The Focus section of this weekend's edition of The Hamilton Spectator contains an article by, of all people, John Shelby Spong, retired bishop of the Episcopal Church's Diocese of Newark. I am unable to find this article posted elsewhere, but the following excerpt sums up Spong's utterly predictable assessment of John Paul II's papacy:
I believe that history will, therefore, record this pontiff as a contributor to the death of Christianity, since he allowed it to sink more and more into the pious irrelevance that characterizes it today.
Ah yes. We've all heard this tune before: the church will die unless it catches up to where Spong believes it should be. But let's look at his own Newark diocese, where Spong's equally liberal successor has just resigned:
The next bishop will face several difficult issues, including a financial crunch at many congregations. An estimated one-third of all parishes are "struggling mightily to keep the doors open," [Bishop John P.] Croneberger said in a statement last year. He strongly suggested some may have to close.
By contrast, Christianity -- of a most traditional flavour -- is growing at an astonishing rate around the world, including subsaharan Africa, South Korea and China, as recounted by Philip Jenkins and David Aikman, among others. Roman Catholicism and Anglicanism are both benefitting from this growth. The lesson? According to Lutheran theologian Robert Benne,
"the progressive and revisionist wing of Christianity is disappearing," Benne said. "Where they predominate, denominations lose members."
This definitely includes the Diocese of Newark. It seems Spong and his ilk are part of the problem, not the solution.