Josephus on the Execution of John the Baptist

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No figure is as mysterious in Holy Writ as Saint John the Baptist, the Precursor sent to announce the coming of Christ, wrapped in the power and force of Elijah the prophet.  In many ways  the Baptist was the last of the Old Testament prophets, like them preaching tirelessly and fearlessly a message of repentance, and, like most of them, announcing that a Messiah was coming to bring salvation from God.

Today is the feast of the beheading of John the Baptist.  It is a very old feast, as old, perhaps, as the other feast day we have for the birth of the Baptist.

The calls of the Baptist for repentance and his announcement that the long expected Messiah had arrived, had a shattering impact on his audiences, as they crowded around him to receive baptism.  The fire of his faith, and his complete lack of fear, is a standing rebuke to Christians who have allowed their faith to grow cold, and who fear the World, the Flesh and the Devil more than they love the God who loves each of us as though there were no other Men except us.

Here is the description by the Jewish historian Josephus, in his Antiquities of the Jews, of the circumstances that gave rise to the imprisonment of John:

 

 

About this time Aretas, the king of  Petra, and Herod the Tetrarch had a quarrel on account of the following. Herod the tetrarch had married the daughter of Aretas and had lived with her a great while; but once when he was on his way to Rome he lodged with  his half-brother, also named Herod but who had a different mother,  the high priest Simon’s daughter.  There he fell in love with Herodias, this latter Herod’s wife, who was the daughter of their brother Aristobulus and the sister of Agrippa the Great. Continue reading

PopeWatch: Melian World

 

VATICAN-POPE-AUDIENCE

For ourselves, we shall not trouble you with specious pretenses—either of how we have a right to our empire because we overthrew the Mede, or are now attacking you because of wrong that you have done us—and make a long speech which would not be believed; and in return we hope that you, instead of thinking to influence us by saying that you did not join the Spartans, although their colonists, or that you have done us no wrong, will aim at what is feasible, holding in view the real sentiments of us both; since you know as well as we do that right, as the world goes, is only in question between equals in power, while the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must.

Thucydides, Peloponnesian War

 

 

Pope Francis recently marked Ukrainian Independence Day:

The pope made his remarks Aug. 24, after praying the Angelus with a crowd in St. Peter’s Square.

“My thoughts go in a particular way to the beloved land of Ukraine,” he said, “to all its sons and daughters, to their yearning for peace and tranquility, threatened by a situation of tension and conflict that continues unabated, causing so much suffering among the population.”

Fighting between pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian government forces continues in the eastern part of the country, having killed more than 2,000 and displaced more than 30,000 over the past several months.

“Let us entrust the whole nation to the Lord Jesus and to the Madonna, and let us pray together above all for the victims, their families, and all those who suffer,” the pope said.

Go here to read  the rest.  PopeWatch hopes that Ukrianians enjoyed their independence day, because Fearless Leader Putin is doing his best to make sure that it might be the last one:

On Thursday, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko accused Russia of invading Ukraine as troop movements from across the border were reported for third time this week. His accusations were echoed by both the United States and NATO.

We’re keeping track of the developments below. Continue reading

August 29, 1864: Democrat Party Platform

 

The convention of the Democrats in 1864 to nominate a standard bearer for President opened on August 29, 1864 in Chicago.  The convention was badly split between War Democrats and Peace Democrats.  The Peace Democrats were strong enough to have a platform approved which dealt with one issue, the War, and which was highly critical of a continuation of the War and called for immediate peace negotiations:

 

Resolved, That in the future, as in the past, we will adhere with unswerving fidelity to the Union under the Constitution as the only solid foundation of our strength, security, and happiness as a people, and as a framework of government equally conducive to the welfare and prosperity of all the States, both Northern and Southern.

Resolved, That this convention does explicitly declare, as the sense of the American people, that after four years of failure to restore the Union by the experiment of war, during which, under the pretense of a military necessity of war-power higher than the Constitution, the Constitution itself has been disregarded in every part, and public liberty and private right alike trodden down, and the material prosperity of the country essentially impaired, justice, humanity, liberty, and the public welfare demand that immediate efforts be made for a cessation of hostilities, with a view of an ultimate convention of the States, or other peaceable means, to the end that, at the earliest practicable moment, peace may be restored on the basis of the Federal Union of the States.

Resolved, That the direct interference of the military authorities of the United States in the recent elections held in Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, and Delaware was a shameful violation of the Constitution, and a repetition of such acts in the approaching election will be held as revolutionary, and resisted with all the means and power under our control.

Resolved, That the aim and object of the Democratic party is to preserve the Federal Union and the rights of the States unimpaired, and they hereby declare that they consider that the administrative usurpation of extraordinary and dangerous powers not granted by the Constitution; the subversion of the civil by military law in States not in insurrection; the arbitrary military arrest, imprisonment, trial, and sentence of American citizens in States where civil law exists in full force; the suppression of freedom of speech and of the press; the denial of the right of asylum; the open and avowed disregard of State rights; the employment of unusual test-oaths; and the interference with and denial of the right of the people to bear arms in their defense is calculated to prevent a restoration of the Union and the perpetuation of a Government deriving its just powers from the consent of the governed.

Resolved, That the shameful disregard of the Administration to its duty in respect to our fellow-citizens who now are and long have been prisoners of war and in a suffering condition, deserves the severest reprobation on the score alike of public policy and common humanity.

Resolved, That the sympathy of the Democratic party is heartily and earnestly extended to the soldiery of our army and sailors of our navy, who are and have been in the field and on the sea under the flag of our country, and, in the events of its attaining power, they will receive all the care, protection, and regard that the brave soldiers and sailors of the republic have so nobly earned. Continue reading

PopeWatch: Francis Cardinal George

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Spokeswoman Colleen Dolan says the archbishop of Chicago had hoped to make that trip in mid-October but will not be able to because of medical treatment. She says the trip may be rescheduled.

The 77-year-old George is undergoing treatment for a recurrence of cancer near his right kidney. Last week, the archdiocese announced he was participating in a clinical trial of an experimental drug at the University of Chicago Medicine.

George said early this year that he believes the cancer eventually will take his life. He survived bladder cancer eight years ago. Continue reading

In Defense of John Bell Hood

John B. Hood

Yellow-haired Hood with his wounds and his empty sleeve,

Leading his Texans,

a Viking shape of a man,

With the thrust and lack of craft of a berserk sword,

All lion, none of the fox.             

When he supersedes Joe Johnston, he is lost, and his army with him,

But he could lead forlorn hopes with the ghost of Ney.

His big boned Texans follow him into the mist.

Who follows them?

Stephen Vincent Benet, John Brown’s Body

Few Civil War generals get as bad a historical trouncing as John Bell Hood.  A talented regimental, division and corps commander, his tenure as commander of the Army of Tennessee is regarded as a disaster, with Hood being depicted as a reckless head on fighter who threw away any chance of victory by losing Atlanta and then leading his army to near annihilation during the Franklin-Nashville campaign.  I have largely accepted that historical verdict, but a new book, John Bell Hood, The Rise, Fall and Resurrection of a Confederate General, gives me pause.

Stephen M. “Sam” Hood, a distant relative of the general, does a masterful job of defending Hood from sloppy historical accounts.  For example, the quote from John Brown’s Body about Hood being all of the lion and none of the fox has often been falsely attributed to Robert E. Lee.  Among many other historical howlers that have made their way into historical accounts is that Hood, due to his injuries, was a laudanum addict.  Stephen Hood demonstrates that there is no contemporary evidence to substantiate this.  Stephen Hood does a service in this book, not just to General Hood, but also to Civil War scholarship.  Too many supposed factoids about the War, firmly ensconced in secondary sources, are mere fables, and John Bell Hood,  The Rise, Fall and Resurrection of a Confederate General is an unsettling book length demonstration of how these myths need to be dispelled. Continue reading

Nuncio Tells Blunt Truth About Cuba

Archbishop Bruno Musari

 

If you want to know what is going on in Cuba, the Babalu blog is the go to blog.  Carlos Eire tells us about the man who has just become my favorite papal nuncio:

 

Archbishop Bruno Musarò, Apostolic Nuncio to Castrogonia,  blasted the island’s rulers recently, and a handful of news organizations are reporting on his comments.

Not surprisingly, the news reports thus far are only available in Italian, Spanish, and Polish.  Nothing at all in English.  No word from the AP or Reuters, or CNN, etc..

If the nuncio had denounced the “blockade” rather than the Castro regime, his comments would be getting a hell of a lot more attention, of course.

The nuncio’s remarks were first quoted by LecceNews24 in Italy, in an article entitled: “‘In Cuba you die’: Salentine bishop sounds the alarm.”  You can find that full report HERE.

TV Marti picked up the story, and you can find their report  HERE (includes video).    El Mundo in Boliva also ran the story.  Go HERE for that.  And if you can read Polish, go HERE for that report.

The comments were made after he celebrated mass in the Italian town of Vignacastrisi.  (Ha!  VignaCASTRIsi: Who says God lacks a sense of humor?)

Among his observations, the following stand out:

“In Cuba you die.” (A Cuba si muore).

“In Cuba eating is a luxury.”

“The Cuban people live in conditions of absolute poverty and degradation without human or civil rights. They are the victims of a socialist dictatorship that has kept them enslaved for fifty-six years.”

“Only freedom can give hope to the Cuban people.”

“The only hope Cubans can have for a better life is to leave their island.”

“Italians who complain about many things in Italy should know that in Cuba a physician only earns 25 euros per month and that in order to live with dignity many Cuban professionals have to work as waiters at night.”

“In Cuba everything is controlled by the government, even milk and meat. Beef is a luxury and anyone who dares to slaughter a cow in order to eat it is arrested and sent to prison.”

“After more than half a century, praise is still being heaped on this Revolution, but, in the meantime, the Cuban people don’t have proper work and don’t have a way of feeding their own children.”

“I’m grateful that the pope sent me to that island, and I hope to be there when the socialist regime comes to an end.”

Apostolic nuncios serve as the pope’s ambassadors to the world’s nations. Archbishop Musarò was appointed as nuncio to Castrogonia by Pope Benedict XVI in August 2011. Continue reading

Dialogue

Coexist

 

Pat Archbold has a barn burner of a post up at One Peter Five looking at the calls by the USCCB for dialogue with Muslims:

 

It is a curious conceit of an obtuse generation that it believes itself to be committed to modernity, embodied by devotion to science and reason, and yet is so irrevocably immutable to evidence.

The spiritual (but not religious) Mecca of modernity in the Catholic Church is the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, the headquarters of which would likely be a smoking ruin if we had a God quick to anger rather than slow.

The absurdity of this very modern institution is embodied perfectly in their recent USCCB statement on their “Commitment To Dialogue With Muslims.”

What is the bottom line? They are so committed to dialogue with Muslims, it seems, that they will persevere in useless dialogue until every last one of us Christians is dead.

“We understand the confusion and deep emotions stirred by real and apparent acts of aggression and discrimination by certain Muslims against non-Muslims, often against Christians abroad,” the bishops wrote. “Along with many of our fellow Catholics and the many Muslims who themselves are targeted by radicals, we wish to voice our sadness, indeed our outrage, over the random and sometimes systematic acts of violence and harassment—acts that for both Christians and Muslims threaten to disrupt the harmony that binds us together in mutual support, recognition, and friendship.”

In the face of a terrifying juggernaut of death and destruction that 50 years of dialogue have done absolutely nothing to stop and arguably encouraged, the USCCB is committed to more of the same. Everyone knows that dialogue with Islam is impossible since there is no monolithic Islam with which to dialogue, so we have endeavored to dialogue merely with its adherents. I think the most humble and unambitious goal of such interreligious dialogue would have been some sort of consensus that, in general, they shouldn’t try to kill us or anyone else. Even with the bar set so low, by any measurement, 50 years of dialogue has been a miserable failure. Continue reading

I AM and Us

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[56] Abraham your father rejoiced that he might see my day: he saw it, and was glad. [57] The Jews therefore said to him: Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham? [58] Jesus said to them: Amen, amen I say to you, before Abraham was made, I am. [59] They took up stones therefore to cast at him. But Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple.

John 8: 56-59

 

 

Father Barron has a magnificent article in Catholic World Report in which he explains why it is improper to think of God as a Supreme Being:

Now to God’s invisibility. One of the most fundamental mistakes made by atheists both old and new is to suppose that God is a supreme being, an impressive item within or alongside the universe. As David Bentley Hart has argued, the gods of ancient mythology or the watchmaker God of 18th-century Deism might fit such a description, but the God presented by the Bible and by classical theism has nothing to do with it. The true God is the non-contingent ground of the contingent universe, the reason there is something rather than nothing, the ultimate explanation for why the world should exist at all. Accordingly, he is not a being, but rather, as Thomas Aquinas put it, ipsum esse subsistens, the sheer act of to be itself.

Thomas goes so far as to say that God cannot be placed in any genus, even in that most generic of genera, namely, being. But all of this must imply God’s invisibility. Whatever can be seen is, ipso facto, a being, a particular state of affairs, and hence something that can be placed in a genus, compared with other finite realities, etc. The visible is, by definition, conditioned—and God is the unconditioned. I hope it is clear that in affirming God’s invisibility, I am not placing limits on him, as though he were a type of being—the invisible type—over and against visible things, a ghost floating above physical objects. The invisible God is he whose reality transcends and includes whatever perfection can be found in creatures, since he himself is the source and ground of creatureliness in all its manifestations. Anything other than an invisible God would be a conditioned thing and hence utterly unworthy of worship. Continue reading

PopeWatch: Crosshairs

VATICAN-POPE-AUDIENCE

 

Interesting that the Vatican sent out Father Lombardi to deny that ISIS is planning to assassinate the pope:

 

In response to rumors that the Islamic State may be targeting Pope Francis, Fr. Federico Lombardi S.J. said there is no reason for concern.

“There is nothing serious to this. There is no particular concern in the Vatican. This news has no foundation,” the spokesman told CNA Aug. 26.

The rumors spread following an Aug. 25 article published in Italian newspaper “Il Tempo,” which said the number of jihadists in Italy is on the rise due to the influx of unidentified immigrants in the country.

According to the article, Islamic fundamentalists led by Al-Baghdadi plan to “raise the level of confrontation” in Europe and alluded to Israeli sources who said that Pope Francis is “also in the crosshairs of ISIS” as “the greatest exponent of the Christian religions” and the “bearer of false truth.”

Al-Baghdadi has been named as Caliph – the head of state and absolute monarch – of the self-proclaimed Islamic State in western Iraq and north-eastern Syria, and is the former head of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), also known as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Continue reading

Jesus Wept

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Since my beloved son Larry died last year, not a day has gone by that I have not thought of him.  Immediately after his death I would think about him, literally, almost every minute of each day.  Now it is usually once every 15 minutes.  He enriched beyond measure the life of myself and my bride and I miss him with all my heart.  Larry had autism, and, as a result of his autism, my conversations with him were limited in words, although we each got our meanings across.  I greatly admired the way in which my son did not let his disability add sorrow to his life, and the joy he normally radiated warmed my soul.  I have had several privileges in my life that have been granted me by God, but I think the greatest was being entrusted with Larry.

Then I read how some parents who are having their unborn children tested for Down Syndrome react:

 

Rayna Rapp, a former abortion clinic worker who aborted a baby with Down syndrome herself, conducted a survey of women and couples who sought amniocentesis to screen for Down syndrome and other problems with their babies. All of the interviewees intended to abort if the baby was found to have Down syndrome. Some of the things that these parents say about Down syndrome children are deeply troubling to anyone who values life. Here are some comments from men and women who said they would abort if the test came back positive for Down.

  • I would have a very hard time dealing with a retarded child. Retardation is relative, it could be so negligible that the child is normal, or so severe that the child has nothing… All of the sharing things you want to do, the things you want to share with a child – that, to me, is the essence of being a father. There would be a big void that I would feel. I would feel grief, not having what I consider a normal family.(133)

  • I have an image of how I want to interact with my child, and that’s not the kind of interaction I want, not the kind I could maintain. (133)

  • I’m sorry to say I couldn’t think about raising a child with Down’s. I’m something of a perfectionist. I want the best for my child. I’ve worked hard, I went to Cornell University, I’d want that for my child. I’d want to teach him things he couldn’t absorb. I’m sorry I can’t be more accepting, but I’m clear I wouldn’t want to continue the pregnancy.( 133 – 134)

  • The bottom line is when my neighbor said to me: “Having a “tard,” that’s a bummer for life.” (91)

  • I just couldn’t do it, couldn’t be that kind of mother who accepts everything, loves her kid no matter what. What about me? Maybe it’s selfish, I don’t know. But I just didn’t want all those problems in my life. (138)

  • If he can’t grow up to have a shot at becoming the president, we don’t want him.(92)

  • It’s devastating, it’s a waste, all the love that goes into kids like that. (134)

  • I think it’s kind of like triage, or like euthanasia. There aren’t enough resources in the world. We’d have to move, to focus our whole family on getting a handicapped kid a better deal… Why spend $50,000 to save one child?(146)

All of these mothers and fathers (for they are already mothers and fathers to their babies growing in the womb) had chosen to have abortions if the baby had Down. The book did not specify which pregnancies actually tested positive and how many went on to abort. But all of the quotes above were made by men and women who fully intended to kill their babies if they turned out to be mentally challenged. Continue reading

Parents and praying for their children in school

 

Dr. Edward Mulholland, an assistant professor of classical and modern languages at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas, recently discussed a prayer for students composed by St. Thomas Aquinas which the Angelic Doctor prayed before studying:

Creator of all things, true source of light and wisdom, origin of all being, graciously let a ray of your light penetrate the darkness of my understanding.

Take from me the double darkness in which I have been born, an obscurity of sin and ignorance.

Give me a keen understanding, a retentive memory, and the ability to grasp things correctly and fundamentally. Grant me the talent of being exact in my explanations and the ability to express myself with thoroughness and charm.

Point out the beginning, direct the progress, and help in the completion. I ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Commenting on this prayer as it concerns college students, Dr. Mulholland describes parents and educators some of whom believe education is only about academics, others of whom believe it’s all about money, and yet others of whom believe it’s about prestige. And, yes, there are those parents and educators—almost certainly a very tiny minority in today’s world—who could care less about all of that, believing as they do that education is all about getting young people to persevere in morality.

As St. Thomas’ prayer reminds all of us, education and the virtue of humility are inextricably related: The proper attitude toward learning—whether in an elementary or secondary school or a college or university—is to allow God to form one’s mind to grasp the light of truth and, then, to will it in one’s life from the beginning through its completion. With that attitude, other utilitarian ends—academic success, money, and prestige—are put into proper perspective with morality becoming an imperative.

In 2008, the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life/U.S. Religious Landscape survey reported the prayer habits of Americans. Of particular interest, note the habits of U.S. Catholics:

Pew1

Among U.S. Catholics who report they do pray and broken down by political ideology, the following pattern emerges:

Pew2

Of those Catholic parents who report they do pray—irrespective of political ideology—how many pray for their children ?

With the new academic year now underway in many locales, wouldn’t it be wonderful if parents wrote down St. Thomas’ prayer on a notecard and presented it to each of their children, asking them to say the prayer at the start of each day of school? Better yet, to tell their children they will be saying St. Thomas’ prayer for each of them at the start of each school day?

 

 

 

To read Dr. Mulholland’s article, click on the following link:
http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/leading-out-of-double-darkness?utm_campaign=dailyhtml&utm_medium=email&utm_source=dispatch

http://religions.pewforum.org/pdf/report2religious-landscape-study-key-findings.pdf

To read The Motley Monk’s daily blog, Omnibus, click on the following link:
http://www.richard-jacobs-blog.com/omnibus.html

George Orwell Was Only Thirty Years Off

Big Brother

Hattip to Instapundit.  Your tax dollars at work:

 

 

The federal government is spending nearly $1 million to create an online database that will track “misinformation” and hate speech on Twitter.

The National Science Foundation is financing the creation of a web service that will monitor “suspicious memes” and what it considers “false and misleading ideas,” with a major focus on political activity online.

The “Truthy” database, created by researchers at Indiana University, is designed to “detect political smears, astroturfing, misinformation, and other social pollution.” Continue reading

Distributism: Novel Economic System

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I have never written much about Distributism because, to quote Gertrude Stein, there is no there, there.  Chesterton and Belloc I think used Distributism primarily as a springboard to attack the capitalism they both loathed.  The details were kept vague because it was obvious that, unless humanity were suddenly to become exempt from sin, the implementation of such a system, if it could be implemented at all, would require a very powerful state indeed, something that Chesterton and Belloc both loathed just as much as they loathed capitalism.  Thus Distributism was something to be trotted out in their writings periodically, but neither Chesterton or Belloc made any attempts to seriously implement it in the real world, and of course one would not expect a pair of writers to do so.  That would be done, if at all, by those inspired by the concept.  However, although the concept evokes a lot of sturm und drang on Catholic blogs, attempts to implement it in reality have been precious few and far between.  It is therefore only appropriate that a science fiction novelist, John C. Wright, has examined a concept that I think will always remain firmly ensconced in the fictional realm:

 

 

A reader asked me my opinion of Distributionism, which is GK Chesterton’s tentative venture into economic philosophy.

For better or worse, my take on Distributism is uniformly and unabashedly negative. You see, I had studied economics for many a year before I stumbled across the writings of Mr Chesterton, and I found him wise and witty and much to be admired in all other areas but this one. Once he starts writing about rich folk, he speaks frothing nonsense, and there is a touch of hatred, of true malice, in his tone I do not detect anywhere else.

Chesterton holds that the concentration of wealth into a few hands was bad for all concerned, and looked favorably on the idea of each man owning his own means of production, and their incomes being more equal.

By what means this was to be accomplished is left vague in his writings. Whether this was to be by a medieval guild system, or some form of government-run syndicate, or an all-volunteer affair, is never mentioned one way or the other. He states clearly that he opposes the Enclosure Laws, by which common greens, formerly owned and used communally, were made private property; but he does not state clearly how, or even if, he would reverse this.

His position differs from Socialism mainly by being nondoctrinaire by being unclear. Continue reading

PopeWatch: China

You can taste the fear in the Chinese reaction to the Pope’s statement that he is eager to visit China;

VATICAN CITY (RNS) China has reacted cautiously to a bid by Pope Francis to open new dialogue with Beijing, with some officials quick to warn the Vatican not to “interfere” with the country’s religion.

On his return flight from a five-day tour of South Korea, Francis said he was ready to go to China — “For sure! Tomorrow!” — after receiving a positive response to two goodwill telegrams he sent to President Xi Jinping as the pope flew over Chinese airspace.

“We respect the Chinese people,” Francis told journalists on the return flight Monday (Aug. 18). “The church only asks for liberty for its task, for its work.”

That is still a huge challenge, as the Vatican has not had diplomatic relations with China since 1951. The Catholic Church in China is divided between an “official” church known as the Catholic Patriotic Association, answerable to the Communist Party, and an underground church that swears allegiance to Rome.

The state-run Catholic Patriotic Association was quick to respond to the pope’s overtures for greater dialogue, albeit with a warning.

“China will always safeguard its sovereignty and territorial integrity and it never allows foreign forces to interfere with religion. The Vatican should respect China in terms of the personnel of a diocese,” Liu Yuanlong, vice president of the association, told the state-run Global Times in a report also published in English.

 

Continue reading

Religion and the Zeitgeist

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I rejoice that in this blessed country of free inquiry and belief, which has surrendered its conscience to neither kings or priests, the genuine doctrine of only one God is reviving, and I trust that there is not a young man now living in the United States who will not die a Unitarian.

Thomas Jefferson, 1822

For a very, very long time individuals have been proposing that if churches wish to survive in future they must “modernize”, which usually comes down to agreeing with the person giving the advice.  The hilarious fact is that churches that accept such advice normally rapidly lose members and become pale shadows, at best, of what they once were.  Alexander Griswold gives, at The Federalist, examples of what has happened to churches that have modified their doctrine in regard to homosexuality:

But a number of Christian denominations have already taken significant steps towards liberalizing their stances on homosexuality and marriage, and the evidence so far seems to indicate that affirming homosexuality is hardly a cure for membership woes. On the contrary, every major American church that has taken steps towards liberalization of sexual issues has seen a steep decline in membership.

The Episcopal Church

In 2003, Gene Robinson became the first openly gay, noncelibate man to be consecrated as a bishop of the Episcopal Church. In the wake of his consecration, entire dioceses severed ties with the Episcopal Church, eventually creating the Anglican Church of North America (ACNA). But the Episcopal Church continued to liberalize its sexual teachings, lifting a moratorium on any more gay bishops in 2006 and creating a “blessing ceremony” for gay couples in 2009.

In 2002, the number of baptized U.S. members of the Episcopal Church stood at 2.32 million. By 2012, that number had fallen to 1.89 million, a decline of 18.4 percent. Meanwhile, attendance has fallen even more steeply. Average Sunday attendance in its U.S. churches was 846,000 in 2002, but had fallen 24.4 percent by 2012 to only 640,000. Other signs of congregational liveliness have fallen even further. Baptisms have fallen by 39.6 percent, and marriages have fallen by 44.9 percent.

As for the ACNA? It’s seen its membership rise by 13 percent and its Sunday attendance rise by 16 percent in the past five years. Since 2009, the ACNA has planted 488 new congregations. In 2012, the entire Episcopal Church managed to plant four new churches.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church of America

The Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA) was formed in 1987, when three Lutheran denominations merged to create the largest Lutheran church in America. For most of its history, gay men and women were permitted to be pastors, so long as they remained celibate. But in a narrow vote at its 2009 Churchwide Assembly, ordination was extended to gay men and women in “committed monogamous relationships.” In addition, the Assembly passed an amendment allowing churches “to recognize, support and hold publicly accountable life-long, monogamous, same-gender relationships.”

From ELCA’s formation in 1987 to 2009, the average decrease in membership each year was only 0.62 percent. But after the liberalization of the ELCA’s stance on sexuality, membership declined a whopping 5.95 percent in 2010 and 4.98 percent in 2011. Since 2009, more than 600 congregations abandoned the denomination, with almost two-thirds joining conservative Lutheran denominations like the North American Lutheran Church and Lutheran Churches in Ministry for Christ.

By the end of 2012, ELCA had lost 12.3 percent of its members in three years—nearly 600,000 people. If the present rate of defections holds steady, ELCA will cease to exist in less than two decades.

The United Church of Christ

The United Church of Christ (UCC) has long had a reputation for unfettered liberalism, sometimes bordering on the radical. In 2008, for example, the pastor of the largest UCC congregations in the country was one Rev. Jeremiah Wright. The UCC’s tendency for pushing traditional boundaries has led to unquestionably positive developments (such as the first African-American pastor as early as 1785) and the unquestionably silly (such as the first hymnal that refuses to call Jesus male). Needless to say, in 2005 UCC became the first U.S. mainline Protestant denomination to support same-sex marriage, and has been an outspoken voice in the gay marriage debate ever since.

While UCC has been bleeding members for decades, its decline rapidly accelerated after the gay marriage vote. Since 2005, UCC has lost 250,000 members, a decline of 20.4 percent over seven years. While an average of 39 congregations left UCC annually from 1990 to 2004, more than 350 congregations departed in the following three years. The UCC’s own pension board called the 2000’s decline “the worst decade among 25 reporting Protestant denominations,” and admitted that “…the rate of decline is accelerating.”

2013 marked a particularly grim milestone for the denomination, as membership finally fell below one million. If the post-2005 rate in membership losses doesn’t taper out, the denomination will cease to exist in 30 years.

 

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