Abandoning Traditional Values Actually Hurts Church Growth

Are “solutions” from our detractors really designed to harm the church?

I saw this thread earlier today on Twitter and asked if I could publish it on the site in its full form. The thread is lengthy, well-articulated, and can stand on its own merits. I plan on writing another column soon with some additional thoughts regarding Jana Riess’s recent book, The Next Mormons. Without further adieu:

“Most of the mainline Protestant churches in North America are liberal. The Episcopalians, PCUSA, United Church, ELCA, and even the UMC have been ordaining women for decades, and all but UMC have normalized homosexuality and accepted same-sex ‘marriage.’ Reform and Conservative Judaism too.

They’re also quite theologically liberal. It depends on the congregation, but it’s unlikely anyone at a mainline church is going to ask you, or care if you believe in the resurrection, or in the church’s authority, or even God.

But there’s a reason you never hear anything about these once-great churches: no one goes to them. Link: Washington Post

And the people who still go are old. Link: Pew Research

And white! People tell us *we’re* white, but for all our history, the Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Evangelical Lutherans, Unitarians, and United Methodists are all whiter than our U.S. membership, despite their pretentious racial justice campaigns. Link: Pew Research

What’s the reason? It’s obvious: joining the sexual revolution kills churches. Female ordination kills churches. Gay marriage kills churches. Links: Washington Post and Slate Star Codex

It’s conservative churches, like Pentecostal churches, some evangelical churches, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Orthodox churches, and yes, ours (we still have modest congregational growth, even in the United States) that are holding steady or growing.

The @janariess hypothesis that if we just became liberal we’d attract young people is completely wrong. Liberal young people leave even when churches try to conform to their views. They aren’t actually interested in liberal churches. If they were, they’d attend liberal churches. Rather, they just aren’t interested in traditional religion, because they can already get mainstream liberal theology from universities and media. The church deciding to mimic liberal institutions would do nothing to attract them.

What it *would* do is blow a huge hole in our theology, unraveling the entire understanding of sex. If the relationship of two men can be a marriage, then we cannot believe that kids deserve a mom and a dad, or speak coherently about a husband’s or wife’s distinct roles, or say much about the meaning and purpose of sex (maleness and femaleness) at all. It changes the whole underlying anthropology, our understanding of what humans are.

And indeed, members who accept same-sex marriage also tend to abandon church beliefs about porn, premarital virginity, abortion, and everything else sex- or body-related. After that, they abandon just about every other traditional belief too (funny how that works).

Supplemental Reading:

You can follow Dustin on Twitter at @eltornillo1232.

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