Has TEC topped out in terms of its influence on the life of the Anglican Communion? Peter Carrell over at AnglicansDownUnder seems to think so. He writes,
"The zenith of TEC's influence on the life of the Communion is now. Over the next few decades its declining numbers will expose the weakness of the hand it has played: progressive theology is not a theology of renewal of generations in a church. American money will keep the ACO afloat for a while longer, but eventually the financiers will understand that money is going down the drain on meetings of no importance." (bold emphasis mine)
Carrell is a fine writer and his analysis of issues from an evangelical seriously south and down under perspective is always worth reading. Still I think he as over reached on this one.
Peter's comments, "Over the next few decades its declining numbers will expose the weakness of the hand it has played: progressive theology is not a theology of renewal of generations in a church."
Peter believes TEC is at its zenith for reasons not related to its declining influence vis a vis the Global South at all. He believes it is TEC's "progressive theology" that will do us in. We will be less influential because we will be smaller.
Peter's argument is not about our support and "influence" over missionary work abroad, or our support or influence over the ACO, arguments often used by the Global South. His argument is about TEC having a progressive theology, and such theology not being "a theology of renewal of generations in a church."
Well, we will see.
Perhaps progressive theology is not a theology of "renewal of generations," what ever that finally means.
But what does it mean? Does it mean we progressives simply do not have enough children who we bring up in the progressive faith?
Well to paraphrase someone well known to us all, "If they are not enough, the stones will become our children."
Progressive theology at its best does not renew generations, it renews hope for the hopeless and calls for justice to roll down like waters. It believes that God's future is known in the union of justice and mercy in the self-emptying of Jesus the Christ and as well in you and me as we are true to our calling as the anointed ones, being emptied for the health of the world. It turns out that that message, if delivered, will make for new peoples of faith where before there was despair.
Perhaps Peter means that progressive theology is not finally the stable faith once delivered to the saints, able to be transmitted through the generations without loss of clarity about its basis in the Cross and Resurrection. If that is what he is saying here, I think he is wrong.
But the warning is right: If progressive theology is not itself grounded in the reality of and faith in Christ Jesus there will be no generation of new peoples of faith. My sense is that Peter does not believe progressive theology does this, and I do.
As to influence, think of the early church. Not many were people of great influence, save that they knew themselves to be God's beloved. That was influence enough.