Depending on subject and group, the intrusion of political correctness into church/denominational life has been handled strangely. Long-held doctrinal or theological positions have been totally compromised in some denominations and greatly abridged in others, while a handful of other groups have treated the PC-driven concepts disdainfully.
The so-called “mainline denominations” have spent some three decades trying to decide what to do with homosexuality, not whether or not to minister to or welcome homosexuals, but whether or not to ordain them to leadership positions, thereby sanctioning what for centuries has been accounted biblically/doctrinally as totally unacceptable – even perverted – behavior. Denominational pooh-bahs can’t decide whether or not two men should be allowed to marry each other, never mind biblical injunctions and laws in 45 states that absolutely – even constitutionally (26 states) – forbid such a bizarre arrangement, not to mention “natural law.” The matter of ordination of women has also been mangled, although more so in some “evangelical” groups such as the Baptists.
Angling toward an almost “anything goes” solution, mainline denominations have lost membership exponentially. After years of struggling with the divisive matter of homosexuality, the Episcopal Church allowed a practicing homosexual to be elected bishop for New Hampshire three years ago. Churches have been slowly “falling away” since then. Recently, the newly elected head of the church in this country publicly affirmed her approval of the ordination of practicing homosexuals and also of same-sex marriage, perhaps furnishing the final straw for a greatly accelerated “falling away.” Not surprisingly, the denomination has lost 33% of its membership since 1960, seven percent in the last 10 years alone, and some churches in central Kentucky have deserted this American arm of Anglicanism and aligned themselves with Anglican bishoprics in Africa.
Already caught up in the homosexual/same-sex-marriage quandary, the Presbyterian Church (USA) has also recognized itself as incorrectly too masculine and in the church’s national assembly recently in Birmingham, Ala., decided that the centuries-long concept of the Trinity, the virtual foundation of the faith – “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” – apparently was not gender-inclusive enough (never mind that God and Christ are always mentioned in scripture in the masculine), so churches were given the go-ahead to use new terminology in its liturgy such as “Mother, Child, and Womb;” “Rock, Redeemer, and Friend;” “Lover, Beloved, and Love;” “Creator, Savior, and Sanctifier.” The church has lost 21% of its membership since 1960, 12% in just the last ten years.
In 1960, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) had 1,801,000 members. At the end of 2005, that number was down by an unbelievable 57% to 770,793, a loss of 18% in just the last ten years. It has been driven by the same social correctness, with the added insistence by its leadership that church terminology was somehow too masculine. A number of denominations have indulged themselves in rewriting hymns by people long dead, dishonestly in large part, to remove anything smacking of the masculine, but the DoC has probably done the most editing or actual hymn-removal from its worship during about the last 25 years.
The pattern of “feminizing” the faith (not meaning the perfectly acceptable ordination of women) is obvious with respect to all these denominations, driven by political correctness notwithstanding the assertions to the contrary by denominational leaders. The United Methodist denomination has struggled with the same issues and problems, and in the process lost 24% of its membership between 1960 and 2005, while between 1960 and 2004 the population of the U.S.A. increased by 64%.
With nearly 16.5 million members, second in size only to the Roman Catholic Church, into which members are born almost exclusively rather than voluntarily engaged, the Southern Baptist Convention has avoided the homosexual and same-sex-marriage problems by not even recognizing them as worthy of consideration, but has inveighed against ordaining women, causing a large number of churches to bolt. While it has gained membership by 69% since 1960, it has plateaued recently, gaining only five percent in the last ten years. Beginning a bit over 25 years ago, a small group of “fundamentalists” within the SBC thought they recognized the same sort of “modernism” creeping into the SBC as has been shaking the mainliners and began a methodical takeover attempt that has been entirely successful.
The mainliners, perhaps the backbone of the National Council of Churches, have genuflected at the throne of political correctness – going against their own centuries-old doctrines. Then, there are the Baptists and the Catholics who will not bend but sometimes should be more flexible. It’s easy to see, statistically at least, which approach is productive. Those who stand for essentially nothing fall for anything.