Archive for the ‘faith’ Tag

Freedom in Christ   1 comment

Paul the apostle wrote a letter to the Galatian churches, hoping they would choose freedom in Christian faith over slavery to a dead religion.

Freedom in ChristCircumcision would save the Gentiltes and doing good works won’t save us now. Only accepting Jesus Christ as Savior will do that. It’s a simple process that is, because of human nature, oh-so-hard to do. Believe in your heart that Jesus is God and confess it aloud and you are saved.

Of course, if you still want to be in charge of your life, God knows your heart and all the magic words in the world won’t outweigh what He sees in your soul. Believing is not just a head knowledge, but an all-embracing gut level faith. It’s stepping out onto that bridge, into the fog, not entirely sure what is on the other end and accepting that there’s no going back.

Hey, it’s His house. He gets to set the standards for entry.

Galatians was meant to be read as a letter, in its entirety, but there are some high points. Chapter 5, Paul explains that Jesus set us free so that we could be free. Seems self-evident, but the Galatians had lost sight of that important understanding. “Stand firm, then,” Paul wrote. “And do not be subject again to the yoke of slavery.” Don’t be circumcised, he warned, because if you choose that route, you will become reliant on your own righteousness – your morality – rather than on Jesus’ grace.

It’s all about what God did for us, not what we did for ourselves. All we have to do is wait and God will provide us with the righteousness we can never achieve on our own. All that matters if “faith working through love.”

The whole law can be summed up in a single commandment: “You must love your neighbor as yourself.”  Paul urged the Galatian Christians to live by the Spirit and not carry out the desires of the flesh. The Spirit and the flesh are opposed to one another, so that it is often hard to live a Christian life.

Paul then balanced the attributes of the two ways of living – the flesh and the Spirit.

When Moralism Goes Off the Tracks   Leave a comment

I was not raised in a Christian home, so my entry into church life was not without stumbles. Some of those stumbles are illustrative of the difference between a living faith and a stagnant moralism.

I grew up in a family of people who liked to dance, drink alcohol and play cards. During my first couple of years attending a Southern Baptist church, I learned that Baptists “don’t drink, don’t dance, don’t play cards and some of them believe rock music is evil.” My friends and I quietly agreed that we couldn’t really find any of those restrictions in the Bible, though there are plenty of warnings about excessive drinking to be found. When I met my husband, he instigated our attending some charismatic services and then we heard that praying in tongues, lifting your hands in the congregation and prophesying were violations of God’s word. He and I, after some struggle and confusion, finally agreed that we couldn’t find those exact restrictions in the Bible.

I am not picking on Southern Baptists alone. Many churches take on moralistic stances that cannot be found in the Bible. Southern Baptists are right on somethings where other churches are completely ignoring the Bible. I’m using these examples as illustrations. A Brethren friend one time told me that music in the church was evil. Again … moralism in place of faith.

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1)

The Galatian churches had a problem. When the missionary team from the First Baptist Church of Antioch, Syria, swept along the coast Asia Minor, those who accepted Christ from that ministry spread the gospel to the hinterlands and founded churches throughout the region. These were Gentiles, coming out of a pagan background. Unlike in Antioch where there was a mix of Jewish and Gentile Christians, these churches were almost wholly Gentile or god-fearers (Gentiles who had some connection with Judaism). Paul and Barnabas moved on. Not long from when they got back to Antioch, men from the church at Jerusalem arrived (uninvited) to instruct the Gentile believers in how to good Jews – starting with circumcision and Jewish dietary rules. Paul got into a squabble with Peter and then decided this needed to be discussed by the larger Christian community, so he and several others went to Jerusalem to report on their missionary success. Peter, apparently chagrined over what Paul had said to him, gave an impassioned speech urging Gentiles be admitted to Christianity. After some deliberation and talking to Paul, the elders in Jerusalem decided that Gentiles did not have to become Jews to be Christians.

This didn’t stop the ones who became known as Judaizers from going into Asia Minor and preaching that Christians had to keep the Jewish law. Paul wrote his letter to the Galatian churches to explain why this was not so. I’m sure there were churches that chose the Judaizers over Paul’s freedom in Christ.

Don’t get me wrong. There are things that Christians shouldn’t participate in because participation in sin separates us from God. But there are many things that the modern-day Christianizers have deemed immoral that aren’t.

Jesus turned water into wine and it was GOOD! (John 2) If you can drink without getting drunk or damaging His temple that is your body, God has no problem with it. Conversely, if you have to get drunk or your body suffers negative consequences from drinking, you are sinning if you drink.

King David danced in the presence of the Lord — more or less nude (think Charleton Heston in Planet of the Apes). (2Samuel 6)  Yes, there are ways to dance that honor God and ways to dance that incite lust. My daughter the ballet dancer would be glad to discuss the distinction.

They didn’t have cards back in the Biblical times, but they did cast lots. It’s how the apostles determined a replacement for Judas (Acts 1). Blowing your paycheck on games of chance is wrong for other Christian reasons, but there’s no evidence that gambling is banned in the Bible.

I never could figure out why Baptists thought rock music was so bad, but country music was okay. Maybe they missed all those songs about bar room brawls.

Speaking in tongues and prophesying are in the New Testament (1 Corinthians 12 and 1 Corinthians 14, with — notably 1Corinthians 13’s love chapter sandwiched between). Both must be decently and in order so as not to scare visitors, which was what Paul had against the Corinthians for conducting their church services with them. The practices themselves were not and are not the problem. The organization of those practices is at issue. People raising their hands in the church service is fine (we do in ours — a Southern Baptist church!) so long as it is not distracting to the people around you.

So why are modern-day moralists so keen on going after people for doing things the way they were done in the Bible?

In a word – Control.

Question 2 – Would you die for your faith?   Leave a comment

Yes or no? Why or why not?

Posted October 6, 2014 by aurorawatcherak in Christianity

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Question – Would You Kill for Your Faith?   Leave a comment

Yes or no and why or why not?

Posted October 6, 2014 by aurorawatcherak in Christianity

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Freedom In Christ   2 comments

True Biblical Christians do not think we are good. We think God can do good through us.

That’s an important distinction. Salvation doesn’t mean we’ve become good, but that we have become conduits of God’s goodness. “The container never becomes the contents,” Jacques Ellul wrote. “The entire Bible constantly iterates that nothing has changed intrinsically or ontologically in this person who has been enlightened by the revelation. He is saved. He is justified. He is sanctified, but he is still himself.” (To Will and To Do. pg. 210)

Becoming Christians may have turned on the light for us, but as we’ve never seen the furniture before, we are still incapable of recognizing it. Concepts of good and evil do not come to us naturally.

And this is where Christianity has often gone off the rails. Jesus was perfect, He lived a sinless life. We are to look toward Him as an example in how to live our lives. But He is merely our example. We did not become Him.

Paul’s explanation of Christian behavior is that of “the manifestation of the life of Jesus in our mortal bodies” (2Corinthians 4:10,11); not by any human imitation of Christ’s behavioral goodness. Christian living is not “monkey see, monkey do,” the apeing of reproduced external behavior. The character of God’s goodness manifested in our behavior. “It is no longer I who lives, but Christ lives in me, and the life that I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me” (Galatians 2:20).

To whatever degree we express behavioral goodness it is not by or through our own effort. Jesus said: “Apart from Me, you can do nothing” (John 15:5). Apart from Jesus, we can do nothing that manifests the character of God. Apart from Jesus, we can do nothing good. Apart from Jesus, we can do nothing that glorifies God. Apart from Jesus, we can do nothing that qualifies as Christian behavior.

Do you hear me, Christians?

Goodness is known and activated only by God’s grace, which is God’s activity consistent with His character. By His grace, God reveals Himself and His intent to us in a personal and intimate way, informed by the Bible and accountable to the congregation, but stemming from our “sitting under” His instruction in the obedience of faith.

As Christians we must continue to be available and receptive in faith to the expression of God’s goodness in our behavior. “He who began to good word in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).

The “good work” is not perfection in conforming to a “standard of goodness” or mustering up good behavior, but in letting God use us to accomplish His work.

Jesus allows us the freedom to express His goodness in our lifestyle. Such expressions are not forced upon Christians. We still have freedom of choice. And freedom comes in “flavors”. Often, we think of freedom in Christ as a freedom from something — sin, death, immorality, but there is also freedom to God’s intent. Some people fear a lack of moral code as a lapse into lawlessness, but if God be our guide, there is no way we can stumble.

Jesus wants to express His character of goodness in consistent, practical Christian behavior. We don’t want to be so heavenly minded we’re no earthly good. God is a practical Deity and Christian living has to do with expressing God’s goodness in all of our interpersonal relationships — husbands and wives, parents and children, employers and employees, friends, acquaintances, and the general public.

Paul warned “Do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh” (Galatians 5:13). I know some anarchist-type Christians who advocate against moralism and repudiate all behavioral considerations and preaching. They’ll tolerate any behavior in the name of “freedom”. That may be a valid secular backlash against moralism, but it will lead to social chaos apart from the recognition of God’s grace expressed as goodness.

Sin is still sin and it is not derived from God. It does not express the character of God, but is derived from Satan (1John 3:8).

So what does freedom in Christ look like?

What Morality Is   2 comments

“I think all Christians would agree with me if I said that though Christianity seems at first to be all about morality, all about duties and rules and guilt and virtue, yet it leads you on, out of all that, into something beyond. One has a glimpse of a country where they do not talk of these things, except perhaps as a joke. Everyone there is filled full with what we should call goodness as a mirror is filled with light. But they do not call it goodness. They do not call it anything. They are not thinking of it. They are too busy looking at the source from which it comes.” (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity. pg. 130.)

No one has ever become “good” or “righteous” on the basis of morally proper behavior. Morality is Satan’s big laugh on mankind.

Morality is a result of the fall of man into sin. Morality is a lie, based on the falsehood of independent-self, autonomous man. Morality is sinful. Sin is anything not derived from God. Morality is sinful because it advocates the autonomy of goodness and fails to understand the spiritual nature of all human behavior.

“Whatever is not of faith is sin” (Romans 14:23), and morality is not based on faith. Therefore it is sinful.

Morality is humanistic. Humanism is based on the thesis of the autonomous self-potential of mankind, first introduced in the Garden. Morality is humanistic because “goodness” is alleged to be knowable by oneself and do-able by oneself apart from God.

Morality is psychological manipulation. Behavioristic psychology attempts to manipulate human behavior in “behavior modification,” failing to understand the spiritual source of all behavior. The social moralists employ such behavioristic psychological manipulation to keep their particular “society” in check and functioning in accord with their self-oriented objectives.

Morality is offensive to God. God hates autonomous morality! It is contrary to His intent for mankind. Isaiah graphically stated that “all our righteous deeds are as a filthy rag” (Isaiah 64:6). Paul described his religious and moral efforts as but “rubbish” or “dung” (KJV) in Philippians 3:8. Morality is offensive to God.

Morality is “another gospel.” When Paul wrote to the Galatians warning them of the religionists who were trying to add moralistic requirements to the simple gospel of grace in Jesus Christ, he indicated that they were bringing “another gospel” which was “no gospel” at all since it was devoid of any “good news.” History is replete with moral supplements becoming part and parcel of so-called “Christian religion.” Whenever morality is introduced it supplants the singular sufficiency of Jesus Christ and constitutes “another gospel.”

Morality is “salvation by works.”  Paul wrote to the Ephesians explaining, “For by grace are you saved through faith, that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works lest any man should boast” (Eph. 2:8,9). Salvation is always enacted by the dynamic of God’s saving work in the provision of His grace. Salvation begins in conversion, but the continuing dynamic of the “saving life” of Jesus Christ (Romans 5:10) makes us safe from satanic misuse, abuse and dysfunction in order to restore us to the functional use God intended by His grace activity in the Christian. Morality says we don’t need salvation or a relationship with Christ. We simply need to be “good” according to how our society defines “goodness” this century.

Morality is legalism. Morality sets up a code of acceptable conduct, rules and regulations of right and wrong that form an independent, external law, to which all subjects are expected to conform. Striving to conform to the law is thus the moralistic objective of “obedience.” Moralistic, legalistic “obedience to the law” is far removed from the “obedience of faith” (Romans 1:5) that listens under God’s Spirit and is obedient to Life.

Morality is deadly. Legalism lacks the vibrancy and vitality of divine life. Paul wrote in II Cor. 3:6, “the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” The “letter of the law” on which morality rests is deadly! It kills all expression of God’s life in man, as man works himself to death!

Morality is devastating and destructive. Incapable of ever measuring up to the moral requirements, man is increasingly frustrated, unhappy and grieved.  It binds a person, making them slaves to law, convention and social approval. To the Galatians Paul explained, “It was for freedom that Christ set us free;…do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1). Morality destroys the freedom to be and do whatever God wants to be and do in us. The rigid chains of moral inflexibility allow for no novelty, newness, no spontaneity of fresh expression of the Spirit.The Pharisees engaged in their perpetual pretense of piety. Though their moralistic attempts are often called “self-righteousness,” in reality they had a pseudo-righteousness, no righteousness at all, just sin! Jesus detested, opposed and exposed the Pharisaical morality.

“Ethical behavior by itself can too easily entrench a man in self-righteousness. He has joined the Pharisee, praying with himself to a god who is not the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, ‘I thank thee that I am not as other men are.’ …No mortal man can win by self-effort what in the nature of things must always be a gift.” Frank Lake, Clinical Theology. New York: Crossroad. 1986. pg. 168.

Morality is fraudulent. It can never deliver what it promises. It does not achieve the results it is designed to achieve. Paul explained in Colossians 2:23 that morality is of “no value against fleshly indulgence.” Those patterned propensities of selfishness and sinfulness in the desires of our soul will never be dealt with, or overcome by, moral suppressionism or by moral striving to overcome. Morality is a contrived substitute for Christian living. As a posturing pretext of living a “good Christian life,” morality plays the part of an impostor. Instead of disallowing our selfish expressions by allowing the life of Jesus Christ to be lived out through us, morality masquerades self-oriented conformity as “spiritual behavior.” It’s hypocrisy!

Morality is idolatry that reduces God to a moral ideal, an ethical standard and a behavioral formula that becomes an ideological idol constructed and carved in the human mind, which the moralist then submits to rather than God.

“Seeking to be godly by submitting yourself to external rules and regulations, and by conformity to behavior patterns imposed upon you by the particular Christian society which you have chose, and in which you hope to be found ‘acceptable.’ You will in this way perpetuate the pagan habit of practicing religion in the energy of the ‘flesh,’ and in the very pursuit of righteousness commit idolatry in honoring ‘Christianity’ more than Christ.” (Ian W. Thomas, The Mystery of Godliness. pg. 43.)
Morality is a religious inevitability. Wherever you find religion you will find morality. They are always “coupled” together. Why? Because religion is a man-made social organization that requires morality standards to give it external form, to give it a reason for existing, to cement loyalty and conformity, and to keep the guilt payments coming in. As people perceive their inability to please and appease God by their inadequate moral behavior, they seek to buy off their sin in “indulgences.”

Morality is also a worldly necessity. In the society of the “world,” populated by fallen mankind, morality is necessitated to keep the chaos of selfishness and sinfulness “in check,” if even temporarily.

Morality is also relative. Human, social, worldly and religious morality is never properly related to the absoluteness of God’s character of goodness, and to the absolutely only expression of God’s goodness by derivation from God by God’s grace. Morality is relative to the intents and desires of the prevailing authorities in the particular society over which they have manipulative control, albeit governmental or ecclessiastical. Morality is relative to the majority of the individuals in that society willing to accept the moral standards, either under threat of punishment or by democratic concensus of what is “good” and/or “evil” with an individual accountability to the so-called “good” of the whole. Morality is relative to the limitations of fallen man in keeping such moral conditions, due to the selfishness and sinfulness of the “flesh.”

Morality is antithetical to Christianity. Morality always attempts to establish “goodness” apart from God alone, and its availability to man by the indwelling of Jesus Christ alone. Morality denies the derived existence of good in the character of God. Morality denies the derived knowledge of good by the revelation of God. Morality denies the derived expression of good by the grace of God. Morality precludes the primary assertion of the Christian gospel, that the availability for the expression of God’s goodness in man is only by the presence and empowering of the Spirit of Christ in man, received by faith in regeneration and sanctification.

“Morality…necessarily collides with God’s decision brought to pass in Jesus Christ, which locates the life and truth of man out beyond anything that man can formulate, know and live.” (Jacques Ellul, To Will and To Do. pg. 71.

Christianity is not morality. In many ways, it is the anti-morality.

Who’s Your Daddy?   Leave a comment

God is good. Human beings are not good. Satan is evil. Man is evil, but not to the extent that Satan is evil. We are motivated by our father to do either good or evil.

So, whose your daddy?

When God is our Father, we are motivated by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit to express God’s goodness.

When Satan is our father, we are motivated by his indwelling to express his nature.

And there is the tricky part – Satan is the god of this world, so guess which expression autonomous society most often approves as “moral”? Yes, that which Satan motivates. The father of lies is very adept at dressing up that which is not good (not derived from God) as something worthwhile and tasty.

 

“Hey, Eve, doesn’t that fruit look good? Eat up! It will open your eyes to a whole new reality! Trust me. This is for your own good and, hey, God is denying something you really want, so it’s okay to rebel. There will be no consequences.”

Satan lied then and he lies now. The “tree of the knowledge of good and evil” was a rejection of God’s intent. The “father of lies” (John 8:44) foisted upon man the delusional idea of self-determined morality. We could be “like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:5), independent of our Creator.

“Satan persuaded man … that he had an adequate capacity in himself for being good, without the necessity of having God; that he could be righteous in his own right, morally adult without the need of being spiritually alive! In short, that could be be independent … both cause and effect.” (Ian W. Thomas, The Mystery of Godliness. Grand Rapids: Zondervan. 1964. pg. 50. — thanks, Alan, again. lela)

Morality was founded at the fall of mankind. Since then, we’ve been naturally self-deceived, believing we can establish ethical standards or good and evil, right and wrong, on the basis of human self-evaluation of individual and collective social “good”. Our relativized, self-oriented standards of good and evil are always contrary to God’s intent, always sinful, and always derived from our fallen nature.

So the question is — Who is your Father?

If you say “I am” you put yourself in God’s place and morality is pure idolatry, bowing down at the throne of your own self-delusion.

None of us have been good since the fall. Even Christians, who at least acknowledge this fact, are not good. We are at best able to express the goodness of God when we allow the Holy Spirit to act through us.

But that’s not the same thing as being good.

 

Morality Is Not Good   Leave a comment

Morality and ethics always seem to employ references to good and evil, right and wrong conduct. We don’t stop to consider how these designations are determined and evaluated. What determines what is “good” or “right”? Do goodness or righteousness exist in and of themselves? Is there such a thing as “autonomous goodness,” a secular “godless” ethical standard, or the “autonomy of morality?” (Jacques Ellul, To Will and To Do. pg. 30).

Christianity – true Biblical Christianity — asserts that God alone is autonomous, independent and self-existent. Everything and everyone else is dependent and derivative. To believe otherwise is idolatry. Only God is Good. Christianity denies an independent, autonomous self-existent “good.” There is no “naural goodness” that becomes the basis of a “natural morality” within a “natural theology”.

“There is none good, no not one” Romans 3:12

“No one is good, except God alone.” (Luke 18:19)

Any attempt to self-define “good” by human standards is an attempt to replace God as the standard-bearer for Christian behavior. It’s idolatry to think that we can define “good” from our own perspective. We end up calling “evil good and good evil” and making ourselves “wise in [our] own eyes, and clever in [our] own sight.” (Isaiah 5:20-21). “Good” is knowable only as God reveals Himself and do-able only as the character of God is activated and expressed in human behavior. Good intentions aside, moralists who allege to lead us in the common good for moralities and ethics invariably based their systems on their fallen and self-serving motivations.

We do remember the Fall, right?

No human is good. Creation is bent and we are the most bent of it.

God as the source and definition of good is asserted through out Scripture and the lack of goodness of human beings is also quite clearly proclaimed. There is no genuine, absolute “good” apart from God.

God has revealed Himself and thus revealed His character of goodness. Human beings may not recognize that because we’re not good. We can only really know what good is by knowing God through Jesus Christ. That word “know” means in a personal and intimate sense, a dynamic personal revelation of God informed by the Bible and accountable to other believers, but revealed by the Holy Spirit. We can live out God’s goodness only as the character of God is dynamically generated and actuated by God’s grace because only God can actively express His goodness. The active expression of genuine goodness is Christian behavior is always derived from God. “The one who does good is of God.” (3John 11). The phrase “of God” comes from theos, meaning source or origin coming from God. In other words, the one who manifests goodness derives what he does out of God.”

God is Good; the goodness of man is relative to God’s work in our lives. We must not attribute an attribute of God (goodness) to ourselves, another person, an object, an idea or an activity, for in so doing we deify that creation and make it an idol.

Good can only be defined by the character of God since He is the source and essense of all good. English is such a sloppy language that we use the same word for describe vastly different concepts. We don’t mean good in the same way as we mean beneficial, advantageous, profitable, wholesome, acceptable, or ethically useful. God is not “good” because He conforms to a moral standard encoded by a flawed human society. God is not “good” because He does good.There is no standard higher than Him. He is the definition and the source of “good”. He does what He does because He is who He is. All good done is done by the God who is good.

… Including the “good” you want to take credit for doing.

Getting Back to Fundamentals   Leave a comment

Liberal mainline churches protest that church attendance and religiosity is on the decline across the board, so you can’t blame their precipitious membership losses on the embrace of homosexuality.

Except –

The Assemblies of God has consistently and rapidly grown for more than 40 years WHILE opposing homosexuality. My own denomination – we call ourselves Great Commission Baptists now, but you know us as the Southern Baptist Convention – we are declining, but much later and less dramatically than the liberal denominations and those declines appear to be slowing since we called a truce in the Baptist Battles (suggesting our problems lay there, not with our conservative values). We’ve declined by less than 1% annually for a total of only 3% since 2007 and we’ve actually added congregations.

 

The vast majority of conservative churches are non-denominational and independent churches, many of them Baptists whose membership numbers are not easy to track, but  I suspect you’d find similar statistics.

Remember what I said about sexuality being the symptom, not the cause?

I don’t think that conservative churches’ commitment to opposition to gay marriage and homosexuality is why they aren’t suffering huge membership losses.

I believe it’s much more fundamental than that. Churches that oppose gay marriage and homosexuality tend to also preach a fundamental gospel message:

Jesus Christ is God stepped down into humankind to experience our temptations. He was crucified on the cross for our sins and rose on the third day to wash away our sin. Believe in Him and what He did and confess that to others and you are saved today, in the future and for all eternity.

Many years ago, a friend who God has given the gift of prophesy told a church I was attending that as long as we continued to do what God required of us as a congregation, He would provide for the church. It was a small, but very blessed church. For a long time, we did what we knew was right before the Lord. And, then we stopped. We had seemingly valid excuses for why we stopped, but that wasn’t God’s leading and so God stopped supporting that church.

We need to stop thinking of church as a popularity contest and get back to preaching the gospel. Churches that do that may not grow like gangbusters, but I guarantee they will be blessed of the Lord and still around at the end of this century.

Posted September 22, 2014 by aurorawatcherak in Christianity

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A New Marketing Strategy   Leave a comment

The Christian church universal is in trouble in America (and western Europe).

What’s the solution? It would appear that the church needs a new marketing strategy. Which is what the modern-day equivalent of Madison Avenue says is the ticket. Downplay sin and repentance, quit talking about sexual immorality and start talking about what God can do for us. The logic is simple – more and more Americans are embracing homosexuality, same sex-marriage and alternative heterosexual relationships. So long as churches remain the face of opposition to gay marriage, those churches will shrink into irrelevancy when gay marriage is inevitably accepted throughout the culture.

There’s two problems with that strategy, however.

God didn’t approve the ad campaign. And, that’s really the biggest one. Second …

Every major American denomination that has taken steps toward liberalization on sexual issues has seen a sharp decline in membership. The evidence so far seems to indicate that affirming homosexuality is a fast track to turning out the lights.

In 2003, Gene Robinson became the first openly gay, noncelibate man to be consecrated as a bishop of the Episcopal Church. At least one dioceses here in Alaska severed ties with the Episcopal Church, part of a trend that eventually created the Anglican Church of North America. Despite that, the Episcopal Church continues to liberalize its sexual teachings. In 2002, there were 2.32 million baptized US members. By 2012, there were only 1.89 million. That’s a decline of 18%. Attendance has fallen even more sharply, by about 24% while baptisms have fallen 40% and marriage have fallen 50%.

Well, people are bailing on churches all over, right? What’s the big deal? The Anglican Church of North America, created in rejection to liberalization in the Episcopal Church, has seen its membership RISE by 13%. Its Sunday attendance is up by 16% in the past five years. Since 2009, the ACNA planted 488 new congregations while the Episcopal Church planted four.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA) formed in 1987. For most of its history, gay men and women were permitted as pastors so long as they remained celibate. In 2009, ordination was extended to gays in “committed monogamous relationships” and churches were allowed to “recognize, support and hold publicly accountable life-long, monogamous, same-gender relationships.”

From 1987 to 2009, the average decrease in membership was only .062%. Since 2009, membership has declined 5% annually, for a loss of more than 12% of its members in three years. More than 600 congregations have abandoned the denomination, with almost two-thirds joining CONSERVATIVE Lutheran denominations like the North American Lutheran Church and Lutheran Churches in Ministry for Christ.

The United Church of Christ (UCC) has a reputation for unfettered liberalism. The largest UCC congregation in 2008 was pastored by Rev. Jeremiah Wright. It was the first US mainline Protestant denomination to support same-sex marriage (2005). UCC had been bleeding members for decades, but it rapidly declined after the gay marriage vote, seeing a 20.5% decline in membership since then. From 1990 to 2004, an average of 39 congregations left UCC annually, but more than 350 congregations departed the denomination from 2004 to 2008.

The Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA) was flirting with loosening its sexual standards as early as 2006. By 2010, it had done it. In 2006, there were 2.2 million members of PCUSA. That dropped 22.4%  by 2013. In 2011, A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians had been created as an alternative denomination. Over 100,000 members left PCUSA in 2012 alone.

Grim statistics. Things are tough all over in the churches.

Right?

Not exactly. It’s only some churches that are limping. Can you guess which ones?

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