Saturday, April 20, 2024

A shell game. . .

The Church of England, like many established sects, is waning. By Its own statistics it has revealed that in 2022 the “worshipping community” was less than one million, with weekly attendance at 654,000.  Could it be that the Church of England is actually smaller than the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod?  Well, at least their endowment is bigger!

Statistics tell you little about why things are happening but only what is happening.  In the case of the good ole C of E, the decades of secularization, the waning influence of Scripture, and the lack of any doctrinal consensus have taken their toll.  They are a bare echo of their former self.  As true as this is, it is not always easy to digest.  An Anglophile like me imagines that grand cathedrals and city churches along with the rural chapels are all full.  They are full of nothing, least of all people.  Some have suggested that this is a bad thing -- even for those who never were or desired to be Anglican or even mainline Christian.  I suppose it is.  But the time to reverse the trend of ailing Christianity in Europe has come and gone.  For now, there may not always be a C of E anymore.

There are those who say that the decline of Protestantism was inevitable.  There are those who claim that it is still not too late to revive the dying churches of American Protestantism.  If so, it is about time to wake up and, shall I say it, smell the roses!  I do not know.  But this I do know, that the effectiveness of offering a church that does not stand for much of anything and does not demand it at all is going down the tubes.

Honestly, I just do not get it.  Forget the theology for now.  How has the vast liberalization of the theology and practice of Christians helped to fill the pews?  Yeah, you get it.  It has not.  It has not even staved off the impending disaster.  It has hastened it.  So why on earth would we want to emulate churches who fail to call anyone to repentance and who seem to delight in having fun poking pot shots at the message of Scripture?  Could it be that for all of us the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow is that we feel better about ourselves for having failed to speak any courageous truth to anyone?  If people think you might be benign, why jump the gun and prove it to them as to remove all doubt?

While I take no joy in any Christian churches being emptied or closed because they offer a half-baked version of what people already believe, I take even less joy over those who look at conservative churches and say we are too rigid or too doctrinaire or too narrow-minded.  There is only one thing confessional churches have to learn from the likes of the CoE -- don't do what they have done.  Do not surrender the Gospel to your truth or the hope within us to feelings or the historicity of the faith to myth and legend.  Do not give up the liturgy for what feels good or seems right in the moment or presume that if you keep the form without the substance or presume that you can keep the substance without the form of the liturgy.  Do not depend upon bishops instead of the Word of God or keep the Word but forget to endow certain of the clergy with the responsibility for supervision of doctrine and practice.  We need all of these working together to sustain us and equip us to speak forth what we believe in a world where death has become normal.

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