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Friday, June 18, 2010

The Decline of a Denomination


Although I'm not a Methodist myself, I watch their decline into something other than Christianity with a passing interest that resembles viewing a horrific trainwreck one might encounter when out and about.

""A United Methodist school in California is reportedly the first seminary in the United States to become multi-faith. Featured in a recent Los Angeles Times article, Claremont School of Theology outside Los Angeles will begin clergy training for Muslims and Jews this fall, and hopes for future Buddhist and Hindu programs. Concerned about the new direction, United Methodism's oversight agency for its 13 official seminaries cut off funding to Claremont early this year and will reevaluate the cut-off later this month. Claremont was getting about $800,000 annually from the denomination... About 70 of Claremont's 275 or so students are United Methodists...


Founded in 1885 as a Methodist seminary, in the 20th century it followed most other Mainline Protestant seminaries into theological liberalism, which morphed into radicalism in the 1960s. Claremont became especially renowned for Professor John Cobb, one of the architects of Process Theology, which asserts that God is constantly evolving and mutating rather than immutably sovereign...


Besides Process Theology, Claremont has been host to countless other theological fads and isms over the last half century or more, with its main stumbling block being primarily orthodox Christianity... But thanks partly to Claremont's revisionist theological influence, which de-emphasizes evangelism and Christianity's uniqueness, United Methodism has lost about half its membership in California and elsewhere on the West Coast over the last 40 years. Less than 4 percent of all United Methodists are now on the West Coast or in Rocky Mountain states. The few remaining evangelical United Methodist clergy in that region typically attend a non United Methodist seminary, including evangelical Fuller Seminary in Pasadena, which has about 4,500 students...


Claremont insists it will continue to cherish its Methodist "presence" on campus and will remain under the governance of the United Methodist Church. The school's board includes the United Methodist bishops of Phoenix and Pasadena, both of whom presumably supported or did not resist the new interfaith direction when the board approved it in 2008. Unsurprisingly, both bishops preside over dwindling flocks and are renowned advocates for homosexual causes and liberalized immigration advocacy, while failing to attract many homosexuals or immigrants to their United Methodist churches...


Another issue is whether Claremont's multi-faith initiative will reproduce new adherents of religious pluralism or provide an opening for orthodox Muslims who, unlike the liberal Methodists who run Claremont, believe in proselytism and the objective truth of their own religion. And if the latter, how will dedicated pluralists who largely reject Christianity's unique truth claims accommodate Islam's own potent truth claims?" Link to full article.

I don't want to appear like I'm picking on this particular denomination because this sort of thinking is prevelant in other mainline churches. I especially like how the author wrapped up his article by asking how Claremont can reconcile the fact that Islam thoroughly embraces absolute truth claims and yet they seem to be members of a particular camp inside of Christianity that rejects such ideals. If we had the ability to fast forward a decade or so, which of the competing claims offered by different religions being taught there do you think would be much more widely held at this institution? The school of thought that adheres to absolute truths or the one that holds that it's all subjective? The board members at Claremont would be well served to ask themselves, "What would John Wesley (pictured above) do?"







16 comments:

The Catholic Apologist said...

JD,

Christianity today is in a major identity Crisis. In general Christians do not understand what it means to be Christian. Why? Becasue they do not understand Christ. They have this distorted view of Christ, which makes Him into this combination wimp/hippie/pushover/milktoast that just went around and said "Love one another." This is the view which dominates many churches today, which is contributing to the identity crisis.

As for the "Process Theology" JD--tell me what you think. That particular theology, namely the idea that God evolves sounds like an import from Mormonism.

JD Curtis said...

CA, thanks for stopping by. I was hoping to get your input on this subject and I hope that "Gregg" chimes in as well.

I'm really not well read in the concept of "Process Theology" to comment on it now.

But might such a theory that involves "God is constantly evolving and mutating" be a possible talking point fpr adherents of the fairy tale for adults known as Mormonism?

Gregg said...

First, I am "somewhat" familiar with Claremont School of Theology. Not so much in the last 21 years of being here in WA, but I planted a little church in Claremnont, CA not far from the School.

Second, both, the denomination and process theology are doomed to eventual failure. Both are founded on the principals of a limited sovereign and omnipotent God and the absolute free will of man.

The early days of Wesley were days filled with the idea of crossing all and any denominational line in order to see people make "decisions."

The trouble with this theology which will always lead to demise, is that when man is told he can make a choice, efforts are brought to bear on him to make a decision and as a result many do. Unfortunately many who make decisions are not believers and unbelievers infiltrate churches, groups, denominations, and etc.

Human reasoning soon takes over and since spiritual things are only discerned by those who have the indweling Holy Spirit, many denominations can not discern truth. Compromise for unity's sake, for survival, for "sucess" soon becomes the name of the game.

We can thank God for men like Wesley, but grieve over how their understanding of Scripture was marred.

It seems so incongruent that a school without no real doctrinal lynch pin can opt to teach a religion that is so absolute, such a Islam. But when you don't have a solid biblical foundation, faith, and lynch pin to stand for you will fall for anything.

Froggie said...

"If we had the ability to fast forward a decade or so, which of the competing claims offered by different religions being taught there do you think would be much more widely held at this institution?"

All of them will me much less widely held than they are now.

The internet is to organized religion what the printing press was to the draconian, regressive rule of the Catholic church.

Fundamentalist Christianity is in it's death throes with only a few popular leaders such as Ken Ham, et al, who are marginalizing themselves with their absurd assaults on all branches of science to try to prop up their literal account of Genesis.

Organized religion as we know it is doomed.

As to the evolution of Christianity, it has had to accomodate may new views since it's inception.

Gregg said...

Praise God if you are right! I would love to see the end of orgainzed religion. However, the reason that organized religon exsists is to show the validity of the Jesus Christ and His church.

Paul said that it was necessary for divisions to exist in the Corinthian church. We would at first recoil at the thought or error, heresy, and division. Paul said it was necessary - it gave opportunity for the truth to be seen.

God never sanctioned religon. He is calling out his universal church triumphant that is alive and well and for which He will return in triumphant glory! It is sad that the earthly representative of the true church of Jesus Christ is so fragmented, humanized, and de-Christianized to the point that makes peope hate it and despise it.

I don't know who Ken Ham is - but the fundamentalism of legalism and self energized man made rules is not of God.

You are right, slowly the truth is waning - even to the point when Christ returns to the earth He asks this haunting question, "Will I find faith?" I think if you fast foward a decade you will see either Catholosism or Islam that major over-arching "religion" of the day. True Christianity will be driven underground, illegal, persecuted, and reduced (by God's sovereign design) into a very small remnant.

But mark it down, you read it here, Christ and His true church will trimuph and those outside of Christ and his church will have no salvation and will be judged for their sin and their lack of desire for salvation and will suffer outside of that heavenly city for all of eternity, justly so for refusing so great a salvation.

Fall on your face today, right now, and plead for God to have mercy on your soul, crying out so that perhaps He will have mercy on you and extend His grace to you that you might know the truth and that the truth might set you free

The Catholic Apologist said...

Froggie,

The Catholic Church has existed for 2010 years. What do you make of that?

Do you think a Church that has existed for 2010 years, and has been through the ringer on many things, many times over is simply going to up and die?

I think to some degree you are correct-some Protestant fundamentalist groups are dying off giving and Protestant Christiantiy is evolving into a post denominational phenomenon. But I assure you sir, Catholocism is going nowhere.

The Catholic Apologist said...

By the way JD: If what Gregg says is true about Process Theology, it appears I initially thought it was something it was not. It does not sound like an important from Mormonism.

Like you I am not terribly familiar with it.

Froggie said...

TCA,
"Do you think a Church that has existed for 2010 years, and has been through the ringer on many things, many times over is simply going to up and die?"

Actually, no.
The longevity of the Cathoic Church has been it's ability to change with the times,even in my lifetime. As a kid the mass was celebrated in Latin and very few Catholics actually read, or even owned a Bible.

Back then the church was much more fundamentalist but now has changed due to modern science.

The Church has also embraced sects that are somewhat corrupt to the catechism such as some south American Catholics.
They are ready to allow Anglicans and Eastern Orthodox to join the Church.

The concept of Papal inerrency is no longer accepted as it once was and people like Bill Donahue are driving away Catholics.

The Churchs' stand on birth control has basically no meaning to most Catholics.

Also, the Catholic Church is not so much a Church as it is a state/ country, indeed, Vatican City is a country of it's own, and their monetary dominion exceeds all other churches put together.

The influence of the church is waning in industrialized countries and waxing in undeveloped countries. Of course the hierarchy of the church is rife with controversy and abuse.

So, no, the Church isn't going to go belly up anytime soon but if you track it's waning influence in Europe and extrapolate, the Church will be merely a cultural artifact in a couple hundred years.

Now more than ever, the ills and incongruities of the church are magnified by information readily available to all on the internet.

Froggie said...

Gregg,
"Praise God if you are right! I would love to see the end of orgainzed religion."

I should have been a bit more specific in that I meant "bible based Christianity."

You go on:

"True Christianity will be driven underground, illegal, persecuted, and reduced (by God's sovereign design) into a very small remnant."

You fundies loves your persecution. Yeah, OK.

Your theology is merely religious philosophy, dressed up to look up respectful and called Theology, handed down by men who interpreted the bible in all shapes and manners, or, perhaps it is you that is the final authority.

Your conditioned interpretations are no better than anyone eslses.

I suppose you also believe the earth to be only six thousand years old too.

Gregg said...

Froggie, you are are not alone. Good majority of the world would love to see bible based christianity disappear. But do't worry, one day we will.

You are wrong on two counts, I am not a fundy at all. I do not expect you to 1) understand, 2) concurr, 3) or appreciate in anyway my theology or undertanding - no more than I would be surprised if a blind man walked into a wall.

These issues are faith based not intellectually based.

By the way, I do, by faith, believe in a young earth theory.

photogr said...

Actually the earth is billions of years old. Only human beings as we know today is about 10,000 years old. God created Adam and Eve 6,000 years ago in the garden of eden to the best of my recollection.

Catholic religion is probably the oldest Christian religion that was organized about 300 AD but the Christian faith was created about the time of Christ's death. How ever, since that time there has been an explosion of new religions designed to suit what man felt God should be in their ideaologies. Gets mighty confusing doesn't it?

I would think we as a whole of religious people should follow the scriptures from the Greek and Hebrew text as written and interpreted for us, might be the best way to go. We should probably discount the revinsionism, weslyism, Lutherism and other man thought ideaologies brought into the scriptures as just that. Ideaologies by man, not God.

I don't know what a college that is fundamentally a Christian college hopes to gain by adding other faiths into their agenda. Perhaps it is economics and financial.

JD Curtis said...

It never ceases to amaze me how very predictable it is that an atheist will change the topic to Young Earth Creationism when they feel that their arguments are inadequate. It would appear that they would then like to argue over a position of a topic that they feel is more easily defensible.

JD Curtis said...

"Liberal churches are losing members in droves. Once these churches welcomed one in six Americans; now they see one in thirty. In 1960 the Presbyterian church had 4.2 million members; now it has 2.4 million. The Episcopal church had 3.4 million ; now it has 2.3 million. The United Church of Christ had 2.2 million; now it has 1.3 million. Traditional Christians who remain within liberal churches become increasingly alienated. Some have become so disgusted that they have put themselves under the authority of more traditional clerics in countries like Nigeria, Ghana and the Ivory Coast.
The traditional churches, not the liberal churches, are growing in America. In 1960, for example, the churches affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention had 8.7 million members. Now they have 16.4 million."

Dinesh D'Souza; What's So Great About Christianity?, Chapter 1

Froggie said...

JD,
Dinesh is a known fudger of figures.

Stats reported by ARIS in 2001/2008

Catholic 24.5%/ 25.1%
Baptist 16.3%/ 15.8%
Mainline Christian
(Methodist, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Episcopalian/Anglican, United Church of Christ, etc.) 17.2%/ 12.9%
Generic Christian
(Christian Unspecified, Non-Denominational. Christian,
Protestant Unspecified, Evangelical/Born Again) 6.8%/ 5.0%
Pentecostals/Charismatics
(Pentecostal Unspecified, Assemblies of God, Church of God) 3.8%/ 3.5%
Total Christian 76.7%/ 76.0%

All religions are losing adherents, except the Catholics, who grew only a bit.

Next, I only casually asked about the age of the earth to establish brand od ideology I was dealing with.
I acknowledge Gregg's answer and I do rspect it especially since he concedes that he bases it on faith.

Froggie said...

JD,
"It never ceases to amaze me how very predictable it is that an atheist will change the topic to Young Earth Creationism when they feel that their arguments are inadequate. It would appear that they would then like to argue over a position of a topic that they feel is more easily defensible."

It never ceases to amaze ME how you will ignore point after point, paragraph after paragraph to make a comment on one disparate question.
Of course it is intended to obscure the fact that you do in fact ignore many questions at which you are at a loss to answer.

JD Curtis said...

Gee,

I guess if one is delusional and cannot cite a single instance where anything remotely resembling the subject of Young Earth Creationism was even mentioned at all on this thread until you broached the subject, then yes, you make complete sense Froggie.

Whether you deny that you did or not, I was making the point that I've encountered it numerous times in discussion forumsin the past to the point that it appears to be the atheist default setting.