Breaking Glass

The Triumph of the Secular

Having failed to establish much of a numerical presence in American society, the Episcopal Church, USA, succeeds in attracting attention by the continuing antics of a long parade of outrageous ecclesiastics.  In 2003, attention focused on the ordination of openly homosexual Vicky Imogene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire.  While I am reluctant to add much to the torrent of argument caused by this event, one circumstance does deserve comment, and that is the absolute conviction that this particular “reform” is part of a powerful movement toward progress in Church and society.  In asserting this idea, with all its implications about the superiority of secular over religious claims to authority, American and Western Christians do not appear to realize how massively they are departing from most of their religious history.  Long after Bishop Robinson has been forgotten—long, perhaps, after his Church has disappeared—the resulting split in Christian loyalties may continue to reverberate.

As North American churches have discussed sexual issues, the debate has been largely fueled by the changing mores of the mainstream secular society.  The pressure to change has not come from new textual discoveries by biblical scholars, nor from new insights from academic theologians, but from the changing secular environment.  Awareness of changes in secular life pushed the mainstream Protestant churches...

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