Decline

The lights are going out in Wales

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The governing body of the Church in Wales (Anglican) has met recently. They heard a report that average Sunday attendance has fallen below 1%.

The Revd Richard Wood described it as devastating, appalling, an embarrassment, and deeply depressing.

He recognised that the Church in Wales was attempting new things, such as pioneer ministry and licensed evangelists, and said that these would take time to produce fruit. But he was concerned about the “huge amount of time, effort, energy, and money [spent] on propping up stuff which has failed”.

He moved an amendment to the motion, to say that the Governing Body received the report “with a heavy heart”, and added a new clause calling for more research into what made a growing Church.

Good to hear they’ll be some research going on.

The Church in Wales ticks all the right boxes — economic justice, climate justice, same sex marriage and the inclusion of LGBT people. They drink Fair Trade coffee. They’re just a bit fuzzy on the gospel.

How the first American missionary movement finally lost its way

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The American missions movement has experienced two distinct waves. A first wave of effort originated in the early nineteenth century during the Second Great Awakening and largely collapsed amid theological controversy after World War I; a second wave began after World War II and continues today.

John Barrett examines the role played by World War I in the demise of the first wave.

 

50 years of predictable decline for the United Methodists

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Mark Tooley reports that it’s 50 years since membership in the United Methodist church grew in the US.

The Methodist Church had 10,331,574 in 1965, an increase of about 27,000 over 1964. Then it lost 21,000 in 1966, a trend never reversed and in fact accelerated after the 1968 merger with the Evangelical United Brethren Church. Although becoming an 11 million member church, losses increased initially to sometimes over 150,000 annually. Today United Methodism in the U.S. stands at 7.3 million, an over one third decline.

Meanwhile how were the more evangelical Wesleyan denominations going?

The Church of God increased by two thirds. The Wesleyan Church increased by 75 percent. The Church of the Nazarene nearly doubled. The Free Methodist Church increased by 25 percent. The Assemblies of God have increased a whopping 500 percent. Growth for most of these churches over the last several years has leveled off, except for the still fast growing Assemblies. But none are experiencing United Methodism’s ongoing exodus.

Until 1967 Methodism was America’s largest Protestant denomination. That year the Southern Baptists caught up and today outnumber the United Methodists two to one.

What led to the decline?

Methodism’s official seminaries were all captured by liberalism by the 1920s. Most clergy weren’t seminary trained until mid century, but the course of study materials for non-seminary trained clergy closely followed seminary curricula. By the 1960s nearly all of the clergy would have been trained in theological modernism, denying or minimizing the supernatural and personal salvation in favor of Social Gospel and therapeutic themes. A 1967 survey found 60 percent of Methodist clergy disbelieving the Virgin Birth and 50 percent disbelieving the Resurrection.

The tragedy is that despite the lessons of history, a new generation of progressive evangelicals are treading the same path. You can get away with it for a while but sooner or later the outcome will be the same.

UPDATE: Evangelicals Dominate Fastest-Growing Large United Methodist Churches

The fault dear Brutus is not in our stars but in ourselves

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The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
But in ourselves, that we are underlings.
— Shakespeare

It’s easy to blame external factors on church decline — post modernism, immigration, secularism, the economy. The great thing about external factors is that you don’t have control of them. A mood of defeat sets in. We do have control over internal factors — what we believe, what we do. 

Why is the church of England in decline? Here’s an internal factor worth considering…

According to a poll of Anglican clergy which found that as many as 16 per cent are unclear about God and two per cent think it is no more than a human construct.

In addition to those who describe God as a human creation, the YouGov poll found that three per cent believe there is some sort of spirit or life force and 9 per cent argue it is impossible to imagine what God is like.

Clergy were significantly more likely to hold unorthodox beliefs the older they were and the longer they had been in the ministry. Nearly 90 per cent of those ordained since 2011 believe in God compared with only 72 per cent of those who became priests in the 1960s, the research discovered.

The fault dear Brutus is not in our stars but in ourselves

NewImage

The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
But in ourselves, that we are underlings.

Shakespeare

It’s easy to blame external factors on church decline — post modernism, immigration, secularism, the economy. The great thing about external factors is that you don’t have control of them. A mood of defeat sets in. We do have control over internal factors — what we believe, what we do. 

Why is the church of England in decline? Here’s an internal factor worth considering…

According to a poll of Anglican clergy which found that as many as 16 per cent are unclear about God and two per cent think it is no more than a human construct.

In addition to those who describe God as a human creation, the YouGov poll found that three per cent believe there is some sort of spirit or life force and 9 per cent argue it is impossible to imagine what God is like.

Clergy were significantly more likely to hold unorthodox beliefs the older they were and the longer they had been in the ministry. Nearly 90 per cent of those ordained since 2011 believe in God compared with only 72 per cent of those who became priests in the 1960s, the research discovered.

The sound of silence at Hillsong

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According to Jonathan Merritt

At a press conference for the Hillsong Conference in New York City today, Michael Paulson of The New York Times asked Houston to clarify their church’s position on same sex marriage. But Houston would not offer a definitive answer, instead saying that it was “an ongoing conversation” among church leaders and they were “on the journey with it.”

Houston says that he considers three things when evaluating the topic: “There’s the world we live in, there’s the weight we live with, and there’s the word we live by.”

He notes that the Western world is shifting its thinking on this issue, and churches are struggling to stay relevant. The weight we live in (sic), he added, refers to a context where LGBT young people may feel rejected or shunned by churches, often leading to depression and suicide. But when Houston began speaking about the word we live by or “what the Bible says,” he refused to offer a concrete position.

Merritt adds

Carl Lentz, pastor of Hillsong’s New York City location, made similar statements on CNN in June, saying Hillsong in New York City has “a lot of gay men and women” and he hopes it stays that way. But he declines to address the matter in public because, in part, Jesus never did.

“Jesus was in the thick of an era where homosexuality, just like it is today, was widely prevalent,” Lentz told CNN. “And I’m still waiting for someone to show me the quote where Jesus addressed it on the record in front of people. You won’t find it because he never did.”

Lentz’s wife, Laura, chimed in: “It’s not our place to tell anyone how they should live. That’s their journey.

Have Hillsong decided to go all Brian McLaren on us?

I hope I’m wrong, but it doesn’t look good.

The sound of silence at Hillsong

4773502817 f9fdcbb5e4 z

According to Jonathan Merritt

At a press conference for the Hillsong Conference in New York City today, Michael Paulson of The New York Times asked Houston to clarify their church’s position on same sex marriage. But Houston would not offer a definitive answer, instead saying that it was “an ongoing conversation” among church leaders and they were “on the journey with it.”

Houston says that he considers three things when evaluating the topic: “There’s the world we live in, there’s the weight we live with, and there’s the word we live by.”

He notes that the Western world is shifting its thinking on this issue, and churches are struggling to stay relevant. The weight we live in (sic), he added, refers to a context where LGBT young people may feel rejected or shunned by churches, often leading to depression and suicide. But when Houston began speaking about the word we live by or “what the Bible says,” he refused to offer a concrete position.

Merritt adds

Carl Lentz, pastor of Hillsong’s New York City location, made similar statements on CNN in June, saying Hillsong in New York City has “a lot of gay men and women” and he hopes it stays that way. But he declines to address the matter in public because, in part, Jesus never did.

“Jesus was in the thick of an era where homosexuality, just like it is today, was widely prevalent,” Lentz told CNN. “And I’m still waiting for someone to show me the quote where Jesus addressed it on the record in front of people. You won’t find it because he never did.”

Lentz’s wife, Laura, chimed in: “It’s not our place to tell anyone how they should live. That’s their journey.

Have Hillsong decided to go all Brian McLaren on us?

I hope I’m wrong, but it doesn’t look good.