In case you haven't been told lately, fellow mainline Christian, we're dying. Again.
In this case, the gloatingly gleeful evangelical writing the propaganda piece has been so kind as to offer a specific death date. As you can see from the title, we've only got twenty-three Easter seasons left to celebrate, not counting the one we are in now, I guess (although it's not clear if the mainline may pass away in the midst of that twenty-third Easter cycle). Plan your sermons and Easter musical services accordingly.
As you can guess, I am no fan of such garbage. The author may feel entitled to excercise godlike proclamatory powers over a tradition he scorns, but I don't find it that wise to proclaim anything about the future of any corner of the church, my own or anyone else's.
See, I can read statistics and see trends just fine, even if I'm not quite willing to put such a specific countdown clock on the end of my church.
(Note: before anybody tries to defend the author, whom I have no intention of respecting by calling him by name, I saw him try to claim he takes no pleasure in the claim he is making. He is not telling the truth. A person who took no pleasure in such a claim would not make it.)
If you're looking at statistics, mainline churches are on the decline, but they're hardly alone. The author's sainted evangelical tradition has come over the hill and, now that their trajectory is downward, they're picking up speed. To my knowledge the only church type that is growing or at least not declining is the independent or non-denominational church, one beholden to no one but its all-powerful pastor. I'm not sure that there's anything to celebrate here.
If the author is looking for a branch of Christianity to fix, he might consider starting with his own.
He is, after all, an acknowledged leader (for reasons beyond my comprehension) in that branch of Christianity which has most wholeheartedly participated in the election of the current occupant of the office of President of the United States. All (white) branches of the church in the US were complicit in this to some degree, but it had better be acknowledged that, between the endorsements and enthusiastic support of some of its most prominent pastors and the overwhelming vote support of its members, our current president is their doing. That particular immorality should frankly disqualify evangelical leaders from being taken seriously about anything, much less any other church's problems. While the Washington Post may have not quite stooped to the New York Times's level of capitulation in hiring a climate denialist as columnist, printing propaganda pieces like this is not to the Post's credit.
Mainline churches have problems, not least of which is the continuing evangelical urge to keep on kicking the mainline while it's down. But the mainline has gotta do better at being church.
If, as other batches of statistics suggest, the church's fascination with so-called "contemporary" worship is waning, mainline churches have got to do a better job of making the case for worship that doesn't ignore the other 1,950 years or so of the church's history and practice, invites (or even demands) participation beyond sitting or standing and watching, and has that unnerving habit of making people think. Frankly, it's time for the mainline to call into question worship practice that fails at these basic tasks in its proclamation of the gospel. If we are really going down, I say we go down swinging.
So this blog is being repurposed again, to this end.
After its chronicling of my seminary journey, and its period as a sermon repository, it's time for this blog to take up yet another "fool's errand": making the case for the church that everybody likes to pick on.
Evangelicals should probably move on. I have no interest in being lectured to, and I have no problem blocking the hell out of you if you are here only to parrot propaganda. Just shove off if that's you.
My audience is my fellow mainline. My corner of that is the Presbyterian Church (USA), where I was caught when I was falling out of the evangelical branch, having jumped before anybody had a chance to push me. Other mainliners are welcome to chip in. In words I believe were first uttered by Benjamin Franklin, "We must, indeed, all hang together or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately."
And I'm not interested in hanging, in twenty-three Easters or otherwise.
Remember, he was a mainliner.