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

4.5 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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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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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Encounter Books (April 14, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594032300
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594032301
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.9 x 9.1 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: #2,534,261 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The author writes well. I think readers will find the novel salted with unexpected bits of eloquence. Every now and then, I found myself marveling at his choice of words. That was a little surprising. I prefer shorter, less complicated sentences in what I read. Yet even I liked what I found in this book. If you have more literary tastes than I do (It is entirely possible that most readers will.), then the writing style in this book might be reason enough to buy it.

The content, like the writing, is open to personal preference. There seems not a lot of hard data in what I personally take to be the slow-motion collapse of the Episcopal Church in America. Unlike the ongoing presidential elections in America, one does not find regular polling, frequent vote tallies, and so forth. Authors therefore work without an abundance of hard data. That means more generalizations get made and validating those generalizations gets harder. To me, this book seems not so much a scholarly treatment of the subject as it is a good piece of reporting. Consequently the book serves a wider audience well, but does so without what I call, for want of a better term, scholarly precision. Most readers likely will be grateful for this outcome.

I think the author's assertions are credible and helpful. He tries, I think, to be even-handed, even though his own allegiance seems to be with Scripture rather than with the Episcopal Bishops (taken, of course, as a whole). These days, it might not be possible to support both the Episcopal Bishops (taken, of course, as a whole) and the Bible, so efforts at being even-handed become tight wire acts. One has to give him credit for trying to walk the wire rather than simply going another route.
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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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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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