Is Progressivism Progressive?CATEGORIES: Uncategorized
Many ask, “Why can’t the Church be more progressive? What would be so terrible if the Church flexed on contraception, gay marriage, or women’s ordination?”
But as G.K. Chesterton observed, “Progress is a comparative of which we have not settled the superlative.” In other words, progress toward what? How would the Church progress by reneging on its teachings? A look at a few progressive protestant groups provides some clues.
Despite progressive agendas the Episcopal Church, the United Methodist Church, and the United Presbyterian Church are tanking. Episcopalians now number fewer than two million members, with worship attendance declining 23% over the past ten years (geoconger.wordpress.com). From1998-2008, the United Methodists experienced declines in membership and weekly worship attendance of 7% and 9% respectively while losing 6% of its churches (www.umc.org). From 2009-2010 United Presbyterian Church membership declined by 61,000 and despite starting 20 new congregations they lost another 103 due to dissolution or dismissal to other denominations (www.upcusa.org/news).
Catholic Church growth in the U.S. isn’t setting records but areas where Catholics have kept the faith seem to be doing quite well. Visit the habited Dominican Sisters in Nashville or Ann Arbor and you’ll find living space at a premium. The same goes for St. Paul Seminary in Minnesota, which has had to arrange off-site housing for its burgeoning enrollment. Then there are places like Lincoln, Nebraska, whose per capita vocations to the priesthood cause red faces in larger, more prosperous dioceses.
Fidelity is common link between these and other groups that are growing – fidelity to Christ, the Church and its Magisterium, and Holy Scripture. It often means standing against the culture and what many consider progress. But as Chesterton further observed, “A dead thing can go with the stream…but only a living thing can go against it.”