Can’t liberalism do anything right? You’d think that liberal religion at least would be a market winner—you get to be right with God, and still party hearty. Turns out liberalism doesn’t work any better in the pulpit and pew either. The figures are out, and the pews are emptying out at Episcopal churches everywhere in the U.S. As Ross Douthat commented in the NY Times last weekend:
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.
Why just last week the Episcopal Church banned discrimination against transsexuals. Love this explanation from Anglican Link: “However, the argument put forward by the supporters of the transgendered resolution said in effect that God had made a mistake when he made transgendered people, who by seeking surgery or other means to change their gender were correcting God’s error.” Good to know that God is even more fallible than Barack Obama.
More seriously, the long slow decline of the Episcopal Church into the bottomless abyss of willful political correctness is a case study in the long march of leftism through any institution that leaves its door open even a tiny crack. The late Paul Seabury of UC Berkeley (a descendant of Thomas Seabury, the first Episcopal bishop in the U.S. when the Episcopal Church formed by breaking off from the Anglican Church during the American Revolution–and yes, Berkeley once had a conservative–several actually–on its faculty) explained it in his famous 1978 Harper’s magazine article “Trendier than Thou”:
Observers who read or reported about the schism within the Episcopal Church in 1977 believed it had been provoked by a single issue: the ordination of women as priests, narrowly approved in September, 1976, by Episcopalian bishops, priests, and lay delegates meeting in General Convention in Minneapolis. The dispute was perceived as only another skirmish in the struggle of equal rights for women – a skirmish that just happened to break a traditionally conservative church in two. But on the contrary, the schism manifested much deeper, and cumulative, impulses within the church that were stimulated by the political turbulence of the 1960s. The issues resolved into a question that the Berkeley scholar Charles Glock had summarized in the title of his 1967 sociological study of the Episcopal Church: “To Comfort or to Challenge?” Was the mission of the church to act within the world as an agent of change or to withdraw from the world and purge itself of quotidian concerns? At the time, the answer to this question seemed obvious to Episcopal leaders, if not to their flock: the institutional church had indeed abdicated its social and political responsibilities. Its redemption – even its survival – depended upon its emergence into the light of secular day, where, as the Church Militant, it would join other political forces to transform society.
Yup, that about sums it up. At least churchgoers will have their choice of pews on Sunday if they want to hang with the transgendered community. And don’t even get me going on Bishop John Spong. But no wonder—his heresies are just what you’d expect from a denomination that can no longer tell right from Spong.