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Why Theologically Conservative Churches are Growing and Theological Liberal Churches are Shrinking

People have their various reasons for seeking out one form of organization or another at different historical periods -- no doubt to find groups inclined to support whatever beliefs they came in with, so they can 'leave church every Sunday with those same beliefs, and bring them back again a week later,' yes?

But someone genuinely religious would be thinking in different categories, neither "Which churches are growing most?" nor "Which churches prefer more traditional theological soundbites?" but "Which churches are most truly fulfilling God's intention for human beings?"

Forrest Curo said:

But someone genuinely religious would be thinking in different categories, neither "Which churches are growing most?" nor "Which churches prefer more traditional theological soundbites?" but "Which churches are most truly fulfilling God's intention for human beings?"

Thanks, Forrest, for contributing to the dialogue!  Are you saying that we need not worry about shrinking congregations, empty meetinghouses, and the "graying" of the membership in unprogrammed meetings???

I hope the last one out will remember to turn off the lights!

The power and grace of the appearance of the inshining Light in the conscious and conscience of people shatters the implicit paradigm between liberal and conservative religious and political forms. There is another way ... a way out of the historic oscillation between identification between outward conversation and liberal theological forms. Look to inshining Light itself in itself without regard for the outward theological constructs and institutions and the professors of those forms. Human history shows that neither of these are sustainable. The process of identification with and finding meaning and purpose through outward liberal or conservative theological constructs and institutions is a process shared by liberals and conservatives. This process feeds and sustains both intellectual and institutional forms. In this, neither are fundamentally different. Both liberal and conservative constructs need people to engage and participate in the process of being and awareness that is dependent upon the outward constructs they process and the institutions and communities they establish.


To know the appearance of the inshining immanent Light itself in itself in the conscience as complete In itself to guide and teach is to know another way of existence on this earth that does not participate in the process of identification with and gaining meaning and purpose from liberal or conservative outward theological constructs. This inshining experience shatters cuts the cord feeds and sustains the liberal and conservative paradigm.


The statisticians and analysts have no way to assess those who know the appearance of the inshining Light which sustains without regard for outward conservative and liberals theological constructs. Being that is sustained in and by the inshining Light itself in itself is not of the liberal and conservative paradigm and the process that sustains it. This different way of existence is formed and informed in itself; independent of the process of identification with outward forms ... liberal or conservative.


If you would know this way of being, lay down your outward liberal and conservative forms and institutions and the people who profess them ... just put them off ... and rest in the promised Inshining Grace that will manifest in your conscience and will sustain you in itself and you will know freedom from the shadows of heavenly things and enter into heaven itself directly and immediately and without mediation.

Hello, Keith!

What are the specific practical implications of your "program"?  When I see pictures of you, you are always alone.  Are you proposing that communal expression of Christian faith is irrelevant, indeed a downright distraction from true faith?

William F Rushby said:

Thanks, Forrest, for contributing to the dialogue! Are you saying that we need not worry about shrinking congregations, empty meetinghouses, and the "graying" of the membership in unprogrammed meetings??? I hope the last one out will remember to turn off the lights!

There are ways to avoid getting your own response entangled with the reply you're commenting on (One needs must hit the 'html' button & delete a '<blockquote>...</blockquote>' , then start replying below all that before hitting the 'html' button again.)

---

I'm saying (right now) that the day we start distorting our Message to bring in people who don't like what[ever-it-is] we truly believe is the day we really stop being Friends, ie Children of Light & Truth & etc.

The prevalence of atheism in the world -- whether of the LiberalFriendish version or the TraditionalTraditionalist Support-Our-Authoritarianism form you seem to favor -- is indeed regrettable.

But God finds ways to reach even people who refuse to believe that God owns the power and the glory, not us with our various notions.

Forrest wrote: "The prevalence of atheism in the world -- whether of the LiberalFriendish version or the TraditionalTraditionalist Support-Our-Authoritarianism form you seem to favor -- is indeed regrettable."

I really didn't express my own view, but of course you may infer, rightly or wrongly, what it might be.  Using the term "authoritarian" is clearly a way of prejudicing perceptions of my views without explicitly admitting that that is what you are doing!

I ask you again:  Are you saying that we need not worry about shrinking congregations, empty meetinghouses, and the "graying" of the membership in unprogrammed meetings???



William F Rushby said:

Hello, Keith!

What are the specific practical implications of your "program"?  When I see pictures of you, you are always alone.  Are you proposing that communal expression of Christian faith is irrelevant, indeed a downright distraction from true faith?



Hello William,


I assume that you reflect the word "program" onto me as a way to suggest that the witness (experience) of freedom by the inshining appearance of the Light itself from being that is outwardly programmed is a program. My experience in testifying to this witness is it is important to many people that this testimony is labeled an outward form as any outward form. In talking with them, it becomes clear that if it were indeed true that people can know a way of being wherein the inshining Light itself in itself is the source of their meaning, purpose, and identity without regard to any outward ideology, theology, institution, or the people who profess and support them, then the outward forms and institutions become existentially threatened.


The testimony to the witness of the sufficiency of the inshining Light itself in itself anchoring the conscious and informing the conscience is not a program. It is de-programming. It is the literally testimony witnessing to being that is un-programmed by outward forms and institutions. The testimony to the Witness is a small line of code, if you will, that is hardwired into the processor itself and alters the very nature of the processor so that the outward ideologies, theologies, emotions, sensations, institutions etc., ("programs") the processor processes, no longer serve a purpose relative to being and consciousness and human relationships.


I guess your comment that "When I see pictures of you, you are always alone," is a way to insinuate that being that is solely anchored in and informed by the inshining Light itself in itself in the conscience and conscious practically results in being alone. That is not my experience. I do own that I like my solitude, however, I love and am loved.


I am not suggesting "communal expression of Christian faith is irrelevant." It is a reality in this world. It is relevant to many many people.


Yes, I am suggesting outward formal political and religious communal formal structures are a "distraction." I am testifying to a witness that human being can know a faith outside of any outward formal institutional or organization structure or program. The practical result of such direct experience of and identity with the inshining Light itself in itself is true peace and a faith not founded in the shadows of heavenly things. When people lay down their Crowns (meaning identification with all outward forms and institutions) in and through the power of the inshining appearance of the Light itself in itself in their conscious and conscience they come to know a foundation un-related to any forms, In that inshining power, they know long-suffering and patience and peace even in variance. The source of variance is in identity with outward forms and institutions and the people who profess those forms.


Please feel free to press me further.

I'm saying (perhaps wrongly) that you seem to put more faith in churches, meetings, Bibles & doctrines than in God's power to work outside them ( sometimes even needing to work against them, as Jesus found with the Temple & some of the synagogues of his day.)

I would be very disturbed if Quaker ways and institutions were to disappear from the Earth; but God would go on providing what people need, in other ways and (if needed) other institutions.

People aren't meant to, indeed can't, fully develop as God intends in isolation. Some forms of interaction are clearly more fruitful for that. But as Krishnamurti put it, "Institutions don't become enlightened."

Hello, Keith and Forrest!

Perhaps "program" wasn't the right way to describe what you advocate; I don't want to put words into your mouth.  How about "course of action" instead, or even "course of inaction" if you prefer that!

I admit to being "tied to" or grounded in outward ideas and institutions.  Moreover, I think such are absolutely necessary to purposeful human activity and solidarity.  Forrest even accuses me in this thread of "put[ting] more faith in churches, meetings, Bibles & doctrines than in God's power to work outside them."  Ironically, your approach and Keith's seem to converge in some respects!

To return to the matter allegedly under discussion here, I think that the Bible, Christian theology, Quaker rituals and membership DO matter!  And, I think, if the Society of Friends faded from existence, we would not be here carrying on this discussion.

So, Keith and Forrest, "I ask you again:  Are you saying that we need not worry about shrinking congregations, empty meetinghouses, and the "graying" of the membership in unprogrammed meetings???"



William F Rushby said:

Hello, Keith and Forrest!

Perhaps "program" wasn't the right way to describe what you advocate; I don't want to put words into your mouth.  How about "course of action" instead, or even "course of inaction" if you prefer that!

I admit to being "tied to" or grounded in outward ideas and institutions.  Moreover, I think such are absolutely necessary to purposeful human activity and solidarity.  Forrest even accuses me in this thread of "put[ting] more faith in churches, meetings, Bibles & doctrines than in God's power to work outside them."  Ironically, your approach and Keith's seem to converge in some respects!

To return to the matter allegedly under discussion here, I think that the Bible, Christian theology, Quaker rituals and membership DO matter!  And, I think, if the Society of Friends faded from existence, we would not be here carrying on this discussion.

So, Keith and Forrest, "I ask you again:  Are you saying that we need not worry about shrinking congregations, empty meetinghouses, and the "graying" of the membership in unprogrammed meetings???"


To answer as directly. Personally, I have no stake in the existence of religious congregations, Meeting houses, and membership in unprogrammed meetings. If each of them faded away, It would not impact my participation in the inshining Light. By the power of the inshining Light in my conscience and conscious all the things in my life are the stuff of worship. Outward insitutions and ideologies are not my foundation.


I cannot say that "we" need not worry because I know that there are many people who would and do worry and who would suffer should these outward forms fade. I can however, share with people that there is another way and that the appearance of the inshining Light itself in itself in the conscious and conscience offers a way out of dependency upon outward forms and institutions and that there were some early and founding Quakers who testified to the same witness of the sufficiency of the inshining Light itself in itself. Those founding and early Quakers even shared their apprehension over George Fox and his leading people back into a dependency on outward forms ... a dependency which many of the founding and early Quakers were led out of in and by the inshining appearance of the Light.


I hope this addresses your question. If it, please press further.

Thanks, Keith!

Actually, I personally do not have lots of faith in Quaker, or Christian, institutions.Unlike you and Forrest, my wife and I were "released" (against our will) from the meeting we belonged to and, in fact, were deeply involved in starting.

On the other hand, as Tevya said in *Fiddler on the Roof*, I believe that the Bible mandates that the people of God be gathered into bodies of faith and faithfulness.  Furthermore, I believe that the Christian life is well nigh impossible without involvement in such fellowship.  For these reasons, I feel apprehensive about my community of faith shriveling and aging.

I got my start in life in the Champlain Valley, where Quaker fellowships thrived and multiplied at one time.  Now, former meetinghouses are fallen down, turned into private dwellings or Methodist or Catholic churches, or transformed into grocery stores (and, later, car dealerships)!.   If you have a short memory, you would never guess that these buildings were once Quaker meetinghouses and the homes of thriving Friends meetings!

And I find that Friends would rather look the other way than face the decline of their own meetings, often blaming "the forces of nature" or other people rather than looking in the mirror to ask what part they have or are presently playing in such decline.  And my response is that this is a contest of truth or consequences, and that we need to stop looking around for something or someone else to blame.

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