I can tell you why Institutional Christianity is breathing its death rattle, but you won’t like it.
Institutional Christianity is in need of hospice care because it has profoundly lacked integrity for at least fifty years. Form has become more important than substance, appearances more important than reality, image more important than service, comfort more important than growth, and – last but most certainly not least – rules have become much more important than people.
I have heard more stories from people who were assured by leaders of the Institution that they would shepherd them through an ordination process and then those same leaders just walked away because they had either made a promise they couldn’t keep or didn’t have the intestinal fortitude to follow through on their commitment.
I have met men who have visible tattoos who were asked to wear a scarf and gloves in church so they wouldn’t “offend” or “scare” the “members.” Frankly, such behavior offends me profoundly, and has nothing to do with either Jesus or the example set by him. The clergy who made these demands should wear bags over their heads, because their mouths are offensive to God.
I have met men and women who were asked to “pretend” they were heterosexual so they could continue in ministry. The lack of integrity both of those making the request and anyone who would agree to it – as well as the resulting inauthentic ministry that would be the result of agreeing to such an absurd request – scream hypocrisy.
I have met dozens of clergy who really believe that the prayers they speak manipulate God into doing what they ask. The evidence of this lies in those who insist that particular words be spoken in formal prayer, in ordination prayers, and in informal prayer in order for it to “work,” as if God was as anal retentive as are those worried about prayer syntax.
I’ve have seen people walking into a church frisked by off duty police officers serving as ushers because those people didn’t look like they “belonged” in the parish in question. Imagine what a hard time Jesus would have received from that same “usher.”
I’ve seen outreach funds – monies that go to do ministry – eliminated from a parish budget and replaced with the occasional bake sale to fund any “outreach” that is done so that money would be available for building improvements, staff salaries, and youth group trips – all of which are truly optional expenditures while outreach is essential to being church. Churches like this are little more than country clubs.
I’ve seen bishops abandon their clergy when they run into personal difficulties. In the real world we call such people “fair weather friends,” or “cowards.”
I’ve seen people rejected from an ordination process because they didn’t come from the right family, or ethnic group, or socio-economic group, or had the wrong family history, or a physical injury or illness. Apparently, we have forgotten that the Apostles weren’t the sons of doctors and lawyers.
The best decision that I ever made, either personally or on behalf of my Church, was to walk away from the institutional model. It has freed me to associate with all the wrong, right people. It has freed us to do ministry that matters and not worry about inconsequential things like pedigrees and long dead mythologies. Still, every time I hear another story like the ones listed above, I wonder why people put up with nonsense from the rotting, stinking corpse that is Institutional Religion.
Call the undertaker, its dead already.