It may look like a church, sing like a church, have stained-glass like a church, and call itself a church, but be careful: It might not be a church.
The big religion story of last year? Christianity is in decline in America. The sensational headlines were based on data from the Pew Research Center. But as Ed Stetzer of Lifeway Research observed in the USA Today, the folks writing the headlines must not have read the study.
It turns out that almost all of the reported decline took place not among evangelicals, but in mainline Protestant denominations, which have been in freefall spiritually and numerically for decades. And no wonder. The “Christianity” preached in many of them sounds more like the Huffington Post opinion pages than the Bible.
Take the Episcopal Church, which in 2003 began ordaining openly gay clergy, and in 2015 created a marriage ceremony to bless same-sex couples. Earlier this month, a majority of bishops from the worldwide Anglican Communion voted to suspend the Episcopal Church’s voting rights over its support for homosexuality.
This decision, along with the statement from the primates reaffirming one-man-one-woman marriage was due in large part to the leadership of the African bishops. As Archbishop Foley Beach of the Anglican Church in North America explained to me and Ed Stetzer on “BreakPoint This Week,”African Anglicans retain the traditional, biblical beliefs of the missionaries who planted their churches generations ago. And they feel abandoned by their American and European counterparts.
And it’s not just sexuality. Faithful believers in the United Methodist Church might wonder why UMC leadership recently rejected an application from the Discovery Institute to exhibit at their upcoming General Conference. Discovery, the think-tank at the heart of the Intelligent Design movement,appealed the decision, insisting that it isn’t a creationist front-group intent on teaching religion in schools. “[Intelligent Design],” Discovery said, “is a science—not a faith-based idea.” And though compatible with Christianity, it doesn’t rely on the Bible or even identify the “intelligent Designer.”
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