Progressing Down West Lane

In the village of Haworth is a second Baptist chapel. I have already written about the first, Hall Green, of whose building and website I noted with pleasure. The second chapel, West Lane, built in a not dissimilar style, is higher up the town, and commands even better views. It was constructed with a typical nonconformist symmetry (is that an oxymoron?) and bears the following dates upon its pediment, which I translate from the Roman numerals:

Built 1752

Enlarged 1775

Rebuilt 1844

This is a church with a fine heritage and record of growth. Yet there was a slight sense of decay; was it just the cold, January climate, or the blank space under where the minister’s name would be? Perhaps it was the noticeboard which seemed to advertise much (including films, foodbanks and meditation sessions) but referred little to the Bible. A rainbow-themed poster advised the reader that they were ‘seeking to be welcoming and inclusive’, along with a dozen other adjectives.

Returning home, I looked up the church’s online presence. Sure enough:

We are drawn together to find hope and encouragement, spiritual resources for the real task which begins at the conclusion of our service – that is of bringing life in all its fulness to our community. We are a progressive church with a strong desire to serve our community as an expression of God’s love for all people. We welcome all people regardless of faith, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation or any other pigeon-hole label! In 2016 we registered our building for Same Sex Marriages and this is now just an ordinary part of our life. (emphasis mine)

I have often pondered why theologically liberal congregations are pleased to describe themselves as ‘progressive’. What do they think they are progressing towards? Same sex marriages are now ‘just an ordinary part’ of their church life. Doubtless, as this century unfolds, other controversial practices, which were traditionally rejected by Christianity, shall be absorbed and normalised by 'progressive' churches. Generally speaking, liberal theology and the fashionable theologians (is that another oxymoron?) which espouse it do not make progress, they regress. They stall, shrink, stifle and suffocate. Blandly absorbing the secular culture’s values, mildly blending into the times’ standards and ideals, they win few for Christ and eventually close their doors for good.

Let us add to the pedimented chronology:

Compromised 2016

Closed 20??