In the turmoil of the present moment in Mainline Christian life, it’s common to hear people talking about the start of a new Reformation. For most of the more conservative voices, the new Reformation has the issue of human sexuality and/or gender as the “flash-point”. But that particular issue might cause problems in the near future for break-away groups choosing it as their litmus test.
Religion News Service suggests in an overview of the splintering Mainline denominations that there’s a deep question about whether these splits represent a fundamental realignment or just small fissures. While there are certainly many groups breaking away, for the most part those groups are still dwarfed by their parent denominations.
And then there’s the generational divide:
“”[S]ome religion scholars say the new denominations are heading down a demographic dead end unless they can broaden their appeal beyond conservatives upset over pro-gay church policies.
“Public opinion about gays and lesbians and gay marriage are changing so dramatically that at some point in the future — 10 years, let’s say — it’s not going to matter very much,” said Robert Wuthnow, a sociologist and director of the Center for the Study of Religion at Princeton University.”
Episcopalians don’t have to look very far back into our past to see a parallel. When General Convention decided in the 1970’s to allow for the ordination of women, four bishops split away and numerous congregations left the Episcopal Church. Those groups split and split again so that today there’s is wide continuum of congregations and dioceses that reject women’s ordination and each other.
It seems that agreeing to be against one thing isn’t enough to build a common life together.