Monday, April 30, 2007

Mainline churches failing to hold the line

Mike Adams, a professor way down south in North Carolina, a Baptist with a libertarian bend, a love of butchering the sacred cows of political correctness, and a truly witty satirist, has a pretty good column up attacking a quasi-pagan (at best) church in (do I even have to say it?) San Francisco. Some of Adams' column will be a bit of deja vou for many readers. Stories about this "Lutheran" "Church;" known as "Herchurch," where they have such innovations as a "Goddess Rosary," made there rounds in the Catholic blogsphere a year ago. You may recall, among others, this post over at Cafeteria is Closed. Anyway in his column "My Conversion to the Lutheran Feminist Faith" Adams writes... "I was initially attracted to ELCA because they claim to be “a diverse community.” As a professor at a university, I know that when people claim to be diverse they really mean it. Also, ELCA stands firmly within the Christian tradition in an effort “to re-image the divine” by focusing more on her feminine persona. I’m sick and tired of a God who made me in his image. I want to make up my own God. And I want him to be a chick - preferable a cute lesbian with lots of cute friends." Mike Adams is joking, sadly Herchurch is not. While this San Francisco attempt to conjoin radical feminism and Christianity is, more-or-less, a campy 70's throwback by a bunch of aging hippies who, in another era would have been referred to as "spinsters," it also speaks to two real crisis in Christendom. The first is exemplified in a more wide-spread way in misunderstandings of religion that give ideas like the "Sacred Feminine" from Dan Brown traction. The great tragedy here, as Gerald said in his post last year... "I'd like to point out Mary, Mother of God. How come these gals never mention her?" It is a real shame that in looking for a female spiritual role-model some people would scoff at Our Lady Queen of Heaven and instead try to elevate themselves for worship. Don't bother reading the comments at the end of Adams' article, some of the comments descend into anti-Catholic bigotry that we've all heard a million times before, with some conservative Protestants basically saying this is a result of the ELCA becoming "too Catholic," it is simply absurd. In case you aren't aware, there are three major synods of Lutheranism in the US. The smallest group, the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Church still espouses the "Pope is the anti-Christ" idea as if it were fresh of a Wittenberg printing press. Then you have the MO Synod, pretty moderate, for them the anti-Catholic stuff is kind of like the adultery laws, still on the books, but no one ever enforces it. Theological hostility to the Bride of Christ aside, at least these groups have held the line on respect for life and marriage as well as most other moral issues. The largest synod, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is a combination of three smaller ones and was founded in the 1980s (as opposed to 33 A.D.), it is the most ecumenical. Some of the more liberal Catholic priests will even hold joint services on Good Friday and "pulpit exchanges," with the ELCA pastors. In terms of liturgical style, Church architecture, etc, the ECLA is the most "Catholic," of course don't read into that too much, they are "Catholic" in the same way the Episcopalians are, they like some of the externals, they say the "Our Father" (well most do) the clergy have vestments, etc. In terms of faith and morals though, the ELCA leadership is far from Catholic, they ordain women, and the denomination has actively been campaigning against a federal amendment to protect that sanctity of marriage. The ELCA is a church that "church neither supports nor opposes" abortion-restricting legislation, however it doesn't take much Googling to learn that, "The ELCA funds elective abortions in the church’s health care coverage for pastors and professional church workers, and some Lutheran-affiliated hospitals perform elective abortions."

Oh and in case you were wondering... "Six mainline Protestant bodies among the 25 largest churches showed losses in membership in 2005. The United Church of Christ was down 3.28 percent; the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), 2.84 percent; American Baptist Churches in the U.S.A., 1.97 percent; Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, 1.62 percent; Episcopal Church, 1.59 percent; and United Methodist Church, 1.36 percent.

Three of these, the Episcopalians, Presbyterians and United Church of Christ, lost more than 10 percent of their membership between 1995 and 2005. "

Back to Adams, one comment to his article which is worth repeating, for the sake of example... "I belong to this branch of Lutheran Church -- a southern congregation -- and have never seen anything remotely similar to this. They do say that they welcome people of all sexual orientations. But that is it. And I could care less who is praying next to me so long as they are quiet and respectful of the rights of others...However, this column is in fact disturbing. Let the Left criticize and belittle religious conduct (as they do so often with respect to conservative Christianity). But the right need not adopt the same tactics. If these people in the specific California church are attacking him personally, that may be a different story, but at least he should set the context." This is the problem with a lot of the "Mainline" churches and brings us to a second major crisis in Protestant Christianity. The more conservative folks sit back and think, 'sure there is some foolishness in my denomination, but certainly not at MY church, and certainly not MY pastor!' And so it goes, these people bury their heads in the sand, plenty happy going to their old churches, singing the old hymns, reading the Bible, and everything has the outward appearance of normalcy. I guess when salvation is such an individual matter of being saved, the greater decay of denomination and society doesn't seem as much of a problem. Still, I am sympathetic to these people, there really is no reason for them to believe that traditions, basic Christian morality, and simple common sense, won't triumph in their denominations, and yet, exactly the opposite occurs. Theological liberals are professionals at subverting mainline churches, they are the Delta Force of fighting the stealthy behind the scenes ideological battles. They have an impressive arsenal of mission statements and Orwellian double-speak about "diversity," and "inclusiveness." I would imagine they have a stranglehold on the seminaries in such a way that it would make even the most liberal Catholic seminary rector look like Pope St. Pius V. The squeaky wheel gets the oil and the liberals know how to squeak. While the good people go on making pot-luck suppers and having Bible-studies, the liberals sit on committees and take control of the purse-strings on a national level, hence the subsidized abortions, which I guarantee you, would probably come as a shock to many of the people in the pews on Sunday and would be bad for the collection plate to say the least! Now in fairness to the comment cited above, you can't judge a denomination based on one church. I would be a crying shame if Roman Catholics were judged by the craziness that goes on in more than a few of our parishes, such as St. Joan of Arc, which Gerald has blogged on frequently. However, as a Catholic, I know that such dissidents are just that, dissidents, they don't call the shots, and with each passing day it is more and more clear that their time is up. In the mainline churches, the momentum is going in the opposite direction. If I were a conservative member of the ELCA right now, no matter how good the sermons I was getting at my local church were, I'd be asking myself, why a semi-pagan group like "Herchurch" and I are sharing the same umbrella? What kind of crisis of authority has brought us to the point where being Christian is not necessarily an important part of belonging to a Christian church? I'd really be wishing that I'd left my church, before my church left me. The rural areas of the upper-Midwest are dotted with pretty little Lutheran churches, many from the 19th century, that have a very nice look and feel, it's almost idyllic. I'll bet being a pastor at one of these churches is not a bad gig either. It would be sort of like being the country vicar from old English novels, a kindly, mostly elderly congregation, a nice salary and housing stipend, respectability in the community, being able to help people with their problems, a bully-pulpit every Sunday to talk about religion, and a nice musical tradition of Bach songs to enjoy. Heck if you want to live the sort of distributionist lifestyle in the countryside that Chesterton wrote about, there you go! And hey, if you don't like it, you can always quit and try a new career. Nice, maybe, but a world of difference from the Catholic priesthood, instituted by Christ. When Jesus says, "Do you love me," and one says, "Yes Lord!" Jesus doesn't give us a pat on the back he says, "then follow me!" Following Jesus, as we all know is a road that is challenging, sometimes lonely, and even, in some cases dangerous. Following Jesus got Peter crucified upside-down, following Jesus brought Blessed Miguel Pro before a firing squad, following Jesus led St. Kolbe to death in a concentration camp. Needless to say, it is a road of continuous self-sacrifice, and it can be, the road of ultimate sacrifice. There are few who understand this better, or exemplify it more throughout history, than the men of the Catholic priesthood. Well when I started this post as a link to a funny a humorous article, I never thought it would end like that. Chalk that last paragraph up to some stellar homilies I've been hearing lately!

Lastly, I should say, this is not Schadenfreude, I know we have some great Protestant readers, and I'll be curious to see what they have to say on this. I am not rooting for mainline denominations to collapse into post-Christian amorality, quite the contrary! That does nothing to advance the culture of life. Rather, I would like to see the good people in those denominations stop the slide and turn the tide and re-infuse their churches with the Christian morality of their ancestors. Good luck, my prayers are with you!


Anonymous said...

You allude to the Lutherans' historical stance against the papery as "theological hostility to the bride of Christ".

16th century polemics notwithstanding, I do not think the current holy father conflates himself with the very bride of Christ in such a fashion.

God bless you & this site,

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