Denominational downfall redux, part 2

I just had to quote this witty excerpt from North’s book:

America in the twentieth century has offered a three-fold ecclesiastical development.

1. Theologically conservative, creedal, hierarchical denominations grow more liberal as they grow larger and wealthier, thereby attracting the services of pastors who have been educated in state-funded and state-accredited colleges and universities.

2. Theologically liberal hierarchical denominations grow smaller as their members discover what their well-educated pastors actually believe.

3. Theologically conservative, non-creedal, non-hierarchical churches enjoy most of the growth. Their lack of formal academic requirements for the ministry inoculates them against the worst features of liberalism. Their freedom from hierarchical control allows the members to fund the theology they prefer, which is rarely liberal.

This has created an institutional dilemma for the leaders of theologically conservative, creedal, hierarchical churches. To grow, they apparently have only three choices: to go soft creedally, to go independent, or both. They must position themselves creedally somewhere in between Cotton Mather and The Christian Century. In no denomination has this dilemma been revealed more clearly than in American Presbyterianism, but it has happened in all of the large Protestant denominations.

Are you a well-catechized Presbyterian? If so, you are the member of a tiny minority group. People such as you have been in one of the following situations since 1960: (1) members of a large, wealthy, but shrinking denomination that has been taken over by liberals; (2) members of a medium-sized, officially Calvinistic, and growing denomination that has been taken over at the top by people who are more concerned with Church growth than theology, and who do not make it sufficiently difficult to penetrate by Arminians, neo-evangelicals, Scofieldians [dispensationalists], and Baptists who happen to sprinkle babies and who want in on the deal; (3) members of a tiny, hard-pressed Calvinist denomination that Arminians and liberals do not regard as worth the effort to take over. Putting it graphically, you’re governed by ministers who believe the editorials in (1) The Christian Century, (2) Christianity Today, or (3) a denominational magazine printed on non-slick paper with no color pictures inside. It boils down to this: you’ve been sold out to liberals; you’re being sold out to neo-evangelicals who will later sell you out to liberals; or you’re not yet worth buying.

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