Here’s an interesting article from BeliefNet. (You have to click through all 4 pages to get it all, and it’s worth it)
The headlines coming out of the Episcopal Church’s annual U.S. convention are stunning — endorsement of cross-dressing clergy, blessing same-sex marriage, the sale of their headquarters since they can’t afford to maintain it.
The American branch of the Church of England, founded when the Vatican balked at permitting King Henry VIII to continue annulling marriages to any wife who failed to bear him sons, is in trouble.
Somehow slipping out of the headlines is a harsh reality that the denomination has been deserted in droves by an angry or ambivalent membership. Six prominent bishops are ready to take their large dioceses out of the American church and align with conservative Anglican groups in Africa and South America.
Let’s see some of the bad news:
Membership has dropped so dramatically that today there are 20 times more Baptists than Episcopalians. U.S. Catholics out-number the Episcopal Church 33-to-1. There are more Jews than Episcopalians. Twice as many Mormons as Episcopalians. Even the little African Methodist Episcopal denomination — founded in in 1787 — has passed the Episcopalians.
Among the old mainstream denominations reporting to the National Council of Churches, the Episcopal Church suffered the worst loss of membership from 1992-2002 — plunging from 3.4 million members to 2.3 million for a 32 percent loss. In the NCC’s 2012 yearbook, the Episcopal Church admitted another 2.71 percent annual membership loss.
They elected Katharine Jefferts Schori as their presiding bishop. According to the article, she mocks traditional Christian doctrines like creation, incarnation and the Trinity, and she tells everyone in the audience that they are becoming God.
“Jefferts Schori leaves a wide wake of destruction behind with this sermon: the eternal triune God has been torn down, human beings are to boldly claim our place as God, and the sacraments of the Eucharist and Baptism have been turned into things our hands make. In other words, Jefferts Schori accepts that now humanity, animals and God are one undifferentiated blob.
“Yesterday,” reports Angela O’Brien from the convention, “the House of Bishops of the Episcopalian Church approved a new provisional blessing for gay unions, while the full General Convention voted in favor of general acceptance for transgender clergy.
“Some Episcopalian bishops spoke out against the resolution on ame-sex blessings. Bishop Bauerschmidt, of the Episcopal Diocese of Tennessee, urged the bishops to defeat the resolution.
[...]A few years ago, the annual national Episcopal convention overwhelmingly refused even to consider a resolution affirming that Jesus Christ is Lord.
[...]At this year’s convention, David Virtue reported: “In all the talk about same sex this and transgender that, there is absolutely no talk about sin. A psychologist friend of mine opined that talk of ‘sin’ here would be considered psychologically damaging and offensive to a lot of people, especially gays, so it is off the radar screen. ‘No sin, please; we’re Episcopalians.’
Another interesting editorial by Ross Douthat appeared in the New York Times yesterday, discussing this same issue.
IN 1998, John Shelby Spong, then the reliably controversial Episcopal bishop of Newark, published a book entitled “Why Christianity Must Change or Die.” Spong was a uniquely radical figure — during his career, he dismissed almost every element of traditional Christian faith as so much superstition — but most recent leaders of the Episcopal Church have shared his premise. Thus their church has spent the last several decades changing and then changing some more, from a sedate pillar of the WASP establishment into one of the most self-consciously progressive Christian bodies in the United States.
As a result, today the Episcopal Church looks roughly how Roman Catholicism would look if Pope Benedict XVI suddenly adopted every reform ever urged on the Vatican by liberal pundits and theologians. It still has priests and bishops, altars and stained-glass windows. But it is flexible to the point of indifference on dogma, friendly to sexual liberation in almost every form, willing to blend Christianity with other faiths, and eager to downplay theology entirely in favor of secular political causes.
Yet instead of attracting a younger, more open-minded demographic with these changes, the Episcopal Church’s dying has proceeded apace. Last week, while the church’s House of Bishops was approving a rite to bless same-sex unions, Episcopalian church attendance figures for 2000-10 circulated in the religion blogosphere. They showed something between a decline and a collapse: In the last decade, average Sunday attendance dropped 23 percent, and not a single Episcopal diocese in the country saw churchgoing increase.
[...]Practically every denomination — Methodist, Lutheran, Presbyterian — that has tried to adapt itself to contemporary liberal values has seen an Episcopal-style plunge in church attendance. Within the Catholic Church, too, the most progressive-minded religious orders have often failed to generate the vocations necessary to sustain themselves.
Both religious and secular liberals have been loath to recognize this crisis. Leaders of liberal churches have alternated between a Monty Python-esque “it’s just a flesh wound!” bravado and a weird self-righteousness about their looming extinction. (In a 2006 interview, the Episcopal Church’s presiding bishop explained that her communion’s members valued “the stewardship of the earth” too highly to reproduce themselves.)
I know that some Lutheran (LCMS, LCWS) and Presbyterian (PCA) are still relatively conservative, but those other denominations like United Church of Christ, ELCA Lutherans and PCUSA Presbyterians have, in my opinion, abandoned orthodoxy.