|Why the church are declining? Gays?|
The last group interested in evangelism would be the GLBT Christians, with survival their main agenda in light of the limitations on rights, relationships, and widespread prejudice and significant harm caused by other Christians. The motto “I am a survivor” reflects our lives rather than having any energy left to aggressively proclaim the Gospel. Christianity to us is in relationships and being God’s love to one and all. The firewalls to Christianity in the GLBT community Is hard to penetrate being hardened by the grave harm in the name of Christianity. Perhaps God is calling for a miracle. Salvation has hitherto meant freedom in our lives, freedom to be who God created us as. When the fire of God touches the edge of Christendom, surely there will be a mighty revival in the body of Christ where the rainbow tribe will know Jesus as their Lord and Saviour.
John 3:17, For God did not sent his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.
Some may lament on the decline (1% in general) of the church attendance in the US based on the National Council of Churches 2011 Yearbook. Whilst we may be quick to jump to the conclusion that the church in general is “chronically ill” and the main cause of demise being its exclusivity, we should consider that the inclusive churches fared the worst. I attended a Uniting Church this morning in Sydney, very inclusive, but the large church building was only attended by less than a hundred mainly elderly folks as compared to churches like Hillsong. It could fit a thousand. The issue may be more complex.
Why is the church in general declining? The church may be under judgement. There is a spiritual judgement that the harm we caused we now reap. In our holy indignation against gays, we have denied gays basic rights and sent many to jail over the last 50 years. The harm that we sow is coming back into the church. We have closed our doors to the rainbow tribe, and in essence others have stopped coming in. It is not about being inclusive but we have gone out of the church walls to cause grave harm and many deaths, and this sin is coming back to haunt the church.
The three main antagonists to gay rights (Catholics, Evangelicals, Blacks) have been put on notice – 1. The Catholics faced with frequent billion dollar child sexual abuse cases, 2. Ted Haggard, the leader of the evangelicals was found enjoying himself with a male sex worker, 3. Eddie Long, the black mega church pastor showing off his body to his young male companions. The high profile news have hurt the church in general, but the greatest lost in membership are the very liberal/progressive churches. We are all implicated because we are one body of Christ.
The church most resistant to change – haven’t fallen. At the top and custodian of orthodoxy was the largest church (68 million), the Catholic Church who hasn’t changed much for a thousand years grew 0.57%. The more inclusive Episcopal Church (2 mil) fell 2.48%. The numbers for the major evangelical churches such as the Southern Baptist (16mil) remains neutral at a fall of 0.4% whilst anecdotal evidence was a rapid growth in the Pentecostal churches. It is the mainline generally inclusive Protestant churches that are suffering, the Evangelicals and Catholics stagnant, and the Pentecostal churches growing. Inclusive/emergent mainline Protestant churches have a serious negative trend eg the Episcopal church dropped 4% in 2008.
John 3:18, He who believes in Him is not condemned, but he who does not believe is condemned already; because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
The lack of growth in the mainline Protestant is due to a neglect of evangelism. For the GLBT Christian community, our fight is for survival. We need to survive first before going out to preach the Gospel especially to an indifferent GLBT community gravely harmed by the Christian Right. Our faith, relationships and livelihood are often intertwined and we too struggle to survive let alone do evangelism or any GLBT or even Christian activism. The harm done to our faith, emotions and soul by the Christian Right is often too deep a well to get out of. We are hurting after being denied our basic rights of existence, and relationships.
The issue of the conservative Protestant churches is that their message of the Gospel is undermined by their anti-gay crusade against the weak and innocent. They have become too judgemental and self-righteous, On the other hand, the inclusive mainline Protestant Church don’t believe in Salvation alone by faith in Jesus and so why need to evangelise. The overall numbers of the more inclusive mainline Protestant church are very small, with the Episcopal Church, and United Church of Christ only 3 million which is 20 times small than the Catholics, and 5 times small than the Southern Baptist. It is no wonder that Sojourners have refrained from supporting any gay rights even though the core of social justice.
The Catholics are afraid of Gay rights as the Pope claimed has the potential to destroy humanity itself because it can undermine the church. The Catholic church is powerful and wealthy. In Rome, it owns 1/5 of the properties with tax free status. It gets public funding as a percentage of pay in many European countries. The catholic church general population is more “liberal” than conservative and by supporting gay rights where will it end? The church has maintained its power and wealth by being exclusive, the Pope being the mediator between God and man. If it is more inclusive, then the church structure and institution begins to breakdown – women priests, married clergy, universalism, and the hidden wealth spent on the poor and outcasts.
The Catholics are not fearful of the mainline Protestant church whether inclusive or conservative, but the flaming Pentecostals are a threat. In Africa, South America and Asia, the Charismatic Evangelicals are growing rapidly. They have had to stand strongly against gays as not to be seen to lose out “morally” to these churches. Gay rights however will come within the next 10 years as it is increasingly accepted by the majority of the population over the churches’ indignation.
We have lost our heart and compassion for the “lost”. We dare not judge, yet the bible called us to proclaim the good news and not to judge people for their sins per say. Their only sin is unbelief in Jesus rather than the obsession of some on the gay community to vilify them when it is straight people who go for abortions and divorces. The good news is the Gospel Kingdom message of faith and salvation in Jesus Christ, but also a manifestation of the kindom of God of love, friendship, support, and causing no harm led by the spirit of Christ not only to those we love but to those we find difficulty loving to those on the highways and byways of life. We are all lost, one way or another under judgement and needing the God’s grace and mercy to be our substitute. We are not sent to condemn, but to proclaim Christ, His salvation, love, grace, hope.
I used to have a passion for God for outreach. That was before coming out to myself and to others. I had to come to a place when I am true to myself and to Jesus. The storms of life have buffeted me and I spent my effort bailing water out. It is in this journey of life, that character comes that we develop compassion, humility and faith beyond a simple Christian faith. Life is not so simple but I am reminded today that God’s heart is for the lost, that the GLBT community may know Jesus as their Lord and Saviour when hitherto a negative and incorrect image as a condemning God. The heart of Jesus aches tonight, for His lost rainbow sheep. His heart is for them to have freedom and liberty, to be able to live with authenticity and true to their self and their sexual orientation. In this freedom, they would find their reconciliation with God as their Lord and Saviour.
the prophet as a young child listened to God, some may say that he had
not learnt to discern the voice of God, but the real crux of the story
is his reply “Here am I”. It is not hearing but obedience. Today, are we
ready to say “Here am I”?
to proclaim freedom, justice, and equality for a hurting people needing
salvation both on earth and in heaven.
to proclaim freedom, justice, and equality for a hurting people needing salvation both on earth and in heaven.