Maybe it’s not a schism but apostasy which I mean. Doesn’t matter. Continuing in our Curmudgeon Series, here are my guesses of the course of Christianity in the West over the next twenty years. Each point below deserves its own essay: these are rough points.
I am no prophet. And my political predictions have a mixed record—whatever you do, don’t ask me who will win a presidential election; though I’m driving ’em in on social matters, boy. What follows is just a lot of Saturday mornin’ supposin’.
I invite you to play along in the comments. But let’s please keep emotion out of it. We’re making predictions here, not judgments. And how dare we if we do! I beg you, no arguments about right and wrong. We’re all forecasters today.
So the Church of England lost no time after the legalization of homosexual “marriage” in “signaling” its willingness to support these unions. It hasn’t accepted them yet, but will.
Traditionalists (for lack of a better word, but you know who I mean) aren’t happy. Most will grumble, carp, and bray, but when they see their local bishop mount the altar and say “I pronounce thee man and man”, they’ll accept it. Too much work to break a lifetime’s habit or to find a new church. But compromise in matters of faith is not enervating.
The hardcore (how inapt a term!) will vamoose, in spurts and in small numbers. The CofE will attempt to placate some groups by allowing them to hold to the past as they did for female ordinates, but these compromises won’t last. The Catholic church will be the beneficiary of the escapees, as will a few smaller denominations.
Same situation will play out in other Western countries, with the Protestants folding faster than a TV table sat on by an offensive linesman. Since elites of secular institutions only truly care about elites at other institutions, the leadership of these churches won’t want to fall behind the CofE. They’ll issue cheerful press releases boasting love and then arm wrestle for who gets to perform the first homosexual ceremony. Most denominations already allow homosexual clergy.
Theologically, since going to a service at a mainline Protestant church will increasingly be no different than reading the New York Times or Guardian op-ed section, which is more convenient and saves on gas, those willing to make the trek will dwindle and die off. If you’re in the market for an old church (aren’t they quaint?), look to the Methodists and Presbyterians. Besides, members are tired of being called stupid and irrational by the culture.
Evangelicals are going to benefit; or, rather, won’t see much change. Some already allow female ordination (as it were), so that’s not going to be a problem. But an Assemblies of God congregation in Oklahoma allowing a homosexual union or supporting abortion? Better chance of Harry Reid becoming a Republican. (I can hear my progressive readers thinking to themselves, “Who or what are the Assemblies of God?”)
Still, the children of folks from evangelical households will leak out like pinholes in a balloon. On the other hand, since these churches will absorb the fallout from mainline Protestants, they’ll stay at the same levels or possibly grow slightly (as a percentage of population, factoring in Muslim and Hindu immigration, of course). The Southern Baptists might split (again; see the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship); even now a few of the churches are becoming more like mainline Protestant ones.
Mormons won’t move much theologically, except to continue to put more shade over their doctrines, but because of their encouragement to have kids and eschew divorce and abortions (which mainline Protestants certainly do not), they will continue to grow. I don’t think they’ll become very large. The theology is too difficult for newcomers to swallow.
The leaves Orthodoxy and Catholicism. Orthodoxy now has state support in Russia and elsewhere. Neither group is going to budge on homosexual “marriage”, on female ordination, on abortion, on divorce, on birth control, on anything.
But their flocks will: budge, I mean. Many will fly away (flying sheep?) especially when reminded of Church teachings (a group of kids at a Catholic school freaked out when told by a nun what the Church’s position on homosexuality was). Homosexual “marriage” isn’t as divisive for these groups, not when compared to female ordination and the deep desire for abortion. Way it works now is that lefty priests ignore the official teachings and go their own way as much as possible. These congregations become functionally Protestant and have declining attendance, and many close.
The Orthodox, particularly where they have state support (like Russia) will be stable. Catholics? Somebody soon will hit on the idea of forming their own church. They’ll call it the American Catholic Church (or whatever) and claim to still be part of the Roman church. There will be much joy as the first female “priest” is ordained, but the morning after they discover they’re on their own will be the beginning of their end. (Just wait for the disputes over money! Some women have already been so “ordained.”) This schism will make the most noise because people recognize the Catholic church for what it is.
Many will still call themselves Christians, but there’s going to be far fewer mass-service-attending people in twenty years. Those that remain will be holy terrors.
Update Popular pastime. Priest weighs in with his own.
Update I stupidly forgot “transgendered” “rights.” Maryland 18th state to allow people to change their birth certificates to whatever “gender” individuals prefer. You figure the effect.
Update It’s in the air. A guy even gloomier than I.
Update Incidentally, we Westerners are very bad thinking about non-Westerners.
Update Well well. Some U.S. dioceses are reporting that 2014 will be an unusually fruitful year, in terms of the number of people welcomed into the Church. “For someone brought up in a Protestant tradition, finding the roots of Catholic doctrine in the Bible can be particularly helpful, Phillips said.”