Is Mainline Christianity (that means you, United Methodism) on the Ropes?

Jason Micheli —  August 5, 2012 — 1 Comment

I’ve always had a Mrs. Robinson-like crush on Fleming Rutledge, a fact unsettling to my wife. It’s only exacerbated by the fact that she’s the best preacher in America and has the very same theological perspective as me. She has a good post related to the decline of Mainline Christianity:

Ross Douthat’s article about the Episcopal Church in The New York Times, which I commented on in an earlier post, continues to be a hot topic. Douthat promises to be a very useful gadfly in days to come because he is really well informed, seeks a fair balance in the midst of his polemic, loves the church, and is by no means merely a hothead.

Anthony (Tony) Robinson, one of the most astute analysts of American church life, has commented on the Douthat piece (as well as Douthat’s essential recent book Bad Religion) in a short reflection of his own. He is correcting Diana Butler Bass’ Huffington Post piece (she misunderstood Douthat’s main point), but even more interesting is the second half of his brief analysis, in which he identifies some of the systemic issues plagueing all Christian churches in the US today. Take a look at this link: 
http://crosscut.com/2012/07/19/religion/109639/liberal-christianity-doomed/

Now, from my own perspective and along the lines of “bad religion,” I believe that any statement of faith and purpose that fails even to mention our Lord Jesus Christ, let alone proclaim him, is fatally compromised. The new Dean of the Washington National Cathedral has just issued this:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/washington-national-cathedral-dean-talking-about-the-episcopalian-identity-crisis/2012/08/01/gJQAZzOQPX_story.html

There is only a glancing mention of God, let alone Christ. The only “conservative” option mentioned is a “high Christendom establishment way of doing theology and worship,” which takes no account of vigorous evangelical moves into unchurched territory. This is a point of view that has never heard of Tim Keller’s flourishing Redeemer church plants (granted, he’s not an Episcopalian, but the model is there for us to ponder).

What is this “clear, missional identity” that the Dean would have us develop? He gives no clue. How can we develop a “missional” identity when we don’t know what or Who it is that engenders mission? Again, this is the point that Ross Douthat argues in Bad Religion.

Mission arises out of love for and devotion to Jesus Christ and is empowered by the Holy Spirit of Christ proceeding from the Father of us all. Mission that is driven by a need to restore the fortunes of a declining denomination is not going to do the job.  

Click here to continue.

Jason Micheli

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