Friday, 2 November 2007

Pittsburgh convention votes to leave

The Diocese of Pittsburgh has voted in favour of Resolution One, which starts out this way:

RESOLVED, that Article I, Section 1 of the Constitution of the Diocese of
Pittsburgh be, and it hereby is, amended and restated in its entirety to read as follows:

The Church in the Diocese of Pittsburgh is a constituent member of the Anglican
Communion, a Fellowship within the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church of those duly constituted Dioceses, Provinces and regional churches in communion with the See of Canterbury, upholding and propagating the historic Faith and Order as set forth in the Book of Common Prayer.


RESOLVED FURTHER, that a new Section 2 of Article I of the Constitution of the Diocese of Pittsburgh be, and it hereby is, adopted to read as follows:

The Diocese of Pittsburgh shall have membership in such Province of the Anglican
Communion as is by diocesan Canon specified.

Read the rest of it in a PDF file here.

The diocesan press release about this says:

Clergy and deputies to the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh’s 142nd Annual Convention strongly approved a resolution that begins the process of amending the diocesan constitution. If the amendment passes a second reading, slated for November of 2008, a future diocesan convention would be able to realign the diocese to another province of The Anglican Communion if it so chose.

Deputies voted 118 to 58 with one abstention to approve the change. Clergy voted 109 to 24 in favor. An effort to instead return the diocese to full “accession” to The Episcopal Church was defeated by voice vote.

“This vote does not change the diocese’s current affiliation with The Episcopal Church. In fact, nothing at all changes until such a time as the next annual convention approves a second reading of the proposed amendment,” said Bishop Robert Duncan…

Bishop Duncan’s address to the convention can be found in full here.

His letter in reply to the one from the Presiding Bishop is as follows:

1st November, A.D. 2007
The Feast of All Saints

The Most Revd Katharine Jefferts Schori
Episcopal Church Center
New York, New York

Dear Katharine,

Here I stand. I can do no other. I will neither compromise the Faith once delivered to the saints, nor will I abandon the sheep who elected me to protect them.

Pax et bonum in Christ Jesus our Lord,

+Bob Pittsburgh

Episcopal News Service has this report by Mary Frances Schjonberg: Pittsburgh bishop declines Presiding Bishop’s offer of reconciliation.

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Comments

It's about time!

People have to do what they have to do, and it's time to get it over with.

All IMHO, YMMV of course.

Posted by: Tim Stewart on Saturday, 3 November 2007 at 12:00am GMT

Now Duncan thinks he's Martin Luther.

This, overseas friends, is but one example--and not the most egregious--of the preening, self-righteous histrionics that the so-called "orthodox" here in TEC have made their specialty. This sort of thing is what we have been forced to listen to for decades now.

Whether it's Duncan declaring himself to be the 21st century's Martin Luther, or Iker and his entourage ostentatiously flouncing out of the room whenever Gene Robinson is present, or Schofield fluttering his hands coquettishly and making Carol Channing faces while denouncing The Pink Menace, this crowd could give Lillian Gish herself a run for the money when it comes to melodrama.

I know I should be grieved that these people are finally making good on their years of threats to leave, but I just can't quite manage it.

So, let me be the first to say: Bon voyage!

Posted by: JPM on Saturday, 3 November 2007 at 2:04am GMT

As Heywood Broun said long ago, "Hell is paved with great granite blocks hewn from the hearts of those who said, 'I can do no other.'"

Posted by: Steve Lusk on Saturday, 3 November 2007 at 2:59am GMT

To xBob, et al, I bid you depart in peace. Lord have mercy on us all...

***

Now, onto more important things: the Pittsburgh Cathedral is BEAUTIFUL, and how sweet it will be to have an Episcopal bishop (to lead Episcopalians and future Episcopalians) in it again! Come, Holy Spirit, Come! :-D

Posted by: JCF on Saturday, 3 November 2007 at 5:50am GMT

Mr. Robert Duncan is now subject to presentment under the Constitution and Canons which he once vowed to obey and uphold at least three times-when ordained a Deacon, a Priest and a Bishop of this Church. Now, he rejects the very Church that gave him his miter, episcopal elections requiring not only a majority vote of clergy and laity of diocesan convention but also the consents of the majority of diocesan bishops and standing committees before the PB may take order for the consecration.

If an honorable gentleman, Mr. Duncan would have resigned his orders held in a Church which he hates and despises to the extent that he wishes to take diocesan property with him which, by law, does not belong to anyone not conforming to the Constitution and Canons of this Church, at the expense, presumably, of millions of U.S. dollars in legal fees, monies that will be diverted from the mission of the Church.

Mr. Duncan is nothing but a disgrace to the Anglican Communion, of which he claims to be a loyal member!

Posted by: John Henry on Saturday, 3 November 2007 at 6:06am GMT

Two things interest me regarding the Pittsburgh vote and resolution. First, the vote reveals a significant split-- with the subtext that there should accordingly be no problem reconstituting TEC's structure if and when Duncan etal. leave TEC.
Secondly, it is interesting and reassuring that Pittsburgh still "accedes" to the "See of Canterbury" - Duncan AND a Primate AND the See of Canterbury will have an interesting tri-partite agreement to hammer out - with an aggrieved TEC loooking over their shoulders or, possibly, joining in the negotiations. Will Canterbury roll over and allow Pittsburgh to cherry pick among the willing Primates or will Pittsburgh be the spinster left without a dance partner for the last dance of the evening?
Ah, Watson the game is indeed afoot.

Posted by: ettu on Saturday, 3 November 2007 at 8:10am GMT

It seems to me that declaring oneself a independent Diocese is quite a different thing from being a "faithful remnant"; namely the difference between "faithful" and un-faithful...

And what about "duly constituted"? Does this qualify as "duly"?

Antics, indeed.

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Saturday, 3 November 2007 at 8:49am GMT

It occurs to me to wonder whether the Archbishop of Canterbury has said that the Diocese of Pittsburgh which is not part of TEC is in communion with his see. Any information?

Posted by: Rodney in Melbourne on Saturday, 3 November 2007 at 9:11am GMT

Of course! The diocese sees itself as "Windsor compliant" and so, following the opinion of the ABC expressed to Bishop Howe, in communion with Canterbury. So I suppose the question is, "Has the ABC made a declaration that Pittsburgh is a 'Windsor compliant' diocese?"

Posted by: Rodney in Melbourne on Saturday, 3 November 2007 at 9:20am GMT

I presume that the Presiding Bishop of TEC will now be in communication with the Archbishop of Canterbury to discuss his response SHOULD the Convention of the Diocese of Pittsburgh (TEC) enact this change. He must decide if the action which removes those concerned from the Episcopalian Diocese of Pittsburgh and creates a new body also creates a body in communion with him. Dr Williams is famed for maintained silences, as when it pleases him, but surely a word now might save many from actions that would in reality tear the very fabric of the Anglican Communion.

Posted by: commentator on Saturday, 3 November 2007 at 10:15am GMT

First a disclaimer: I am not sure that this resolution makes much sense and I am not writing to defend it.

But I am intrigued to read here what looks suspiciously like a standard top-down hierarchical argument and this after all the lyrical waxing about how different TEC is, how its bishops are democratically elected, and the importance of its laity...

While posters picked up on "Here I stand", what about "nor will I abandon the sheep who elected me to protect them"? Should he have argued that people must stay whatever happens? Should he be content with people leaving - after all he still has a beautiful building?

Posted by: Thomas Renz on Saturday, 3 November 2007 at 11:54am GMT

As an english "outsider" I notice the vote was much closer among the laity than the clergy-it will be interesting to see what happens.Fewer "rooted"lay Episcopalians may join Bishop Duncan and he and his friends will presumably recruit new people from evangelical protestant backgrounds thus ,I suspect, altering the sort of Anglicanism hitherto present.We see this sort of thing happening in some english parishes too-they become quite strong congregations but a lot of the parishoners go elsewhere to find what they are used to.

Posted by: Perry Butler on Saturday, 3 November 2007 at 2:04pm GMT

The Rev. Dr. George Werner, former president of the General Convention's House of Deputies and a senior Priest in the Diocese of Pittsburgh, says it all in a New York Times interview:

"A spokesman for Bishop Jefferts Schori referred questions to the Rev. George Werner, president of the House of Deputies for the national church until last year.

'Katharine Schori is extremely clear,' Mr. Werner said. 'If a diocese like this chooses to claim $30 million in trust funds and 70 churches, she’d be negligent in her duty to let them leave. She can’t back down.'

Mr. Werner was referring to the possibility that the diocese would try to retain control of its resources, buildings and land if it separates from the national church. Bishop Duncan said he was willing to face whatever action the national church takes."

Would the CofE seriously countenance a diocesan bishop taking his diocese out of the General Synod Church (Established) Church, notwithstanding ++Rowan Cantuar's recent 'no brainer' remarks that a Windsor-compliant diocese is the basic unit of the Church in communion with Canterbury, and that the national Church has no standing as far as communion with Canterbury is concerned?

Posted by: John Henry on Saturday, 3 November 2007 at 2:47pm GMT

If Rowan Williams attempts to bypass TEC and deal directly with these dissidents, then it is time for TEC to withdraw from the Anglican Communion.

Posted by: Richard Lyon on Saturday, 3 November 2007 at 2:57pm GMT

A letter to PB Jefferts Schori from +John Howe, who was lately in communication with ++Rowan Cantuar:

The Presiding Bishop
815 Second Avenue
New York, NY 10017

Dear Katharine,

I have read with great sadness your letter to Bishop Bob Duncan of Pittsburgh. And, since you have chosen to make your letter to him public, I will make this one public, as well.

I have stood shoulder to shoulder with Bob in the efforts of the Network to reverse the course of The Episcopal Church with regard to recent decisions regarding human sexuality.

I part company with him in his decision to abandon the commitment we made when we formed the Network, to work "within the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church."

But, Katharine, I cannot support your thinly veiled threat to resort to litigation if the Diocese of Pittsburgh rescinds its accession to the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church.

Dioceses voluntarily join (accede to) The Episcopal Church. And they can voluntarily determine to separate from (withdraw their accession from) The Episcopal Church.

During the Civil War, the Dioceses within the Confederate States withdrew from The Episcopal Church without penalty. They were reunited when that terrible war ended. Perhaps there will be a reunion of presently seceding Dioceses at some point in our future, as well.

But just now, to threaten litigation, especially in the face of the unanimous exhortation from the Primates in Dar es Salaam (an exhortation you agreed to) to end such litigation, is deeply troubling. I beg you to stand down.

This can only harm our relationships as fellow members of the Body of Christ and our witness to the outside world. Warmest regards in our Lord,

The Right Rev. John W. Howe
Episcopal Bishop of Central Florida
1017 East Robinson St.
Orlando, FL 32801

Posted by: John Henry on Saturday, 3 November 2007 at 3:20pm GMT

The curious question is whether or not he will receive his invitation to Lambeth. He may or may not be interested in going (as is the fashion among his supporters), but it will define how Canterbury views his no-affiliated affiliated diocese free church.

Posted by: Thunder Jones on Saturday, 3 November 2007 at 3:24pm GMT

"First, the vote reveals a significant split--" There is mention elsewhere on TA that in the lay order, the vote barely made the required 2/3 in favor of the motion. It was not close in the clerical order.

My understanding is that for some years past, +Bob Pittsburgh has sent all his prospective priests to the fundagelical seminary, Trinity, and that he is very wary of allowing priests from other seminaries to be called to churches in his diocese.

It's impossible to hand-pick the laity, although individual churches and priests can make non-conformers uncomforable enough to get them to leave. But it looks like a lot of +Bob's 'sheep' are not fooled by his foolishness. Wouldn't it be interesting if the lay order thwarts his ambitions in the required second vote in a year's time? Go sheep!

Posted by: Cynthia Gilliatt on Saturday, 3 November 2007 at 6:40pm GMT

"The curious question is whether or not he will receive his invitation to Lambeth. He may or may not be interested in going (as is the fashion among his supporters), but it will define how Canterbury views his no-affiliated affiliated diocese free church."

I think the invitations have already gone out. Gene Robinson and Martyn Mims were both omitted from the list. Will Rowan Williams withdraw invitations such as Pittsburgh and Pennsylvania in light of more recent developments? He's pretty much already taken the position that he alone decides who will be invited, regardless of the actions of national churches.

Posted by: Richard Lyon on Saturday, 3 November 2007 at 6:43pm GMT

From +Howe's letter:

"Dioceses voluntarily join (accede to) The Episcopal Church."

This is flat-out FALSE. If they weren't joined to TEC, they wouldn't be a *diocese* would they?!

ONCE AGAIN: *persons* join, *persons* may leave. Dioceses and parishes do NOT!

Reasserters who, um, reassert that "we built this parish, from the ground up, and by gum we'll take it with us!" are similarly mistaken. A person may have put in every brick, every nail into a parish edifice, but it is THE CHURCH---the Episcopal Church---who "built the parish".

That a person---lay, priest, or bishop!---could believe "this parish (diocese) is MINE!" only demonstrates (regrettably) that they were never truly (inwardly, beyond legalities) formed as Episcopalians.

Though those who go make schism are ultimately responsible for their actions, the break DOES point out judgment (wrong-doings) on BOTH sides. TEC has *got* to do a better job of forming Episcopalians, so they're not just Baptists-in-drag.

Lord have mercy!

Posted by: JCF on Saturday, 3 November 2007 at 7:45pm GMT

I think Cynthia has done an excellent job of describing the dynamics of hand picking, grooming, and social pressures on the laity.

It is the most succinct and clear analysis of these dynamics that I have seen yet.

Posted by: Cheryl Va. Clough on Sunday, 4 November 2007 at 12:42am GMT

As someone who was at this convention I can also say that several new rectors were not allowed to vote since they have not met the cannonical residency requirement. Two are rectors lead non network parishes. Also several other priest are canonically resident in other diocese and not allowed to vote. Some of the voters for dissassociation don't even live in this diocese but are still resident here. Several laity were absent and how many who voted for or against were retired? The numbers from the clergy aren't the best indicator. One priest said, he was in favor only because it was a forgone conclusion what was going to happen. In other words, get this over with and let us who wish to go or remain on about our business. I believe he is going to remain in TEC. I wonder how many voted in favor just to end this horrible stalemate.

I have to say Duncan is quite mad not just nuts.
Welcome to the macadamia ranch aka the diocese of pittsburgh.
Bob

Posted by: Bob in SW PA on Sunday, 4 November 2007 at 12:45am GMT

"Reasserters who, um, reassert that "we built this parish, from the ground up, and by gum we'll take it with us!" are similarly mistaken. A person may have put in every brick, every nail into a parish edifice, but it is THE CHURCH---the Episcopal Church---who "built the parish"."

Fascinatingly, today at the convention of the Pennsylvania diocese, we celebrated the creation of a new parish--Holy Nativity, Wrightstown. (BTW, take that, NP--now who's growing and who isn't?)

The rector of that new parish, thanking the assembled for their support in its years of growth from a mission church in borrowed space, said, "It takes a diocese to grow a parish."

I think the same can be said of a diocese...it takes a national church to create one.

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Sunday, 4 November 2007 at 12:48am GMT

Would Pittsburgh's action make it part of the Church of England? I.e. a free-floating diocese claiming to be under the jurisdiction of the Archbishop of Canterbury? Isn't this the implication of Archbishop Williams's letter to Bishop Howe? Is Archbishop Williams going into competition with Archbishop Akinola et al? And if not, why not?

Posted by: Anthony W on Sunday, 4 November 2007 at 5:45am GMT

"Duncan is quite mad not just nuts.
Welcome to the macadamia ranch aka the diocese of pittsburgh."

I think his letter to ++KJS shows an astonishing amount of cognitive dissonance. So much nuttiness in so few words!

"Here I stand.." - he's Luther.

"the sheep who elected me" - he's the Good Shepherd.

"Pax et bonum" - he's the Pope.

"+ Bob of Pitteburgh" - he's both brezzy AND pretentious.

Posted by: Cynthia Gilliatt on Sunday, 4 November 2007 at 11:48am GMT

+Bob Pittsburgh's pictures in the press releases make him look quite grim, Since he took the liberty of invoking Martin Luther's HERE I STAND, to justify his defiance of the General Convention Church, which gave him his miter, may we all intune Luther's hymn, Ein' feste Burg, verse 3: "The prince of darkness grim, we tremble not for him; his rage we can endure, for lo! his doom is sure, one little word shall fell him."

"One little word" from the HoB: deposed.

Posted by: John Henry on Sunday, 4 November 2007 at 2:44pm GMT

+Bob of Pittsburgh, having quoted Martin Luther AND, apparently, the custom of the Franciscan order, without giving credit to either, is, regardless of anything else, a flagrant plagiarist.

Posted by: JNWALL on Sunday, 4 November 2007 at 6:54pm GMT

What is that ACN madness all about, with +Bob Pittsburgh as Moderator?

Katie Sherrod, Diocese of Fort Worth, put it very bluntly on her Blogsite:

"Both the presiding bishop AND the president of the House of Deputies are women. That alone is enough reason for these men to be enraged.

Priests who are women have sullied the priesthood for these men. We have 'girl' bishops and even a gay man as a bishop, and that's just spoiled the whole episcopate thing for all those manly priests out there who are convinced it is their destiny to be bishops.

There's a word for this, folks. It's misogyny. At the heart of it is the ancient belief that women are alien -- after all, we bleed and do not die -- and unclean, that we are somehow not as human as are males.

Priests in my diocese have shored up their claim that women cannot be priests by saying things such as 'a menstruating woman would pollute the altar,' and 'The Eucharist is a joining of the priest and the Mother Church. If a woman did it, it would be a lesbian act.'"

Katie Sherrod is trying to rally loyal Episcopalians, who affirm the actions of General Convention as being in harmony with the Jesus of the Gospels. And, surprise, there are many, many loyal Episcopalians in Sp-Iker-land and even in 'Quitts-burgh'.

Posted by: John Henry on Monday, 5 November 2007 at 12:43am GMT

Cynthia Gilliatt says Luther, Shepherd, Pope...

Agreeing, I Couldn't resist (attempt at visual satire):

http://pluralistspeaks.blogspot.com/2007/11/papal-luther.html

Posted by: Pluralist on Monday, 5 November 2007 at 2:18am GMT

Pat - growth is not shown by random examples. TEC's own numbers show decline year on year and less than 0.9m people coming on a Sunday (=0.29% of the US population which you tell me TEC is really in tune with but the megachurches are not!) And, JCF - beautiful cathedrals with few in it are really not worth having....

+Howe's letter is very interesting in the light of what the ABC wrote to him........ so, the ABC says the diocese in communion with Canterbury is the real Anglican representation in the US and TECUS is an "abstract reality" and now his friend +Howe tells KJS not to take legal action i.e. to accept the authority of the diocese to make its own decisions with regard to affiliation.

Looks like we are going to see +Bob at Lambeth 08 - which is quite right as he is perfectly acceptable to nearly all in the AC (just a few single-agenda TECUSA polity worshippers don't like him) and has not "torn the fabric of the Communion" in defiance of requests of ALL the Primates of the AC i.e. he is a faithful bishop of the AC in good standing.

Posted by: NP on Monday, 5 November 2007 at 7:12am GMT

"growth is not shown by random examples. TEC's own numbers show decline year on year and less than 0.9m people coming on a Sunday (=0.29% of the US population which you tell me TEC is really in tune with but the megachurches are not!)"

Numbers are clearly all that matters. All together now: a hundred thousand lemmings can't be wrong

Posted by: Erika Baker on Monday, 5 November 2007 at 9:53am GMT

John Henry seems quite excited about the division in TECUSA eg ""One little word" from the HoB: deposed."

Now, John....are you expecting "one little word" or more from the AC to TECUSA?

No doubt the Lambeth Palace bureaucrats are working on a way of delaying making any decisions for yet another year (if not more)....but many, not just the GS but also Americans like +Duncan, are sick of delay and internecine bickering....there is work to be done and churches full of people to work with.....too much time (4 years already!) has been wasted already with the AC repeatedly saying TECUSA's actions are not acceptable and fudges and delays avoiding any decisions....just keeping the issue alive and all distracted.

Rowan...4 years is too much time to waste.......try taking a lead.

Posted by: NP on Monday, 5 November 2007 at 10:40am GMT

The problem for all Christianity in the US (not just TEC, but all Christianity) is precisely the megachurches, NP.

Church attendance over all is in decline. The megachurches may be growing, but are they attracting the unchurched or just "robbing Peter to pay Paul" by swiping congregants from other churches? The megachurches present an image of Christianity that the public as a whole rejects--one that is intolerant, that seems to raise appearance of faithfulness over faith itself, that seems to have more to do with entertainment than worship, that seems to value attachment to words over attachment to people.

All of this is why, when young people are surveyed, we get the results revealed by the Barna survey mentioned several times elsewhere on this forum. The megachurches have become--with drastic results for all churches--the public image of Christianity in the US. And it's an image the next generation of adults largely rejects.

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Monday, 5 November 2007 at 11:53am GMT

Perhaps we can all help =Bob Pittsburgh be even more pretentious if we can come up with a Latin translation for Pittsburgh ...

Posted by: Cynthia on Monday, 5 November 2007 at 12:53pm GMT

Pat - you love these surveys of young people but never quite make the connection that there ain't many at all coming to TECUSA and the megachurches do very much better, for all their many faults, in reaching young Americans.....you ever thought why?

The same excuses for declining liberal churches made used in England.....the CofE charismatic and evangelcal churches have literally thousands of teenagers and young adults right next door to dead "liberal" parishes.....but I am often told here on TA that "liberal" churches are empty because evos put people off.....quite tragic reasoning and failure to take responsibility - I think shrinks call it "denial"

Posted by: NP on Monday, 5 November 2007 at 1:08pm GMT

How can anyone in this esteemed blog say Bob Duncan's rhetoric in the letter to our PB is any more over the top than Susan Russell's or other self-styled "progressivists' claims to be leading a "NEW THING" of the Spirit???

I would think that "thinking Anglicans" are capable of a little critical self-awareness.

Let Bob be Bob. He is a man of as deep a conviction that he is right as progressivist activists are. Strong egos all around. That's human. That's history. Focus on their theologies, ecclesiologies, etc. and we might have something more fruitful to discuss... again, as "thinking Anglcians."

Posted by: PHIL on Monday, 5 November 2007 at 1:22pm GMT

"the megachurches do very much better, for all their many faults,"

All their many faults? The point is, NP, what is it they are better at, bringing people to God, or putting on a good sound and light show every Sunday? Confirming that people's comfortable middle class lifestyles are Divinely ordained, and that Ozzie and Harriet were good exemplars of the True Christian Life? That they can prove themselves good Christians if they don't like gay people, give to charity once and a while, a feel guilty that they drive an SUV? In short, if they can successfully profess a morality that pretends to be Christian while taking little or no interest in actually living the Gospel. And you seem to be blithely unaware of the Barna survey. Are you saying it is wrong, false, doesn't apply to England, or what? You have an interesting idea of reality, I give you that, but I don't know of anyone who has anything but scorn for your style of Christianity, so I can't imagine where these huge numbers of young people are coming from. But whatever, you are irritating at times, but in reality, if your fantasy world gives you some joy, then why am I so opposed to you enjoying it?

Posted by: Ford Elms on Monday, 5 November 2007 at 1:58pm GMT

Ford "But whatever, you are irritating at times, but in reality, if your fantasy world gives you some joy, then why am I so opposed to you enjoying it?"

Bit more judgmental than normal today, mate.

Anyway, I did not imagine the hundreds of people in their 20s at church last night......we ain't no US megachurch - just a CofE Anglican church (one of many thriving in England, based on the faithful preaching of the word of God......it's irritating, I know, that the "inclusive" include far few people and have less diversity in their congregations than the supposedly "exclusive" but then that is to God's glory as he blesses the faithful teaching of his word and people humble enough to stick to it even when it challenges their own personal desires.)

Posted by: NP on Monday, 5 November 2007 at 3:21pm GMT

The interesting thing is that BARNA is an evangelical-- and quite capable of self-criticism. And now Bill Hybils, the icon of megachurches has made public an in-depth study of the 'success' of his Willow-Creek model called REVEAL at the WC website. It more or less confirms the problems noted by BARNA, but with even more troubling detail.

I think it is remarkable that evangelicals are, at the same time, recovering deeper ecclesiologies in the Great Traditions. See Simon CHan's new "Liturgical Theology," for example.

But rest assured, they will not be drawn to ECUSA's revisionist or 'progressivist' rendition of the Great Tradition.

Posted by: PHIL on Monday, 5 November 2007 at 3:27pm GMT

NP:

But what percentage of young Americans (or Brits) are the megachurches attracting? Even if their total attendance under 20 were as high as 5 million (which it isn't), it would be but 6/100 of one percent of the total US population in that age bracket (total is about 82 million). Where are the other 77 million, NP? I'll tell you--mostly nowhere. They are completely turned off by the image of Christianity in this country...an image formed in the largest part by the conservative yahoos who have hijacked our religion for their political and social agenda.

Until our teens and young adults again perceive Christianity as a caring, tolerant, open, welcoming religion--one in which a person is not condemned for being what he was born to be--we will not win them back.

You may argue the megachurches are attracting a larger percentage than the mainline denominations like TEC...but if we have to "put on a show" to get them in, as Ford points out, what are they really coming for? And if they really hold the same social and political attitudes as their leaders preach to them, I'm not really sure they are Christians anyway...at least not any kind of Christian I want to associate with.

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Monday, 5 November 2007 at 5:01pm GMT

NP wrote. "Bit more judgmental than normal today, mate."

Ford will never mate with you, Nersen.

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Monday, 5 November 2007 at 7:36pm GMT

I try not to take NP's bait, in part because I can't imagine what he/she is doing trying to convince progressive Anglicans of the error of our ways. In the AC and in our churches, we are not going to agree on the interpretation of certain scriptural texts.Just as we do not agree on capital punishment, war (especially GB's 'pre-emptive war'); divorce and re-marriage; the ordination of women to name a few issues of diagreement. Yet, in spite of decades of disagreement about these issues, now is the time that the conservatives believe that they must initiate schism over the inclusion of LGBT persons in a few of the churches of the communion. What is there about about this issue calls for all the anger, namecalling, threats, including violence, and demands for separation, coming from the conservatives? It is a shameful witness to the world that Christians are still unable to love each other,after two thousand years. No demands for separation over a war that has cost tens of thousands of civilian lives. Barely a word. But over two persons loving each other in a manner which some Christians and some exegetes consider unbiblical calls for tearing the AC apart. I grow tired of NP's claims that the meg-churches and the evangelical parishes of Britain have the numbers. So what? According to a recent Barna survey, (a born-again, evangelical social research firm), the evangelical churches are having great trouble attracting 19-29 year olds, whose main complaint against the churches is that they are homophobic, and that instead of helping these young people to buld better relationships with their gay friends, the churches are calling them to exclude them from their lives and church "families". Having a larger percentage of conservative young people is not a great claim to anything. The simple fact is that overall church attendance is falling in Europe and the U.S. NP wishes us to believe that if only we would all become evangelicals and charismatics, this trend could be reversed. Apart from the fact that this wish has no possibility of fulfillment, it would do no good anyway. The results of the Barna multi-year study makes that clear. There need to be churches in the communion which practice full inclusion of LGBT persons. This is not going to go away, and the tragedy of bishops and parishes going away is having a very destructive effect in the communion. And finally, NP, you write intelligently, however much I disagree with you. So why do you persist in writing as if the AC is some sort of world-wide Church, in which Bob Duncan can be fully functioning as a bishop because he is in compliance with some advisory documents,or the majority view of the primates, or a Lambeth Conference resolution. The Anglican Communion is an association of full-fledged Churches. If Bob Duncan abandons the communion of the church that made him a bishop, he will be deposed by the House of Bishops and the Presdiding Bishop, as he should be. He will have abandoned his ordination vows and repudiated the church according to which he was elected, sustained and consecrated. All in the name of a higher calling to his opinon about the Bible and same sex relationships. This is a leader admired by the conservatives? At least he is better than Abp.Akinola who calls for the jailing of LGBT persons for the "sin" of associating to work for recognition of their civil rights. Do you not see how scandalous all of this bashing of other people is in a communion of Churces who claim to love others in the name of Christ? No wonder, the majority of young people in the Western countries are walking away from the churches in disappointment and disgust.

Posted by: revkarenm on Monday, 5 November 2007 at 8:23pm GMT

A priest of the Diocese of Pittsburgh justifies leaving the General Convention Church BECAUSE:

"Over the past 40 years there has been a drift away from orthodox ways of speaking about God. In some places in TEC instead of God being referred to as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, He is addressed only by function as creator, redeemer and sustainer, and not in personal ways. The problem with this approach is that it makes God more remote and the fact is God has revealed himself to us through the Scriptures not just by function, but in personal terms as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Another example is when the name LORD is replaced with "God." So instead of the Liturgical greeting:

"The Lord be with you" you may encounter in some parts of TEC "God be with you" or even "God is in you" with the response: "and also in you." The word LORD apparently is perceived as too male, and too authoritarian. The earliest creedal statement was simply "Jesus is Lord." And yes, it was meant to be authoritarian. I was very sad when I attended the Interfaith service at Calvary last week, to see precisely such a change had been made to the liturgy. When it came to share the Peace, the wording was not: "The peace of the Lord", but rather "The Peace of God.""

He goes on and on...

All churches, including the Roman Communion, have been struggling with liturgical language and, I would venture to add, properly so. After all, God is beyond comprehension--infinite Mystery, yet wills to be known. Pope Benedict XVI re-authorized the Latin Tridentine Mass, although it will be difficult to find celebrants fluent in Latin. But Latin, too, is a translation culturally conditioned. So is the Greek of the Eastern Orthodox Liturgy. Why not go back to Aramaic, then, the language spoken by Jesus? Some scholars say that Jesus spoke Hebrew rather than Aramaic... There we go! Does it justify schism?

LORD, Lordship... conveys different meanings, especially to those once oppressed by a feudal society or a male society oppressing women. Maybe, the latter is the real "hot botton" or "wedge issue" for disaffected and insecure MALES.

Posted by: John Henry on Monday, 5 November 2007 at 9:05pm GMT

Correction to my previous post--math not being my strong point: 5 million is 6/10 of one percent of 82 million, not 6/100.

Apologies.

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Monday, 5 November 2007 at 9:57pm GMT

Hmm. There always seems to be a lot of folks at TA willing to argue that megachurches, evangelical churches, charismatic churches, conservative churches, etc. are actually barely successful in terms of the overall population--despite their seemingly teeming congregations and growth.

Of course, it is a bit ironic that advocates of the withering liberal church (a proven failure) would, unblushingly, criticize others--whose growth and retention numbers are far in excess of their own--for not being "good enough" in this regard. There is, I believe, more than a hint of "sour grapes" in all of these remarks.

Still, putting aside for the moment the usual jibes here at TA, can more be expected than what is being achieved? We live in a post-Christian society that is (as someone put it) "slouching towards Gomorrah". Amidst the moral and religious chaos and wreckage of what used to be a great Christian civilization, should we be surprised that we can at best save only a remnant, while the rest rush towards oblivion.

May the Lord have Mercy. We all need to pray (and work) for revival and conversion of an atheistic and increasingly anti-Christian society.

Steven

Posted by: Steven on Monday, 5 November 2007 at 10:19pm GMT

Further correction: I still got it wrong...told you math isn't my strong point. Obviously ten percent of 82 million is 8.2 million...so 5 million would be about 6 percent.

My point still stands, however...no matter how we divvy it up, the vast majority of US residents under 20 aren't going to church at all.

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Monday, 5 November 2007 at 10:40pm GMT

Re.: "God be with you" versus "The Lord be with you" in my posting above:

Those who advocate change from "The Lord be with you"/"the peace of the Lord be always with you" to "God be with you"/"God's peace be with you" are more in line with the Septuagint (LXX) Greek language, in which KYRIOS means Elohim (Heb."God") in lieu of YHWH ("Yahweh"), the divine name not to be used in vain, according to the prohibition of the 2nd Commandment. In Pauline usage, KYRIOS ("the Lord") was a counter-cultural affirmation that "Caesar was not God", but the crucified Jesus was "Lord and God" (cf. NT Wright, an evangelical Bishop of Durham and highly reputable NT scholar).

How have those using "God be with you" instead of "The Lord be with you" abandoned "the faith once delivered to the saints"? Of course not. The reasserter-know-it-all judges of heresy, who attended Trinity School for Ministry, have sadly not been exposed to reputable LXX and NT scholarship based on the Greek texts. All usuage of Greek titles is as culturally conditioned as in English usuage. You just can't go by "dictionary definitions".

Of course, in Duncan's Quittsburgh and Sp-Iker-land ignorance is bliss.

Posted by: John Henry on Monday, 5 November 2007 at 11:03pm GMT

People interested in the success of various denominations in retaining young adults (at least in the USA) ought to check out Robert Wuthnow's new book "After the Baby Boomers: How Twenty- and Thirty-Somethings Are Shaping the Future of American Religion" It really doesn't give anyone a reason to congratulate themselves but offers some practical advice. No protestant churches of any flavor are being very successful with this group. Solid scholarship from Princeton University Press. To me, the conclusions in Wuthnow's various books are fascinating, but his style can put me to sleep. But he at least provides the solid research to answer the anecdotal claims recited over and over again by people who are fundamentally propounding their own biased opinions.

Posted by: Anthony W on Monday, 5 November 2007 at 11:59pm GMT

The point is, Steven, that I would prefer an atheistic society to one dominated by your sort of Christianity.

Posted by: Merseymike on Tuesday, 6 November 2007 at 12:39am GMT

on the subject of Episcopal growth or not...and its comparison to other mainline churches, I recommend the following link:

http://www.episcopalcafe.com/daily/evangelism/diagnosing_mainline_decline.php" Demography and time trends in membership in the Episcopal Church

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Tuesday, 6 November 2007 at 3:11am GMT

Pat - forget the calculations....think on why TECUSA says itself that it is declining year on year and why it attracts so few from any age group, especially the young when it proclaims itself as being modern and progressive (not like the backward conservatives who attract more people even in the US)

Liberals lecturing evos on church growth......bit like the US lecturing the rest of the world on pollution and climate change except the US govt has too much self-awareness to do that

Posted by: NP on Tuesday, 6 November 2007 at 9:48am GMT

NP:

Lots of numbers and graphs in your links, but very little interpretation. And, of course, being big is not the same as being right. As a commenter in your second link points out, the fastest growing religion in the world is Islam.

MY link deals not only in raw numbers, but in comparisons and interpretations. It indicates that TEC's decline is not radically different from that of other mainline Protestant denominations in the US and not radically different from the decline in church attendance generally (even the RC in the US is seeing a decline outside Hispanic communities--you telling me the RC is more liberal than TEC on gay rights?)

What TEC is dealing with is a general decline in religious observance in the US...not anything specific to itself, its policies, or worship. What the megachurches indicate is that you can attract a certain kind of "worshipper" if you turn your liturgy into an arena show worthy of a rock band or country music star.

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Tuesday, 6 November 2007 at 12:20pm GMT

"the moral and religious chaos and wreckage of what used to be a great Christian civilization"

I find this really funny. Liberals see a society improving in fits and starts, conservatives see us slouching to Gomorrah! Do you really believe our society is worse than what has gone before? Fact is, we are not going to Hell on a handbar, there might have been a "Christian civilization" but it's greatness can be debated, and I would question the "goodness" of the whole idea of "Christendom". At base, Steven, you are in defence mode, in some way positioned as a defender of what little can be saved of our past greatness as society slides into barbarism. It ain't happening, and the inevitable fear that is associated with it causes you to do some unwise things. Sure we have the parousia, but why should Christians fear that? The traditional imagery is of imperfect Creation striving for perfection, which will be found at the parousia. If Christ giveth us the victory, why should we fear that? This idea that Creation is actually declining as opposed to yearning for Her perfection is a relative innovation. This isn't to go against what Erika and I were talking about last week. It is important for us to work for the Kingdom, but we also need to realize it will come in God's good time. More importantly, do you actually believe God will allow His people, where ever you believe them to be, to be lost? Do you really think He will let the Gospel die? To me, this idea that society is teetering on the brink is without foundation, an innovation intended to produce fear and dread, thereby making people more managable. It also makes it easier to blame those one sees as one's opponents for the destruction. It's hard to apportion blame for something when that something sin't actually happening! Most importantly, it shows a lack of faith in the omnipotence of God.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Tuesday, 6 November 2007 at 1:32pm GMT

“The point is, Steven, that I would prefer an atheistic society to one dominated by your sort of Christianity.”— Merseymike

AMEN!

Posted by: Kurt on Tuesday, 6 November 2007 at 1:57pm GMT

Merseymike:

That's OK. I really wasn't counting on your support.

Still, you probably should think the matter over. Even by your own lights, you are saying that godlessness is superior to Christianity which includes "errors" that affect the free exercise of your particular sexual proclivities. Is Christianity nothing outside of whether it provides kudos for homosexual activities? Surely it means more than this to you?

Your statement is not only very radical and self-centered, it also means that you would consider atheism superior to the last 4000+ years of Judeo-Christian Faith, heritage and Revelation--all of which contain and support these same "errors" (as you might put it). All of it is apparently worthless, and would have been better replaced with atheism as it does not support the homosexual agenda.

Perhaps you might like to refine your statement to say something a bit . . . well, more nuanced and less hostile.

Steven

Posted by: Steven on Tuesday, 6 November 2007 at 2:06pm GMT

Pat says "What TEC is dealing with is a general decline in religious observance in the US...not anything specific to itself, its policies, or worship."

Really believe that??

Pls explain to me why we have in our London CofE church a couple of thousand people (all ages, colours, types) on a Sunday and hundreds using the church every night of the week....when just minutes away liberal CofE churches have next to nothing going on and few attending?

(could it be the wishy-washy, non-biblical "message" they "preach" is not very attractive...or even true?)

Posted by: NP on Tuesday, 6 November 2007 at 4:19pm GMT

“Even by your own lights, you are saying that godlessness is superior to Christianity…”Steven

Is that your interpretation? My interpretation is that most atheists are better Christians in terms of their behavior towards their neighbors than are most right-wing Evos.

Posted by: Kurt on Tuesday, 6 November 2007 at 4:41pm GMT

"just minutes away liberal CofE churches have next to nothing going on and few attending?"

Might it be that they don't trick people into the building then frighten them into compliance with continued loud threats about how God will send them to Hell if they don't "get saved"? That's just one way I could see this happening, indeed, given past experiences, that's the way I assume it's done. That and flock poaching.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Tuesday, 6 November 2007 at 5:18pm GMT

"The same excuses for declining liberal churches made used in England.....the CofE charismatic and evangelcal churches have literally thousands of teenagers and young adults right next door to dead "liberal" parishes.....but I am often told here on TA that "liberal" churches are empty because evos put people off.....quite tragic reasoning and failure to take responsibility - I think shrinks call it "denial"--NP

So what do you call all those crowds at the (UK) Cathedral Sunday evensongs NP? Nope, no hand waving, demonstrative, attention seeking, self made up minds and judgementalism types in those listening (and singing) the Mag and Nunc.

Give me a break. You take your sheep and I'll be with mine.

Cynthia-"Relinquoppidum"

Funny, how a place that once built bridges ("Ambridge") is now destroying them. How ironic. A "bishop" trying to take his diocese away (to where?). If that isn't "tearing at the fabric" then I don't know what is.

Posted by: choirboyfromhell on Tuesday, 6 November 2007 at 6:11pm GMT

Ford:

1. I calls 'em like I sees 'em.

2. God will always preserve a believing remnant, no matter what else may happen.

3. I also believe that the Kingdom of God will ultimately triumph; however, a lot can happen between here and there.

4. Overall, my comments have to do with one particular part of Christendom, namely Western Civilization, and more particularly, Western European and American civilization. Christianity is on the rise elsewhere, but in decline in this arena. Never fear, God doesn't need us to work out his plans. Still, I'm a bit sentimental about the civilization that is my own.

Steven

Posted by: Steven on Tuesday, 6 November 2007 at 6:59pm GMT

"Pat says "What TEC is dealing with is a general decline in religious observance in the US...not anything specific to itself, its policies, or worship."

Really believe that??

Pls explain to me why we have in our London CofE church a couple of thousand people (all ages, colours, types) on a Sunday and hundreds using the church every night of the week....when just minutes away liberal CofE churches have next to nothing going on and few attending?

(could it be the wishy-washy, non-biblical "message" they "preach" is not very attractive...or even true?)"


First of all, of course, I said, "...in the US...." NP's church is in the UK.

Secondly, I have to ask yet again--how big is your church building? "A couple of thousand people?" I've been in both the Philadelphia cathedral and NYC's Cathedral of St. John the Divine. St. John could handle 2000 people, maybe even twice that number...but the Philly cathedral would be stressed with 1000. You're telling me a parish church in London can hold 2000? Londoners here--is he making this stuff up out of whole cloth?

And, of course, we return to the whole numbers question, anyway--since when is our faith determined by how many people we can attract? In the 1930s, here in the US, Amy Semple McPherson--a charlatan if there ever was one--attracted thousands to her tent shows. In the '40s, Father Coughlin--an anti-Semite and a Nazi sympathizer--had a radio audience in the millions.


Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Tuesday, 6 November 2007 at 7:06pm GMT

There is a "mega" church on the west side of my large Great Lakes region city that has had a boxing event to promote "fighting for Jesus".

That's real Christianity for you. What was it that W. C. Fields once said about one being born every minute?

These so called "churches" have been fodder for our U.S. invasion into Iraq. Feel any better about this NP?

Posted by: choirboyfromhell on Tuesday, 6 November 2007 at 10:37pm GMT

If we choose our faith by growth in numbers we will all be Muslims very soon.

Posted by: Anthony W on Tuesday, 6 November 2007 at 11:36pm GMT

Anthony - I ain't saying choose your faith based on nos.

I am saying that it is ironic that those who criticise "conservatives" for being our of step with the culture etc and those who claim to be oh so "inclusive" have so few attending.

I do say that the obvious failure of liberal, "inclusive" theology to attract people for decades is rooted in its selective rejection of scripture and its weakness and decline is evidence that God is not blessing the ministry of those who pick and choose what they like in the bible.......

I notice how "liberals" hate to talk about nos because being "inclusive" was never supposed to lead to small, declining churches (even in the US and England) while at the same time "conservative" churches are strong and growing (even in the US and England, in the last 50 years....) This leaves "liberals" claiming "small is beautiful" etc because so few want to come and hear the "inclusive gospel"

Posted by: NP on Wednesday, 7 November 2007 at 9:25am GMT

"its weakness and decline is evidence that God is not blessing the ministry of those who pick and choose what they like in the bible"

See, NP, that can't be. If God doesn't bless those who pick and choose what they like in the Bible, then He can't be blessing evangelical churches as you claim. And who, other than you in your desire to revile your enemies, ever said that inclusivity was about attracting more bums in pews?

And, Steven, do you really believe we are in the middle of a cultural decline? I too am sentimental about the loss of my culture, but in my case it's mass market American culture that is doing the destroying. In any event, I am fascinated by this. I knew it was so basic to this whole debate, but it is still something to see it expressed so powerfully. You seriously think Western society is in decline. Why? Too much sex? Too much license generally? Not enough respect for traditional authority? What? Erika sees it just the opposite, and just as clearly. I disagree with both of you. Where's the evidence? We're no more violent now than we ever were, in fact, violent crime has been steadily declining for the past 30 years. We are better off financially, overall. We are healthier, though our excessive wealth has created a generation that, for the first time in a long time, has a shorter life expectancy than their parents. We enjoy far more freedom. Just as I see no overall ewvidence that our society is evolving in a forward direction, I see none for regression either. Please elaborate.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Wednesday, 7 November 2007 at 5:13pm GMT

NP: remember, the UK's best selling paper is the Sun, with 4 million readers. Why do you think that might be? Does that make it the best paper?
I would predict that your large Evangelical congregation has a rapid membership turnover, if it is typical of the type, and among that turnover will be many people who will be scarred for life by that experience of hard-line religion. I have met many such in England: it is a sad fact about the so-called "growth" hard line churches. They are failing as much as any other churches to connect with English society, and put many people off ever going anywhere near a church.

Posted by: Fr Mark on Wednesday, 7 November 2007 at 5:30pm GMT

NP - First, it would be wrong to say that conservatives are out of step with culture. Culture in both the USA and UK is large and widely varied. Neither the conservatives nor liberals are any more out of step with culture than the other.

Second, the ones who claim to be more inclusive actually are more inclusive. It is not a false claim. This is backed up very well in Prof. Wuthnow's recent study ("After the Baby Boomers: How Twenty- and Thirty-Somethings Are Shaping the Future of American Religion" Princeton University Press).

Third, you claim that the liberal churches' decline in attendance is due to their selective use of scripture. I find this claim unconvincing on its face and would like to know what your basis for asserting it is. There are many possible reasons why liberal church attendance might be waning. I likewise cannot simply accept your implied premise that if God is blessing a ministry the numbers of its adherents will always increase or at least remain stable. This is an unbiblical assertion. Again, it heavily favors Islam. My bringing up Islam is serious. By some of the reasserter arguments, it is possible we should be taking another, serious look at Islam.

I cannot speak to the situation in the UK. In the USA, some conservatove churches have grown rapidly in recent years. I do not know if their increased membership comes from mainline or liberal Protestant churches, or, as Prof. Wuthnow finds, mainly from dissatisfied RC's. Whatever the case, if they are fulfilling the needs of their new members, they are to be congratulated. I do not believe that they will satisfy the needs of absolutely everybody in this country. There will be room for a variety of churches for a long time to come, as there has been since the very first days of the Puritan commonwealth in America. Perhaps the opposite is true in England. If so, it would be a remarkable change of behavior for the English people, who have throughout history been most fertile in coming forth with differing approaches to Christianity.

Posted by: Anthony W on Wednesday, 7 November 2007 at 6:20pm GMT

Ford:

I suspect we have very little time left to discuss a subject as weighty as the decline of Western Civilization, though varying perceptions on this issue at TA are indeed an undercurrent that flows through and around everything we say. However, it is certainly a topic we can pick up elsewhere. In the interim, I would ask you to consider two things.

First, we generally refer to the current state of European and American civilization to be post-Christian. This is unquestioned by folks at TA, and is generally unquestionable in my opinion--reflecting the fact that our current civilization no longer self-consciously and intentionally seeks (even with inevitable failures) to be Christian in its outlook, worldview, religion, approach, etc. This is a sad fact that remains, even though certain aspects of the Christian worldview and ethos have been absorbed by the secular culture and continue to advance.

Second, in reflecting on the foregoing as well as any "progress" we continue to make, recall the words of our Lord: "What shall it profit a man to gain the whole world if he lose his own soul?" We are in a culture that has lost its Christian soul, and nothing we have or could gain will make up for this fact in the long run. Kyrie Eleison.

Steven

Posted by: Steven on Wednesday, 7 November 2007 at 10:48pm GMT

"We are in a culture that has lost its Christian soul, and nothing we have or could gain will make up for this fact in the long run."

Or has it simply found a new way of defining "Christian"? One that embraces more people than it turns away? By becoming secular, the culture ceases to define some of its people out of the culture. It stops treating non-Christians as second-class humans, living for real Jesus' example that it is the Samaritan who was truly the injured man's neighbor.

Which is the more "Christian" way of life? To treat all people as worthy of respect and love? Or to retain that respect and love only for those who share our faith?

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Thursday, 8 November 2007 at 3:32am GMT

Well said, Pat.

Posted by: Fr Mark on Thursday, 8 November 2007 at 9:27am GMT

Pat:

You have missed the central point of my post.

Steven

Posted by: Steven on Thursday, 8 November 2007 at 2:12pm GMT

Steven,
A culture has no soul to lose. Given that "Christian culture" gave us the Inquisition and witch burning, was instrumental in the destruction of innumerable smaller cultures around the world, was, and still is, directly involved in the situation in the Middle East, has resulted in 400 years of violence in Ireland, violence that was all over Europe for a couple of centuries, and betrayed Christ's teaching that the Kingdom "is not of this world" with it's selling out of the Gospel to the State, I don't see much to grieve at in its demise. And I don't agree that the problem with "Christian culture" was the inevitable failure to achieve perfection that is a characteristic of created nature. The "Christian culture" wasn't trying to be Christian in the first place.

I'm fascinated, as I said, that on this board we have someone who sees Western culture as progressing inevitably, though falteringly, forward, someone who really doesn't see much change one way or the other, just different sets of good and bad things balancing each other out, and someone who uses the phrase "the decline of Western society" as though it were generally accepted fact! Each of us considers our world view to be abundantly clear, and that clarity, I think, informs much of our position an any issue.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Thursday, 8 November 2007 at 3:37pm GMT

Pat,
Since NP is strangely shy and silent about his church... he previously hinted that he belongs to Holy Trinity Brompton, the church that first developed the Alpha course. It is a mega church famous for attracting a wealthy young crowd.

www.htb.org.uk

Posted by: Erika Baker on Thursday, 8 November 2007 at 4:02pm GMT

"We are in a culture that has lost its Christian soul, and nothing we have or could gain will make up for this fact in the long run."

Now, that's a new theology. I've heard that people can have souls, but our correspondent asserts that entire civilizations can have souls and, presumably, be saved or damned in their entirety.

That, of course, is complete nonsense.

He must mean "soul" in a metaphorical sense. Though I wonder why he thinks it was such a bad thing. Terrible atrocities were committed by "Christian" nations in the name of their religion.

The fact is, the Christian experience remains a foundational cultural experience, but one which is largely relegated to historic influence instead of current influence. Instead, humanism is the underlying philosophy of Western culture. Again Christians attack and condemn this, but humanism is just as compatible with a Christian point of view as it is with a secular point of view.

So, I think Stephen is barking up the wrong tree here. One can be a Christian and support humanistic values. It seems to me to be the right environment for Christianity. People are not compelled to belong. Instead, we have members who are much more committed to the faith than the average member 100 or more years ago.

People bemoan the loss of members in the mainline churches beginning 40 or so years ago. It seems to me, we just managed to get rid of the dead wood -- the people who showed up in the pews because it was socially expected but who otherwise didn't allow the faith to touch them in any way. We now have a church with believers and not just attenders.

Noting the reports of people in Nigeria and other parts of Africa who worship in a mosque on Friday and a Christian church on Sunday, I wonder how many of the purported Africans Anglicans are actually Christians and how many are just filling up places in the pews.

Posted by: ruidh on Thursday, 8 November 2007 at 4:03pm GMT

Erika: if NP's church is HTB, then you should know it is a church in just about the most expensive part of London (just off Knightsbridge, round the corner from Harrods) and which attracts an exclusive wealthy middle class crowd of the privately-educated who wish to preserve their values. It does not connect at all with people beyond that social group or those who aspire to belong to it.

Posted by: Fr Mark on Thursday, 8 November 2007 at 8:08pm GMT

Ford:

I can't see much point in discussing the point further, particularly on a thread that is about to terminate. I expect the subject will come up again at some point. Maybe we can discuss it further at that point.

Steven

Posted by: Steven on Thursday, 8 November 2007 at 10:28pm GMT

I laugh at one of God's ironies. The megachurches are dependent on fossil fuels to get their full congregations each and every week.

Those ridiculous "dwindling" neighbourhood churches are not so dependent on fossil fuels for their identities...

Posted by: Cheryl Va. Clough on Friday, 9 November 2007 at 8:35am GMT

I am with Ruid!

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Saturday, 17 November 2007 at 7:38pm GMT
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