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Mortal Follies: Episcopalians and the Crisis of Mainline Christianity Hardcover – April 14, 2009

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Encounter Books (April 14, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594032300
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594032301
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,261,928 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


Using the Episcopal Church as a window onto the general decline of the Protestant mainline, William Murchison has here given us a graceful and absorbing account of a great tragedy: the story of a grand and historically rooted church that sold its birthright for a pot of message. For any reader who wishes to understand, not only what the Episcopal Church has become, but also what it once was, and why that loss matters so greatly to us all, this is the book to read. --Wilfred M. McClay, Senior Fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center

About the Author

WILLIAM MURCHISON is a nationally syndicated columnist and a retired senior columnist for the Dallas Morning News. He recently served as a Radford Visiting Professor of Journalism at Baylor University. He contributes regularly to National Review, the Wall Street Journal, and First Things.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Classic Music Lover on May 28, 2009
Format: Hardcover
To Anglicans/Episcopalians who have lived through the denomination's steady slide into irrelevance over the past 35 years, they'll find very little information that's new or revelatory in this slender volume. But it's the best book I've come across yet that delivers a succinct (and compelling) exposition of the key trends and events that have caused a once highly influential church denomination to atrophy into near oblivion on the religious and social scene -- save for the occasional eyebrow-raising news headline about consecrating an openly gay bishop or embarking on lawsuit witch hunts against individual dioceses or parish vestries that have sought to disassociate themselves from a national church that has become a major source of embarrassment.

Non-Episcopalian readers will find in this book a cautionary tale of what can happen when a Christian denomination puts man ahead of God. "Christianity-lite" may do wonders for promoting a guilt-free, anything-goes lifestyle, but it'll put your denomination out of business within the span of two or three generations.

Of course, with the Episcopalian crowd, it's always been more about "money, prestige and power" than spirituality. And therein lies the huge irony: Despite all of their efforts to remain popular and relevant in today's world, the Episcopal Church has actually ended up with less money, less prestige and less power rather than more, as this book chronicles quite clearly.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By J. Smith on June 10, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase

This is an informed and serious book that seeks to answer the question: what went wrong in the Episcopalian Church?

Murchison covers the history of the Episcopal Church over the past half a century, beginning with the 1950s until the year 2003 which, as everyone knows, saw the consecration of the first openly homosexual bishop, Gene Robertson.

However, Murchison does not make the mistake of focussing solely on what has become known as the "gay issue". Instead, he takes the EC to task for the following:

(1) Its enthusiasm for, rather than critique of, prevailing secular culture.
(2) Its constant revision of a time-honoured and much-loved liturgy in favour of what the leaders of the EC, in the 1970s, regarded as contemporary, even "hip" forms of expression.
(3) Its gradual transformation into an organisation committed primarily to social activism and its quiet, but persistent, abandonment of Christian metaphysics ("The oddness of Mrs Jefferts Schori's catalogue consists in the unspoken implication that the Episcopal Church is the Peace Corps in ecclesiastical vestments" - page 197.)
(4) The fact that, from the 1950s onwards, at least some of its opinion-makers were, in fact, not really Christians at all. Here Murchison cites the Rev Joseph Fletcher, whose book Situation Ethics, was highly influential throughout the mid-1960s and early 1970s. Fletcher later admitted that he had never been a "religious man and never pretended to be".
(5) The fact that some of its leaders, while espousing "inclusivism", have been quite prepared to bully and harass both traditionalists and the wisely cautious.

This book should be read by anyone who takes the claims of the Christian religion seriously, particularly if he or she is a member of a church ruled by a hierarchy whose members are only accountable to each other.

Highly recommended.

Jane Smith (Pretoria, South Africa)
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12 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Andrew Freborg on May 27, 2009
Format: Hardcover
This compact volume provides a concise, tight summary of the forces that have worked over that last 50 years to bring mainline protestantism, the the Episcopal Church in particular, to a state where they are little more than social justice organizations. A good treatsie, but about 30 years to late to do much good.
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