The Episcopal Church announced this week that it would be removing the words “man,” “woman,” and “procreation” from its marriage liturgy. Of course, the Episcopalians have long since removed Christ from their liturgy, so this latest move is no surprise.
I refer to them as the Episcopal Church only loosely. They are a church in the same way that the Church of Satan is a church. They are an anti-church. Rather than a body of Christian believers, they are a body of self-worshiping heretics. And a very small body at that.
Episcopalianism has been skidding into oblivion for decades now. They lost over 30% of their members during the ’90s. In this century, they’ve been losing about 2% a year. Today there are fewer Episcopalians in America than Jews or Mormons. This is significant because the latter groups have always been relatively small minorities in America, while the Episcopal church was once the largest church in the nation. It’s been all downhill since then.
What happened? You can easily track the church’s stunning decline over the past several decades and see that it corresponds to the church’s shedding of Christian orthodoxy in favor of liberal orthodoxy. It began, as always, with the embracing of birth control and divorce. Then they moved to the ordination of women. Then it was a straight line to the ordination of openly gay clergy and the approval of same sex marriage. Now there is nothing surprising about seeing a feminist Episcopal priest blessing an abortion clinic or a transgender priest leading a service in a church adorned with rainbow flags. And it is even less surprising to look around the church and notice that nobody is sitting in the pews.
Why would they come and sit in the pews? What would be the point? The message of liberal Christianity is: “You’re perfectly fine exactly the way you are. Everything you’re doing is acceptable. Make no changes. Keep up the great work!” A weak person may be happy to hear that message, but they need not hear it twice. They need not come back for it week after week. They need only receive the affirmation and then continue along living just as they were before. Just as lost, just as confused, just as hopeless. The Episcopal Church, like any worldly church, has already given all it has to offer — which is nothing at all.
If a person wants worldliness, they can go literally anywhere to get it. If they want lectures on diversity and inclusion, they can stop by the Human Resources office at work, or maybe have a chat with a public school guidance counselor. If they want encouragement to continue in their sin, Satan is happy to use a whole variety of methods to communicate that encouragement. And most of those methods will be far more entertaining and enjoyable than anything the crusty old Episcopal Church can provide.
But if a person wants to pursue something higher; if he wants to be rescued from the dreariness of modern culture; if he wants to find his real and transcendent identity; if he wants to be challenged; if he wants meaning, then he has even less reason to turn to Episcopalianism or any similar variety of Christianity. It is not substantial enough. It is not different enough. It is not saying enough. It is not asking enough of him.
That is the great secret that “progressive” and “inclusive” Christian leaders are too high on the fumes of humanism to notice or understand. Religions grow when they expect more of their adherents, not less. Religions thrive when they provide a lifestyle that is radically different from the dull, hollow lifestyle provided by the world. People turn to religion for identity. And if all they find is more of the same, more of what caused them to go looking in the first place, they will not be converted. If a church wants to grow (and, more importantly, if it wants to save souls), it must have the boldness to completely and entirely reject the teachings of the world and preach instead the teachings of Christ.
The Episcopal Church has something to teach all Christians, it turns out. Look to them to learn how churches become irrelevant and useless. But whatever you do, don’t look to them to learn theology.