Sunday, August 12, 2012

Decline of the Liberal Church

A couple of articles in the mainstream media have highlighted the decline of the Liberal church in Canada, particularly the United Church. The Canadian United Church is in dire trouble due to falling attendance and corresponding loss of income.

The Globe and Mail quotes a retired United Church minister who served declining congregations all his ministry life. “In my experience, when you put your primary focus on the world, there is a lessening of the importance of worship and turning to God.” reports that the United church has lost half its membership since 1965. Sunday School attendance has dropped 90% in the same time.

However, many evangelical churches are growing, often at surprising rates. My drive across Canada two years ago, revealed numbers of large evangelical churches being built in both the large and small cities. Why the difference?

My guess is the liberal tradition of the United Church—summed up in the idea that ‘you can’t believe everything you read in the Bible’—has weakened the movement. Miracles, as described in the Bible have natural explanations, or are legendary myths.

What is probably most damaging is the denial of Jesus’ deity; His virgin birth and resurrection are dismissed as fabrications of the Early Church. These ideas are what secular Canadians generally hold, and they became the gateway for liberal Christianity to accept Canadian secular beliefs.

Hence, the United Church, for instance, agrees to abortion on demand and gay marriage. Their main interests are social and political issues, often with a partisan approach. If churchgoers hear from the Sunday pulpit what newspapers said the previous week, why go?

If political and pagan rhetoric is all popular belief—worse still, the church—has to offer, life is dismal and pointless. It is the hope that Scripture brings through the risen Christ that draws people to conservative and evangelical churches: hope for meaning and renewal in this life and assurance for the next.

The Bible has always provided a way out of history’s swings between licence and asceticism. As we develop a relationship with our Creator, we discover the empty, vague, and uncertain direction of the world’s philosophies.

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