When Churches Commit Suicide
I suppose I could coin a phrase here: “churchicide”. This new term refers to when a church or denomination intentionally seeks to take its own life. Or perhaps we could refer to this as “churchanasia”. But whatever term we use, the result is sadly the same.
All around the Western world we have examples of churches either slowly or swiftly committing hari kari. Some are doing it quite willingly and intentionally, while others may not even be aware of the fact that they are on the road to extinction.
But for various reasons, many churches are going the way of the dodo. There would be plenty of examples of this. Those not specifically wanting to commit ecclesiastical suicide but still seemingly in their death throes can be found in various places.
As an example of this, a British newspaper featured a rather gloomy article on the state of the Church of England recently. With the rather provocative title, “Will the last person to leave the Church of England please turn out the lights,” it spoke of the Church as “an institution in decline, with fewer worshippers than ever and dissent in its ranks”.
The article said, in part: “The figures are truly dire. While non-Christian faiths have grown stronger and the evangelical Christian churches flourish, the story in the Church of England has been one of almost continuous decline since the war.
“Despite a series of initiatives such as Back to Church Sunday and some improvement in the numbers of young people participating in church activities, attendance figures amongst Anglicans have dropped by some 10 per cent over the last decade. Only 1.1m people, some 2 per cent of the population, attend church on a weekly basis, and only 1.7m, or 3 per cent, once a month. This in spite of the fact that around half the population still profess themselves Anglicans.
“The decline in paid clergy has been even more rapid. On the Church’s own statistics, the beginning of the new millennium has already seen a fall in over 20 per cent to barely 8,000. On present trends clergy would disappear altogether within half a century. Yet the number of parishes remains set at 13,000 and the total of Anglican churches is little altered at around 16,000. The result is there for all to see: a vicious circle of declining congregations, higher pension and maintenance costs and fewer helpers all sustained on a diminishing revenue base.”
The article discusses things such as the battle over women priests and same-sex marriage, and asks whether it might be time for the CofE to sever ties with the state. The author says, “I can’t help feeling – more than ever – that the Church of England will not survive my children’s lifetime and quite possibly not even my own.” And he thinks that “the real problem of the Church of England is the factor which no-one seems ready to discuss in public – its role as the established church of the country.”
Now I am not an expert on the CofE, and those closer to the scene will better be able to pinpoint what are the real problems, and more importantly, what are the real solutions. But here I want to look at another church, or denomination, which is also dying. But unlike the CofE, this one is deliberately committing suicide.
I refer to the Presbyterian Church in America. It has been going down the tubes for years now, but things have just come to a head, as announced in today’s newspapers. Here is how one report offers the obituary:
“After 33 years of debate, the Presbyterian Church (USA) has voted to change its constitution and allow openly gay people in same-sex relationships to be ordained as ministers, elders and deacons. This is a reversal from only two years ago, when a majority of the church’s regions, known as presbyteries, voted against ordaining openly gay candidates.
“By the time the vote was taken in Minneapolis the result was expected, but Presbyterian church officials said that even a few months ago they would not have predicted that the church was ready to change its policy. ‘All of us are surprised,’ said the Reverend Gradye Parsons, the church’s Stated Clerk, its highest elected official.”
There you have it folks: how to commit ecclesiastical suicide in one fell swoop. The PCUSA can now officially be pronounced dead. It has given up the ghost (in more ways than one) and has decided that in an effort to be trendy, relevant and acceptable, it will sell its soul for the world’s approbation.
Of course Scripture makes it perfectly clear that whenever a believer, church or denomination does this, it receives the disapprobation of God. To seek to please the world means we have turned our backs on God. Consider just a few passages which speak to this.
“You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.” James 4:4
“Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life – comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.” 1 John 2:15-17
In taking this deliberate and wilful step of defiance against God and disobedience to his Word, the PCUSA has declared that it no longer considers itself to be Christian in any meaningful sense of the word. Of course caving in on the homosexual agenda is simply the latest in a long list of acts of rebellion by this denomination.
So it is not the sole cause of its death, but simply the latest and final contributing factor to the extinction of a once Christian denomination. But of course critics will chirp about how the church needs to be with the times, relevant, and flexible.
Sorry, but all this church has done is sign its own death warrant. When compromise this big and this bad takes place, this church will not be winning the world to its cause. At best it will simply be dragging in more unregenerate rebels and moral anarchists. It will certainly not be making Christian converts and disciples.
A few quotes from some saints of old best sum up my feelings here:
“The church’s mightiest influence is felt when she is different from the world in which she lives. Her power lies in her being different, rises with the degree in which she differs and sinks as the difference diminishes.” A.W. Tozer
“When the church is absolutely different from the world, she invariably attracts it. It is then that the world is made to listen to her message, though it may hate it at first.” Martyn Lloyd-Jones
“When the church and the world can jog comfortably along together, you can be sure something is wrong. The world has not compromised – its spirit is exactly the same as it ever was. If Christians were equally as faithful to the Lord, separated from the world, and living so that their lives were a reproof to all ungodliness, the world would hate them as much as it ever did. It is the church that has compromised, not the world.” Catherine Booth
“You are the salt not the sugar candy; something the world will spit out not swallow.” Charles Spurgeon
A more recent voice put it this way: “Worldliness is what any particular culture does to make sin look normal and righteousness look strange” (David Wells). The PCUSA is as worldly as they come. It has made sin acceptable, and made holiness unacceptable. It has not only committed spiritual suicide, but it has now become an officially apostate body.
We simply await the next newspaper headline about this group: “PCUSA declares Jesus is not God but just another helpful guru”.