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A short lived reformation?

A short lived reformation?

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.


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Benedict Varnum

I don’t know Mr. Whealton, but I’d note that he’s standing in a vein of our tradition that includes such decisions as modifying language in a General Convention resolution after the Civil War from “praising God for Union victory” to “praising God for a cessation of hostilities.” This move was considered “irenic” enough that one of my seminary books credited it with allowing the church to reunify after the Civil War.

That DOES “beg a question,” as to whether the church’s unity should be set at higher value than, say, its prophetic witness. But at the least, I’d say it’s fair to keep open both spaces — the need for celebrating and some form of care for those who are losing the “pride of place” for their views.

My M.Div thesis was, in its simplest form, a suggestion that “Don’t let the door hit your ass” isn’t an appropriate theological stance for prophetic witness (however emotionally-appropriate, cathartic, good, or necessary it might feel, now and then, in our imperfect human state). While I wouldn’t dream that anyone should sit down the community of gay Christians who have patiently waited for the fullness of their baptism to be recognized and say, “Okay, but slowly and reverently now,” I DO think those of us who can empathize with the feelings of everyone involved are called on to try to do that.

Personally, I have a good deal of regret that a large group of Anglicans felt so separated from their communion that they’ve found a need for such extraordinary sophistication of innovation in their attempt to assert a new polity alongside the one they’ve left.


When prisoners are freed from their chains, they may have a tendency to DANCE, Alvah. Sorry you found that to be “self-righteous and self-congratulatory triumphalism”.

far reaching changes which will continue to decrease the number of parishes in the greater church

OK, now you’re just Begging the Question.

Alvah, we have a great saying among us 12 Steppers: “Resentment is like drinking poison, and expecting someone else to die.” Time to let it go?

JC Fisher


I believe that general convention’s decision to allow the ordination of women did not precede, but followed ordinations which had already taken place. I think, too, that the disagreement over the ordinations was not sufficient in itself to drive the congregations away. Rather, I believe it to have been the arrogance of those championing the ordinations with their self-congratulatory righteousness in the face of those who had dissented which provided additional motivation sufficient to lead the dissenters away. Whether departing churches ever succeed in going it alone is not the most important matter here. Of more importance is the self-righteous and self-congratulatory triumphalism of the advocates of far reaching changes which will continue to decrease the number of parishes in the greater church.

Alvah Whealton

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