According to Mark Tooley at the Institue on Religion and Democracy, the visit to the U.S. by Pakistani bishop Alexander John Malik may be paying dividends among Mainline churches.

Amazingly, the recent Islamist atrocities in Pakistan have compelled some left-leaning church groups in the West to admit problems with radical Islam, a difficult admission for many. The current visit to the U.S. by a Pakistani Protestant bishop on behalf of besieged Pakistani Christians is helping to fuel the catharsis.

"Unfortunately, the (anti-Christian) mindset is not restricted to Pakistan but to the whole Arab-Muslim world," Bishop Alexander John Malik told the National Council of Churches (NCC) during a recent visit with them in New York. "It's the same from the Sudan to Somalia, from Iraq to Indonesia. This is the mindset of Muslims who consider their religion to be of the utmost importance." Malik represents the united Church of Pakistan, which is a merger of Anglicans, Methodists, Presbyterians and Lutherans.

Mainline agencies, viewing the world through the spectacles of Liberation Theology, have assumed that the Victimizer is always the First World, and the Victims always Third World. Perhaps a more realistic and nuanced view may develop.
The increasing official openness to gay and lesbian clergy in the Episcopal Church continues to produce fallout. The latest group to leave are nuns, almost an entire order, who have moved into Roman Catholicism.

Most Americans probably are not aware that the Anglican Church has celibate, ascetic religious orders both of men and of women. Mostly dating from the 19th century, and never as important as in Roman Catholicism and Orthodoxy, Anglican orders have nevertheless done significant work.
Last week the ELCA, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the nation's largest Lutheran body, voted to permit practicing gay and lesbian clergy to hold office so long as they were in a committed relationship.

From the ELCA website:

MINNEAPOLIS (ELCA) - The 2009 Churchwide Assembly of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) voted today to open the ministry of the church to gay and lesbian pastors and other professional workers living in committed relationships.
The action came by a vote of 559-451 at the highest legislative body of the 4.6 million member denomination. Earlier the assembly also approved a resolution committing the church to find ways for congregations that choose to do so to "recognize, support and hold publicly accountable life-long, monogamous, same gender relationships," though the resolution did not use the word "marriage."
The actions here change the church's policy, which previously allowed people who are gay and lesbian into the ordained ministry only if they remained celibate.

The AP has a report including quotes from supporters and opponents of the change. Link via The Layman Online.

The ELCA now joins the Episcopal Church and the United Church of Christ in officially permitting practicing gay and lesbian clergy. A similar move passed the most recent Presbyterian (PCUSA) national gathering, but was defeated by the local presbyteries. The local structures of the United Methodist Church this summer defeated a policy passed at the national level that would have had the effect of prohibiting congregations from practicing discipline on members practicing same-sex sex.

The Reformed Church in America (RCA) this summer at our national meeting voted to refrain from any actions regarding same-sex practice while a dialuge continues on the issue. (We are a house divided and trying to avoid a split.)
The Episcopal Divinity School (i.e., a seminary for training Episcopal priests) in Cambridge, Massachusetts, appoints a radically pro-abortion lesbian priest, Kathrine Ragsdale, as its new president. Story. In a past sermon this woman called abortion a blessing, and has testified before Congress that she transported a fifteen-year-old girl across a state line to get an abortion--and would again if it became illegal. My point is not so much this priest herself, as the message it sends to any remaining conservative Episcopalians--as a conservative believer you will be increasingly marginalized. Small wonder conservatives have been leaving the Episcopal denomination.

To make the same point again--the marginalization of conservative Episcopalians within their own denomination--Gene Robinson, the Episcopal Bishop of New Hampshire who himself is a practicing homosexual, recently spoke at a pro LGBT event in Washington, D.C., in which he proclaimed

“You and I stand on the shoulders of drag queens in Stonewall bar who had enough, [San Francisco politician] Harvey Milk and Dr. King,” Robinson said. “It will be enough to have others stand on our shoulders” and “enough to be in the parade.”

Robinson identified gay rights as a part of the agenda of the Kingdom of God. Story.

Organizations send messages to their members by the choice of those who are given positions of power. The elevation of Ragsdale and Robinson tells members more than any number of position papers and platitudes.
Two significant items: The Central Washington Presbytery is beginning to consider steps to remove itself from the PCUSA. A presbytery is a regional association of congregations.

The Presbytery of Central Washington has approved a resolution declaring that the General Assemblies of 2006 and 2008 “have brought our PCUSA denomination to a point of crisis. Actions of these assemblies have broken the connection and covenant that has existed in our church since the first meetings of our General Assembly.”

The Presbytery report also included this quotation from the respected German theologian Wolfhart Pannenburg:

6. Finally, we believe that we have come to a tipping point as a denomination. We affirm the words of Wolfhart Pannenberg:
“Those who urge the church to change the norm of its teaching on this matter must know that they are promoting schism. If a church were to let itself be pushed to the point where it ceased to treat homosexual activity as a departure from the biblical norm, and recognized homosexual unions as a personal partnership of love equivalent to marriage, such a church would stand no longer on biblical ground but against the unequivocal witness of Scripture. A church that took this step would cease to be the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church.” (Church Times, June 21, 1996)

Full story. from The Layman.

And, also from the Northwest, Second Presbyterian Church in Portland has worked out an agreement with its Presbytery to leave the denomination with its property in exchange for cash contributions to the Presbytery. Second Pres, Portland, is exactly the kind of large, healthy congregation a denomination cannot afford to lose.

According to denominational data, Sunset’s membership at the end of 2007 was 1,957. Sunday school attendance averaged 3,911 and the average turnout for Sunday worship services was 2,067.

Attendance larger than membership is not common, and indicates a growing, energetic, faithful congregation.

Full story from The Layman.
The conservative Diocese of Pittsburgh voted to split from the Episcopal Church. The plan is to remain within Anglicanism and unite with a South American Anglican province. Story here.

Pittsburgh joins the Diocese of San Joaquin in splitting. This fall two more Diocese will take their final votes on leaving--Quincy, Illinois, and Ft. Worth, Texas.

The issue is Biblical Interpretation in general, and same-sex practice in particular.

While I am not predicting Civil War, I will point out that we saw denominations split over slavery in the decades leading up to Secession. Slavery was one issue this nation could not solve politically and so did by force of arms. The inability of the Christian denominations to resolve the slavery issue and remain united previewed the political split.

As a nation we are divided on several cultural issues--abortion, same-sex marriage, etc. The splits in the churches probably tells us that there is no compromise solution possible in our national life. We will continue to fight over the issues.
Great article on a, perhaps the, root cause of Mainline demise: the end of the search for objective meaning in Scripture.

When the reader's feelings and experience become the primary bases for understanding, then Scripture becomes secondary.
According to Rev. Canon George Conger of the Diocese of Central Florida the answer is "Yes." There no longer is an Anglican communion in a meaningful sense. For evidence he points to the recent Lambeth Conference in which Anglican bishops would not take communion together because of the (mostly) American actions on ordaining practicing homosexuals. Also, he points to the fact that within the Episcopal Church (Anglicanism in the U.S.) conservative priests would not be allowed to serve in a liberal diocese nor liberal priests in a conservative diocese.

The future of Episcopalianism as he sees it: litigation. Lawsuits over property as parishes and dioceses disassociate.

The cause: the belief by the Episcopal leadership that God's path forward is through recognition of same-sex orientation and practice as a blessing, and the providential role the American Church is to play by introducing to the world this new revelation. Another form of American exceptionalism.

Interview here.
This article from The Layman (requires Adobe Reader) looks at the 2001 vote to repeal the chastity/faithfulness in marriage requirement. Each synod (larger regional body) and its presbyteries (smaller regional bodies within a synod) are examined. No real surprises. Those areas most apt to be called liberal and Democrat voted to repeal; those areas most apt to be called conservative and Republican voted to maintain the standard.

What to make of this information? One could argue that Presbyterians are more influenced by their surrounding society than by Scripture. This thesis may not apply equally to both sides.
An absolutly brilliant essay on the role of Protestant faith in American discourse, and the loss today of a common vocabulary that accompanies the decline of the Mainline Denominations.