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Mortal Follies: Episcopalians and the Crisis…

Mortal Follies: Episcopalians and the Crisis of Mainline Christianity (2009)

by William Murchison

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I want to preface this by saying that I was raised as a Methodist but I am now an atheist; the reader may make of that what he/she wishes.

I am in full agreement with Murchison that the most basic duty of a church is in devotion to god and the spiritual nurturing of the congregants as they seek salvation and a relationship with, in the case of Christians, God and Jesus. While Christians are to love their neighbors as themselves while they are in the world (which I will return to later), seeking the Kingdom of God is also their central duty.

Still, I have serious problems with this book. I think Murchison would have done better to have stuck to principles and avoided some of the specific issues. There is a distinction between issues that are appropriate for the church to act on as a whole, issues which are appropriate for individual Christians, and issues which are worthy of neither. There is also a need to separate the issue of how much the church should involve itself with secular affairs and the worth of the issue in a secular context. His discussion of the Civil Rights movement and the Feminist movement are so chilly as to make me seriously question his compassion and empathy. "[I]f I have faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. (I Cor, 13:2)" Would Murchison approve of the church taking up a case of civil rights if it involved his rights? He would have been better to have explained why some some secular effort that he favors is not appropriate for the Church to take a position on.

I think Murchison would have more credibility if he had discussed how the church should go about the good deeds that its faith also requires. Article XII of the Thirty-Nine Articles of Faith tells us that although good works cannot confer salvation, "yet are they pleasing and acceptable to God in Christ, and do spring out necessarily of a true and lively Faith." Christians are called upon to feed and clothe the poor, tend the sick, and visit prisoners. (Matt, 25:34 ff.) Given that private efforts are inadequate, should a Christian consider supporting universal health care as part of his or her responsibility to help the sick? Support Social Security to care for widows and orphans?

Murchison also complains that the church is adapting to modern secular culture, but it has always done that, as he admits himself when he talks about how the church used to segregate African Americans in the church, or even to another, all-Black church. It wasn't the church meddling in secular affairs, but imposing secular standards upon itself, just as Murchison complains the church is doing with women priests. But he seems to accept that, even though Paul tells us: "For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body -- Jews or Greeks, slaves or free. (I Cor, 12:13)" I have read in The First Emancipator by Andrew Levy, that the early Baptists, while accepting the existence of slavery, none the less required all believers regarding of race and status to act as spiritual equals. Baptist convert Robert Carter III decided to free his more than 450 slaves.

I would also be more impressed if Murchison backed up his assertions with statistics. It is widely understood that the mainline churches are failing, and surely there must be some figures that would suggest just how the congregants have reacted to the issues that he names. Briefly checking the Episcopal churches website, there are statistics available back to at least the 1990's. ( )
  juglicerr | Oct 7, 2012 |
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O Almighty God, who hast built thy Church upon the foundation of the apostles

and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone:

Grant us so to be joined together in unity of spirit by their doctrine,

that we may be made a holy temple acceptable to the; through

the same Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth forever with

thee and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever.

The Book of Common Prayer, Collect for the Sunday closest to June 29
For Nancy
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You might say we humans hardly ever notice peaks – financial, political, cultural, physical, and so on – until we find ourselves descending from them: down, down, into strange valleys, step by step, sometimes head over heels. (Prelude)
And yet, before we can start to see where we are, we have to look with some attention at the places where we have been.
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Using the Episcopal Church as a window onto the general decline of the Protestant mainline, William Murchison has here given us a graceful and absorbing account of a great tragedy: the story of a grand and historically rooted church that sold its birthright for a pot of message. For any reader who wishes to understand, not only what the Episcopal Church has become, but also what it once was, and why that loss matters so greatly to us all, this is the book to read. --Wilfred M. McClay, Senior Fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center
[retrieved from Amazon 6/22/12]

CONTENTS: Prelude – Sunset and evening star – Love in the ruins – We few, we happy few – We shall overcome – Lord have mercy upon us – Womanpower – Pleased as man with us to dwell – Sex, anyone? – Gay times – Lighten our darkness – Postlude – Index
[retrieved from www.loc.gov (Library of Congress) 6/22/12]
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