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June 25, 2009

An Alternative to the Episcopal Church

WARRENrick_Product.G432L5J5M.1 In a move that demonstrates the unity of traditional values across denominational lines, Rick Warren, pastor of the Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., has embraced the 100,000 Christians who left the U.S. Episcopal Church due to conflicting beliefs

Pastor Warren stated to the new congregation, who proclaim themselves the 39th province of the worldwide Anglican Communion, “We will stand with you in solidarity as God does something new in your midst.” 

This solidarity is one example of the triumph of orthodox Christian beliefs prevailing in the midst of harsh criticism and ostracization from liberal congregations. While some church communities continue to dwindle in membership and participation, conservative and orthodox Christian churches are experiencing systemic growth. 

Clearly, any schism is a tragedy. As Steve Rempe and I have observed, however, in this case we can be supportive of those who left, because they left to uphold the truths of Scripture. They did not leave the Church they loved; rather, they were virtually kicked out. When the “open-minded” movements of liberalism and the sexual revolution lead down the damning road toward condemning Scriptural truths, we can be assured that the institutions upholding these unfounded beliefs will not stand long. Because, after all, when we stand apart from God, we stand without hope.

(Image © Kyle R. Lee for the Dallas Morning News)

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Steve Rempe

In a fairly significant turn of events, the million-member Orthodox Church in America (OCA) has decided to break ecumenical ties with the Episcopal Church, and will instead form official ties with the new Anglican Church in North America (ACNA). This according to The Living Church (http://www.livingchurch.org/news/news-updates/2009/6/24/oca-to-end-dialogue-with-tec-establish-ties-to-acna).

Benjamin Ady

What do you mean when you say "conservative and orthodox Christian churches are experiencing systemic growth"?

Billy Atwell

Benjamin, studies have shown that churches who have a more conservative or orthodox leaning are growing at a faster rate than that of the more 'modern' or liberal churches. It might help to clarify that I wasn't saying that the Greek Orthodox Church, or something of the like, was growing particularly fast. I was speaking in a more general sense.

People want something to really believe in, and some of the new age and emergent churches that don't give people more than a self-help book does aren't seeing the growth they expected. To keep from being offensive, and to broaden the message, they are watering down the faith and it just isn't sticking.

Steve Rempe


This: http://www.theird.org/Document.Doc?id=10

Although, truth be told, several conservative, non-charismatic denominations are starting to experience a levelling-off of attendance, or even a slight decline. The Southern Baptist Convention has announced a decline in the number of baptisms for the first time in many years. It pales in comparison to the declines in the so-called "mainline" churches, but it's definitely something to watch.

It appears many of the churches that are growing are unaffiliated, non-denominational churches. Of course, their very nature makes it (a) hard to quantify membership or attendance nationwide; and (b) hard to really say if they are "conservative" or "liberal."

There definitely seems to be a move of culture away from "organized" religion. Mainline churches--with the vestments, liturgy, and structured worship--seem to be particularly affected by the cultural shift. This "post-denominationalism" is concerning to me (although, looking at the track records of many prominent denominations like TEC, it's easy to understand).

jason taylor

"Benjamin, studies have shown that churches who have a more conservative or orthodox leaning are growing at a faster rate than that of the more 'modern' or liberal churches."

Of course. What's the appeal of a Church that is to modern? It has no edge or character. Why bother giving up a whole Sunday for it? It's the same reason Marines get better quality then the Army.


Marines get better quality than the Army!? I think not! :-)

Jason Taylor

But the Marines say they are, think they are and make it a point to remind everyone that they are. And that is enough to get good recruits. "The few, the proud, the marines" has a better ring then, "Fight and we'll pay your college".

Benjamin Ady


thanks for the link to theird. It's just a graph, though, and I couldn't find an associated study/paper.

Billy, could you suggest a couple starting places for me, with regards to the studies you cite?

Billy Atwell

Benjamin, Here's a good one with a graph detailing self-identification between the 1970s and 2000. It also shows a growth in conservative Christians between the late 1980's and early 2000's.

Here is a decent paper about the same material, challenging the idea that people want something more watered down (or at least separate from orthodox, traditional thinking). "Rethinking the American Religious Landscape" shows Evangelical Protestants and Catholics alone, which are defined in this study as theologically conservative, as almost 55% of Christians. There are obviously more conservative Christians grouped in other categories as well.

I hope this helps.

Steve Rempe


In addition to what Billy posted, check out www.thearda.com. It's a wellspring of denominational information. Also, the National Council of Churches produces an annual publication called The Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches that is quite good for statistical analysis. (Alas, it is not available online.) And the Pew Forum just released a "U.S. Religious Landscape Survey" (http://religions.pewforum.org/)that is fairly exhaustive.

That should get you started, no? ;-)

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