Monday, June 12, 2006

"You're the only one here who believes in God."

John Nance Garner -- the 32nd Vice President of these here United States -- once remarked that the office of the Vice President was a job that wasn't worth a warm bucket of spit. (Legend has it his real word was a different bodily fluid.)

I'm not sure why, but whenever anyone mentions liberal Christianity, I think of that quote. Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr., president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, checks in on that warm bucket with the following:

A New Exodus? Americans are Exiting Liberal Churches


"We have figured out your problem. You're the only one here who believes in God." That statement, addressed to a young seminarian, introduces Dave Shiflett's new book, Exodus: Why Americans are Fleeing Liberal Churches for Conservative Christianity. The book is an important contribution, and Shiflett offers compelling evidence that liberal Christianity is fast imploding upon itself.

Shiflett, an established reporter and author, has written for The Washington Post, The Weekly Standard, National Review, The Wall Street Journal, and Investors' Business Daily, among other major media. He is also author of Christianity on Trial and is a member of the White House Writers Group.

Shiflett's instincts as a reporter led him to see a big story behind the membership decline in liberal denominations. At the same time, Shiflett detected the bigger picture--the decline of liberal churches as compared to growth among the conservatives. Like any good reporter, he knew he was onto a big story.

"Americans are vacating progressive pews and flocking to churches that offer more traditional versions of Christianity," Shiflett asserts. This author is not subtle, and he gets right to the point: "Most people go to church to get something they cannot get elsewhere. This consuming public--people who already believe, or who are attempting to believe, who want their children to believe--go to church to learn about the mysterious Truth on which the Christian religion is built. They want the Good News, not the minister's political views or intellectual coaching. The latter creates sprawling vacancies in the pews. Indeed, those empty pews can be considered the earthly reward for abandoning heaven, traditionally understood."

... more ...

On the other side of the theological divide, most conservative denominations are growing. The conservative Presbyterian Church in America [PCA] grew 42.4 percent in the same decade that the more liberal Presbyterian denomination lost 11.6 percent of its members. Other conservative denominations experiencing significant growth included the Christian Missionary Alliance (21.8 percent), the Evangelical Free Church (57.2 percent), the Assemblies of God (18.5 percent), and the Southern Baptist Convention (five percent).

As quoted in Exodus, Glenmary director Ken Sanchagrin told the New York Times that he was "astounded to see that by and large the growing churches are those that we ordinarily call conservative. And when I looked at those that were declining, most were moderate or liberal churches. And the more liberal the denomination, by most people's definition, the more they were losing."

... and ...

In a sense, the travail of the Episcopal Church USA is the leading focus of Shiflett's book. Indeed, Shiflett states his intention to begin "with the train wreck known as the Episcopal Church USA." As he tells it, "One Tuesday in latter-day Christendom, the sun rose in the east, the sky became a pleasant blue, and the Episcopal Church USA elected a gay man as bishop for a small New Hampshire diocese." How could this happen? The ordination of a non-celibate homosexual man as a bishop of the Episcopal Church flew directly in the face of the clear teachings of Scripture and the official doctrinal positions of the church. No matter--the Episcopal Church USA was determined to normalize homosexuality, even as they have normalized divorce and remarriage. As Shiflett explains, "It is commonly understood that the election of the Reverend Gene Robinson, an openly gay priest, to be bishop of the diocese of New Hampshire was undertaken in clear opposition to traditional church teaching and Scripture. What is often left unsaid is that this is hardly the first time tradition has been trounced. The Reverend Gene Robinson's sexual life was an issue and was accommodated, just as the Episcopal Church earlier found a way to embrace bishops who believe that Jesus is no more divine, at least in a supernatural sense, than Bette Midler."