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Mollegen's Mythical Midrash Attempts at Church Growth

Mollegen's Mythical Midrash Attempts at Church Growth

By David W. Virtue, DD
October 13, 2021

Ted Mollegen is an Episcopal layman in the Diocese of Connecticut, who keeps hoping against hope that he can come up with a formula to resuscitate the Episcopal Church -- a church that is rapidly dying -- according to TEC's own figures.

It's the classic definition of insanity - doing the same thing over and over, hoping for a different outcome.

Mollegen has just produced a 46-page manifesto to reinvigorate a Church that has drunk the Kool-Aid and is going nowhere but down. He produced a similar report in 2004, when TEC voted to double the Church by 2020, an exercise in futility, and he's trying to do it again.

As Episcopal revisionists (now called progressives) have swept all before them, embracing pansexuality in all its forms; the remnant have either fled to greener spiritual pastures, or been cancelled and pushed into a corner of irrelevance. The Communion Partner bishops are a case in point. Does anybody really care what they think?

It's a bit like a pride of lions (read bishops) at a zoo, having devoured a dead cow, looking up charmingly at the zookeeper and saying, "let's talk."

Back in 2004, Mollegen, the 20/20 coordinator, released a 66-page church growth manifesto for bishops and lay leaders even as legal battles raged over properties. He got upset with conservatives for not accepting Gene Robinson's consecration, and said Holy Scripture supported his position. Really. Well, how did that go? ACNA was born soon after.

Now Mollegen is doing it all over again. This time he has whittled down his manifesto to 46 pages.

Again, the report is all about strategies that failed in 2004 and will fail again. It is a lot of talk about church planting as the best method to grow the church. The problem is the message or lack of it.

There is no talk of Jesus and the gospel. None. There is no talk of repentance and faith, no talk of atonement. The report is all about methods, complete with quotes and articles from fellow progressives about how the church can jump start itself with the right strategies and techniques.

Mollegen talks about the church growth movement. He wants clergy to be "ranchers" and not "shepherds" because the rancher helps break down growth barriers...and is much more potent than the shepherd approach. He wants congregations to initiate services for under 35s with trendy service styles coupled with "silences" and "personal testimonies."

But if the testimonies are about racism and critical race theory or helping the poor, without the message of God's saving grace, it is all words and futile.

Recently, I read how one Episcopal Church was turning its parking lot into a tent city for the homeless, complete with port-o-potties. All well and good, but when the church closes (which is inevitable) for lack of people, the people and potties will still be there. Win one for the homeless. Score zero for the church.

Mollegen cites as one of his sources for all this change, one Diana Butler Bass, an advocate for progressive Christianity, who no longer believes we should say "believe in" but "trust in" the creeds. How does that effect church growth? She says we are in the midst of "massive transformation" from institutional, hierarchical religious institutions to new, more personalized and spiritualized religious patterns.

Clearly, Ms. Bass has not visited any one of ten thousand evangelical churches or an ACNA parish. The ACNA parishes are institutional and hierarchical, proclaim the gospel and are growing, despite her claims otherwise.

The real problem with both Mollegen and Bass is that they are fiddling while TEC burns. They are simply rearranging the deck chairs on the TEC titanic in the hope that some sort of revival (not their word) will happen.

That revival didn't happen 17 years ago when Robinson was consecrated the Church's first homoerotic bishop, and Mollegen offered up his hope for a revived church; it won't happen now, despite all PB Michael Curry's talk of "beloved community." Recent departures from TEC by bishops Bill Love, Dave Bena and John Howe give ample evidence that TEC is going in the opposite direction. Affirming homosexual marriage is a torpedo in the side of the TEC ship.

If you don't have a clear unalloyed fix on the gospel, then you are proclaiming not Jesus but yourself, and that is sure and certain spiritual death. The progress of TEC downhill will only continue with ever declining numbers. It will not stop till the last Episcopalian has fallen off the cliff and drowned in a sea of irrelevance.


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