Open hands with palms up over blurred the cross on nature background.

In 2015, a more genuine faith (COMMENTARY)

(RNS) In the spirit of Janus, the god of beginnings and transitions, here are three "Good News" faith movements I expect in 2015:

1. Going beyond the comforts of childhood:

This will be year 50 in the decline of American mainline Protestantism. The decline is a source of pain and anxiety among church leaders. Church doors are closing faster than they are opening.

The decline has had many factors but, in general, was caused by churches' doomed efforts to stay the same even as the surrounding world changed. That means year 50 brings good news: The ranks of those who remember 1957 -- the high-water mark of mainline Protestantism, which ran out of gas around 1965 -- are dwindling.

Gone -- or going -- are those who remember when Sunday worship was enough, when being in church was comfortable and fun (mainly because we were children), when we had the world's respect and when belonging didn't require much.

Now fresh ideas and younger leaders can operate more freely, taking us beyond comforts of childhood.

Open hands with palms up over blurred the cross on nature background.

Open hands with palms up over blurred cross on nature background.

2. Moving beyond hypocrisy:

Conservative Christianity is a complex phenomenon, and much of what it does, such as missionary work, is extraordinarily good. But a core hypocrisy is out in the open.

Right-wing Christianity has been an apologist for bigotry and moral bullying. Under the pretext of "defending" God and the Bible, the hateful and smug have turned Bible passages into weapons and moral certainty into abuse.

Those practices have stopped working outside the bubble. More and more people are simply appalled by the cruelty and arrogance of right-wing Christianity.

Progressive Christianity is no less complex. It, too, has some extraordinary strengths, such as dedication to human freedom and tolerance of diversity.

Progressive Christians, however, have had their own hypocrisy, namely, using religion to gain cultural benefits and calling those struggles good vs. evil. Meanwhile, they have been lax on what Jesus truly sought, namely, transformation of life, self-sacrifice and victory over mammon and fear.

3. Celebrating individual faith:

Until recently, faith was seen as a corporate quest: I found a church that helped me feel closer to God, or I joined a Bible study group, or I signed on to a mission team. The group -- and inevitably its institutional integrity -- guided my spiritual journey.

Now individual spirituality is replacing corporate (or group) religion. People are taking responsibility for their beliefs. As in the saying often ridiculed but in fact wise: "I am spiritual but not religious."

Corporate faith has come to mean institutional faith. And that institution, in turn, has come to seem dangerous, toxic, seeking mainly to replicate itself through constituents' conformity, and believing its larger existence matters more than its individual members.

Tom Ehrich is a writer, church consultant and Episcopal priest based in New York. He is the president of Morning Walk Media and publisher of Fresh Day online magazine. His website is www.morningwalkmedia.com. Follow Tom on Twitter @tomehrich.

Tom Ehrich is a writer, church consultant and Episcopal priest based in New York. He is the president of Morning Walk Media and publisher of Fresh Day online magazine. His website is www.morningwalkmedia.com. Follow Tom on Twitter @tomehrich.


 This image is available for web publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

Individual faith, by contrast, promises relationship with God. Sure, some scoff at that relationship as self-led and therefore self-deluded, but in fact it's more likely to be a deep and humbling journey of transformation than the shoulds of corporate religion.

What will come of these three movements? I expect 2015 will be a great year for Christianity in America. Different, disconcerting, but lively, transformational and faithful.

(Tom Ehrich is a writer, church consultant and Episcopal priest based in New York. He is the president of Morning Walk Media and publisher of Fresh Day online magazine. His website is www.morningwalkmedia.com. Follow Tom on Twitter @tomehrich.)

YS/MG END EHRICH

Comments

  1. Umm….”the spirit of Janus”? That’s an okay deity within the Episcopalian faith?

  2. Ugh. Ugh especially on Item 3: ‘Celebrating Individual Faith’. Institutional religion provides the machinery for getting religious experience–the buildings and their furnishings, the art, music, and ceremonies–and above all, liturgy and sacraments. I have no ‘individual faith’ and the ‘individual faith’ of others is of no interest to me if it doesn’t contribute to maintaining the institutional infrastructure. ‘Individual faith’ does not provide, for me, any relationship with God, if there is a God. God, if there is such a being, is in the buildings and ceremonies, and if they can’t be maintained then for me, and I suspect for many of us, there is no religion.

  3. “Right-wing Christianity has been an apologist for bigotry and moral bullying. Under the pretext of ‘defending’ God and the Bible, the hateful and smug have turned Bible passages into weapons,” so the left-wing apologists of the Episcopal Church “lovingly” rammed a homosexual agenda down the throat of every conservatively orthodox Bible believer, making it impossible for them to stay.

    And after they and their plate & pledge left for Anglicanism, the remnant of continuing Episcopalians sold the church buildings they could no longer afford to maintain to Muslims who turned them into a mosques.

  4. No one is ramming a homosexual agenda down your throat: you can believe whatever you please and, as most of us have always done, ignore the silly clap-trap of priests. They’re just trained monkeys doing the magic act. Read the program during their idiotic sermons and ridicule these dumb bozos during coffee hour. Their job is maintaining the buildings and organizing the rituals. They have nothing to teach us and their pretensions to “leadership” are pure arrogance. Of course they say stupid things about sexual ethics and everything else: they’re stupid, arrogant, politically correct ignoramuses.

  5. Just realize that as you ignore the “silly clap-trap” of priests, they consider you to be “irrelevant”.
    As far as the politically correct are concerned, you’re not even there.

  6. Well said! An exciting time to be a Christian. Frighteningly exciting.

  7. What we are witnessing today is the spiritual condition of the last days. It is immoral. The answer to declining belief or church attendance (which are not the same thing) that many so called “teachers” offer us is that we need to set aside the Word of God and welcome immoral behavior. This too is symbolic of the last days spiritual condition. To those of us who actually read the Bible and take it for what it says these things are not surprising. Jesus said the love of many would grow cold and when the Son of man returns it would be like the days of Noah. The immorality and corruption was foretold. It is no surprise. Jesus is our only hope to escape God’s judgment upon sin and rebellion. Receive Him and turn away from immorality and know His peace and power and truth.

  8. Mark-Amen/very well said! 1 Corinthians 5 and 6 the whole chapters and
    also Luke 13 need to be taught today. Many today only want to talk about
    gay marriage and/or abortion but forget that 1 Corinthians 6:9-12 lists many
    sins right along with the homosexuals. Sexually immorality and drunkards are
    two of those sins yet people get drunk and sleep around today like it’s not a
    big deal. All the sins need to be confronted not just some. We all must Repent!

Leave a Comment