jQuery Slider

You are here


In 2020, 47% of Americans said that they belonged to a church, down from 70% in 1999.
Cathedral foto - REUTERS


By David W. Virtue, DD
September 4, 2022

When the full history of American Christianity in the 21st century is written, some of the regurgitated headlines will read:
Methodism implodes amidst litigation
The Great Episcopal Church Robbery: 6,400 Congregation Properties Heisted by Radical Clergy
Largest group of Mennonite churches leaves denomination...over homosexuality
America's Oldest Denomination Faces Split Over LGBT Issues
Fit bodies, fat minds, why evangelicals don't think and what to do about it.

Of course, it will all be too late. Evangelicals now have fat bodies and are deemed to have little or no mind. As the late Anglican scholar Dr. J. I. Packer observed, "Evangelical minds are 3,000 miles wide and half an inch deep."

We are fast approaching the point in which the Church of Jesus Christ in all its myriad forms in America will be viewed as the single biggest reason for its collapse.

For the past several decades, mainline Protestant churches declared the transcendent gospel of God's grace irrelevant, replacing it with an issue driven social gospel. They have single handedly watched as their pews emptied, their pastors demoralized, watching as money dried up, and the people were sent spiritually empty away. Covid was the icing on the cake. More than 46 percent of pastors under the age of 45 say they considered quitting full-time ministry, compared to 34 percent of pastors 45 and older. There were also higher levels of burnout among clergy women, compared with those for men.

The Roman Catholic Church is foundering on the shores of pedophilia and sexually abusive priests, bishops and cardinals. Now they must watch as their seminaries empty out, churches are sold and some dioceses face bankruptcy. There are multimillion dollar payouts to abused and hurting children and adults, scarred for life by an abusive clergy, pushed around by their leaders who sought to conceal their foul behavior.

And evangelicals, who should have been in the vanguard of gospel hope and expectation found themselves succumbing to Christian nationalist ideas that praised an idolatrous, narcissistic president who used them for his political ends. They held the vain belief he would save America from the woke left.

"Put not your trust in princes," said the Psalmist, but that is exactly what millions of evangelicals did. The price paid has been one of extreme cynicism by multiple generations of unbelievers towards anything evangelicals claim to believe. Evangelicals are met with derision and scorn.

Many evangelical leaders fell off the moral bandwagon, and for their sins, congregations wilted and died. Evangelical seminaries like Gordon Conwell declined and were forced to sell properties. Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (TEDS) cut nearly $1 million in spending, hoping to head off financial disaster as the seminary's enrollment numbers declined. Liberal seminaries are emptying even faster over woke and gender studies with students indoctrinated in Womanist Theology, Liberation Theology, and Queer Theology, failing to excite aging pew sitters. See more on the Radicalization of Episcopal seminaries here: https://virtueonline.org/radicalization-episcopal-seminaries

The trickledown effect resulted in greying and emptying churches. Millions of nominal Christians, post Covid, no longer attend churches because their beliefs were skin deep to begin with. Pulpits trumpeted an uncertain sound, and with the loss of transcendence, people walked away from the church, never to return. New data revealed that over 40 percent of self-identified evangelicals attend church once a year or less!

The woke left and the MAGA right cancelled each other out. Both tore at the fabric of the church, leaving it empty of both people and sound teaching.

Evangelicals ratcheted up their righteousness by making abortion an issue that could save America even as churches emptied. They declaimed Biden a baby killer, ignoring the fact that abortion rates were their highest in the Reagan/Bush years.

Both the CDC and Guttmacher recorded more than 1.5 million abortions in the U.S. in 1991 when George H. W. Bush was president -- a republican. Under Obama, abortions dropped dramatically.

The abortion rate (per 1,000 women ages 15-44) declined 4% in the Reagan administration, and another 4% in George H. W. Bush's four-year presidency. Then, it plummeted by 30% during President Bill Clinton's two terms, and slowed once again during President George W. Bush's two terms, with only a 3% drop.
The last, large decrease came in the Obama/Biden years with a 26% decline.

A graphic on U.S. abortion rates showed larger declines during recent Democratic presidential administrations and said it's due to the party's approach of making abortions unnecessary, rather than the Republican Party's approach of making the procedure illegal. But the lie continues.

But single issues have not moved the needle of church growth. Generations X, Y and Z, including millennials, show little or no interest in the Christian faith and the churches that still proclaim it. The rise of the Nones, people with no religion, except a vague spirituality, are the fastest rising segment in America and their tribe only increases, according to Pew and Barna.

Mega churches are little more than entertainment centers, blowing theological smoke in people's faces. The leaders of these centers, sooner or later, drop like flies over moral failures and financial shenanigans. Even big fundamentalist names like Gerry Falwell and Christian apologists like Ravi Zacharias were revealed to have feet of clay mired in a sewer.

The number one issue driving both church and state is pansexuality. The overarching homosexual narrative, rising secularism, skepticism, easy believism, agnosticism, now dominate both church and state. Whole denominations have split over the issue, with some evangelical leaders like Tony Campolo, Rob Bell, Jen Hatmaker, Jim Wallis, Michael Gerson to name just a few rolling over to the other side, fearful of offending and being shouted at as homophobic, uninclusive and lacking diversity.

The Episcopal Church, for example, has totally rolled over, embracing the full range of LGBTQ sexualities and homosexual marriage. The result of that is anybody who opposes the church's view will get tossed out of church leadership positions. The United Methodist church is splitting globally over the issue. The worm has fully turned. For their sins both denominations will be out of business around 2035 demographers report.

So, what remains in the ashes of American churchianity? Not much. We are increasingly an unbelieving and divided nation that could be on the cusp of civil war. There remains a disillusioned clergy and continually emptying churches. Increasing cynicism towards religion in general and Christianity, in particular, is now firmly entrenched.

One can now see how Dietrich Bonhoeffer must have felt as he watched his beloved church and Germany succumb to National Socialism with the universities and churches capitulating to a single man in a Nazi uniform. It has become so in America. An insurrection came perilously close to ending democracy in America. Mercifully, it failed.

Only a blind man cannot fail to see that America lies today in spiritual ruins.

The future looks bleak.

Will it be The Benedict Option of small startup churches of faithful believers that will rescue America? Will these be the slivers of hope amidst the ruins and the decay? Will the Global South send forth its evangelists to save America; bringing the same gospel we gave them a century ago?

For the moment we live in the growing darkness, hoping that revival, renewal and reformation will bring a new spiritual dawn. One can but hope.


Get a bi-weekly summary of Anglican news from around the world.
comments powered by Disqus
Trinity School for Ministry
Go To Top