It was almost twenty years back that John Shelby Spong, a UNITED STATE Bishop in the Episcopalian (Anglican) Church, publimelted his book "Why Christianity Must Change or Die." This was simply one of many type of books composed by Spong, in which he has argued enthusiastically for civilization of Christian confidence to abandon their literal interpretation of the Scriptures and also their idea in superherbal phenomenon. Advocating the position he does makes Spong a theological liberal.

Spong"s publications are frequently bestsellers, but they"re purchased nearly solely by clergy and congregants in mainline Protestant churches. In Canada those churches comprise the Anglihave the right to, Lutheran, Presbyterian, and also United denomicountries.

Spong"s ideas aren"t brand-new, nor is their appeal among the Mainline. Even prior to he came alengthy, dating earlier to the early 1900s, mainline Protestant denominations in Canada, U.S., and U.K. had a soft spot for liberal theology. It"s been taught for years in Mainline seminaries and taught from many type of Mainline pulpits. Its enduring attractivity is that it gives intellectual credibility to spiritual principles that, on the surconfront, can show up far-fetched to modern-day audiences.

However, clergy and congregants of mainline Protestant churches who have actually been reading the news over the past week may currently have combined feelings about the appeal of liberal theology.

The media have actually been reporting on a research of mainline Protestant churches that my colleagues and I performed. Though they were challenging to track dvery own, we uncovered some growing Mainline congregations and also compared them to a sample of decreasing. After statistically analyzing the survey responses of over 2,200 congregants and the clergy who serve them, we came to a startling discovery: conservative Protestant theology is a far-reaching predictor of church expansion, while liberal theology leads to decline.

In regards to adherence to conservative theological ideas, the pastors of the growing Mainline churches were the a lot of conservative theologically, complied with by the thriving church attendees, complied with by the declining church attendees, and also finally the declining church pastors.

Our study is not distinctive for identifying that the majority of Mainline churches are dying - virtually everyone knows that. It"s unique bereason it fixed the mystery of why. Just as important, our study stands out because previous researches have said theology and church development are not linked. We"ve proven that they are.

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Despite the reality that the findings of our research have been publiburned in height Canadian and also worldwide social clinical journals, my colleagues and I have heard from naysayers who firmly insist that our conclusions are someexactly how faulty. Interestingly, some have actually referenced the principles of Spong noting that, according to him and others of his ilk, it"s liberal theology that is intended to result in expansion, not its oppowebsite.


I can"t broach all their claims, however two ideas, in particular, have actually been pointed out consistently by those unstraightforward via our conclusions, so I"ll discuss them briefly.

Several critics have actually argued that liberal churches perform flourish and also they know this because they"ve seen it. This thinking is called anecdotal fallacy; isolated examples are provided to dismiss out on solid statistical proof. Even outside our study, as soon as growing churches have actually been identified, they have actually been almost specifically conservative.


The other widespread assertion of our movie critics is that some element besides theology is the actual reason of development. For example, we"ve been told that churches featuring clergy through strong convictions will certainly grow regardmuch less of doctrinal leanings. But we would allude out that different convictions, also those equally solid, produce different outcomes. For example, all the flourishing church clergy in our examine, because of their theological outlook, organized the conviction that it was "exceptionally crucial to encourage non-Christians to end up being Christians."

Conversely, half the clergy at the decreasing churches organized the oppowebsite conviction. Their theological outlook led them to think it was not desirable to convert non-Christians. Comparing the two convictions, which perform you think is more most likely to generate church growth?

We realize our research has unextended some uncomfortable facts.

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However before, as researchers our responsibility is to present what the data reveal, even when it goes versus famous perception or ruffles sensibilities. And while our findings contradict what theological liberals favor Spong case will make a church grow, once it concerns mainline Protestant churches our outcomes support Spong"s contention that "Christianity have to change or die." He just gets the direction of the readjust wrong.