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The myth of decline

December 21, 2013

AS WE NEAR the end of Advent Embertide, it is very meet and right that we should give some consideration to our beloved church. In this time of Anglican fracturing and debates over the very substance of our Christian faith, we live under the constant rhetoric of decline. Our faith is in peril, they say. Our church is shrinking. We need to re-imagine ourselves! Indeed, we do need to “re-imagine” the church, but not in the way many would have us believe.

Dr. Ian Markham, the Dean and President of Virginia Theological Seminary, offers his cheering and well-founded opinion on the matter of decline. He thinks it is all bunkum, and so do we. The big threat to the church, according to Dean Markham, is twofold: (1) a false rhetoric of despair, especially when used to further the private agendas of those who have a problem with our tradition, and (2) old-fashioned secularization, that old nemesis of Christianity, and the one the church is uniquely well equipped to take up the fight against. We hope that you will enjoy and take heart. Our King and Saviour draweth nigh! Venite adoremus.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. December 26, 2013 17:37

    I got my licks in on this one though I produced better snark at Bryan Owen’s post. You have to wonder at the psychology of an address which is so manifestly counterfactual. And I’ll bet there are plenty of priests out there who will tell you that VTS was one of the places that decline was manufactured.

  2. January 3, 2014 14:28

    I’d certainly be interested in seeing the numbers he quotes (I had never heard of the Hartford Seminary before), as they disagree so radically with every bit of data from the national church itself.

    I do think his point about fear mongering is a good one, though (and general fatigue with both Spong and the South Carolinians). While you and I would both find fault with his vision for the church (and agree that VTS is part of the problem), I think it is a reasonable point that the constant talk of decline is itself a big concern. Who wants to be part of a church that is animated by fear of death (or a kind of defiant, stubborn struggling on in spite of it) rather than by a wholehearted quest to follow Christ? Not I, certainly.

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