By Leroy Huizenga
The Episcopal Church is in the news again for the usual reasons. First, a few days ago it was reported that the Episcopal Church suffered a 23 percent decline in attendance from 2000 to 2010. Second, on Tuesday the Episcopal Church approved rites for blessing same-sex unions. Many commentators made what seems to be an obvious connection supposedly supported by sociology: liberalism in religion leads to the decline and death of denominations. “Conservative churches are growing,” we heard yet again.
I bring up these recent developments not to pick on Episcopalians or Anglicans, especially as I used to worship in a wonderful Anglican congregation, but rather to raise questions about assumptions concerning theological ideology and denominational decline. It may be true, roughly speaking, that more conservative churches do better holding on to members and attenders than more liberal churches, but what does “liberal” and “conservative” mean? Does it have to do only with doctrine (or even simple politics) or also with other matters? We need to go deeper.
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