A news article from The Huffington Post Religion section caught my eye today. The headline of the Facebook post reads, “National Cathedral To Perform Same-Sex Weddings”. That is the subtitle for the headline on the Huffington Post site which reads, “Gay Marriage Victory”, but a victory for gay marriage might be a devastating blow to one liberal Christian denomination.
As I began to read the article I was reminded that the National Cathedral in Washington DC is part of the Episcopal Church which approved “same-sex blessing” services last summer, but stopped short of defining these unions as marriages. The decision by the Rt. Rev. Mariann Edgar Budde, the Episcopal bishop of Washington, to allow for gays to marry at the National Cathedral is based on the legality of gay marriage in DC and the state of Maryland.
The cathedral dean, Rev. Gary Hall said that another consideration for allowing same-sex marriages at the cathedral is the opportunity to break down barriers and build a more inclusive community “that reflects the diversity of God’s world.” Hall also stated that his reading of the Bible leads him to want to perform gay marriages because he things “it’s being faithful to the kind of community that Jesus would have us be.”
Perhaps Rev. Hall missed Jesus’ exclusive statement regarding marriage in Matthew 19:
Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no lover two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate (Matt 19:4-6, NASB).
I wonder which Jesus Rev. Hall and the leaders of the National Cathedral are talking about, because it sure isn’t the Jesus that Matthew wrote about.
Coincidentally, the Episcopal Church is one of the fastest declining churches in America. A July 2012 New York Times article asked the question, “Can Liberal Christianity Be Saved”. In the last decade (2000-2010) the Episcopal Church has dropped 23% in attendance nationally, and not a single Episcopal diocese in the country saw an increase in church attendance.
In order for a church to grow there must be retention and addition. Churches must be birthing new believers as well as continually meeting the spiritual needs of the seasoned believer. A rate of decline that large is only possible through a failure in both of those areas. And it appears that this union of liberal Christianity with liberal secularism is producing this failure instead of the desired production newly-converted spiritual babies.
We can’t be sure of whether Episcopalians are leaving Christianity altogether or making an exodus to churches with a more conservative, fundamental view of the Bible. Either way, the future looks quite bleak for the Episcopal Church.
Could there be a correlation between liberal churches and church attendance? The trend in the Episcopal Church seems to suggest that very thing.