That was 1972. Forty years later, in 2012, liberal churches are not the only ones declining. It is true that progressive religious bodies started to decline in the 1960s. However, conservative denominations are now experiencing the same. For example, the Southern Baptist Convention, one of America's most conservative churches, has for a dozen years struggled with membership loss and overall erosion in programming, staffing, and budgets. Many smaller conservative denominations, such as the Missouri Synod Lutherans, are under pressure by loss.So we have all of Christianity under threat. Quite frankly many have already assumed the disease is terminal. People expect their children will be less religious than they are. That politics will consistently move in a direction that respects religion less and less. They have bought into the idea that religion is going down and if you cling to it too tightly you will go down with it.
But are they right? Are even the strongest churches in America going to go the way of the Episcopalian church today? I think it will get a lot worse before it gets better. I don't think protestantism is strong enough to withstand modern secularism. All of protestantism is really liberal. It changes with the culture. Evangelicalism has created a subculture that has protected it for a while but it is just delaying the process. The subculture is holding off liberal doctrines for a few decades but that is a very short time in the life of the church.
So what is the answer? Ms Bass seems to feel we should just embrace liberalism as inevitable. She puts a lot of hope in a few creative leaders that are generating some excitement. There will always be those but they don't last. Humanly speaking we have no hope.
I am reminded of something Fr Barron said in the Catholicism series. That Israel expected the Messiah to gather the scattered tribes. That Israel was intended to unify the whole world and bring them to God but instead Israel itself had become divided and really a barrier to people embracing the Jewish faith. The solution was Jesus. He called Jews from all these scattered tribes to Himself or more precisely to His Church. Those that did not follow were destroyed in 70 AD.
I see the solution here being similar. The divisions among Christians are at the root of our weakness. We have become a barrier to Christ. The solution is to embrace Jesus through His church. Like the first Pentecost we need Peter to stand up and say we are not drunk but we are following Jesus in a way that seems strange to you. Then we need the multitude from all over to be grief stricken at the way they have treated the body of Christ. It is beginning to happen. As the problems with protestantism become more obvious we will see more and more of it.