Saturday, March 3, 2012

Are breakaway Protestant denominations here to stay?

From Kansas City- (Interesting that this article states that ACNA "Seeks to supplant the Episcopal Church")

In some ways, the rifts are nothing new. American Protestants have been splintering since Roger Williams left Plymouth Colony in the 1630s, said Nancy Ammerman, a sociologist of religion at Boston University.

Yet the schisms counter a 20th century trend in which ethnic and regional Protestant groups merged to form big-tent denominations such as the ELCA and PC (USA).

“What we may be experiencing at this point is the limit of that movement to draw a lot of diversity under one umbrella,” said Ammerman, author of “Pillars of Faith: American Congregations and Their Partners.”

Archbishop Robert Duncan, ACNA’s leader, said the new denominations herald a burgeoning movement.

“There is a Reformation going on in the Christian church, particularly in the West, and particularly in the mainline Protestant denominations,” he said. Duncan’s ACNA seeks to supplant the Episcopal Church as the U.S. branch of the worldwide Anglican Communion.

But some religion scholars say the new denominations are heading down a demographic dead end unless they can broaden their appeal beyond conservatives upset over pro-gay church policies.

“Public opinion about gays and lesbians and gay marriage are changing so dramatically that at some point in the future — 10 years, let’s say — it’s not going to matter very much,” said Robert Wuthnow, a sociologist and director of the Center for the Study of Religion at Princeton University.

Wuthnow and other scholars say American Protestantism provides fertile ground for offshoots, with the membership losses often encouraging the outgrowth.

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