Author Topic: The Declining Mainline  (Read 5378 times)

ptmccain

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The Declining Mainline
« on: July 02, 2007, 01:31:04 AM »
From 1970-2000 mainline denominations have experienced dramatic losses, which continue:

UCC - 29.7% loss

ECUSA - 27.3% loss

Methodist - 26.8% loss

PCUSA - 23.7 loss

Primary source: World Christian Database*

"these four mainline sisters share a lot of baggage on their downward trip, including:

    * They all have opened their doors or are considering doing so to the ordination of practicing homosexuals. (The PCUSA has a constitutional prohibition against ordaining practicing homosexuals but de facto approval because leaders of local churches, presbyteries and the national governing body refuse to enforce the constitution.

    * They all emphasize social activism.

    * They all provide the big bucks for faltering ecumenical work, including the National Council of Churches, the World Council of Churches and Churches Uniting in Christ.

    * They all promote "unity in diversity."

    * Their seminaries have a preponderance of professors who openly scorn orthodox Christian beliefs."

Source: http://www.layman.org/layman/news/2003-news-articles/pcusas-reasons-for-staggering-loss.htm
« Last Edit: July 02, 2007, 02:07:50 AM by ptmccain »

Charles_Austin

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Re: The Declining Mainline
« Reply #1 on: July 02, 2007, 05:32:30 AM »
You will not like this, and I'll only say it once; but statistics interpreted by the Presbyterian Lay Committee, an advocacy group within Presbyterianism, cannot be considered reliable. They are statistics being used and interpreted to promote a particular agenda, and you know what it means when that happens. Then there's the matter of their "original" source for those numbers, which reports statistics for the ELCA in 1970, when the ELCA did not exist.

ptmccain

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Re: The Declining Mainline
« Reply #2 on: July 02, 2007, 07:49:19 AM »
Charles indulges in ad hominem:
You will not like this, and I'll only say it once; but statistics interpreted by the Presbyterian Lay Committee, an advocacy group within Presbyterianism, cannot be considered reliable. They are statistics being used and interpreted to promote a particular agenda, and you know what it means when that happens. Then there's the matter of their "original" source for those numbers, which reports statistics for the ELCA in 1970, when the ELCA did not exist.

I respond:
If you believe these statistics are wrong, feel free to provide corrections from what you deem a more "reliable" source.

Eric_Swensson

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Re: The Declining Mainline
« Reply #3 on: July 02, 2007, 08:16:49 AM »
They are statistics being used and interpreted to promote a particular agenda, and you know what it means when that happens. 

No. What happens? BTW, what is their agenda?

ptmccain

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Re: The Declining Mainline
« Reply #4 on: July 02, 2007, 10:46:30 AM »
Eric, you will find their web site interesting. They are working in the PCUSA to try to keep that church body faithful to the historic Christian and Reformed faith.

http://www.layman.org/

ptmccain

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Re: The Declining Mainline
« Reply #5 on: July 02, 2007, 10:48:54 AM »
Oh, by the way, the PCUSA itself documents the precipitous "flat spin" taking place in the liberal mainline denominations.

http://www.pcusa.org/research/reports/denominational_size.pdf

ptmccain

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Re: The Declining Mainline
« Reply #6 on: July 02, 2007, 10:54:46 AM »
Why are the old mainline denominations in a free-fall? This article explains a lot:

http://www.adherents.com/misc/BarnaPoll.html

« Last Edit: July 02, 2007, 11:05:31 AM by ptmccain »

ptmccain

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Re: The Declining Mainline
« Reply #7 on: July 02, 2007, 12:16:34 PM »
I want to make something very clear here. My remarks about the liberal mainline are in no way intended to be any sort of Schadenfreude on my part. To me these tragic realities of the theological collpase of much of mainline protestantism is a dire warning to all of us to take heed to our doctrine and to be aware of the very same temptation to compromise that beset us all around, constantly. Lord, have mercy.

Erma_S._Wolf

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Re: The Declining Mainline
« Reply #8 on: July 02, 2007, 12:45:54 PM »
Then there's the matter of their "original" source for those numbers, which reports statistics for the ELCA in 1970, when the ELCA did not exist.

For that matter, Charles, the Presbyterian Church - USA didn't exist in 1970 either.  That merger didn't take place until 1983.  (And I love the "starting dates" for the various denominations!)


Brian Stoffregen

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Re: The Declining Mainline
« Reply #9 on: July 02, 2007, 01:11:33 PM »
I've read articles that, I think more rightly present church activity as a percentage of the population. (They usually present the decline as even worse than by just looking at membership statistics.) However, while such articles point out that the percentage of Americans attending church has declined in the past 30-40 years, the percentage is not much different than it was prior to World War II. The decades following the war saw an (abnormal?) increase of church involvement. We are settling back down to what had previously been normal. I'm not suggesting that this is good, but it is looking at the bigger picture.

A few years ago there was an extensive research project within the Presbyterian Church. They interviewed thousands of people who had dropped out of the church. One of the researchers' conclusions is that the reason most people left had nothing to do with church doctrines or programs, but just a change in culture and their priorities. Church was just no longer important to them. Other articles have blamed the lack of commitment that is seen not only in decreased church attendance and church volunteers, but also in the lack of volunteers for Boy and Girl Scout troups, little leagues, and even in life-long marriages.

Certainly one can find testimonies of people who left because their church had become too liberal -- and there are testimonies of people who left congregations because they were too conservative. (There are a number of stories of people who left conservative churches for liberal ones in Christianity for the Rest of Us by Diana Butler Bass -- the author is one such person and spent three years studying and researching main-line, liberal congregations that are growing.
"The church had made us like ill-taught piano students; we play our songs, but we never really hear them, because our main concern is not to make music, but but to avoid some flub that will get us in dutch." [Robert Capon, _Between Noon and Three_, p. 148]

ptmccain

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Re: The Declining Mainline
« Reply #10 on: July 02, 2007, 01:38:46 PM »
Erma, if you have corrections to make to the percentage declines cited, please share that information and your source for it.

Note the other reports I've posted as well.

ptmccain

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Re: The Declining Mainline
« Reply #11 on: July 02, 2007, 01:41:54 PM »
Certainly one can find testimonies of people who left because their church had become too liberal -- and there are testimonies of people who left congregations because they were too conservative. (There are a number of stories of people who left conservative churches for liberal ones in Christianity for the Rest of Us by Diana Butler Bass -- the author is one such person and spent three years studying and researching main-line, liberal congregations that are growing.



Brian, do you have any sources that show that the more conservative branches of Christianity are losing members at the rapid rate of the mainline liberal denominations? And, here I'm intentionally not including the ELCA, but am looking only at the UCC, UMC, ECUSA and PCUSA?

While it is certainly true that people leave all churches, the reality is that in the past thirty to forty years the liberal mainline denominations have been increasingly and rapidly declining.

Also, please comment on the information posted here about the surveys of belief in the mainline denomination.

Eric_Bodenstab

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Re: The Declining Mainline
« Reply #12 on: July 02, 2007, 03:04:40 PM »
Paul, here's the link that challenges the data quoted in the first reference you give:
http://www.pcusa.org/tenyeartrends/report/6WRUUG7/all_statistics.jsp

A site that raises up the inherent faults in these types of data-gathering systems is here:
http://www.religioustolerance.org/chr_prac.htm

And what the layman.org site doesn't raise up is an in-depth analysis of the data. Instead it offers opinion. The few references that are offered are brought up only to support the opinion. For this kind of analysis to be accurate, both the study and analysis should happen out-of-house. Those who feel strongly will interpret whatever is presented to them in a way that supports what they feel instead of letting the data lead them to new questions.

A more interesting study would look at the PC(USA) congregations which are holding their own or growing in membership and contrast these with those which are declining. This could be truly helpful. Some reflections on such a study in the ELCA are here:
http://reclaimingthefword.typepad.com/reclaiming_the_f_word/2007/06/a_measuring_too.html

Eric_Swensson

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Re: The Declining Mainline
« Reply #13 on: July 02, 2007, 03:07:10 PM »
An opinion piece in the Calgary Sun:

Bad advice hurting churches
Pews of religions which compromise their theology are quickly emptying

By TED BYFIELD

One of the most rewarding disclosures when the liberal press venture forth into the mysterious world of religion is the astounding ignorance of both its history and its current condition that they so unerringly place on display.

They deliver severe admonitions to bishops and clergy, warning of the calamitous consequences their church will suffer if it does not liberalize its ecclesiology, compromise its theology and sodomize its morality.

Yet the very churches that have done all these recommended things are precisely those suffering such a disastrous exodus of their members that their church's very existence is now in question.
http://calsun.canoe.ca/News/Columnists/Byfield_Ted/2007/07/01/4304520-sun.html


ptmccain

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Re: The Declining Mainline
« Reply #14 on: July 02, 2007, 03:32:11 PM »
Eric B. .... perhaps you might want to take a look here:

http://www.adherents.com/misc/BarnaPoll.html

There certainly does appear to be a strong link between mainline liberal theology and declining church populations. No, of course it is not the whole story, but one must wonder why churches that offer a more rigorous and more conservative approach to Christianity are experiencing growth, while those that have moved away from that are in such steep decline.



Barna Poll on U.S. Religious Belief - 2001
Original Headline: Poll shows Protestant collapse
Source URL: http://www.vny.com/cf/News/upidetail.cfm?QID=198421
Date: 28 June 2001
By: Uwe Siemon-Netto, United Press International

WASHINGTON, June 28 (UPI) -- A new survey of what Americans believe, points to "an absolute collapse of mainline Protestantism in this country," Paul Hinlicky, a leading Lutheran theologian, told United Press International Thursday.

"Hinlicky and McDermott found another result of the Barna survey depressing. Only 33 percent of the American Catholics, Lutherans and Methodists, and 28 percent of the Episcopalians agreed with the statement that Christ was without sin. To McDermott, these numbers indicate an "epochal change in popular theology." He added, "This would suggest a loss of faith in the Divinity of Christ." If this result is accurate, a large segment of the U.S. population was reverting to Deism, a belief system prevalent in 18th century England and shared by leading American thinkers of that period. "Christ would then be no more than the Dalai Lama, an admirable kind of a guy." Deism saw God as one who wound up the clock of the universe and then allowed it to run. Some, but by no means all, Deists were convinced that God does intervene in history. "Benjamin Franklin was certain that God did this so that we could beat the British," McDermott said. "What has brought us to this point is zero theology since the 1960s," Hinlicky explained. Again, this does not apply to the majority of the faithful in the Baptist denominations, the nondenominational, the Assemblies of God, and the Pentecostal/Foursquare churches, of whom 55, 63, 70 and 73 percent believe that Christ is sinless. As for the mainline denominations, McDermott held the cowardice of pastors responsible for the tectonic changes in their congregants' faith: "They are afraid to preach and teach anything that challenges what people already think. The result is a belief in a meek, mild-mannered God who does not want to judge us. That's Deism." "They have given up talking about divorce, abortion and homosexuality," McDermott thundered. "They are even retreating from the Trinity. On Trinity Sunday I was in an Episcopal church, where the rector averred that this was only something for pastors to think about. Ordinary people did not have to bother with it." While most of the sample American queried by Barna still affirmed God as the all-powerful Creator, a mere 17 percent of the Catholics, 18 percent Methodists, 20 percent Episcopalians, 21 percent Lutherans, and 22 percent of the Presbyterians told Barna that they thought Satan was real."