This from an article in the Pittsburg Post-Gazette article yesterday concerning mainline denominations, Americaâ€™s moral compass, and the Culture Wars:
The single issue hamstringing the mainline churches is homosexuality and its place in the church. At its 2004 General Conference in Pittsburgh, the United Methodist Church maintained its stance against gay ordination and same-sex blessings. Last year, it was the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. The national gatherings this summer of both the Presbyterians and Episcopalians were consumed by it.
â€œWeâ€™ve been fighting in this ditch for 28 years and the ditch is getting deeper,â€ the Presbyteriansâ€™ former moderator, Marj Carpenter, of Big Spring, Texas, said in a speech at the denominationâ€™s General Assembly last month. â€œItâ€™s starting to affect our mission work, our youth ministry, and our evangelism, and Iâ€™m ready to try something else.
â€œPlease, letâ€™s get on with being the church, taking the gospel into the world and offering them something else other than arguments.â€
Iâ€™m beginning to believe that the only honest solution to these incessant arguments and battles is a rearrangement of American Christianity. Even in the denomination that is known to be the middle-way, the Via Media, The Episcopal Church/Anglicanism is being pulled apart.
The extremes of both the liberal and conservative sides in the mainline denominations will not allow for the compromise that the middle-ground normally enforced. As the articles says below, the middle remains silent and allows the issues to be framed and debated by the extremes. It is similar to the American Culture Wars lived out in our nationâ€™s government as extreme partisanship rules the day and the necessary element of compromise that is essential for democratic government falls by the wayside.
Derek H. Davis, dean of the college of humanities at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor in Texas and an expert in church-state relations, said part of the problem is that moderates in the mainline churches have gone silent.
â€œMy own sense is itâ€™s a voice thatâ€™s greatly needed in our present condition,â€ he said. â€œIt tends to be a debate thatâ€™s vigorously pursued on the far ends. It makes the cultural wars in America seem more profound than they should be.
â€œThe mainline churches have always represented this moderate middle. Without their voice, weâ€™re not debating, weâ€™re dividing.â€
John C. Green, a senior fellow with the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life and a professor of political science at the University of Akron, blames the churchesâ€™ divisions on the countryâ€™s deep rifts.â€What we lack is a consensus on what is moral and what we should do about it,â€ he said. â€œBut if history is any guide, the current warring parties â€” whether in the mainline churches or in the country at large â€” are unlikely to provide a solution.
â€œQuite literally, they are part of the problem.â€
If the middle does not rise up to keep the extremes under control and from destroying the denominations, then the mission of the Church will never go forward and the ditch truly will become deeper and deeper, or else one side or the other will prevail and we will see the same kind of purge we witnessed when the fundamentalists gained full control of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Monday, July 17, 2006 By Steve Levin, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
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