— Robert W. Jenson (@RobertWJenson1) April 20, 2020
Several years ago, I spoke to a rather typical group of Episcopalians in a church forum and I would estimate that roughly 75% of the people in the room were over 60 years of age.
I would love to see more nuanced statistics, at this point in time, because I suspect that the gold 36-64 years old band in the middle of that Burge chart leans toward the older end of that niche. Burge notes that the average Episcopalian is 59 years old. There are now three retired United Methodists for every member under the age of 35. More Burge:
Demography is destiny for many of these denominations. They will become dramatically smaller in the next two decades based on attrition alone, whether or not they are hit by COVID-19.
But if the disease can’t be curtailed, it could become a turning point for some of these denominations: Their houses of worship are prime targets for the spread of disease.
This passage hit me hard, as well:
Connection to their fellow members is especially important for older Americans. Data from Pew Research Center indicates that the average 80-year-old spends at least eight hours a day alone, double the time a 40-year-old does. For many of the older generation, the institutions that held society together for them during the formative years have already crumbled. One of the few things that has remained constant for them is their church home, seeing the same people in the same pews every Sunday, taking the bread and drinking from the cup the same way they have done for decades. They need that consistency and community — and COVID-19 might take that away from them.
— GetReligion (@GetReligion) March 12, 2020
Almighty God, who didst call thy servant Katharina von Bora from a cloister to work for the reform of thy church, grant that all of us may go wherever thou dost call, and serve however thou dost will, for thy honor and glory and for the welfare of thy whole church. All this we ask through Jesus Christ, our only mediator and advocate. Amen.
The late Martin Luther’s wife Katharina von Bora died six years after her husband on December 20, 1552. Her cart was involved in a bad accident near the city gates, seriously injuring her and Katharina passed away about three months later aged 53.https://t.co/kTdtU2cyBC pic.twitter.com/wZFz5SApTF
— Trivia Encyclopedia (@edpearce080759) December 20, 2019
A tip of the hat to Lutheran blogger Dan Skogen, who highlighted this exchange. The church historically teaches – and most Christians today would reiterate – that God loves everyone and seeks their best interest. But does that love mean that Hell is, as Egensteiner asserted, empty?
Even among many liberal mainline Protestant luminaries, the doctrine of Hell is taken seriously today more so than in the past two generations. In 2008, the liberal Christian Century hosted a symposium on Hell. As IRD’s Mark Tooley reported somewhat surprisingly, most of the respondents seemed to believe in it. This stands in stark contrast to early and mid-20th Century liberal Protestants who rejected the existence of Hell outright.
This old Protestant liberalism was embodied by Episcopal Bishop John Shelby Spong. Tooley notes that Spong gained celebrity in the 1980s writing books denying supernatural Christianity and insisting rationalism was the only way to “save” the faith for younger people. Meanwhile, his Episcopal Diocese of Newark lost nearly half its members under his watch, and the seminars he taught in retirement attracted only the elderly.
Rarely today do Tooley or I encounter liberal Protestants similar to Spong who are under 60 (Egensteiner turns 62 next month). “Modernist” views are now passé, and liberal Protestants under age 50 typically believe in an afterlife and sometimes even Hell.
But Hell isn’t just about the afterlife. As I reported last year on an Anglican workshop that addressed preaching on the subject, the Doctrine of Hell has consequences today for the living including Christology, evangelism, human dignity and our “tone in life”.
“Hell is empty and we should have no concern about our eternal fate.”
— Dennis Lennox (@dennislennox) July 23, 2019
For 100 years, Lutherans in this farming community on the Minnesota prairie have come to one church to share life’s milestones.
They have been baptized, confirmed and married at La Salle Lutheran. Their grandparents, parents and siblings lie in the church cemetery next door.
But the old friends who gathered here early one recent Sunday never imagined that they would one day be marking the death of their own church.
When La Salle Lutheran locks its doors in August, it will become the latest casualty among fragile Minnesota churches either closing, merging or praying for a miracle. Steep drops in church attendance, aging congregations, and cultural shifts away from organized religion have left most of Minnesota’s mainline Christian denominations facing unprecedented declines.
“Sunday used to be set aside for church: that’s what families did,” said Donna Schultz, 74, a church member since grade school at La Salle, in southwest Minnesota. “Now our children have moved away. The grandkids have volleyball, dance on weekends. People are busy with other things….”
I've been a living witness. "As churches close in Minnesota, a way of life fades" https://t.co/yhM4ke0Txk
— Lynne Silva-Breen (@LynneLMFT) July 8, 2018
A Lutheran seminary in eastern Pennsylvania is facing a leadership crisis due to a belated disclosure that the president of the LGBTQ-affirming school once directed an organization that said gay Christians should change or at least resist same-sex attractions as a temptation to sin.
The Rev. Theresa Latini, the first president of United Lutheran Seminary, which has campuses in Philadelphia and Gettysburg, now repudiates the philosophy of the group she worked for, saying it was “fear-based, controlling, and particularly marginalizing of LGBTQ+ persons.”
But many alumni and students are expressing dismay that she never disclosed this part of her work history — more than five years of work as director of the group OneByOne, beginning in 1996 — to the search committee that interviewed her.
Rev. Latini said in a Feb. 21 statement that she is committed to working with the seminary in “actively identifying and resisting homophobia and heteronormativity.”
I will take comments on this submitted by email only to KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.
Lutheran chorales were intended to be sung monophonically (in unison) by the congregation. They were also set for publication typically in four parts—soprano, alto, tenor, bass—with the melody in the tenor voice in some (more effective with trained choirs) and the soprano voice in others (more practical for congregational singing).
In any case, Luther’s passion that people understand also drove his liturgical music, so the congregation could take an active part in the service:
I would that we had plenty of German songs which the people could sing during Mass, in the place of, or as well as, the Gradual, or together with the Sanctus and Agnus Dei. But we lack German poets, or else we do not yet know of them, who could make for us devout and spiritual songs, as Paul calls them [Eph. 5:15].
In 1524, Luther produced the Deutsche Messe as an alternative to the Catholic Mass, based upon Gregorian liturgy and music, simplified with German options. Each church could design their liturgy with as much German or Latin as they wished, freely interchangeable.
This is but a brief survey of the ways Luther shaped not only Lutheran but also Protestant hymnody, not just in Germany but, in some ways, worldwide. We rightly honor Luther for his keen theological insights, but we do well to remember this other significant legacy, which reminds us that indeed, “Next to the Word of God, music deserves the highest praise.”
Did you know?
Martin Luther was a music lover; he played the lute and flute, sang with a light tenor voice, and even put a hand to composing music https://t.co/DsR6zmFui2
— Christianity Today (@CTmagazine) March 6, 2018
Anti-Semitism is not a problem of past, former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams has warned.
Speaking on the 500-year anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, Williams highlighted Martin Luther’s anti-Semitic views.
“Like it or not, that is part of the story that leads to Germany in the 1930s,” he told the Today programme.
— Kendall Harmon (@KendallHarmon6) September 6, 2017
Jenson passed away yesterday, having been born 87 years earlier, one year after the great stock market crash of 1929. He lived through the Great Depression, World War II, the Cold War, the Vietnam War, Roe v. Wade, the rise and fall of the Religious Right, the fall of the Soviet Union, September 11, 2001, the election of the first African-American U.S. President, and much more. He also lived through, and in many ways embodied, a startling number of international, ecclesial, and academic theological trends: ecumenism; doctrinal criticism; analytic philosophy of language; Heidegerrian anti-metaphysics; French Deconstructionism; the initially negative then positive reception of Barth in the English-speaking world; the shift away from systematics to theological methodology (and back again!); post–Vatican II ecclesiology; “death of God” theology; process theology; liberation theologies (black, feminist, and Latin American); virtue ethics; theological interpretation of Scripture; and much more.
Jenson studied under Peter Brunner in Heidelberg and eventually spent time in Basel with Barth, on whose theology he wrote his dissertation, which generated two books in his early career. He was impossibly prolific, publishing hundreds of essays and articles as well as more than 25 books over more than 55 years.
Initially an activist, Jenson and his wife Blanche—to whom he was married for more than 60 years, and whom he credited as co-author of all his books, indeed, “genetrici theologiae meae omniae”—marched and protested and spoke in the 1960s against the Vietnam War and for civil rights for African-Americans. His politics was forever altered, however, in 1973 with Roe v. Wade. As he wrote later, he assumed that those who had marched alongside him and his fellow Christians would draw a logical connection from protection of the vulnerable in Vietnam and the oppressed in America to the defenseless in the womb; but that was not to be. Ever after, his politics was divided, and without representation in American governance: as he said in a recent interview, he found he could vote for neither Republicans nor Democrats, for one worshiped an idol called “the free market” and the other worshiped an idol called “autonomous choice,” and both idols were inimical to a Christian vision of the common good.
Read it all (my emphasis).
Father Lee Nelson, pastor of Christ Church Waco, said his growing church is looking forward to “putting down some roots” at the new location after meeting for the past eight years at the Junior League House, the Clifton House, the Dr Pepper Museum, the chapel at First Baptist Church and other locations.
Nelson said the church currently has more than 200 members, adding that the congregation has grown 70 percent annually for the last three years.
Christ Church likely will spend more than $200,000 on the former First Lutheran building before the congregation moves in, including asbestos abatement, major heating and air-conditioning repairs, new flooring, ceilings and light fixtures and painting, Nelson said.
He said the church is fortunate that included in the deal were the sanctuary’s beautiful stained-glass windows, which Bain said have been appraised at $500,000.