Near-Terminal Decline?

In a recent interview, New York Times’ columnist Ross Douthat discussed liberalizing trends in the Roman Catholic Church. (A Catholic himself, Douthat has just published a book on Pope Francis.)

Douthat remarked that, “…a big part of the case for liberalization…is historicist; we’re constantly being told that these changes are what the Holy Spirit wants now, what this age demands, what the signs of the times are pointing toward. And so long as that rhetorical argument is being deployed, it seems pretty reasonable to ask, if this is all the will of the Holy Spirit, etc., why an all but fully liberalized body such as the Episcopal Church isn’t showing all the fruits of the Spirit right now and instead appears to be in near-terminal decline.”

Now I don’t agree that our church is in near-terminal decline. But I would agree that it has been declining in membership for decades, even though it has many gifted clergy and laypeople, and it continues to draw numerous adult converts from diverse backgrounds. The church also faces headwinds that are hard to resist, such as a very low birthrate.

That said, is it too much to ask that the upcoming General Convention of the Episcopal Church make evangelism and church-planting priorities in its work and in its budgetary decisions? —J. Douglas Ousley

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One Response to “Near-Terminal Decline?”

  1. Jerry Hannon says:

    A visit this week from our NYC daughter, Cynthia, led to a discussion of my very old friend Fr. Ousley, and that led me to Doug’s blog. Ross Douthat, like many others who do not like the changes that they sense in mainstream Christianity, cannot be considered a fair and balanced (ouch! my gag reflex has been triggered) analyst of what makes The Episcopal Church a product of the Spirit in this world. If we are to judge ourselves only on the basis of numbers that are increasing then we would be no better than accountants or a modern day version of a sterile version of a lessened Christianity. The Episcopal Church called me to a new relationship with God, but it was not based upon increasing numbers (or regardless of decreasing numbers) of Episcopalians. We now have a Presiding Bishop who, like Pope Francis is doing for Romana Catholics and for reflective Christians in general, calls to speak and act for the true message which Jesus has given us. If we do not seek Christian justice than we cannot claim that we are seeking Christ in all persons. I am reminded of the “wondrous numbers” of Christians called by the many churches of what constitutes GAFCON, and proclaim that numbers devoid of truth and love and justice are virtually meaningless, if not antithetical to the mission to which Jesus calls us. Ross Douthat seems little better than that utterly unenlightened and divorced from Jesus-reality group of growing numbers of GAFCON “Anglicans”. Numbers matter for temporal purposes, but not for Jesus-purposes.

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