30 July 2010

What will the Amish think of next?

And when will the Lutherans learn?

19 comments:

e&k said...

my husband, upon commending this article to his thrivent-working,baby-booming father (who was lamenting the inexplicable decline of the "lutheran church")as an answer to thrivent's woes, was told that that just wasn't an option and that the amish situation was "a completely different story".
seems pretty simple, really.

Erich Heidenreich, DDS said...

The WSJ article says: "The main factor behind the growth is simple: Big families and a high “retention rate.”

The AP story is more specific and has a nifty chart:

"The remarkable growth is almost entirely due to the Amish birth rate - many Amish families have five or more children. Kraybill said the Amish retain about 85 percent of the young adults who have to decide whether to remain in the church. The Amish marry within the community, and the total number of converts nationwide is believed to be less than 100, he said.

"About half the Amish are under 18 years old, meaning the community tends to focus much of its energy on young people and schools, Kraybill said."

Erich Heidenreich, DDS said...

Oh, and another important point in the AP article: "Nearly all Amish descended from a group of about 5,000 in the early 20th century."

Another point I'd like to highlight is that the "total number of [Amish] converts nationwide is believed to be less than 100."

By contrast, it seems Lutherans are now almost entirely dependent upon conversion to maintain their numbers, and we all know the minimal teaching (if any) that passes for "conversion" in most Lutheran churches. Here is a recent comment on L&P that is worth considering. It quotes this earlier post by Pastor Curtis.

Leah said...

We often joke in our church that our "Church Growth Program" is all the babies born into our church each year.
(But truly, it's not a joke.)

Our children are our first (and I think our most important) mission field. As a mother, the daily instruction, caring, training and, by God's grace "retaining" of my children is NO SMALL THING in God's eyes or in the life of the church!

Untamed Shrew said...

What Leah said. I'm not so good with converting, but by God's favor I am good at conceiving. Let each use the gifts he or she has been given for the benefit of His kingdom.

Rebekah said...

e&k, I'll try to explain it to him next time he's here. :D

I thought the retention point was particularly interesting. How do other traditions compare to 85%?

Erich Heidenreich, DDS said...

Rebekah,

I believe the exceptional retention rate is directly related to these specific parts of the story I quoted:

"The Amish marry within the community. . . About half the Amish are under 18 years old, meaning the community tends to focus much of its energy on young people and schools..."

Erich Heidenreich, DDS said...

Marrying "within the community" is key. Even if one marries a convert, it should be only AFTER the individual has joined the Lutheran church and shown a commitment to the faith. How can two become one flesh if they are not already one in spirit?

However, that last sentence above is even more crucial. Once upon a time, Lutherans actually parented their children. If they delegated any of that responsibility, it was only to truly Lutheran schools.

Luther warned: "I advise no one to send his child where the Holy Scriptures are not the rule. Every institution where Gods word is not studied unceasingly must become corrupt; and so we see what manner of men there are now in the universities. ... I greatly fear the universities are nothing but great gates of hell, unless they diligently study the Holy Scriptures and teach them to the young people."

Today, Lutherans have almost wholesale abandoned their children to the "progressives" who have ruled public education for over a century, and who now control the greater culture ("paideia") as a whole. Here are some principles these liberal "educators" learned from the master of control, Adolf Hitler:

"He alone who owns the youth gains the future."

"I begin with the young. We older ones are used up. We are rotten to the marrow. We are cowardly and sentimental. We are bearing the burden of a humiliating past, and have in our blood the dull recollection of serfdom and servility. But my magnificent youngsters! Are there any finer ones in the world? Look at these young men and boys! What material! With them, I can make a new world."

"When an opponent declares, 'I will not come over to your side,' I say calmly, 'Your child belongs to us already. What are you? You will pass on. Your descendants, however, now stand in the new camp. In a short time they will know nothing but this new community'."

MooreMama said...

How broad is your definition of community, Erich?

Signed,
raised a conservative Episcopalian, joined the local LCMS church, at my Husband's urging, a year-ish after the wedding.

Erich Heidenreich, DDS said...

Not broad enough to approve of interdenominational marriages. Unfortunately today even being a member of another LCMS church does not in any way ensure one has the same confession of faith.

I'm glad you finally joined the same church as your husband, but this is a matter that should be worked out well before marriage or even engagement. The fact that things worked out well for you does not make the order in which you got there advisable (i.e. the end does not justify the means).

I would say Dr. Walter Maier put it well in the chapter on "Mixed Marriages" in his book For Better Not For Worse. Scroll down to the section on "Interdenominational Marriages."

MooreMama said...

I'm sorry that you don't approve. Belonging to the same church was never negotiable (yes, we did discuss it waaay before marriage). The question was whether I would convert or if he would. The practices and professed beliefs of both churches were nearly identical (except for that whole closed-communion thing), but the LCMS had it all written down.

MooreMama said...

* by "both churches" I meant the local congregations.

Untamed Shrew said...

I was a mixed marriage too, as are many in my family and my husband's. Kids have very little choice over what denomination they are born/baptised into, or what congregation they attend, even through high school. We have a woman in our congregation whose long-time husband is a Jew. Somehow they make it work. She tolerates his traditions and he tolerates her Christmas tree stinking up the house for a month each year. Love conquers all.

Erich Heidenreich, DDS said...

MooreMamma,

It sounds like you and your husband were already of the same faith prior to marriage, although you attended churches that were not in communion with each other. There is, indeed, a serious disconnect between local congregations and their church's official doctrinal positions. There are many LCMS congregations who share more in common with Episcopal and other churches than they do with those in their own communion (and visa versa).

If I am understanding you correctly, it sounds like you and your husband agreed on all points of doctrine prior to marriage as you understood them from your respective local congregations, but you simply hadn't decided which church to attend. I wouldn't call that a mixed marriage. I'd call that mixed up congregations.

Just to be clear, there are more significant differences between Episcopal doctrine and Lutheran doctrine than just "that whole closed communion thing." The fact that this was not evident to you at the congregational level does not change the fact that the official "practices and professed beliefs" of these churches are at odds on many essential points.

As I said above, in today's world "even being a member of another LCMS church does not in any way ensure one has the same confession of faith."

MooreMama said...

"There is, indeed, a serious disconnect between local congregations and their church's official doctrinal positions." This, moreso with the local Episcopal church than with the LCMS one.

"Just to be clear, there are more significant differences between Episcopal doctrine and Lutheran doctrine than just "that whole closed communion thing." The fact that this was not evident to you at the congregational level does not change the fact that the official "practices and professed beliefs" of these churches are at odds on many essential points."

I'm well aware that, if we're going on official doctrine, there are vast differences between the Episcopal and LCMS churches, and that closed communion is an insignifigant example. I mentioned closed communion as our sticking point because that was the biggest practical difference between the church that I grew up in and the church that I am now a member of.

Erich Heidenreich, DDS said...

Untamed Shrew,

OMNIA VINCIT AMOR?

Well, no, not really. It certainly cannot bridge the gulf between the Christian faith and that of unbelievers. And if faith is not shared, neither can hope, let alone the proper proper religious instruction of children.

Marriage can certainly exist between those of disparate religious beliefs, but it is certainly not advisable.

Untamed Shrew said...

For the purposes of human relations when faiths are not matched, love conquers all (intolerances). Love enables me to honor others above myself. Love prevents me from straining at gnats and swallowing giants, and from strangling my children when my wretched temper flares. Love encourages me to ask for clarification instead of jumping to wrong conclusions. And while I believe that Christ is the only Door, love allows me to look at my Muslim neighbor (or Jewish spouse) and know that I could have just as easily been born into a different faith.

Love also enables us to put the best construction on another's words.

Erich Heidenreich, DDS said...

I'm sure we all basically agree, though this stiff medium of blogdom will make it difficult to see.

Yes, "Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. . . So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love."

Yet let us not forget when faith is not matched in marriage, that true love is an exclusively Christian virtue. Granted, there are many unbelievers who have more civil righteousness than many Christians. However, while one might find the four cardinal virtues in an unbelieving spouse, without the Christian virtues of faith, hope, and love, even the cardinal virtues can never find their full expression.

As Augustine wrote, On the Morals of the Catholic Church:

"For these four virtues (would that all felt their influence in their minds as they have their names in their mouths!), I should have no hesitation in defining them: that temperance is love giving itself entirely to that which is loved; fortitude is love readily bearing all things for the sake of the loved object; justice is love serving only the loved object, and therefore ruling rightly; prudence is love distinguishing with sagacity between what hinders it and what helps it."

I'm sure we will all agree with regard to a mixed marriage to an unbeliever, Paul's admonition should be heeded: "Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?"

MooreMama said...

I am sure that we agree on more than we don't.

I am also sure that a rough couple of weeks has made me overly defensive and I apologize for not clamping down the brain/keyboard filter.