A veteran newspaper columnist and longtime member of the Episcopal Church USA says the denomination has cheerfully given up truth to placate a relativistic culture.
William Murchison's new book is called Mortal Follies: Episcopalians and the Crisis of Mainline Christianity. He says the denomination, like other churches of the American mainline, seems to be in a mad dash to catch up with a secular culture that values self-expression and does not want to promote the holy and just God of the Bible.
1. BigTex AC wrote:
That line would be funny as hell if it weren’t so true.
April 27, 10:27 am | [comment link]
2. TheOldHundredth wrote:
And another book goes on my “to be read” list.
April 27, 10:35 am | [comment link]
3. Calvin wrote:
While I agree with Murchison’s assesment - that TEC has lost touch with its Gospel Commission, a comission at the very heart of classical Anglicanism - I have to disagree with his remarks about AIDS and world hunger.
A commitment to eradicating poverty, AIDS, and world hunger along with a commitment to real social justice (like the right to life) is not counter to the Gospel. As NT Wright often remarks, God in Christ saves not just souls, but wholes.
A new world broke open with Christ’s resurrection - one in which all things are possible through Christ. When people say we can’t really address the problems this broken world throws at us, Christians respond: He is Risen! When people say reconciliation and peace isn’t possible, Christians respond: He is Risen! This was the message of the early church as it faced pressures from all sides to conform the Gospel of New Life into something much more tame.
The problem with TEC is that it has gotten things out of order. Because Christ is risen, opening the doors of salvation and new life to all peoples, we are to go forward, empowered by the Holy Spirit, to proclaim this new world, a new world being fashioned even now by the Holy Spirit and which, on the great Day of Resurrection, will be brought to perfection.
My point is that liberals haven’t cornored the market on social justice. Just check out what Rick Warren and Pope Benedict have been up to lately.
Regarding Murchison’s comments, perhaps we only have a snippet.
April 27, 10:59 am | [comment link]
4. frdarin wrote:
Well said, Calvin. Perhaps there is always a tendency toward false dichotomy - Share the Gospel OR Be Socially “Responsible” (although that’s a loaded word, to be sure). There really isn’t a choice for the Christian. I suspect reading Murchison’s book would illuminate this false dichotomy.
On that note, I’ve just begun a book with a similar topic: “The Hole in Our Gospel”, written by Richard Stearns, president of World Vision US (developers of the 30 Hour Famine project, which our youth are observing in two weeks time - 30hourfamine.org). Although I’ve just begun the book, his premise is a challenge to the evangelical community to balance a desire to share the Good News (that is, tell people with WORDS about Jesus Christ) with living the Good News (that is tell people with ACTIONS about Jesus Christ).
At one point in the book (I like to scan through and find good quotes…), he quotes John Stott, whom we all should be quoting regularly:
“Our Christian habit is to bewail the world’s deteriorating standards with an air of rather self-righteous dismay…Let me put it like this. If the house is dark when nightfall comes, there is no sense in blaming the house; that is what happens when the sun goes down. The question to ask is “Where is the light?” Similarly, if the meat goes bad and becomes inedible, there is no sense in blaming the meat; that is what happens when bacteria are left alone to breed. The question to ask is “Where is the salt?” Just so, if society deteriorates and its standards decline until it becomes like a dark night or a stinking fish, there is no sense in blaming society; that is what happens when fallen men and women are left to themselves, and human selfishness is unchecked. The question to ask is “Where is the Church? Why are the salt and light of Jesus Christ not permeating and changing our society?” (from “Human Rights and Human Wrongs”, 1999, pp. 83-84).
April 27, 11:33 am | [comment link]
Fr. Darin Lovelace+
5. William P. Sulik wrote:
This is a huge insult to the Peace Corps, which is better staffed and managed and has a clear sense of mission and purpose. Moreover, the Peace Corps doesn’t sue at the drop of a hat.
April 27, 12:05 pm | [comment link]
6. Choir Stall wrote:
“As NT Wright often remarks, God in Christ saves not just souls, but wholes”.
April 27, 12:10 pm | [comment link]
I don’t have a problem with good works. However, TEC is a very poor example of Christ-centered mission. It seems like “give a cup of cold water IN MY NAME” doesn’t matter as much as feeling good to do for the worthy poor. So, the UN gets the credit. Local Social Services. Where is the emphasis on pointing towards Christ as the author of mercy while these works are being done specifically to His credit? Looking, looking…kinda hard to find.
7. New Reformation Advocate wrote:
The column on the Church website is indeed only a mere snippet, but it whets my desire to know more. Maybe I’ll have to read the book Mortal Follies. However, I’m puzzled by Murchison’s claim that at age 67, he’s too old to be a pessimist. Historically, there’s plenty of evidence that old folks can get very pessimistic indeed about the follies of the younger generations who are screwing up their legacy.
What I find telling is William Murchison’s use of the familiar but outdated term “mainline” in his subtitle. I think that part of what constitutes the true cirisis in the oldline denominations (UCC, PCUSA, TEC, UMC, etc.) is precisely the fact that they aren’t the mainline anymore. All those formerly dominant groups peaked in the mid 1960s and have been steadily declining and losing religious marketshare ever since. And the dilemma of those old, established, socially respectable denominations is that the mainstream culture in the US, and even more in Canada and Europe, has turned against Christianity, at least in any truly biblical and authentic form.
The father of Liberal Protestantism, Friedrich Schliermacher, published a seminal book back in 1799 called “Speeches on Religion to its Cultured Despisers,” that set the tone and agenda that has characterized liberal Christianity ever since. It’s basically an appeasement strategy, trimming the teachings and practice of the Church to accommodate the wishes of Christianity’s “cultured despisers.” Hence Schliermacher relegated the unpopular doctrine of the Trinity in those heady early days of the Englightenment to the appendix of his later magnum opus, “The Christian Faith,” in 1835. And the EX-mainline denominations have been similarly watering down the gospel and making unjustified compromises with the secular culture and what’s in vogue among society’s educational, political, and economic elites for many generations, but especially since the 1960s.
TEC: “the Peace Corps in ecclesiastical drag?” Yes, it’s all too true. But along with becoming “the gay church,” the selection of the notorious Katherine Ragsdale as the new Dean of EDS in Boston and the membership of TEC in the infamous RCRC (Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice) shows that TEC is also seemingly determined to position itslef as “the abortion church.” And so on. It’s deluded leaders are indeed committing “Mmortal Follies” again and again in repeatedly chosing the wrong side of the Cutlure War in the futile hope of retaining some measure of support from Christianity’s “cultured despisers.”
I’m very, very pessimistic about TEC’s future. But I’m very optimistic about the future of orthodox Anglicanism in North America, especially as represented by the new ACNA.
April 27, 12:13 pm | [comment link]
8. Philip Snyder wrote:
One of the greatest “lies” that the reappraisers will say is that conservatives are only concerned with people’s “souls” and are not concerned with fighting poverty, AIDS, or racism.
Religious conservatives do support “social justice” issues. The problem is that we disagree on what “social justice” looks like and how to acheive it. We tend to think that government programs do more to support government employees than they do for the people they are intended to help. We also tend to focus more on personal intervention and changing lifestyles than on throwing money (someone else’s money at that) at problems.
April 27, 12:17 pm | [comment link]
9. New Reformation Advocate wrote:
Sorry for the typos. I meant, of course, that (to echo Murchison’s title) TEC has repeatedly committed truly Mortal Follies in choosing time after time to jump on the “progressive” bandwagon with every liberal social cause that comes along, and to SUBSTITUTE a truncated Social Gospel for the true gospel, although that authentic biblical gospel does indeed have important and sometimes radical social implications.
April 27, 12:24 pm | [comment link]
10. chips wrote:
Just bougth the book for $18.00 on Amazon. Should make for sad but interesting reading.
April 27, 12:53 pm | [comment link]
11. Sidney wrote:
mad dash to catch up with a secular culture
Frankly it is the mad dash to secular culture that turns me off from the modern megachurches. These are the churches that use rock music and touchy-feely mindlessly repetitive praise music to attract the young and emotional, and make themselves hip and ‘with it.’ (Think ECUSA is obsessed with sex? You may be sure that the phenomenon of the young going to churches where there are other young people is largely about sex.) Other churches are far more consumer-oriented, ‘giving the customers what they want’ than ECUSA ever thought of being. One local church where I am always has the biggest float in town propped on top of the church roof - with all sorts of secular holiday things - during the Christmas season.
So I simply don’t think that a ‘rush to secularism’ properly characterizes what is going on in ECUSA relative to other churches. Churches that want to be hip and modern don’t waste their time using music that can be hundreds or thousands or years old on pipe organs, ministering mostly to old folks.
April 27, 1:34 pm | [comment link]
12. chips wrote:
I think Sidney has a point. It is not a mad dash to secular culture that is what’s wrong with TEC. Its the mad dash to secular hunanism - which is sort of like religion but not Christianity. I wonder if Murchison makes the distinction in his book.
April 27, 3:23 pm | [comment link]
13. Lutheran-MS wrote:
The ELCA is right behind the TEC, after all they are in bed with each other. Their big concern is social issues, not souls.
April 27, 9:47 pm | [comment link]