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Published on: February 21, 2010
Sunday Jeremiad: Petty Prophets of the Blue Beast

There’s nothing like Lent for reflecting on the sins of other people; I thought I’d start at the top — with the bishops of my own church.  As the Episcopal church along with the other mainline Protestant denominations diminishes, we don’t have to look far to see bishops and leaders who are largely failing in […]

There’s nothing like Lent for reflecting on the sins of other people; I thought I’d start at the top — with the bishops of my own church.  As the Episcopal church along with the other mainline Protestant denominations diminishes, we don’t have to look far to see bishops and leaders who are largely failing in their core assignments: to tend to the health and promote the growth of the congregations in their area.  Yet even as we have fewer and fewer effective and successful leaders, we have no shortage of political, ‘prophetic’ bishops.  When they can, they meet with world leaders and jet off to exotic locales to bring peace and fight for justice.  When they can’t do that, they sign statements of concern, issue reports and otherwise tug on the skirts of an indifferent public seeking attention for their political views.

In the mainline churches, which is what I know best, the political views leaders express are generally those of what could be called the ‘foundation left’ — emotionally grounded in concern for the poor and development, historically linked to the ‘new left’ mix of economic and social concerns as developed in the 1960’s, shaped by an atmosphere of privilege and entitlement that reflects the upper middle class background of the educated professionals who run these institutions.  The social sins they deplore are those of the right: excessive focus on capitalism, too robust and unheeding a promotion of the American national and security interest abroad, insufficient care for the environment, failure to help the poor through government welfare programs, failure to support affirmative action, failure to celebrate and protect the unrestricted right of women to abort.  I am of course speaking very generally here and there are lots of individual exceptions, but many of these folks are generally tolerant of theological differences and rigidly intolerant when it comes to political differences: they care nothing at all about doctrines like predestination but get very angry with people who disagree with them about issues like global warming or immigration reform.  Theological heresy is a matter for courtesy and silence, but political heretics fill them with bile.

Back in the days of the civil rights movement and the Vietnam war, it was news when Episcopal bishops sided in public with liberal causes.  It took real courage for bishops and priests to speak up in some cases; one of the clergymen in the town where I grew up had been driven from his last parish in Alabama because he spoke up for the Montgomery bus boycott led by Martin Luther King.  Other priests received death threats; some who participated in the Freedom Rides and other demonstrations were beaten by angry mobs.

Nigerian_Episcopal

But these days an Episcopal bishop would have to go to a lot of trouble to get into the news for backing a liberal political cause.  The headline says it all: Liberal Official of Small, Declining Liberal Denomination Endorses Liberal Idea.  This isn’t news for two reasons: it is utterly predictable and it doesn’t matter.  Trivial and predictable are not news, and the political stands that the mainline clergy take are almost always both.  A statement by an Episcopal bishop will not change one mind or one vote; at least in all my years in the pews I’ve never met a single Episcopalian who said that the opinion of a bishop does or should have the slightest influence on how Episcopalians vote and if the churchgoers aren’t paying attention to the bishops I can’t imagine anyone else is.

I’m not urging the bishops to change their politics.  I’m urging them to shut up.  More precisely, I’m urging them to base their ministry on a clearer understanding of their situation and their role.

Let me nail some cyber-theses to the virtual door.

1.  Nobody cares what you think while your tiny church is falling apart.

In a diocese not a thousand miles from my home in glamorous Queens, there once was a bishop whose long and public battle with alcoholism rendered him unable to carry out his duties.  For years and years this diocese suffered under grievous mismanagement and its rotten condition was an open scandal widely discussed and lamented throughout the national church.  Yet in the general shipwreck of his episcopacy, this bishop (or what remained of the diocesan machinery) somehow managed to get ‘prophetic’ statements out on political causes of various kinds.  So far as I know, none of these statements ever had any impact on anyone’s thinking anywhere on Planet Earth.

This poor bishop, now thankfully retired, was an extreme case, but why, exactly, would any sane person today pay attention to the political pronouncements of an Episcopal bishop?  Episcopalians are a tiny minority of the population and the church long ago lost its social power and cachet.  The Episcopal church today is in the worst condition it has been since the aftermath of the Revolution; its clergy has visibly failed to keep the church together or prevent its ongoing decline.  I’m afraid that the penchant to make political pronouncements proceeds less from a true prophetic vocation than from a nostalgia for a time when it mattered what Episcopal bishops thought.  In any case, there is nothing more ridiculous than a proprietor of a failing concern who officiously lectures everyone else on how to manage their affairs.  Please, for the sake of what remains of the dignity of your office, give it a rest.

2.  American Episcopal bishops have so spectacularly screwed up their relations with Africa that they are in no position to lecture secular leaders on international politics.

When members of the foundation left lecture the rest of the world, the need for better relations with the oppressed peoples of the developing world is one of their favorite themes.I would be the last person to say they don’t have a point; I’ve spent enough time in the slums of three continents to have some small sense of the need for some basic changes in our world.  But the bishops of the American Episcopal church have no lessons to teach.  The American Episcopalians are currently engaged in a bitter struggle with their equivalents in African countries like Nigeria, Rwanda and Uganda over a variety of theological issues, of which the question of the ordination of openly gay bishops is the most prominent.  Now it’s my view that in the long run as the church reflects on the issue of homosexuality, it should and will come to a place closer to that of the American Episcopal mainstream than to that of the Nigerians.  But this process of reflection and debate will take more time than the Americans want to give it, and it will take some theological procedures very different from those that are currently fashionable in the American Episcopal church.

Be that as it may, it’s clear that if there is a secret to managing respectful North-South relations in the 21st century, the American Episcopal bishops don’t have it.  African church leaders compare their American counterparts to George W. Bush: arrogantly unilateral, deaf to other points of view, seeking to impose a uniquely American agenda on those who do not agree. That’s not entirely fair, but there’s enough truth in it that when it comes to America’s place in the world, the Episcopal church should listen as others speak.  Who knows — maybe we’ll learn something.

3.  In the contemporary world the job of the clergy isn’t to provide political leadership.  It is to help laypeople grow into better, wiser political leaders.

Back when Henry VIII was chopping the heads off his wives, bishops were political as well as religious leaders.They voted in the English House of Lords.  Their dioceses were rich, owning substantial land and employing many people.  At the same time, when ordinary people were often barely literate, priests and bishops were among the tiny minority who could read Latin as well as English and so had access to the great bulk of the world’s knowledge and could keep up with thought in other countries.  Richer, more powerful and better educated than most of the people in that day, the clergy were a social and political force to reckon with, and bishops particularly spent a lot of time thinking through their political strategies.  It mattered what bishops thought about politics, and throughout the kingdom there were people who from interest or conviction would follow their bishop’s lead.

The Episcopal church was never this important or rich in the United States, but its members were disproportionately wealthy and well connected for much of our history.  Episcopal bishops and priests generally ranked pretty high among local and regional elites; Mrs. Astor’s 400 were more likely to be found Sunday morning in Episcopal churches than anywhere else.  Episcopal bishops and priests were in touch with those who ran the country and for a couple of generations the “St. Grottlesex” schools of New England, largely Episcopal, trained the establishment and shaped its worldviews.  This was true as late as the 1960’s and 1970’s; when Episcopal bishops came out for civil rights and against the Vietnam War, it was a sign that the establishment was moving.  The bishops didn’t so much make the change as register a change that was happening around them, but nevertheless their stands were, legitimately, news.

That was a generation ago.  These days the establishment is weaker, less religious and less Protestant than it used to be.  Fewer members of the establishment care about the church, and the establishment as a whole has less power and prestige in American life.  Episcopal parishes are less and less gathering places for local movers and shakers, and Episcopal bishops are less and less members of regional power structures.  Fewer and fewer powerful people pay any attention at all to what Episcopal leaders think.

More than this, the laity has less regard for clerical leadership than ever before.  As college and post-graduate education has become more common, the educational distance between the clergy and their parishioners has shrunk.  We don’t actually need all that much guidance from the clergy anymore.  The mainline Protestant clergy in any case has largely abandoned any claim on religious authority.  The theological pluralism of the contemporary Episcopal church (and the acute and growing shortage of pledge-paying members) means that most clergy and bishops tolerate virtually any unconventional theological opinion, especially among the laity.  Having given up their religious authority, they are in a weak position when it comes to trying to exert political leadership.

None of this means that the church and the clergy don’t have a political role to play — but it does mean that they need to think differently about how to play it.  The job of a bishop isn’t to make statements about the minimum wage or the Iraq war.  It’s to help the clergy in his or her diocese form communities that produce dynamic, committed and intelligent laypeople who will shape political debates on these and many other matters.  A bishop isn’t here to inject Christian values into public policy debates; a bishop is here to inject mature, thoughtful and committed Christians into public life.  The Diocese of Long Island shouldn’t be taking stands on the minimum wage; it should be producing people who transform the life of the region at every level of engagement.

If the bishops were already doing this pretty well I would be much more tolerant of their occasional ventures into public debate.  But it’s as plain as day that en masse the American bishops are catastrophically failing at that core task — as indeed are their colleagues in the other mainline denominations. In the parlous state of today’s Episcopal church, every dime a diocese spends and every minute of a bishop’s working day needs to be focused on local congregations.  The church is melting before their eyes and many bishops seem to be passively watching it happen; at most they hope to manage decline as smoothly as possible.

In this situation, issuing statements on the importance of the Millennium Development Goals or the minimum wage which will change no minds and advance no agenda isn’t just a pointless though cheap and effortless exercise.  It’s a way of lying to yourself — of saying that the church is still doing what churches should do, that its problems aren’t that bad and that you as a religious leader are doing what you should do. This isn’t prophetic ministry; it’s denial.  And it isn’t good.  It’s bad.

4.  The Blue Social Model isn’t the Kingdom of God.

My final provocative thesis is this: there’s an underlying problem that both leads mainline church leaders like Episcopal bishops to put too much weight on making vapid and useless political statements and that contributes to the inexorable decline of the churches entrusted to their charge.

The problem is that the contemporary mainline churches have confused the Blue social model with the Kingdom of God.  I’ve written about this model before — what the Blue model is and why it is breaking down, why the breakdown has impaled contemporary liberal politics on the horns of an impossible dilemma, and how the Blue Beast is sucking the life out of the mainline churches today. Historically this is not surprising; the blue social model was in large part formed by thinkers from the mainline churches in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.  Somehow the mainline churches came through the violence and the upheavals of the twentieth century with their faith in liberal progress largely intact.  Neither Stalin nor Hitler nor Reinhold Niebuhr could convince us of the power of original sin; neither Hiroshima nor the Holocaust shook our faith in the ability of good government programs to remake mankind.

To mistake an ideology or a social model for the transcendent and always surprising (and irritating!) Kingdom of God is, technically speaking, the sin of idolatry.  It is to worship the work of our own hands.  What makes it worse is that to some degree in the mainline churches we have replaced faith in the scripturally based and historically rooted doctrines and values of the Christian heritage with faith in progressive social thought.

Instead of proclaiming a gospel of salvation that still brings lost sinners streaming through the doors (ask the Pentecostals and evangelicals who have continued to grow even as we shrink) we issue statements urging the federal government to fulfill its contributions to the Millennium Development Goals and to raise the minimum wage.  They preach and plant churches; we have professional development workshops for diocesan employees.

I want to be clear here.  Liberal mainline Protestantism is not just a ghastly mistake and a return to literalism and fundamentalism is not the way out of the current impasse. The great historical riches and insights of the mainline denominations are more important than ever today.  The liberal, questing spirit that refuses to take ancient truths for granted and that challenges historic orthodoxies in the light of lived experience has a vital and necessary place in the life of the church.  It’s important that the mainline churches halt their disintegration and decline and regain the strength to play their role in the American religious system.  I am not writing all these terrible things about bishops because I want them to fail.  God has work for the mainline church to do, and God’s work in the world will suffer if we fail.

But the Blue Beast cannot save American society and it cannot save the mainline church.  Until we come to terms with these truths and start living them we can neither help ourselves nor do much to help anybody else.

show comments
  • David

    If these denominations are combining a political doctrine with a religious one, aren’t they essentially contributing to the de-Reformation of the West? Washington has become Luther’s Rome. If the Reformation was a necessary pre-condition for the development of technology, liberal democracy, and their combination into capitalism, doesn’t the shift of power to the state intrinsic to the Blue Model represent a reversal? What Tocqueville called the “Sort of Despotism Democratic Nations Have to Fear” sounds a lot like political and social De-Reformation. Ortega y Gasset called it barbarism.

  • http://americandigest.org vanderleun

    I despair of what was once my Episcopal church and have no truck with it.

    It’s staggering to me that while the Catholics get slammed for decades on charges of personal molestation, the Episcopal Bishops can molest the entire Church for decades and get paid and accolades for their intellectual and spiritual perversions.

    To paraphrase Dickens, “Drive them fast to their tomb.”

  • Russell

    As a religious dissident once said to the religious leaders of the day:
    “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! See! Your house is left to you desolate; for I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!’”

  • Sean the Maggot

    It’s easy to get sucked into political activism. The various bishops needs to be reminded that their role is to tend the flock’s spiritual needs. They need to set their sights on the eternal qualities of the spirits of the flock. Once that is taken care of, the members of the flock will help each other through the tough times in this imperfect physical world.

    We believers are promised a grand place with Him in the afterlife. This world is just temporary, the bishops need this reminder every once in a while.

  • RKV

    The Gospel does not call us to vote for politicians who will tax others to to provide charity from the state. Nor does it say one word about global warming – anthropogenic or otherwise. Originating in a time when the military dictatorship that was Rome conquered and colonized a continent and more, Christianity’s founder did not call for proletarian revolt. In the whole New Testament, Jesus really only got physically violent when he was throwing the money-changers out of the temple.

    So much for a) the welfare state b) Gaia worship c) non-violence d) Liberation Theology and e) the bishops, synods, and ministers who have abandoned their faith for political power.

  • David Goyne

    Mr Mead, you might find a column by Paul Johnson in his regular feature ‘And Another Thing’ in the UK Spectator titled ‘Walking amongst the mountains of God and listening to their voices’ of 25 July 1998, page 23 relevant although referring to the role of the Pope as a spiritual leader. I would have included the text but the Spectator’s electronic archives don’t go back that far and I only have a scanned copy. I think the point you and he make is similar; the role of religious leaders should be religious leadership and they ignore this at the peril of their organisation, and if they believe their doctrine, of their immortal soul. Mr Johnson could be far more generous about the spiritual leadership of Pope John Paul II that you could be about the Episcopal bishops.

  • Truth Unites… and Divides

    “It’s important that the mainline churches halt their disintegration and decline and regain the strength to play their role in the American religious system.”

    Wishful thinking.

    “God has work for the mainline church to do, and God’s work in the world will suffer if we fail.”

    You’ll fail, but that doesn’t mean God’s work in the world will necessarily suffer.

  • http://aconservativesiteforpeace.info The young fogey

    Spot-on!

    Of course they won’t listen to you and do it but it was still worth pointing out.

    The social sins they deplore are those of the right: …too robust and unheeding a promotion of the American national and security interest abroad.

    Here they and I agree but it’s accidental; they’re not interested in joining a coalition with us libertarians for example to do something about this. (Of course many of us are Not Their Class, Dear: the Wrong Kind of White People.)

  • JB

    Very thoughtful article. You make great points and I agree with much of what you have written. However, I find it a contradiction when you write “The liberal, questing spirit that refuses to take ancient truths for granted and that challenges historic orthodoxies in the light of lived experience has a vital and necessary place in the life of the church.” To me, you can’t have it both ways, and hence the basic problem of what you’re complaining about. Either we stand on the basics truths of Scripture or we don’t. Picking and choosing is what got us here in the first place. The Old Testament shows the Isrealites time and time again straying from the core beliefs into almost oblivion. It is when a leader returns the people back to the core beliefs that the nation is restored. I feel this is why God said in 2 Chronicles 7:14 “…if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” Granted this is cherry picked in a sense from one situation, but it is how God works.

    I truly feel that if we want God to heal our situation, we need to let God do the job His way and stop telling Him how to do it.

  • http://aconservativesiteforpeace.info The young fogey

    I find it a contradiction when you write “The liberal, questing spirit that refuses to take ancient truths for granted and that challenges historic orthodoxies in the light of lived experience has a vital and necessary place in the life of the church.” To me, you can’t have it both ways, and hence the basic problem of what you’re complaining about.

    Good catch!

    Or ‘Episcopalianism failed the first time so let’s rebuild it on the same principles and watch it fall apart again’.

  • Bill Wager

    Amen

    The only difference between [individual name redacted] and a sack of excrement is the sack. When he actually did make a secular management decision –it was monumentally wrong.

    Were it not for personal loyalty to my brother and sister congregants and some lunatic idea of holding the line I would be long gone from the wreck.

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  • Kenneth Howes

    Mr. Mead raises many valid points, but misses others, evidently because he still shares certain presuppositions and methodologies of the Left and the “main line” churches that he criticizes.

    1. No theology will be persuasive unless it is authoritative. It cannot be authoritative if it rests solely on the person of the one preaching it. It must rest in the Word of God itself, set forth by the prophets and apostles.

    The early councils understood this. When one looks at the first four, there is earnest effort to support every decision with Scripture. We see the result in the three ecumenical creeds.

    Similarly, the Reformers understood this. The Lutheran confessions in the Book of Concord, the Reformed Helvetic, Belgic and Westminster confessions, and the confessional documents of early Anglicanism–the 39 Articles, Cranmer’s Preface to the Bible, Jewel’s Apology of the Church of England, and the Book of Common Prayer itself–all are earnest efforts to apply Scripture to all doctrine.

    It seems, however, that the process of corruption described in Romans 1 keeps repeating itself. Eventually the councils decided that the Church itself could make doctrine (“Sacred Tradition”). It was not long before the Church was using forged documents (the Donation of Constantine) and bribery (subverting the Exarchate of Ravenna, the last direct presence of the Empire in northern Italy). In the same period, hagiolatry became rampant, and by the late 9th century, sexual immorality and perversion had thoroughly rotted the Church (the Pornocracy).

    It didn’t get better between then and the Reformation, and the Reformers set about putting things to rights. But just as the Roman and Eastern churches had, at Second Constantinople, declared themselves masters of the Word rather than its servant, Protestantism was already, by the late 18th century, engaging in “higher” criticism of Scripture that declared the Bible unreliable. (It was going on in the Roman church, too–one of the founders of “higher” criticism was Jean Astruc, a Roman Catholic.)

    Just as asserting an authority superior to Scripture had corrupted Rome and the East, doing the same led to heresies and even apostasies in the churches of the Reformation. Unitarianism, Christian Science, Mormonism, Russellism (now called the Jehovah’s Witnesses), and, though it has returned to more conventional Protestantism now, Adventism in its early days all were possible only because people increasingly thought themselves entitled to impose their own thoughts and philosophies onto Scripture in matters of religion.

    Sola Scriptura is not some nutty Protestant doctrine–it was taught by Chrysostom, Jerome, Augustine and numerous other early fathers of the Church. It is the only way to maintain correct teaching in the Church.

    2. It follows from that that Mr. Mead is wrong in thinking that the church should eventually accept homosexuality as a God-pleasing life style. No amount of reflection or “growth” will cause Leviticus, Romans or 1 Corinthians to mean one thing other than what they have meant since they were written.

    Proponents of such a change like to say, “It’s like eating shrimp or wearing clothes of two materials–part of the ancient Jewish Law, but we are no longer under that.” It is emphatically not. Jesus said nothing about homosexuality, but did say that He was come not to abolish the Law but to fulfill it.

    The revelation on which we are freed from the dietary laws is Peter’s vision in Acts 10. Presumably that would also wipe away the two materials rule, too. It did cover such things as eating with Gentiles, as that was the context in which the vision came to Peter.

    But it is AFTER Peter’s vision, roughly in the time 53-55 AD, that Paul wrote his letters to the Romans and Corinthians. Rom. 1:25-27 cannot be read (at least not with any degree of honesty) in any way that does not condemn homosexuality as “vile affections”. Indeed, that is the only passage in the whole Bible that addresses the issue of lesbianism.
    Similarly 1 Corinthians 6:9 says that “arsenokoites” (men who couple with other men) and “malakoi” (catamites) will not enter the kingdom of heaven.

    Arguments that this somehow is not related to homosexuality today are pure sophistry. They are founded in 1960’s concepts of social justice and 1980’s libertarianism, not in Scripture.

    3. It is not the chief task, or even a major task, of the clergy to make the laity wiser world leaders. Indeed, that is nothing more than what the bishops Mr. Mead condemns would say they are doing. Their chief duty is to bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ to them. That Gospel has nothing to do with politics. It has to do with humanity in its fallen state of original sin, redeemed once for all by Jesus Christ’s full, perfect and sufficient sacrifice, oblation and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world (Episcopalians and other Anglicans should recognize that language; it is from the Book of Common Prayer [1928 edition, p. 80]),

    It is that men cannot be justified by their own strength, merits or works, but are freely justified for Christ’s sake, through faith, when they believe that they are received into favor and their sins are forgiven for Christ’s sake, who, by His death, has made satisfaction for our sins. This faith God imputes for righteousness in his sight. (Lutherans will recognize Art. IV of the Augsburg Confession.)

    See especially Romans chapters 3-4; Galatians chapters 2-3; John 3:16, 11:25-26; Isaiah 53.

  • Thomas

    While I also find that the preaching of a social gospel goes too far, and preaching political correctness can at times be confused with preaching the gospel, I cannot help but feel that we disconnect social implications from the demands of the gospel at our own spiritual peril.

    Issues like the minimum wage are important. How can one say that they love God, and yet not love their neighbor? How can a person pass by a neighbor who is metaphorically bleeding on the side of the road? These are the kinds of things, according to the prophets, that brought destruction on the whole nation of Israel.

    While we are preoccupied with sexuality, the greater sins go unaddressed (Isaiah 58).

    Sin goes through and through people and societies, and to neglect one or the other misses the point.

    • Walter Russell Mead

      Thanks, Thomas; I agree that the issues are important. But I think the church should be addressing them through the energetic, principled involvement of laypeople at all levels of politics rather than through pro forma statements by bishops and structures that have no real resonance or consequence in the world.

  • JB

    Thomas and Walter – agree with these points completely. I think that the focus has been taken off of personal responsibility in many areas. We need to be teaching the difference to our youth. Because the bishops and other leadership have elevated themselves into the issues rather than raising up a body who understands what the issues, what Jesus did for us on the Cross has been watered down beyond some denying the reality. I find that many priests and bishops feel they are better or more important than the laity rather than our brothers and sisters working together with us. It is partially that sense of entitlement that takes us from Jesus teaching that each of us must me the servant of others. If we all lived this, we would not be worrying about a social gospel.

    If the laity was trained as it should be, we also wouldn’t be seeing the rampant greed in our economy. Things would be sold for a fair price, not what the market will bear – or at the cost of the lower-level employees.

    How would you go about reaching and teaching a better morality that addresses all of our shortcomings, not just the hot-button ones? I am having to juggle some things in real world, but am looking forward to reading some of your other articles. You write clearly and with wisdom. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  • http://jandyongenesis.blogspot.com Alice C. Linsley

    The Nigerians understand the binary distinctions that comprise the biblical worldview and underpin Holy Tradition. Homosex is in direct violation of those binary distinctions which is why gay activists work very hard to expunge them from people’s minds. There is no ground for American Christians to compromise on homosex.

  • Jeff Minick

    The author of the above piece gives us George Bush as arrogant and deaf to the viewpoints of others. What of President Obama? Talk about deaf–the man makes Bush look like a real listener.

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  • Paul Miller

    I’m in the United Church of Canada whose decline is similar, but more advanced even than the American denominations. We can’t fool ourselves any longer. Like most American mainline churches, we also have a “renewal” movement — groups whose mission is to call the church back to its historic roots. The problem is that their agenda for “renewal” is completely driven by their opposition to the follies of the denomination, and for that reason they’ve allowed themselves to become even more marginalized and irrelevant than those they are opposing. You’re right, the church’s main task is to gather, nurture and send communities of vibrant Christian faith who can have a leavening effect on the society around them. This is starting to happen in the UK where traditional churches are in a state of even more advanced decay than in Canada — which just means that there’s no one around to stand in the way of creative new energy. I pray we will follow their lead.

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  • George Schmidt

    Fascinating commentary on the American Episcopal Church in particular and mainline churches in general. As I read this I was captivated by the striking similarities in the United Church of Canada. I say a hearty “Amen” to to my colleague Paul Miller for his comment. As another “prophet” and “theologian” says it in song: “When you gonna wake up and strengthen the things that remain?” A good word for the Western Church

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  • http://www.aphoto2stitch.com/forum/profile.php?mode=viewprofile&u=767068 Natalya Bluestein

    I’m extremely impressed with your writing skills as well as with the layout on your blog. Is this a paid theme or did you modify it yourself? Anyway keep up the nice quality writing, it is rare to see a nice blog like this one nowadays..

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  • http://pinterest.com/pin/248753579387643595/ Carrie Lewis

    To my dismay,I wasn’t able to see the image for this post. It looked like the HTML was incorrect.

  • PKCasimir

    “the prospect of economic stagnation – or maybe worse – is less than Russia deserves “? Huh? I have read that three times and have no idea what the author is trying to convey. Aside from that, an article on Putin’s future that doesn’t mention the fact that Russia’s economy is a Third World One based on a single commodity and that its economic fortunes are totally dependent on that commodity -oil, is of little value. Already the Russian ruble, like those of other EM and Third World Markets, is collapsing and inflation will start to rear its ugly head. Russia has few tools to combat inflation and Russians depend on imports for almost everything. If the price of oil starts to collapse and the US natural gas exports come on line, Putin will be toast.

  • bff426

    The idea that the Russian people will rebel against Putin is laughable. Russians have tolerated dictators their entire history, from the Mongols, to the czars, to Lenin and Stalin to today.

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