Thursday, June 26, 2014

A dying mainline church speeds its decline

By Mark Tooley
June 24, 2014

At one point during this this week’s General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA), the hundreds of delegates, known as commissioners, gleefully bounced scores of red balloons in the air. At another point, they collectively broke into dance, confirming that most Protestants, especially if they’re old, white and Anglo, don’t look so great wiggling around. (Here’s a video, for mature viewers only.)

Mainline Protestantism, at least in its official curia, has been liberal for nearly 100 years. But for most of that century it was a thoughtful, dignified liberalism that still roughly adhered to historic Christianity’s moral architecture, even if it no longer upheld the core doctrine. But the yonder years of stately Protestantism, at least in the old Mainline, are largely over. And this week, the 1.7 million member PCUSA suffered a meltdown, authorizing clergy to conduct same sex unions, reaffirming its commitment to largely unrestricted abortion rights, and voting to divest from three firms doing business with Israel.

The church’s redefinition of marriage, by a 71-29 percent vote, got the most attention, although it was anticlimactic. Sexual liberalism captured the denomination in 2010, when the PCUSA voted to abandon its expectation of monogamy in marriage and celibacy in singleness for its clergy. Since then, hundreds of congregations have quit, organized conservative resistance largely stopped, and the 2012 General Assembly was expected to authorize same sex unions but fell short. In just the last two years, the PCUSA lost nearly 200,000 members, a rate, which if continued, would mean no more PCUSA in less than 20 years.

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