Lots of Episcopal bishops are blogging from the Lambeth Conference, and one of them, Stephen Lane of Maine, wrote a post today that includes the following paragraph, wherein one of the most important reasons for the decline of the mainline denominations as a whole is neatly encapsulated. He wrote:
This morning there was a small explosion in my Indaba group. What exploded was widespread frustration that all the talk about our disagreements distracts from mission and undermines the Communion’s credibility. The real issues, the real priorities of the Anglican Communion, need to be poverty, hunger, HIV/AIDS, the oppression of women and children, the oppression of the Dalits in India, war, refugees, care for creation, etc. (Indeed, if there is a consensus at this Lambeth it is that global warming is the most important matter facing humankind and that care for creation must be a first priority for the Church.) Most of the members of my group shared in some part of this frustration.
On the basis of this statement, I feel secure in saying that Bishop Lane and many of his colleagues, like so many mainline leaders, don’t actually want to be Christian leaders. They want to be congresscritters or senators, or United Nations bureaucrats.
They have no interest in the central mission of the Church–“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you”–a mission for which they are entirely unequipped, and for which they find no basis in their ideology. Nor are they really all that interested in actually doing anything about the issues about which they wring their hands so piously, so instead we get stuff like the Garden Party Hunger March, which accomplished absolutely nothing, but got them all kinds of flattery from the British Prime Minister. Reading stuff like this, I don’t think that there can be any doubt that organizations like the Episcopal Church are sliding into utter pointlessness, incapable of carrying out Christ’s commission at the same time they are completely ignored by the world.
Correction: Commenter Daniel Muller alerted me to the fact that I had conflated the names of Maine’s two bishops. The actual writer was Bishop Stephen Lane, and I’ve obviously fixed it in the post. Thanks, Daniel.