of morality needs also to be presented for prayerful contemplation and individual decisions making. As citizens of a secular society we need to work towards a public morality that is fair to all.

    The church needs to be more than rites in church.

  • Brad Evans

    This man represents about 10% of Mainline Protestantism’s non-White membership; after forty years of preaching “Celebrate our Diversity!”, the Mainline Protestant churches remain between 3-9% non-White, even with increased immigration. Either someone’s not trying very hard at all those “Outreach” and “Multicultural Ministries” offices, or they’re not really serious.
    Ehrich misses the point. Nobody under 40 cares about gay marriage; they don’t go to church because gays are getting married and the churches are irrelevant in all this. Episcopalians could make being openly gay a precondition for being ordained (Anglo-Catholics would hardly notice) and their numbers still wouldn’t go up. These changes aren’t happening because a few church flunkies and hangers on pass an irrelevant resolution-they’re happening because nobody cares what people do in the bedroom anymore, so long as it doesn’t affect them or cost them money. Gay marriage is the perfect example of Chris Hedges’s “boutique activism”-you pass a resolution or a law that costs nothing and has no affect on you or your lifestyle whatsoever but it makes you feel good and you get bragging rights with superficially “progressive” and “tolerant” people.
    For that, nobody has to believe in anything. Mainline Protestantism has been irrelevant for so long-the idea that the masses (or “the constituency of conscience”) is suddenly going to start going to church again is delusional. You can post as many pictures of old bishops in purple dresses getting arrested and pretending that they’re still “relevant” and “at the forefront of change” and “showing solidarity with those on the margins”; it’s still an old man in a purple dress and the idea of politics as liturgy is ridiculous.

  • Brad Evans

    If Mainline Protestantism is so “progressive”, how come they left the cities for the suburbs? Why would they pass up the perfect chance to “celebrate their diversity”? Are you suggesting that the Protestant Mainline is essentially a bunch of Volvo voters/champagne socialists? “Integration and diversity are great for other people-I don’t feel called to that particular ministry, however, so I’m taking my family to a 98% White middle/upper middle class school/neighborhood/church”?
    I’m shocked!