A Prayer for Old Age

September 20th, 2014

Eric Milner-White (1884-1963), a distinguished clergyman of the Church of England wrote a book of prayers, My God, My Glory, which is a favorite of mine. It contains the revised versions of the original prayers of his heart. Many of them were written during wakeful night hours when, as an insomniac, he would turn his sleeplessness into prayerfulness. This prayer on Old Age may be of help to so many of you who are navigating that new and unknown stage of your life.

O LORD GOD, who leaves us not
nor forsakes us in the time of age;
Show me, as my strength fails,
an even fuller, lovelier light of your glory
shining over and about me.
O my soul, give thanks!

There is that glory, let me find mine.
Grant me new store of gentleness, gratitude, patience;
new learning of the Suffering of my Lord;
new dignity of Grace.
Make my life wholly his life: his heart, my heart;
his breath, my breath, breathing love
to the very end.
O my soul, give thanks!

My time is in your hand
Be my support in weakness,
my courage in the dark and in pain,
my aid, day and night,
my company in loneliness,
my rest.
O my soul, give thanks!

For all that you take from me,
you give what is better,
and guide to the best.
O my soul, give thanks!

Be your love my bed and covering,
be your Christ my living Bread;
your Spirit, my strength to the end.
Bring me forth, forgiven, loved, and loving,
child and servant for ever,
into your joy.
O my soul, give thanks!

What is Courage?

September 16th, 2014

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)

“God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.” (2 Timothy 1:7)

Courage is the willingness to risk. To lead is to act. To have courage is to take charge, first of one’s life, for the true hero is not the person who conquers others but the one who conquers himself or herself. Courage is the ability to exhibit personal autonomy and independence of thought, to take the initiative, to be a self-starter. Courage means that you are willing to stand alone. You define yourself. You invent who you are. You are responsible for who you are. Courage is the free decision to tolerate maximum amounts of anxiety, to manage your anxiety constructively, to understand that being anxious is what it feels like to grow. The courageous leader claims the power, at all times, to initiate, act, and risk. Courage means acting with sustained initiative. (Peter Koestenbaum, Leadership: the inner side of greatness, a philosophy for leaders, 49-52)

Prayer in Time of Peril

September 10th, 2014

On this anniversary of September 11th here is a prayer that we can use.

Almighty God, Lord of all peoples and nations on the earth,
whose power no one is able to resist.
Protect, save and deliver us, we humbly pray, from the hands of our enemies;
Halt their pride and self-righteousness,
Lessen their malice and anger,
Confound their plans and sow confusion among those who lead them;
Strengthen the will and wisdom of our national leaders: both civil and military,
That we, and all who represent us, being armed with your defense,
may be preserved evermore from all perils, to glorify you, the only giver of true victory,
Through the merits of your only Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, the Prince of Peace. Amen.

Has the Judge Been Reading My Blog?

September 4th, 2014

Jacob Gershman in the Wall Street Journal today reports on the Louisiana same-sex marriage ruling.

A U.S. district judge on Wednesday upheld Louisiana’s ban on same-sex marriage, breaking with the vast majority of federal courts on a constitutional question likely to be settled by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Acknowledging he was sounding a discordant note amid a “hopeful chorus” of recent rulings, U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman said he was unconvinced that gay couples have a constitutional right to marry. The judge said federal court decisions striking down gay marriage bans “exemplify a pageant of empathy,” but he doubted their legal wisdom.

“This Court is persuaded that Louisiana has a legitimate interest…whether obsolete in the opinion of some, or not, in the opinion of others…in linking children to an intact family formed by their two biological parents,” wrote Judge Feldman, leaving in place a state constitutional ban backed by 78% of Louisiana voters in a 2004 referendum.

The ruling ends a remarkable winning streak for the marriage-equality movement. Since the Supreme Court in 2013 invalidated Defense of Marriage Act provisions denying federal benefits to same-sex spouses,19 different federal courts have ruled against same-sex marriage bans in 16 states, according to Lambda Legal, a national gay rights legal group. Two other federal courts had ruled against gay plaintiffs in Hawaii and Nevada in older cases filed before last year’s high-court decision.

The string of victories also includes two appellate courts, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver and the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va. Two other circuit courts are expected to weigh in with decisions this year.

Judge Feldman, a Reagan appointee, said the momentum behind gay marriage may seem “ordained.” But the movement, he said, faces “inconvenient questions,” echoing the slippery-slope argument made by many defenders of traditional marriage laws. Wrote the judge:

For example, must the states permit or recognize a marriage between an aunt and niece? Aunt and nephew Brother/brother? Father and child? May minors marry? Must marriage be limited to only two people? What about a transgender spouse? Is such a union same-gender or male-female? All such unions would undeniably be equally committed to love and caring for one another, just like the plaintiffs.

Gay marriage opponents seized on the ruling as a tide-turning triumph for their side. “Here we see the house of cards collapsing that supported the myth that redefining marriage in inevitable,” Brian S. Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage, said in a statement.

State attorneys general in Utah and Virginia have asked the Supreme Court to overturn lower-court ruling striking down state bans. In a crowded field of litigation, the Louisiana case is unlikely to make a dent, said Kenneth Upton, senior counsel with Lambda.
“I wouldn’t call it a game-changer. I’d call it an outlier,” Mr. Upton told Law Blog. “It’s very unlikely that cases that just now are coming along at the trial level are far enough along to have much impact on the ultimate result.”

Nineteen states, as well as the District of Columbia, currently authorize same-sex marriage.

How Do We Prevent Abuse of Power and the Destruction of our Traditions?

September 4th, 2014

Edmund Burke (1729-1797) was a British statesman whose opposition to the abuse of power led him to author several works of political philosophy whose influence is still being felt. Jesse Norman has written a helpful biography entitled, Edmund Burke: The First Conservative (Basic Books, New York, 2013). He wrote a treatise rejecting Lord Bolingbroke’s arguments for atheistic rationalism, demonstrating their absurdity. Present day atheists have not improved their case. As a Member of Parliament he argued strongly against the executive authority of the King and for the importance of political parties as a legislative counter-balance. As an Irishman he worked for Catholic Emancipation – the vote for Catholics and their ability to trade and do business as well as attend the universities. He abhorred the abuse of power of the Protestant aristocracy in Ireland. He supported the grievances of the American colonists and opposed the use of force to collect taxes without representation. He led the impeachment of Warren Hastings, the Governor General of Bengal, on the grounds of his corruption and abuse of power at the expense of the Indian population. When the French Revolution occurred he wrote his famous Reflections of the Revolution in France which was an immediate bestseller in Great Britain and in France. He contrasted the English Glorious Revolution of 1688 with its reassertion of the power of Parliament against the abstract, metaphysical rights of man in France which led to the destruction of French national tradition and eventually to the Terror.
Jesse Norman gives us a condensed biography and then a review of Burke’s thought. His great contribution is pointing us to Burke’s emphasis on man as a social animal.

We become human by immersing ourselves from earliest consciousness in human institutions of language and love. But institutions are not merely good for their members; they are good for society itself. …Institutions are grounded in the human desire for connection with others, and in economic and social exchange and reciprocity. In the words of the immortal Yogi Berra, ‘If you don’t go to somebody’s funeral, they won’t come to yours.’ (p.266)

He discusses the need for social capital: the importance of family and friends, personal ties and institutional networks as social resources worthy to be ranked alongside a nation’s financial capital and economic strength. The basic task of politics is to preserve social capital and moral community.

Norman draws six key lessons to be drawn from Burke.

The first is that extreme liberalism is now in crisis. Various disasters have gravely undermined conventional beliefs in the moral primacy of the individual, in the power of human reason alone to resolve political and economic problems, in the redemptive value of individual consumption, and in the capacity of unfettered individual freedom to deliver personal or social well-being. Human happiness is not simply a matter of satisfying individual wants, and the purpose of politics is not to satisfy the interests of individuals living now: it is to preserve an evolving social order which meets the needs of generations past, present and future. Extreme individualism appears to promote arrogance and selfishness.

Second, projects which seek to abolish national identities and allegiances are likely to fail because they ignore the local circumstances, traditions and religions, and impose conformity.

Third, Burkean leaders believe in slow government. They fear to sacrifice the interests of future generations at the altar of present popularity. They do not regard politics as a subset of economics and are not obsessed with passing laws, interfering in private concerns or tampering with working institutions. They are skeptical about official expertise, radical schemes and ambitious government.

Fourth, Burke was driven by a hatred of excessive power, and the arbitrary use and abuse of power. He would be appalled by the crony capitalism, the greed of the modern nabobs of banking and finance and the expenditure of so much money on political campaigning.

Fifth, Burke reminds us of the foundational importance of protecting representative government and the rule of law as a bulwark against the abuse of power. Good stable government demands effective political parties.

Sixth, Burke insisted on the importance of human culture, and the ideal of public service. He deplored the tendency to individual or generational arrogance. He emphasizes the human self as an active social force, not the passive vehicle for happiness of the utilitarians. He gives us the lost language of politics: a language of honor, loyalty, duty and wisdom. He highlights the importance of moderate religious observance and moral community as a source of shared norms.

Is It Only Winning That Counts?

September 4th, 2014

Bill Weimer is my brother-in-law, a retired US Navy Chaplain and Pastor. This is his Movie Review of

“WHEN THE GAME STANDS TALL”

My Quick Comments:

“Highly Recommended – I loved it, maybe even better than the movie “Blind Side”!
“If you like sports… if you like life, go before it is no longer showing in the area.”
“It’s a true sports story with clear spiritual and biblical emphases!

If you don’t have a lot of time this week…

THEN stop reading this article right now, speed-walk, run, drive, hitch-hike, or get a friend to take you and go with you to…. GO SEE THIS MOVIE!

Critics were not high on this low-budget movie – it’s not an Oscar-winning, not a big budget production, not a shoot-‘em-up and violent action every 3 minutes, not a curse-word-filled flick, and not sexy gals and guys film. It is just human beings dealing with challenges in sports and life. Audiences loved it. I was spiritually up-lifted by it and it’s now in my Top Ten or maybe even Top Five – I’d be very interested in how your mind, your heart, and your spirit respond to this flick.

Victories versus Values

Yep, it’s football season again! College games, even top-notch ones between highly ranked teams, are beginning played – with a new “championship” format. Professional NFL games are about to start soon, leading to the Super Bowl. Some teams and/or individuals try to win at all cost: spying on opponents, playing injured players, injuring opponents, etc. Drugs have begun to enter the college scene. Players with off-field troubles and summer run-ins with local police are often allowed to continue playing on the team, possibly being held-out of a quarter when the team plays a weaker team!

For example, “my college” – the U.F. Gators – while winning two SEC football titles and two national championships yet had at least 31 arrests involving 25 players, and now the former UF coach is at Ohio State where reports show 8 players arrested. Recently the LSU Head Coach let his players vote whether or not to reinstate one of the Tigers’ players who, convicted for carnal knowledge of a minor when he was a high school senior, violated his probation on that charge by being in a fight outside a Baton Rouge bar.

Compare those scenarios with a few other college head coaches. One suspended his merging star quarterback for the rest of their games as their season was ending – for being out drinking beer before a game. The substitute QB, under careful coaching and planning, won the final game: defeating Miami 17-12 on the road. Then that team, Alabama, defeated Ole Miss in the 1963 Sugar Bowl – without QB Joe Namath whom Head Coach Bear Bryant would not let play for the rest of that year’s season after the incident!

Greatest Winning High School Football Coach Ever

A high school football coach, whom few of us know, was similar – Northern California De La Salle High School coach John Ladouceur! Like the legendary basketball coach John Wooden who never screamed or hollered or focused on winning (only to win 88 college games in a row and 10 national championships in 12 years!), this teacher and coach at a Catholic high school never emphasized the win streak, which went to 151 games! In fact, he sought to de-emphasize it with reporters, fans, and his own players! His focus was on character, values, teamwork, love, and commitment that he worked so hard to build into teenage boys – even rejecting an offer to become the Head Coach at Stanford University. When their 151-game win streak ended, how would he and his players respond?!

A Few More Insights – If You Are Still Reading (and are not yet at movie)

Compare some winning streaks by great college teams. Oklahoma Sooners: 47 straight (1953-1957). Old Division II – Grand Valley State Lakers: 40 games (2005-2007). And then Division III – Mount Union Purple Raiders: 55 (2000-2003). De La Salle won 151!

The Forbes website has an excellent “business-life” article on this movie – see Carmine Gallo’s“ The Coach Behind the Longest Winning Streak in Sports History” http://www.forbes.com/sites/carminegallo/2014/08/19/the-coach-behind-the-longest-winning-streak-in-sports-history-shows-how-to-build-a-champion-business-team/

Coach Ladouceur and his team were neither magically gifted nor trouble-free: the coach had a heart attack and has to step away from the team, a top player is murdered, one player has family members die, and yet another player is constantly and vehemently pushed by his father for a state record! A powerful movie scene is when the win streak is snapped, the coach takes them to a unique place for a reality and motivational check!

The author of the book, on which this movie is based, Neil Hayes reflects, “I spent a year with ‘Coach Lad’ and I never heard him use the word win. De La Salle doesn’t win because of anything Bob Ladouceur does. They win because of who he is,” says Hayes.
Ladouceur explained. “Our kids aren’t fighting for wins. They’re fighting for a belief in what we stand for.” Hayes tells of a game halftime when his team played poorly, Coach Lad walked into the locker room and when his team “looked at their coach, begging for wisdom, his guidance.” Lad didn’t give them a traditional pep talk. Instead he said, “Why do I always have to be the problem solver? Group problem-solving is a skill you will use your whole life. Figure it out.” And with that the most successful high school football coach in history walked out – leaving the players to come up with their own solution.

You and me???….

What goals do you and I have for the rest of our lives, for this “season”, and for this month or week? – Are they written down for you (or someone else) to check? Are we waiting and looking for others – even a pastor or priest – to tell us what to do or how to grow spiritually, or are we stepping up and stepping out ourselves to ask, seek, and knock that we might go and grow forward? What are the core values and perspectives for everything you and I are doing? Is your faith, Bible verses you know, and your teamwork with other Christians central and foundational to all we are planning and doing?

There are not many great movies. There are few films which may affect change in your life. The movie, “When the Game Stands Tall” is both! See it, not for the never-to-be-surpassed “win streak” but for the spiritual life lessons taught and learned. Is it “our wins” in life… or is it “who we are” that really counts? As one La Salle player says, James 4:10 summarizes the focus of this coach (and of this movie)!

Sports and drugs… football injuries… win at any cost… winning is the only thing…

Longest football win-streaks…

College:
Division I – Oklahoma Sooners: 47 straight (1953-1957)
Division II – Grand Valley State Lakers: 40 games (2005-2007)
Division III – Mount Union Purple Raiders: 55 (2000-2003)

University of Connecticut women’s basketball teams won 90 games in row
UCLA men’s basketball team won 88 games in a row
Los Angeles Lakers won 33 straight NBA games

Oakland Athletes MBA team won 20 straight baseball games

What About the Children of Same-Sex Marriages?

September 2nd, 2014

What about the children? Children are the most vulnerable members of our society. They deserve the highest degree of protection from abuse or neglect. In recent arguments in the courts justices have cited concern for children when they have ruled in favor of same-sex marriages. They argue that marriage would stabilize the families of adoption, or of surrogate births or of sperm donors, to same-sex couples. Such designer families may satisfy the desire of the adults but at the expense of the future wellbeing of the children so conceived or adopted. The American College of Pediatricians summarizes the risks to children from same-sex parents as follows:

Research has demonstrated considerable risks to children exposed to the homosexual lifestyle….Given the current body of evidence, the American College of Pediatricians believes it is inappropriate, potentially hazardous to children, and dangerously irresponsible to change the age-old prohibition on same-sex parenting, whether by adoption, foster care, or reproductive manipulation. This position is rooted in the best available science. (Making Gay Okay, Robert R. Reilly p.149)

Carey Conley: “I built up a great deal of fear and frustration. I was angry that I was not part of a ‘normal’ family and could not live with a ‘normal’ mother. I wondered what I did to deserve this. Why did my biological mother let a lesbian adopt me? How could she think that this life was better than what she could have given me?…. During these years I talked with my sister about my feelings and problems. We discussed how we didn’t understand my mother and her lifestyle. We talked of how we resented her for placing us in such a situation, all the while knowing how hard it would be for us.” (Reilly p.150)

Jakii Edwards, who was raised by a lesbian mother and has written an entire book about it: “We certainly wonder if we will eventually become gay. There is humiliation when other kids see our parents kissing a same-sex lover in front of us. Trust me, it’s hard on the children, no matter how much they love their gay parent. The homosexual community may never admit it, but the damage stemming from their actions can be profound.” (Like Mother, Like Daughter? The Effects of Growing up in a Homosexual Home, Xulon Press, 2001, cited in Reilly, p.151)

The homosexual community would blame the suffering and alienation of children raised in such homes on the rejection of society. Society, they say, needs to change its attitude to homosexual parenting and embrace diversity in families. This is what is beginning to be taught in schools so that everyone will feel comfortable with the new ‘normal.’ In a reversal of values Dr. Richard Isay, a homosexual activist and psychoanalyst wrote in a letter to the New York Times that “homophobia… is a psychological abnormality. Those afflicted should be quarantined and denied employment.” Reilly comments,

The Isay remark is refreshing in its naked acknowledgement of the culture war. Psychiatry, psychology, and social science are being used as weapons in this war. There are two contending views of reality in which homosexual acts are seen either as disordered and immoral or as well-ordered and ethical. These two views are immiscible [cannot be mixed]. They cannot both be right, and they cannot both prevail. Either one or the other will succeed and be enforced. Dr. Isay was at least honest in putting forth the terms of enforcement from his side. (Reilly p.153)

Aren’t People Born Gay? Is it not a Matter of Choice?

August 26th, 2014

Paul Copan is Chair of Philosophy and Ethics at Palm Beach Atlantic University. His book, WHEN GOD GOES TO Starbucks: A Guide to Everyday Apologetics is a goldmine of information on answering some of the tough questions of today. I want to share with you a summary of his chapter on “Aren’t People Born Gay?” This is a subject on which there has been a great deal written. His chapter is comprehensive but I only have room to give his summary.

1. In the 1970’s political pressure by gay activists forced a change about the perception of homosexuality. It wasn’t the result of “scientific” research; the medical community had previously considered it a pathology.
2. Biology isn’t fate. This is actually demeaning to homosexuals who are much more than biological/sexual beings.
3. Simply, because we’re born a certain way doesn’t mean we ought to affirm it. Furthermore, just because we are born with certain inclinations doesn’t mean we should carry them out (compare “tendencies” towards alcoholism, violence, pedophilia). We can’t legitimately move from “is” to “ought.”
4. The scientific support for people being “born gay” is seriously lacking. The media tend to stretch the evidence beyond what the scientific data warrant.
5. It’s easy for both sides to play the either-or game (“it’s either biology or environment, either nature or nurture, either determined or a choice”). The most appropriate and more obvious alternative is speaking of influences rather than causes. Homosexuality isn’t reducible to mere genetics; it also includes environmental factors (family upbringing, childhood experiences, reactions and choices, and the cultural environment).
6. Homosexuality is not the result of genetic necessity but results largely from dysfunctional same-sex relationships in one’s youth (or in the case of lesbianism, bad experiences with males who were abusive or violent).
7. The facts that same-sex attraction is not biologically based suggests the possibility of healing and wholeness, which many have found.
8. Change from homosexual to heterosexual attraction tends to be gradual rather than immediate, but stopping homosexual activity in itself is a significant step forward – comparable to stopping smoking, even if the cravings are still there.

Let me add my own perspective. We are all born with certain unique distinctives. King David reminds us that, “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.” (Psalm 51:5) A mother who smoked or drank or was addicted to drugs or suffered from other medical problems would pass on those afflictions to her offspring. People who experienced homosexual inclinations early in their lives, and were drawn to pursuits where they encountered others like them, e.g. in the arts or design world, would find those inclinations encouraged. However such inclinations do not have to be translated into sexual behavior. When they seek to resist those temptations there can be intense conflict and pain.

The person fighting any addiction finds that recovery is a daily struggle and requires a support group and a sponsor to maintain sobriety. From time to time addicts may relapse and need to recover again. They may never be completely healed in this life from their inclination. Nobody said that it is easy to recover from sin. We do not make a virtue out of a vice. We don’t encourage addicts to accept their addiction. We do not encourage sinners to indulge their sin because it is easier.

Jesus said that “if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away.” (Matthew 5:30) He was speaking metaphorically not literally but his meaning is clear. St. Paul in Romans 6:13 teaches us “not to offer the parts of your body to sin.” In Romans 8:13 he tells us that we are to “put to death the misdeeds of the body.” All of us struggle with sin in our lives and Christ offers us his power to overcome those sins. It is much easier to give in to temptation to sin than to resist it. We are all by nature born to sin. But by grace God gives us the opportunity to overcome whatever thorn in the flesh we suffer from. “Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” (2 Cor.12:9)

The first Christian church included those who were sexually immoral, male prostitutes, homosexuals, thieves, drunkards and swindlers. “And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” (1 Cor.6,10,11) Jesus Christ our Savior enables us to change, to be transformed, to overcome our sinful inclinations by the power of the Holy Spirit. This is true for all of us with no exceptions.

How To Shrink Your Church

August 23rd, 2014

How to Shrink Your Church in One Easy Step
by Alexander Griswold

The following article originally was published on The Federalist and is cross-posted here with permission.

By now, we’ve all heard the refrain that U.S. churches need to liberalize their teachings on sexuality and homosexuality or rapidly decline. The logic behind the argument is simple: more and more Americans are embracing homosexuality and same-sex marriage, including growing numbers of religious Millennials. So long as churches remain the face of opposition to gay marriage, those churches will shrink into irrelevancy when gay marriage (inevitably, we are told) becomes a settled political issue.
These arguments often see church acceptance of homosexuality as a carrot as well as a stick. It isn’t so much that denouncing homosexuality will drive people away from church, but that embracing it will also lead people into church. LGBT individuals and their supporters, many of whom hold a dim view of religion after a decades-long culture war, will reconsider church if denominations remove their restrictions on gay marriage and ordination.
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 in North America (ACNA). But the Episcopal Church continued to liberalize its sexual teachings, lifting a moratorium on any more gay bishops 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 Congregations in Mission 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 acceleratedafter 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.

The Presbyterian Church U.S.A.
The Presbyterian Church U.S.A. (PCUSA) was flirting with loosening its sexual standards as early as its 2006 General Assembly, when it voted to allow ordination boards to essentially overlook clergy marriage standards if a candidate “adhere[s] to the essentials of the Reformed faith.” By 2010, the General Assembly had passed an amendment to remove all clerical standards of sexual behavior entirely. This year’s General Assembly voted overwhelmingly to change their Book of Order to redefine marriage as a civil contract between “two people” and to allow ministers to perform same-sex marriages where legal.
Hopefully by now, you can see where this is all headed. In 2006, 2.2 million people were members of PCUSA, a number that dropped 22.4 percent to 1.85 million by 2013. PCUSA’s decline accelerated significantly after approving the ordination of non-celibate gay and lesbian clergy in mid-2011, which led to the creation of an alternative denomination in 2012 called ECO: A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians. Over 100,000 members left the PCUSA in 2012 alone.
Once again, if post-2006 trends continue, the denomination will cease to exist by 2037.

Meanwhile, in Conservative Churches…
The familiar answer from liberal mainline Christians is to protest that church attendance and religiosity is on the decline across-the-board, not just in denominations that embrace homosexuality. But this excuse fails to account for conservative denominations like the Assemblies of God, which has been consistently and rapidly growing for more than 40 years. Despite much of the hand-wringing over the Catholic Church’s highly visible public advocacy against gay marriage, it has been consistently growing in the United States. Lord knows the Mormons haven’t had any trouble growing. Even theologically conservative denominations that are declining, such as the Southern Baptist Convention, began declining much later and much less drastically than other denominations. The Southern Baptist Convention has only declined by 3 percent since its peak in 2007—an average of less than 1 percent annually—and has actually been adding congregations.
In the end, Christian supporters of gay marriage will likely view its effects on church membership as a side issue. Christians have a responsibility to grow their churches, but also a responsibility to promote what they believe is just in God’s eyes. But for some strange reason, it seems like conservative Christians never have to sacrifice one responsibility to fulfill the other.

What Are The Implications for Ending the Ban on Same-Sex Marriage?

August 22nd, 2014

Federal Judge Hinckley of Tallahassee has declared the Florida ban on same-sex marriage as unconstitutional since it opposes the Fourteenth Amendment on equal protection and due process. The Fourteenth Amendment reads:

No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

In order for this amendment to apply to marriage it was necessary for the courts to redefine marriage from its historic understanding based on moral law, to be primarily a “private, intimate, committed and exclusive union that is among life’s momentous acts of self-definition” as the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled.
As philosopher Roger Scruton commented,

Marriage has grown around the idea of sexual difference and all that sexual difference means. To make this feature accidental rather than essential is to change marriage beyond recognition.

Now that the courts have made this an issue of equal protection and due process there will pressure on all those who perform marriages to conform to this ruling. This means that every Judge or Notary Public, or whoever is licensed by the state to perform marriages, will be required not to discriminate against same-sex couples. If a Judge or Notary Public refuses to marry someone because they are Christians who do not believe in same-sex marriage, they will be charged with discrimination and violating a person’s civil rights. They will be told that if they cannot perform their civil duties they should resign from their positions or face law suits.
If a person does not want to let out rooms, or rent property, or provide services for same-sex couples they will likewise be charged with unconstitutional behavior.

Clergy, although they may be protected by the separation of church and state, will come under increasing pressure to perform same-sex weddings. Same-sex couples will seek to have their weddings in churches and office staff and clergy will have to learn to know how to minister to them while at the same time refusing to change their stance on Christian marriage. The gap between what the state mandates as legal and a civil right and what the church believes as moral will increase.

While this concerns a minority (2%) of the population it has become a litmus test of political correctness in the media. It will be interesting to see how the overwhelming majority of the population which wants to be tolerant and non-judgmental copes with the application of the law in the community at large. The challenge to love our neighbor is complicated when our neighbor requires us to go against our conscience or else be sued.