January 29, 2006

Actually, for the Episcopal Church in the USA (ECUSA), it may already be here. At least it sounds like it, if Anglican Mission in America (AMiA) bishop Chuuck Murphy is correct. From this interview with David Virtue:

VIRTUEONLINE: The buzzword these days is realignment, what is you assessment of this?

MURPHY: My assumption is that a house divided against itself cannot stand. We are watching the Lord create a new wineskin for a new century. It is not unique to this century, history has had other realignments – the Reformation was a realignment, but it is underway again. Jesus came not to bring peace but division. It is not unique to this hour but it is underway again. There is a divide along the fault line of Biblical truth and those who still believe the faith once delivered to the saints, those who still trust the gospel message will come together and work together to create a way forward. I believe it will come in stages but not a magic moment or one glorious weekend together.

VIRTUEONLINE: What do you think will happen to the Episcopal Church?

MURPHY: I believe the Episcopal Church is going to wither away. It will not prosper, it cannot, it has abandoned the gospel. I do believe, however, the ECUSA will continue to have a presence for another generation. There are too many people, even orthodox people that simply cannot consider moving away from their present parish facilities and so there is a great reluctance to do anything too radical. They are good people who love the Lord but they are not called to be pioneers of a new wineskin.

VIRTUEONLINE: How long do you give the Episcopal Church?

MURPHY: About another 30 years. It will work itself out through a continual stage of deterioration. John chapter 15 speaks of the vineyard and dying branches. ECUSA is a dying branch. It has no gospel to proclaim.

I’ve always been of the mind that the success and rapid growth of the more conservative churches in the U.S. (the so-called “megachurches”) is founded on three basic pillars: 1) a more biblical-based theology heavy on “moral teachings”, 2) a sophisticated marketing effort towards young families and professionals who they perceive as having like-minded values, and 3) a requirement that members bring something to the table as part of their membership. Whether it is the act of tithing (committting 10% of your income to the church), or a certain expectation of involvement, the results have been staggering. Whereas so-called “mainstream” Protestant denominations (United Methodist, Presbyterian, Episcopal, etc.) are hemorrhaging membership and getting increasingly grayer, non-denominal “megachurch” growth has been explosive, the Southern Baptists have been holding their own, and the Roman Catholic Church, even in the face of priest abuse scandals, has reversed its decline in numbers.

Bishop Murphy is correct: the Episcopal Church in the USA is indeed dying, but it has nothing really to do with the raging battle over homosexuality – that is just one symptom of a greater, far more destructive disease. Far more lethal to the church’s future is the absence of passion and a Gospel-driven raison d’ etre. What does ECUSA stand for that makes it unique among Christian churches? Why should I get out of bed on a Sunday morning and attend services? What does being an “Episcopalian” mean? If all it stands for is a beautiful liturgy and tradition (which it does have), combined a desire to welcome both “seekers and sinners” and not offend anyone, then, as Bishop Murphy says, it will indeed be dead within the next generation or two.

The sad fact is, the only people in ECUSA nowadays with any kind of passion seemingly fall into two self-destructive categories: 1) liberal gay and lesbian activists and powerful revisionist bishops seeking to protect their gains and consolidate their power within the Church’s hierarchy, and 2) those who have finally said “enough!” to the Church’s increasingly watered-down theology and slide towards irrelevancy following decades of emphasis on “inclusiveness” and “diversity” above all else. Whereas the former may have won the battle up to now, they will inevitably lose the war, since all they will be left with in the end are the keys to beautiful buildings as empty as their beliefs, while the latter take their children, money, and passions to churches and secular venues where, in the marketplace of ideas and ideals, they discover a more wanted and valued place.

Filed in: Religion & Culture by The Great White Shank at 15:07 | Comments (0)
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