Monday, May 18, 2015

The challenges and opportunities of post-Christian America

Despite the reputation of many Anglicans — especially Anglo-Catholics — of being inwardly focused (“sacristy rats”), the reality is that we need to be reaching out to reach new members, bring more people to (or back to) Christ, and fulfill the great commission of Matthew 28:18-20.

According to the headlines, the 2014 Pew “Religious Landscape Study” says Christianity is declining in America. But after listening to a May 13 interview with veteran religious journalist Terry Mattingly on Issues Etc. (especially the last half), I think the story is that the nominal Christians are no longer nominal and instead becoming vaguely spiritual or not religious at all. (Rod Dreher and Ed StetzerEd Stetzer have the same opinion).

On the one hand, this is a shame, because in my experience the raised-but-no-longer-Christian are the easiest to bring to church: they know of the faith, they often know it’s important, and they’ve just been (without knowing it) waiting for an point in their life when they realized that knowing and worshipping God is the most important thing we can do in this life. To some degree that’s my own journey. Still, Stetzer has advice on how to reach both audiences with the Christian message.

Mattingly's interview talks about his own (latest) denomination, the Eastern Orthodox, and how successful Orthodox parishes are those that can reach visitors who are “looking for a beautiful, stable, creedal version of the faith.” This seems like a goal ready-made for Anglo-Catholic Anglicans.

Finally, the headline version of survey results lists Episcopalian/Anglican as 1.2% of the country: 0.9% for TEC and 0.3% for the non-TEC Anglicans. By comparison, ELCA is 1.4%, and more evangelical Lutherans (such as LCMS and WELS) total 1.5%.

The age and education distribution seem similar (with TEC having more graduate degrees and the Anglicans having more college graduates overall). The one notable difference is that 5% of the TEC are shacking up (“living with a partner”) vs. 1% of the Anglicans. The proportion of never-married (unmarried + living together) is about the same — 20% for Anglicans and 21% for TEC — so our need to minister to those seeking to marry (and hopefully raise kids) in the church is more urgent than ever.

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