- Wednesday, July 05, 2006
As you are no doubt aware, the liberal leadership of both the Episcopal Church in the US (ECUSA) and the Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA) have further alienated conservative orthodox Christians by their respective compromises related to the ordination of practicing homosexuals. Additionally, in a meeting two weeks ago, the House of Deputies of the ECUSA moved the church further away from an essential doctrine of Christianity by overwhelmingly refusing to even consider a resolution that affirmed Jesus Christ as the "only name by which any person may be saved." And to add insult to injury, the newly elected presiding bishop of the ECUSA, Katharine Jefferts Schiori, closed the convention by referring to "our mother Jesus" in her closing prayer.
The impending schisms between the worldwide Anglican community of more than 77 million and its 2.8 million American congregants - along with the fracture inevitable within the American Episcopal community - will be a tragedy of historic proportions.
Similarly, the PCUSA voted to give local congregations the power to allow homosexual clergy - a compromise position which sought to avoid a denominational prohibition of ordaining homosexuals.
In both cases (and these denominations are by no means alone in their struggle for orthodoxy), there has been a steady progression of theological and moral compromise among the prevailing denominational leadership. That is not to say that there are not bible-believing Christians in these denominations; certainly not! It merely means that theologically liberal individuals have risen to the highest ranks of leadership.
Both of these examples should serve as cautionary tales to the rest of the Church. Unfortunately, there seems to be an attitude among some conservative denominations that these capitulations to such blatant liberalism "will never happen here." I think this is both naive and to some extent represents an institutional blindness to certain realities that should be raising alarm right now within these very same denominations.
When one looks to the next generation of professing Christians one must be seriously concerned about the future of the Church in America.
Last year, a four-year study led by sociologist Christian Smith of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill was completed involving more than 133 researchers and consultants. Smith reported the results in the book Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers. Smith emphasized that the material "is not just about teenagers. It speaks more broadly about the direction of American religion."
Surprisingly, the study reveals that according to teens themselves, religion remains a central influence in their lives. In fact, 82 percent were affiliated with a local congregation; 80 percent had few or no doubts about their beliefs in the past year and 71 percent "felt extremely or somewhat close to God," indicating a highly religious generation. However, the study also reveals that most teens have little or no understanding of historic orthodox Christianity. In face-to-face interviews, researchers found that many teens' religious knowledge was "meager, nebulous and often fallacious," and engagement with the substance of their traditions remarkably shallow. Most seemed incapable of expressing their beliefs and the difference they should make regardless of their denominational affiliation.
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