The Impact Of Liberal Decisions

I freely concede that this topic needs better research. What is included is essentially an impression not supported by good data but supported by a few examples. I also concede that there will be exceptions. There are liberal churches that are thriving and conservative churches that are not. What follows is a generalisation. The question is whether this generalisation is true. That is where the extra research is required. The denominations that have made the most liberal decisions regarding practising homosexuals tend to be the older, established, so-called “mainline” churches in the West. In general terms it is also those churches that are experiencing the greatest decline. That decline started well before the campaign for the acceptance of practising homosexuals and so cannot be attributed to that. Nevertheless, a question remains: Have liberal decisions with regard to practising homosexuals contributed to, and maybe, hastened, that decline? The Presbyterian Church (USA) has been on a journey towards increasingly liberal decisions on this issue. In March 2015, enough Presbyteries supported a General Assembly decision redefining marriage as “two people, traditionally a man and a woman” where it had previously specified “a man and a woman” for that now to become church policy. This followed a 2010 decision allowing the ordination of non-celibate homosexuals. After the 2010 decision, 150 congregations voted to disaffiliate from the denomination. The PC(USA)’s own figures show that the decline is accelerating. Since 2005, the denomination has lost 645,895 members, 28% of its membership [1]. In contrast, and not surprisingly, ECO: A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians is flourishing. ECO is the “denomination” that many of the disaffected PC(USA) churches have formed. Likewise, while the Episcopal Church in the United States is declining rapidly, the Anglican Church of North America (ACNA), the denomination formed by those leaving the Episcopal Church, is growing. In 2009 it planted 488 new churches. According to a 2014 article in The Federalist “Every major American church that has taken steps towards liberalization on sexual issues has seen a steep decline in membership.” The article looks at the figures for several major denominations [2]. At its 2015 General Assembly, the Church of Scotland voted, 309 votes to 182, to accept gay ministers, following a majority vote of Presbyteries in late 2014. In the previous year it had lost 16,000 members. In contrast, the Free Church of Scotland is seen (at least, by some [3]) as being united, happy, enthusiastic and growing. The Methodist Church in New Zealand, when it approved homosexual practice, splintered, and continues to decline while, for example, the Wesleyan Methodist Church (one of the splinters) is actively planting new churches. What is true for denominations is also true, in general, for individual churches.

Why the decline?

It is no surprise that churches that make decisions that offend a good proportion of their members, who then feel that they cannot stay, will experience rapid initial decline. But I suggest other reasons. Mission that rejects the idea of repentance, and a theology that spurns evangelism and the need for a new birth, simply don’t work. It might attract some who like the philosophy but it does not produce born again, multiplying Christians. Additionally, God will not bless churches that quite intentionally decide to disobey Him. Decline is to be expected. Ezra 8:22 The gracious hand of our God is on everyone who looks to Him, but His great anger is against all who forsake Him. 1 Samuel 2:30 Therefore the Lord, the God of Israel, declares: ‘I promised that the members of your family would minister before me for ever.’ But now the Lord declares: ‘Far be it from me! Those who honour me I will honour, but those who despise me will be disdained. The contrast between the tired, declining, old churches and the energetic, growing, new ones formed by the disaffected, suggests that there are church that are, by-and-large, human institutions doing their best, using human means, to survive, while other churches experience the power and blessing of God. The contrast is sharp. It is truly mystifying why those that are ringing their hands over their decline continue to make the decisions that are driving members out and that separate them from the blessing of God. They have been described as being “hell-bent on [their] own destruction.” [4] Why would churches choose this route? Perhaps it is an example of the confused, futile thinking to which Romans 1:21 refers.

Footnotes

[1] Cited in Steve Addison’s blog at http://www.movements.net/2015/05/26/pc-usa-collapse-picks-up-speed.html  [2] “How To Shrink Your Church In One Easy Step” by Alexander Griswold. http://thefederalist.com/2014/08/21/how-to- shrink-your-church-in-one-easy-step/  [3] “A Tale Of Two Assemblies” by David S. Randall, http://freechurch.org/news/a-tale-of-two-assemblies [4] ibid

Related pages

© 2017 Peter Cheyne
A Christian’s Guide To Homosexuality
Truth In Love
Main sections Main sections

The Impact Of Liberal

Decisions

I freely concede that this topic needs better research. What is included is essentially an impression not supported by good data but supported by a few examples. I also concede that there will be exceptions. There are liberal churches that are thriving and conservative churches that are not. What follows is a generalisation. The question is whether this generalisation is true. That is where the extra research is required. The denominations that have made the most liberal decisions regarding practising homosexuals tend to be the older, established, so-called “mainline” churches in the West. In general terms it is also those churches that are experiencing the greatest decline. That decline started well before the campaign for the acceptance of practising homosexuals and so cannot be attributed to that. Nevertheless, a question remains: Have liberal decisions with regard to practising homosexuals contributed to, and maybe, hastened, that decline? The Presbyterian Church (USA) has been on a journey towards increasingly liberal decisions on this issue. In March 2015, enough Presbyteries supported a General Assembly decision redefining marriage as “two people, traditionally a man and a woman” where it had previously specified “a man and a woman” for that now to become church policy. This followed a 2010 decision allowing the ordination of non-celibate homosexuals. After the 2010 decision, 150 congregations voted to disaffiliate from the denomination. The PC(USA)’s own figures show that the decline is accelerating. Since 2005, the denomination has lost 645,895 members, 28% of its membership [1]. In contrast, and not surprisingly, ECO: A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians is flourishing. ECO is the “denomination” that many of the disaffected PC(USA) churches have formed. Likewise, while the Episcopal Church in the United States is declining rapidly, the Anglican Church of North America (ACNA), the denomination formed by those leaving the Episcopal Church, is growing. In 2009 it planted 488 new churches. According to a 2014 article in The Federalist “Every major American church that has taken steps towards liberalization on sexual issues has seen a steep decline in membership.” The article looks at the figures for several major denominations [2]. At its 2015 General Assembly, the Church of Scotland voted, 309 votes to 182, to accept gay ministers, following a majority vote of Presbyteries in late 2014. In the previous year it had lost 16,000 members. In contrast, the Free Church of Scotland is seen (at least, by some [3]) as being united, happy, enthusiastic and growing. The Methodist Church in New Zealand, when it approved homosexual practice, splintered, and continues to decline while, for example, the Wesleyan Methodist Church (one of the splinters) is actively planting new churches. What is true for denominations is also true, in general, for individual churches.

Why the decline?

It is no surprise that churches that make decisions that offend a good proportion of their members, who then feel that they cannot stay, will experience rapid initial decline. But I suggest other reasons. Mission that rejects the idea of repentance, and a theology that spurns evangelism and the need for a new birth, simply don’t work. It might attract some who like the philosophy but it does not produce born again, multiplying Christians. Additionally, God will not bless churches that quite intentionally decide to disobey Him. Decline is to be expected. Ezra 8:22 The gracious hand of our God is on everyone who looks to Him, but His great anger is against all who forsake Him. 1 Samuel 2:30 Therefore the Lord, the God of Israel, declares: ‘I promised that the members of your family would minister before me for ever.’ But now the Lord declares: ‘Far be it from me! Those who honour me I will honour, but those who despise me will be disdained. The contrast between the tired, declining, old churches and the energetic, growing, new ones formed by the disaffected, suggests that there are church that are, by-and-large, human institutions doing their best, using human means, to survive, while other churches experience the power and blessing of God. The contrast is sharp. It is truly mystifying why those that are ringing their hands over their decline continue to make the decisions that are driving members out and that separate them from the blessing of God. They have been described as being “hell-bent on [their] own destruction.” [4] Why would churches choose this route? Perhaps it is an example of the confused, futile thinking to which Romans 1:21 refers.

Footnotes

[1] Cited in Steve Addison’s blog at http://www.movements.net/2015/05/26/pc-usa- collapse-picks-up-speed.html  [2] “How To Shrink Your Church In One Easy Step” by Alexander Griswold. http://thefederalist.com/2014/08/21/how-to- shrink-your-church-in-one-easy-step/  [3] “A Tale Of Two Assemblies” by David S. Randall, http://freechurch.org/news/a-tale-of-two- assemblies [4] ibid

Related pages

© Peter Cheyne 2017.
Truth In Love
A Christian’s Guide To Homosexuality
Site Menu Site Menu