Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Whither the Protestants? A historic Presbyterian church in Houston narrowly votes to stay in the mainline Presbyterian denomination

Catholicism's media critics like to describe the Church as a dying institution.  For example, Frank Bruni of the New York Times recently pronounced that the Catholic Church is a "sputtering enterprise."

But of course that is nonsense.  The Roman Catholic Church is a robust, thriving institution.  There are 70 million of us in the United States alone, and Africans are converting to Catholicism at the rate of about a million people a year.

It is mainline Protestantism, not Catholicism, that is a sputtering enterprise. The Episcopalians in particular are committing institutional suicide, having drunk the postmodern koolaid.  In a pathetic and desperate effort to become more relevant, the American Episcopalians have jettisoned their essential doctrines, and their members are leaving in droves.

And the Presbyterians and the Methodists aren't in much better shape. A few days ago, members of the First Presbyterian Church in Houston, founded 175 years ago, voted on whether they would leave Presbyterian Church USA, the mainline Presbyterian denomination, and join a more conservative communion.  The church's senior pastor is in favor of leaving the mainline body, and a strong majority voted to leave: the vote was 1085 to 596. But the vote fell 36 votes short of the super majority needed for First Presbyterian to secede.

Can you imagine the fate of this historic church, founded at the time of the Texas Revolution, now that the senior pastor and a majority of its members have expressed their lack of confidence in the denomination to which they are attached?

And why do a majority of this church's congregants want to leave Presbyterian Church USA?  The reasons are varied, of course; but many were disheartened by their denomination's decision to allow the ordination of homosexuals.

Presbyterian Church USA--although the mainline Presbyterian body in the United States, is not that large. It only has about 1.8 million members--less than one third the size of the Mormon church in the United States. But it is steadily losing membership. Highland Park Presbyterian Church in Dallas, the largest Presbyterian church in Texas, joined the start-up conservative communion last year, as did Kingwood Presbyterian, another  Houston-area congregation.

Who in the heck was Emanuel Swedenborg?
Catholics should ponder the fate of the mainline Protestant denominations--all of which are losing members. The more these groups embrace postmodern sexual mores, the weaker they get. The day will come--and come soon--when the Episcopalians and the Presbyterians will be just a footnote in the nation's religious history, right along side the Shakers and the Swedenborgians.

Frank Bruni, in a long series of tiresome New York Times essays, has urged Catholics to abandon our ancient doctrines and beliefs.  Essentially, I think Frank wants us to become Episcopalians.

But the Catholic Church is not Little Red Riding Hood. We will not be coaxed by the blandishments of the big bad fox. We are a strong and faithful people, and we will ultimately prevail against the spirit of our postmodern age. 
Mike Tolson. First Presbyterian leadership believes it's become too liberal. Houston Chronicle, February 23, 2014.  Available at: http://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/houston-texas/houston/article/First-Presbyterian-leadership-believes-it-s-5261137.php

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