As we all know this is an election year which will no doubt contribute to global warming with all the hot air surrounding such a potentially pointless exercise in a supposed representative democracy but one thing such a time as this can do is raise the issue of credibility. It is almost a given that politicians do not have any real credibility in fact according to the latest opinion poll only about 9% of the American people give them any! But what about the clergy? What about the religious leaders of the day? What about the Chruch?
Amongst non church goers clergy of all ranks and stations have only about a 34% credibility rating and even amongst people who identify themselves as regular church goers the rating is less than 42%. This same poll shows a consistent and continual decline in that credibility from year to year. It obviously begs the question why? There are or may be a number of reasons not least is the lack of relevancy that an ever increasing skeptical population, especially under 35, has of institutional religion of every kind. Islam which has traditionally been the most resistant to cultural changes is not immune from “secularization” and indeed it is this secularization that is feared most by extremists not only Islamic ones but so called Christian ones as well.
One of the reasons that I began to think about this was a post made to my Facebook page in which a photo of Ms. Kathrine Schori who is the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church was used as a call for more women in church leadership roles. The post was made by an acquaintance of mine in the UK where women clergy especially women bishops is still somewhat of a curiosity. As soon as I saw Ms. Schori’s photo I was reminded of a comment made by a Roman Catholic supporter of women’s ordination, who was a religious sister as well and a theology graduate to boot, following the CNN interview where Ms. Schori refused to acknowledge the unique Divinity of Christ and essentially said he was no more divine than anyone else! After seeing the interview this woman responded “she has set our cause back a hundred years!”
Regardless of her comments she revealed however unintentionally the complete lack of credibility that her peers, her fellow Episcopal bishops have in matters of theology. When a body cannot articulate or teach with authority the foundational ethos of its being and purpose it looses all credibility with everyone even with itself! But the Episcopal House of Bishops is not alone when it comes to a total absence of credibility not only in the body ecclesiastical but in the culture at large.
The Roman Catholic bishops and the entire clerical system including the papacy of that Communion has absolutely no moral authority and or credibility left whatsoever! It is clear to everyone, except for a small minority of adherents who when asked for bread would give a stone, that the criminal and immoral manner in which sexual abuse and the sexual exploitation of children was and is still being handled robs this institution of even a modicum of relevancy and or respectability!
As to other churches the general Baptist and “Evangelical”/Pentecostal Church support of anti immigration, anti women, anti gay, pro Wall Street, pro NRA and pro Republican positions pretty much take care of the rest of official Christendom’s credibility in the general population. Because of their stands on “social issues” they are seen as dictatorial, anti intellectual, anti scientific, meddlesome religious autocrats!
What is left of the Christian world such as the very small minority called “Independent Catholicism” has frankly no credibility at all, if for no other reason than lack of real congregations and ministries and the over abundance of theater and pathology. There are three notable exceptions, The Ecumenical Catholic Communion, The Polish National Catholic Church and the North American Old Catholic Church. These churches are in fact churches and are not web communities or paper “churches” nor are they cults like the “Independent Sacramental Movement”. But even here except for the Household of Faith relevancy is a very serious issue.
The Church as in the Gathering of the Followers of Jesus must proclaim as did the Apostle Peter that Jesus is the Son of God and it must teach with authority that truth in all its beauty and diversity of expression. It must teach with humility the truths of the Nicene Creed and the wonderful participatory nature of the Sacraments. It must affirm the Liberty of and in and through Christ and distinguish sharply and simply the difference between true freedom and license! It must not condemn anyone but it must not abandon its truth as revealed by the Holy Spirit in the Scriptures and in Holy Tradition.
If there is no difference between the Chruch and the Kiwanis Club, if there is no difference between the Gospel and transactional analysis, if there is no difference between the Kingdom of Heaven and “raising consciousness”, if there is no personal relationship and accountability, if there is no difference between anthropological philosophy and faith,why waste the time and money to be a member of a dead society with religious trappings!
Bishop Andrew Gerales Gentry
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