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Pope Francis

Pope Francis

There are more than 1 billion Catholics worldwide, and Pope Francis wants to know what they think — all of them. The Holy Father is having surveys sent to parishes all over the world, asking for churchgoers thoughts on previously avoided family topics. It’s a clear break with tradition, given that the Catholic Church isn’t usually known for being a grassroots organization. Francis wants to know what his flock thinks about same-sex marriage, divorce, single parents and other family issues that common in 21st-century life.

 
It’s not clear what, if any, changes might come from the surveys, but sometimes it’s enough to just ask the questions and take it from there, particularly on touchy topics. Boston College theology professor Thomas Groome told NBC News, “All of these things have been closed issues and you could be fired for even talking about them. Raising these questions and polling people — it at least signals something other than a closed mind.” 

 

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Mainline protestant churches – those apart from their evangelical counterparts, have liberalized their standards and have since lost members. Episcopalian, Presbyterian, Methodist and Lutherans have provided provisions for the blessing of same-sex unions and ordination of transgender people and have seen a downturn in attendance. Rt. Rev. Mark Joseph Lawrence, the Episcopal bishop of South Carolina fears that his church will soon be adrift with the adoption of secular values.

 

Shortly after the U.S. Episcopal Church voted to approve a provisional rite for gay unions, Bishop Lawrence said in an interview with NBC News that his denomination is moving from out of the mainstream.

“Do I think that these two decisions will cause further decline? I believe they will,” Bishop Lawrence said. “I think we’ve entered into a time of sexual and gender anarchy.”

Memberships at Presbyterian, Methodist and Lutherans have fallen over the past few decades, and some observers attribute to their supposed leftward drift.

“Practically every denomination – Methodist, Lutheran, Presbyterian – that has tried to adapt itself to contemporary liberal values has seen an Episcopal-style plunge in church attendance,” wrote columnist and author Ross Douthat in a New York Times editorial.

The Episcopal Church has lost more than 16 percent of its membership since the turn of the century. The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life in 2008 reported that “the proportion of the population that is Protestant has declined markedly in recent decades.”

As the Episcopal Church weighed gay-union rites last week, most of the Diocese of South Carolina’s delegation left the General Convention to show their concern.

Stripped image of John Wesley

Stripped image of John Wesley (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“I had an issue of conscience in which I believed that a line had been crossed in the church’s teachings, that I could no longer pretend that nothing significant had happened,” Bishop Lawrence says. He added that he has no intention of leaving the church.

“It’s not merely a matter of adapting the Church’s teachings about Jesus Christ, about salvation, about right and wrong to the culture,” he said. “The culture is adrift in sexual confusion and obsession.”

In contrast, Jenna Guy, an Episcopalian from Iowa, says the gay-rites are important to the younger generation of Episcopalians and that the resolution would bring more people into the church.

“It’s always with great pride that I tell [people] of the inclusive nature of this church,” Guy said.

Source:  Catholic Online

 

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