Shrinking Conservatives…and Liberals, and Moderates

BeliefNet tells “Why the Conservative Churches are Shrinking” – specifically, the Southern Baptism Convention. Cathy Grossman at USA Today says it’s because allegiance to denominations is weakening and the growth today is in nondenominational-postdenominational Christianity. “Religious Connections” has its somewhat jaded take here. Conservative denominations are shrinking, says BeliefNet, just like liberal and moderate denominations, because denominationalism is dying.

Calling all you liturgical Catholics and Lutherans and Anglicans and Orthodox and all the others out there: any ideas on how to be a liturgical church in this post-church, post-tradition, post-denomination, one wants to say, post-liturgy era? I suppose one could say “We’re a Church, not a denomination,” and then remind us how much eveything in your particular tradition is divinely instituted. That’s probably about the easiest way to avoid all the difficult issues here raised.

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6 comments

  1. Southern Baptists are only loosely affiliated with each other. They are highly congregational and competitive with each other and other denominations. Each congregation believes basically what they want to believe and seeks pastors who support their particular interpretation of the Bible or someone in the congregation breaks with that congregation and forms a new one. Often, traditional denominations in our neck of the woods drop their denominational name, for example, Mable White Baptist Church is now just Mable White Church and has adopted the rock concert look to their church and worship. I think it would be wise for Catholics to remain Catholic and not try to follow the fads of Protestantism. What’s the old saying? “We’re called to be faithful, not necessarily successful.” Now that’s counter cultural or “Christ against culture” as I was taught in the seminary in the good old ’70’s.

  2. any ideas on how to be a liturgical church in this post-church, post-tradition, post-denomination, post-liturgy era?

    I’m not sure I understand how to answer the question. Sure, technology might have that problem — hardware and software no longer being supported, certain types of fuel no longer available, etc. But what would stop a liturgical religion from being so? When all the liturgy runs out?

  3. In other studies it found that people are moving away from “Beliefs ABOUT Jesus” to “EXPERIENCE of/with Jesus.”

    I believe the biggest thing we liturgical-types have to offer is our rich history of spiritual practices. It provides an opportunity for a primary experience over and above the primary word-centered Christianity of many denominations.

    I view this as an opportunity for Christian voices to be heard in a world that is seeking spiritual connection.

  4. Calling all you liturgical Catholics and Lutherans and Anglicans and Orthodox and all the others out there: any ideas on how to be a liturgical church in this post-church, post-tradition, post-denomination, one wants to say, post-liturgy era

    While there are many things that need to be shaken up about current Catholic pastoral practice, I think the way forward for the Catholic Church also requires emphasizing our organizational distinctiveness.

    Certainly, there is no way we can be post-Church, post-tradition, or post-liturgy. I think as others fall away from these things we’ll make some gains just on the basis of the fact that some people want these things.

    Also, we should always remember, we’re pre-denominational.

  5. Denominations, industrial age bureaucratic organizations, are declining and functioning less well in this post industrial age.

    Ecclesia, the theological mystery, has taken many social forms: the house church, the city church, the imperial church, the abbey farm church, the congregation, the denomination, etc. Internet forms are taking shape as we speak.

    Americans believe in a personal relationship with God. The postindustrial age search for happiness and self expression means this will be increasingly personalized. Catholicism is well positioned for this because of our rich heritage of spiritualities and many saints.

    Americans believe in a voluntary spiritual family. Congregations and parishes in the industrial age fostered voluntary spiritual families by providing ethnic and denominational identities. In today’s postindustrial world they will survive by providing a greater diversity of ministries and spiritualities, and many small personalized groups.

    The Eucharist SHOULD BE the only one-size-fits-all event. Surrounding and interweaving it with the marvelous diversity that has been Catholicism and will be the postindustrial age is the challenge. Becoming more Catholic involves real unity with deepening respect for otherness (not just control) and an ever greater diversity. Not easy in practice.

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