Cromey Online

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

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Monday, July 16, 2012

July 16, 2012

"Can Christianity Be Saved? A Response..."

One major reason why liberal Christianity has dwindling attendance is because the liberal, inclusive resolutions passed at the national level never get to the local level. Conventions pass resolutions against capital punishment, for acceptance of homosexuals, and for the environment and peace. They ask local parishes to discuss those issues in sermons, classes and study groups. That does not happen in most churches. Controversial subjects are seldom mentioned on the local church level.

Clergy are not very interested these issues. Most are busy raising money and administering the church and are more interested in meditation, the spiritual life, retreats and quiet days. They also fear offending the moneyed people who support salaries and buildings. So the great issues generated from conventions seldom reach the local level.

Studies have found that people who call themselves spiritual but not religious are interested in meditation, transcendence, peace, civil rights for all, including homosexuals, ecology and community. Local churches do not address these issues. They do not and advertise interests that might be of interest to the unchurched.  Most secular people do not even know that the local churches’ denominations also believe in the same values that they do. They see the church as sex negative and irrelevant to their values.

I know of churches that have weekly meditation groups for their parishioners. However, they do not advertise in coffee houses or venues to let people they have meditation classes.

Ross Douthat of the NY Times (7/15/12) pointed out that liberal churches are not terribly interested in dogma. Neither are those who say they are spiritual but not religious. Arguments about Incarnation, the Trinity and the Virgin Birth are irrelevant to most people.

My view is that if liberal Christianity were really forthcoming and proclaiming acceptance of homosexuals, sexual freedom and peace, people would seek out parish churches. The parishes would flourish,

The rise of art shows, classical music, big rock concerts and even athletic events show an interest in the transcendent, something beyond one’s self, in ardent participation and community. Great church liturgy, singing, beautiful worship and strong preaching fill those needs for many on a regular basis.

All Saints’ Church in Pasadena, CA, has flourished with that combination of regular liberal Christian theology and programs and fine liturgy. St. Aidan’s, San Francisco, is also doing well. Trinity Church, San Francisco where I was rector until I retired, flourished and grew with that brand of liberal Christianity.  There may be others, but I just don’t know about them.

The dwindling numbers of people going to churches is a challenge that churches must face on the local level. The church growth movement has been widely ignored by the main line liberal denominations. There are books and seminars available on how to grow a church. Local clergy and lay people are reluctant to investigate that field.  Church growth studies, writings and methods are regarded as the products of the evangelicals and conservatives.  That is true, but the methods work in liberal churches too.

We don’t need saving. We need aggressive clergy and lay people of the liberal stripe proclaiming the gospel of inclusion, love and forgiveness on the local level.



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