You’ve probably noticed, but there’s a lot of unrest in the world right now. No one seems particularly happy. In Europe, a number of non-mainstream, protest parties have arisen. Closer to home, though much less noticed, are the protests that have been roiling in Quebec for the last several months.
What’s becoming clear is the way in which the dissatisfaction/anger/resentment reveals generational tensions. Young people in the euro zone see little path forward. Older folks in Quebec are harrumphing at young protestors’ demands, even as they benefited from what the younger protesters are requesting.
There’s a sense in which it is now becoming clear that the Baby Boom generation, for all its talent and accomplishment, have brought about the crisis which the western world now confronts: promises that cannot be kept, an indulgent and polarized politics, and no compelling path forward. Have Baby Boomers wrecked the western economy? The verdict is still out.
Thinking in this vein makes one look anew at the trials and travails of mainline Protestantism and the church I know best, the Episcopal Church. The church seems headed for a cliff in much the same way that Europe is: declining membership, serious financial problems, bloated structures. There’s a world out there that cares less and less about what the church has to say. If current trends continue, the church faces further decline and irrelevancy, unless we get pushed off the cliff altogether.
So let’s ask the same question of the church. Are Baby Boomers at fault? Is it time for the current generation of leadership to step aside and let others try where they have failed?
Robert Hendrickson (not a Baby Boomer) indicts the state of the church in this way:
We are facing not just a collapse of large parts of the Church, we are facing a collapse of leadership, nerve, and vision.
The answer is not Hymnal revision, new governance structures, Communing the UnBaptized, a Kalendar of Saints with non-Christians, guitar Masses, digital Prayer Books, more liturgies about the Earth, or many of the other countless ways many seem to think will lead us to the dawn of a kinder, gentler Church that will usher in the Kingdom.
Robert’s comments remind me of something a (non-Episcopal) seminary colleague my age said to me a while back. “They’re all these pastors my parents’ age out there—friendly people, great pastoral care, they’ll hold your hand when you’re dying. But they never talk about Jesus or the Gospel.”
In the conflict over gays and lesbians, for instance, the “conservatives” see themselves as guardians of Truth, while the “liberals” see themselves as crusaders for Justice. Well, in a conflict between Truth and Justice, no one is ever going to back down. Compromise is hopeless.