Cromey Online

The writings of author, therapist, and priest Robert Warren Cromey.

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Location: San Francisco, California, United States

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

ON THE STATE OF THE CHURCH


Dear Dan,

Thank you for sending the articles from the Guardian.

The debate on secularism gives a picture of what is happening in England and I suppose here too. The main line churches here suffer most from being boring and irrelevant. In the US people say they are religious, say they are spiritual but not religious. Popular belief is the separation of church and state means the church should not be involved in the state or government. I point out I am a churchman (I gag at churchperson). My fellow churchgoers and I are citizens, pay taxes and vote. We have every right to harass the government for what we want just like bankers do. Of course I hate it when the Papists, Mormons and fundies vote against abortion, birth control and gays. But they have a right to do that.

Here is my view of the rise of secularism in England and here. We the church are at fault.

When I was ordained in 1956, I was trained by church and seminary to be an English country parson. The church was there to serve whoever came. Soon after and now, the church needs to reach out and draw new members in. In the cities the churches have failed to do this. In the suburbs people seem to flock to church still.

Most Episcopal churches have little or nothing to offer people. We go to St. John’s in the Mission. The Anglo-Catholic, smells, bells, incense, bowing and scraping, while I love it, puts many people off.

Church services are long and boring. Four readings from the Bible, long creed, endless confessions of sin, too many verses of out dated hymns and a sermon more than a dozen minutes is just too much. I try to get to church by the time of the sermon.

The preaching is poor, inconsistent and irrelevant – except when I preach of course, he says humbly. The preaching seldom addresses personal or social issues that deeply affect the lives of the people who do attend. Jesus told stories, our preachers present concepts. The spirituality movement urges people to look inward, the gospel calls us to look outward to the poor suffering and needy.

Christianity will not die. Irrelevant church buildings will be sold, torn down for housing or become something else useful. The church as we know it will change and develop. Full time paid clergy jobs will continue to diminish. Bishop Pike used to say wherever there is a Bible, some bread and wine there is the church. I agree.

I do think there is hope for the traditional church. We have to learn how to grow churches. There is a whole body of knowledge on how to do that. Fundamentalists have done their homework. We have to learn how to ask for money. We do that poorly. We have to see that the gospel of Jesus is connected to healing, justice, care for the poor and the disenfranchised. People will respond to that, not to pap.

I do think many smart, rich people stay away because they hear all to clearly that Jesus cared more for the poor than the rich. They hear the words of the Bible.

Trinity SF skimmed by financially for the 20 years I was there. I always focused on social and political issues. We were well known in the city and community and served the dying of AIDS and their loved ones in the 80s. We had a shelter program in winter. AA groups, a senior luncheon group, a community theater group and many musical concert organizations used our building. My time there was, along with my relationship with Ann, the most wonderful and fulfilling part of my long life.

Thank you for the articles and the opportunity to blow my own horn with my big mouth on paper.

Warm Love,

Robert

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